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Inception

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inception bluray 001I honestly though that I had reviewed this film before when I saw it at the cinema or when it came out on Bluray but I guess I haven’t so this will be a SPOILER HEAVY review.

I had a great time watching this film right from the first time I saw it and subsequent viewing has only enhanced that experience. Christopher Nolan has earned himself a reputation as a skilled storyteller willing to work with non-traditional narratives though this film is not as challenging as Memento. When you look beyond the science fiction technology It is basically a heist movie which means there isn’t much in the way of characterisation apart from the main character of Cobb

Industrial espionage in the unspecified but not too distant future has gone to whole new level after the invention of a Mad Science device that allows people to enter another’s dreams. This has been developed for the military to help with training but has other even less legitimate uses. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is skilled at working with a team to steal secrets from the minds of others by putting them into a dream state and then taking them into another person’s dream which has been designed to give Cobb and his team control over the environment.

Cobb and his team of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Nash (Lukas Haas) are trying to extract secrets from energy company boss Saito (Ken Watanabe) but Saito is onto them and knows he’s in a dream so Cobb has to make a quick getaway before the criminal Cobol conglomerate employing him catches up to him and punishes him for his failure. One of the consequences of the existence of people like Cobb is that targets like Saito have been taught techniques to defend their subconscious from attacks though it seems he also had help from Cobb’s dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Saito captures Cobb and Arthur when they are trying to escape thanks to Nash’s betrayal but Saito is not angry. He wants to hire them to carry out an inception which is the planting of an idea into the mind of another. Arthur quickly dismisses it as impossible but Cobb tells Saito it can be done. Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), the owner of the largest energy company in the world is dying and Saito wants Cobb to plant the idea of breaking up his father’s company when he inherits it into the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Saito promises Cobb he will be able fix it to allow him to return home to the United States and tells Cobb to go ahead and assemble his team.

Cobb goes to Paris to talk to his father-in-law Miles (Michael Caine) who is a professor at a university there. He gives Miles gifts for his children who are living with his mother-in-law in the US since his wife’s suicide and Cobb’s exile. He’s really in Paris to recruit one of Miles’ students as an architect and after setting Ariadne (Ellen Page) a puzzle design task he agrees to give her a try. Next scene is Cobb introducing Ariadne to the dream manipulation concept while they are inside a dream in his head.

Ariadne takes to the idea fairly quickly, manipulating the environment easily but this raises another problem, if the subconscious of the dreamer notices it is being manipulated by alien elements it will become hostile to that alien influence. The people populating the dream start attacking Ariadne then the image of Cobb’s wife Mal appears and stabs Ariadne. If you die in a dream this wakes you up from that dream.

Ariadne is not happy that Cobb didn’t warn her about being attacked by Cobb’s subconscious, especially since his unresolved issues with his wife’s suicide are so bad that they prevent him from being an architect himself. These personal issues are actually the main plot of the film but only Ariadne and Cobb seem aware of the problem. What killed Ariadne in the dream was Cobb not Mal who is created from Cobb’s memories.

Cobb visits Eames (Tom Hardy) in Mombasa and convinces him to join the team. Eames doesn’t need to be convinced that inception is possible since he agrees that it is but that is very difficult. Eames knows a chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) that can provide the sedation that they will need since Cobb wants to go down into three levels of dreams within dreams to plant the idea deep into Fischer’s subconscious. The only element left is the opportunity which comes in the form of a ten hour flight to Los Angeles. Cobb is thinking about how they will infiltrate the airline but Saito just buys it.

With his team assembled they all go into the dream of Yusuf where they don black masks and kidnap Fischer and Eames takes on the character of his godfather Browning (Tom Berenger). They demand Fischer tells them the combination of his father’s safe which contains his father’s secret will. This is all part of planting the concept of a secret in a safe that Fischer will fill in with his subconscious. Normally their task is to discover what Fischer’s mind puts on the will but the point of inception is to plant the idea they want him to find. This does not go smoothly as it turns out that Fischer has been prepared with training for these mental attacks and his subconscious response is very militarized. Then a freight train comes out of Cobb’s subconscious, sabotaging the mission and resulting in Saito getting shot.

Normally dying in a dream results waking up but Yusuf explains that they are too sedated to wake up that way and instead they will end up with their mind trapped in limbo, a sort timeless zone deep in the subconscious. So Saito has to stay alive or he will lose his mind. I should mention here the time extension property of the dream. Time moves 12 times slower in the dream and this goes for each level so on the second level time moves 144 times slower and in the third level it is 1596 times slower. As for limbo it seems that you can live entire lifetime there in a few hours of sleep.

This is the source of Cobb’s secret guilt. Cobb and his wife used the technology to share a lot of time in the dream world together where they created entire cities out of their memories. But Mal became depressed and withdrawn in the real world and wanted to spend all her time in the dream world, ignoring their two children. To get Mal back to reality Cobb planted an idea in her head that the dream world is not real. Unfortunately Mal carried this into the real world and killed herself to try to get back to ‘reality’ and now the image of Mal keeps leaking out of his subconscious trying to get Cobb to kill himself too. This is why Cobb knew inception was possible and also why inception is just not a good idea.

All through the film every time Cobb enters the dream world Mal would sabotage his mission and she is endangering the minds of whole team. But Mal is just a manifestation of Cobb’s guilt and he has avoided confronting her because his memories are all he has left but when she shoots Fischer on the third level and holds him hostage in limbo, Cobb and Ariadne have to go rescue him leading to a climax that resolves both plots.

There is a danger that a story about the dreams within dreams could get confusing but by giving each level a distinctive look I never a problem knowing what is happening. The visuals are amazing through the whole film but the sequence where all the dreams are coming to an end was just stunning. Arthur’s free-fall sequences were really well done but I think I missed how they explained why the snow fortress in level three was not also in free-fall.

Some people have perceived an ambiguity in the ending that may suggest that Cobb is still in a dream or may have always been in one because his spinning top totem didn’t fall before the credits appeared but I think they are just screwing with us. It is true that that the world Cobb calls reality does have some the same elements as the dreams like Cobb being chased by agents of Cobol but that reality is also completely missing appearances by Mal which is only true of actual reality. This is a very exciting action thriller that has all typical elements of a heist story like the different gang member with their character quirks and areas of expertise though at its core is about a man learning to forgive himself and move on from his loss. Some may think it is over rated but I think it is a film that neatly accomplishes what it set out to do

Rating 9.5/10

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: They Live

This lesser known John Carpenter science fiction film is well-liked among those who know do it. It is famous on YouTube thanks to a scene involving one of the most prolonged fight scenes I can remember in a film, probably included to showcase the wrestling skills of the star of the film Roddy Piper. If that is all you know about the film then you are missing a nice paranoid action thriller

America is in the grip of a recession and unemployed drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles looking for work on a building site. At the end of the day’s work he has nowhere to stay. One of the other workers on the site Frank (Keith David) takes him back to shanty town where he stays and Nada can get food and shelter from a charity group working out of the local church.

As Nada settles in he sees some old guys watching a TV set showing aspirational programmes in a tent and adverts for extravagant luxuries while they are sitting with nothing. A pirate broadcast interrupts with a strange message from some radical political group. Nada notices a blind street preacher standing nearby mouthing the exact words from the speech being given on the broadcast and starts to think that something strange is going on. He keeps an eye on the church and the following day he sneaks inside. The sound of a choir singing turns out to be a tape playing. He sees that there is a meeting including the guy from the pirate broadcast and the people working in the church they are talking about their need to recruit more people to spread their message.That night the police raid the church and then they bulldoze the shanty town brutally beating anyone resisting. Nada finds the police beating the crap out of the street preacher and the pirate radio guy round the back of the church.

In the aftermath of the raid everyone is looking for any of their belongings that they can salvage. Nada goes into the church and opens a secret panel he had found on his last visit and grabs a box hidden in there. Out in an alley in private he has a look inside is puzzled to find it is full of sunglasses. He takes a pair and hides the box in a bin. Once out in the street he put the glasses on and sees the world in a new way. Everything is bleak monochrome with brutal modernist architecture and advertising hoardings contain giant propaganda slogans like Obey, Reproduce, and Don’t Question Authority. Without the glasses everything seems normal again. Nada goes to a news stand and sees the magazines are the same slogans over and over again

A businessman comes to the news stand to buy a paper. Nada puts the glasses on a sees a nightmare instead a face, with big silver eyes and transparent skin. He looks around and sees most people look the same with glasses on but a number of people have the same nightmare faces Nada goes into a supermarket and confronts one of the aliens saying “You know, you look like your head fell in the cheese dip back in 1957.” They aliens realise he can see them and the woman talks to communicator disguised as an expensive watch to report him

Nada goes out outside and puts what he’s seeing together with what he’s overheard from the group back at the church. Two cops arrive, both aliens. One of them tries to offer him a deal but he’s having none of it and manages to get one of their guns and shoots both of them dead. He gets the other guns from the police, including a shotgun in their car, and shoots a floating robot camera visible only with the glasses on.

More police are on the way so ducks into building to get away from them and discovers he’s walked into a bank with armed guards and several aliens. He quickly recovers his composure, cocks the shotgun and says “I have come to here to chew bubblegum and kick ass … and I’m all out of bubble gum,” then starts gunning down as many aliens as he can. He sees one alien touch his watch then disappear right in front of him. The cops arrive and Nada has to shoot his way out.

Nada gets to a car park with the authorities not far behind. He’s see a woman Holly (Meg Foster) getting to her car and takes her hostage, forcing her to drive him to her house, a large expensive place overlooking the valley Holly works at the local TV station as assistant programme director. She acts cold towards Nada passively co-operating but nothing more. Nada tries to explain and apologise but Holly makes it clear he’s in charge because he has a gun and nothing more. Nada tries to get her to put on the glasses but she tells him it’s no use since she’ll just say she sees what he wants her to see. Nada is tired from wearing the glasses, he is feeling high and his head hurts. He needs to rest but can’t trust Holly. Holly finally agrees to help Nada but instead pushes through her window.

Nada is on the run so he heads to the building site and tries to get Frank to help him but thinks Nada’s gone crazy, since to everyone else it looks like he just went psycho with a gun. Frank gets him some food and tells him to go away. Nada goes to alley where he left the box of sunglasses and retrieves them just before a garbage truck takes them away. He meets up with Frank again tells him to try on the glasses. Frank thinks Nada really is crazy and refuses but Nada does not take not for an answer. The two men fight and fight and really pound the crap out of each other. Frank manages to beat Nada down several times but Nada gets up each time and just starts again ”Put on the glasses”. It’s very long scene and is clearly just a pure indulgence for wrestling fans. It ends with Nada putting the glasses on the barely conscious Frank but finally he can see it too, the real world under the aliens.

Nada and Frank get in touch with the church group and learn that they are having a meeting at a community hall to discuss what they know and plan what they are going to do about it. Some want to carry on with giving out glasses and contact lenses. Others want to try to go for the source of the signal the aliens are using to hide their presence and influence from the human population. They know it is being transmitted with the TV broadcast signal. That’s when Holly chips in with information that the signal leaves the studio clean.

Nada goes to talk to Holly about how she got there but just at that moment armed police raid the building shooting at people indiscriminately. Frank and Nada struggle with one alien cop and manage to get his watch from him. They kill the cop an activate some switch that open a trap door to an underground network of tunnels. Once safely in the tunnels no-one questions their presence they are free to explore the place, including a teleporter that lets the aliens travel the millions of light years to their home world.

One of the old men from the shanty town is there and thinking Nada and Franks have joined up with the aliens like he has he gives them a guided tour of the place. Showing off he takes them into the TV studio. He’s pretty shocked when they start shooting equipment and aliens. They discover that the signal is being broadcast from the roof and as they make their way up there they meet Holly who comes with them.

Nada heads up to the roof first and finds te alien signal device. He thinks that Holly and Frank are just behind him but that traitor Holly has already shot Frank dead and now tries to kill Nada before he can destroy the device but Nada manages destroy it before he dies. The whole world wakes up in shock to discover the hideous alien creatures living amongst us.

I know this film can be a bit cheesy sometimes but it has a great story and it does not try to what Carpenter is saying abou the world at the time that this was made, that the rich are parasites who feed on poverty and are so divorced from the way the poor live they are like aliens living in different world. It fit the politics of 80s perfectly and as the world has swung back into another recession it still resonates. I really liked contrast of the bleak world seen through the glasses with the apparently normal world. If you haven’t seen it I really recommend that you do

Rating 8/10

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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