Aside from your bog standard mass-compatible movie, every now and then something different comes along. There are the ones that claim to revolutionize film making and then there are the ones who really do. This year we’ve had plenty of the first with the hopelessly over-hyped Avatar, but thankfully we’ve also had some of the second by ways of Inception. As I’ve written many times, I’m loathe of German voiceovers, so I more or less consciously avoided this in theaters, but now that it’s out on DVD, it’s time to give it a spin. Since for the hundredth time this year I’m down with a cold, anyway, it seemed a reasonable way to spend a few hours while lying in bed, too.
Now first let’s get the obvious out of the way – while the film certainly explores some interesting concepts about reality perhaps not being as real as we think just in the way The Matrix did, there seems no point in over-interpreting it and treating every piece of scene dressing as a philosophical metaphor. It is quite multi-layered, but I found it always easy enough to follow and keep things straight. Even the final resolution is pretty straightforward and rather obvious, so I certainly don’t understand the circus that has built around it. That being said, it still requires you to keep a bit of attention to understand and enjoy the story.
Visually the movie is nicely shot and as a pleasant detour from the overuse of CG these days. Many of the effects are/ have been verifiably done practically, meaning they make sense on some level and feel grounded in reality. On the other hand they are probably the reason for the budget soaring at around 100 million in what otherwise is essentially a conventional character-driven movie. Using a slightly different approach you could have probably shot this for one third of the cost in a few select locations. That brings me to the one gripe I have with the movie: While the principle of "architecting" serves as the construct for everything, it is never truly explored and doesn’t really explain anything, mostly owing to the dream world being presented as rather fixed and not responding and transforming in reaction to the events. I like to think that e.g. roads changing their direction instead of just the projections turning hostile would have been a cooler concept to explore.