Inception

Apparently the concept of Inception began when director Chris Nolan, he of the Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Memento and the upcoming Dark Knight Rises, the most anticipated film of 2012 (tied with the Avengers and the Hobbit), wanted to make a film in which several climaxes are all occurring simultaneously. Most directors would then structure a plot in such a way as to have different characters in different locations, all partaking in various climactic events and cutting between them, but Nolan, in what I’m going to assume was an evening rife with alcohol, narcotics and some rare kinds of cheese, opted instead to make a film predominantly set within the world of dreams.

Taking an already interesting, fantastical premise – secrets can be obtained by stealing them from people’s dreams via extraction and spinning it on its head, as Leonardo DiCaprio’s master extractor Cobb and his team – Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy and Dileep Rao, are enlisted for one last job, to plant an idea in Cillian Murphy’s dream by business rival Ken Watanabe. By using this world of dreams, Nolan has released literally all limitations as to where the plot can go, and opened up the door for some thoroughly original set pieces, the standout of which is Gordon Levitt’s taciturn Arthur fighting armed goons in a corridor with an ever-changing, and disappearing, centre of gravity. This, combined with a rain-lashed chase through busy city streets and a Bond-inspired snowbound explosive finale adds up to one of the most thought provoking action movies in recent years.

The plot is sometimes lost amid the spectacle of the dream worlds and the new logic required to understand it – in a dream, time travels 12 times slower with each level you go down, your subconscious can flare up against you but you can bend the environment around your will – so at times you forget just what they are fighting to achieve. Nolan also appears to have paid attention to the naysayer accusers who believe, not unfairly, that his films lack a required heart and emotional depth, as the addition of Cobb’s deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) appears in his subconscious, eager to turn the dream worlds against him, and the entire plot takes place just so Cobb can be reunited with his kids. Both these points seem tacked on and superfluous to the overall plot, other than adding a motive and antagonist that, although not asked for, do not overly deter.

Under close scrutiny some of the dream logic is inconsistent and doesn’t quite hold up, with some questions remaining unanswered – how exactly does Tom Hardy’s scene-stealing Eames transform into other people as the teams forger? – but the performance, cast (also including Michael Caine, Tom Berenger and Pete Postlethwaite), effects and sheer scale of the project make this unmissable, and my best film of 2010, although it makes my dreams look utterly pathetic in comparison.

Choose film 9/10

The Usual Suspects

 Is it OK to ruin the Usual Suspects yet? Doesn’t anyone who cares who the ending already? Its 16 years old! Is it not another Sixth Sense or Empire Strikes Back, where the big reveal has either been witnessed firsthand or spoiled by someone else? Miraculously, my film watching companion had not seen or heard the ending to Bryan Singer’s sophomore film, and he’d have throttled me had I revealed it (Marcos hates spoilers, and will punch you in the head) so no, it would seem there are some out there yet to discover the fate of the five criminals bought in for a line-up, nor do they know the identity of their tormentor, the mythical Keyser Soze, so I’ll try and tread carefully. The cons in question – Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro and a career-launching, Oscar winning Kevin Spacey – have been brought together on a bogus line-up, and use their time in incarceration to plan a robbery, bus is it all a part of a bigger plan?
Told in flashback by Spacey’s weaselly over talkative ‘Verbal’ Kint, the tale begins with the death of Byrne’s Keaton, a crooked cop gone straight and the closest the gang has to a leader, after what appears to be a drug deal gone wrong. Chazz Palminteri, the cop to whom Kint tells his story, has his own theories as to what went wrong, but his opinions, and those of the viewer, get in the way of seeing the truth, ably assisted by Christopher McQuarrie’s deservedly Oscar winning ever twisting screenplay.
The cast are exceptional, particularly the scene stealing del Toro and Pete Postlethwaite at stoic lawyer Kobayashi, but it is the fine balance between tightly plotted twists and turns and sporadic bursts of action and violence that plants this firmly on the choose film list, regardless of whether you know the ending.
Choose film 9/10