Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan
Once Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life was pushed from release this year to next, Christopher Nolan’s new film became #1 on my radar for the year. The most anticipated film of the year. My reasoning is simple: the man is one of the single most inventive directors and storytellers of his time. And add on to that the fact that pretty much all of my favorite actors were in this. Marion Cotillard, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Ken Wantanabe, Cillian Murphy, it was just too great a cast to pass up. That being said, I also tried to avoid knowing anything at all about the film. As soon as trailer would come on the tv I would walk out of the room, I avoided all conversation about the film until I saw it. I also, and some of my friends can attest to this, I even looked at the floor and covered my ears once in the theater when it was one of the trailers before another film I was seeing. My efforts were well rewarded as I was able to go into the film cold and come out as hot as volcanic rock.
What I knew going in about the film was this: a group of people are capable of infiltrating other people’s dreams in order to steal ideas, etc. from them. A pretty neat concept. Other than that I didn’t know anything, and I will try not to tell you anything more than that either, because experiencing the film as I did is the way I wish everyone could. When things are new, brand new, like this film going experience was for me, things are so refreshing and rewarding, especially when they are as awesome as this was. And here is also where I will try to stop using such superlatives as awesome and mind-blowing, etc. etc. as I know that will be very difficult for me to do, but for the sake of the reader I shall do my best.
The first thing I will comment on is the visuals. The film, with its director of photography Wally Pfister teaming back up with Nolan, is extremely innovative and visually stunning. Nolan used IMAX and VistaVision while filming, and while I did not see it in IMAX, the visual aspect of this film is astonishing. Much of this can also be credited to the spectacular special effects department and, I’m sure, all of their hard work. This collaborative effort creates a new, different world for which the story to unfold and it is one of the best aspects of the film.
Now onto the performances by that great cast I mentioned before. Honestly, and I will elaborate more later, but none of the performances were all that brilliant. There was nothing inherently wrong with any of them, none of them were bad, I just felt that what was demanded of the characters and the actors was not great enough to warrant any show stopping, great performances. That being said, I thought the ensemble cast was a great thing to have at the same time. Also, I have now been introduced to the awesomeness of Tom Hardy and his ability to just control the screen. There are two performances that are somewhat flashier and more demanding than the rest and those are Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio. They are both give slightly more to work with and both do it brilliantly. Marion Cotillard is an amazing movie star. I don’t use that word movie star much, but when I do I mean they light up the room and control it whenever they are in a scene and Cotillard is like that for me. Anything she does is brilliant.
So I mentioned that the performances were not that demanding, well then how can I still be completely enamored with the film? Christopher Nolan. His past work has generally been very good, but it seems like now, this was the culmination of his creative prowess, though I hope he has much much more in his bag of tricks. Nolan, in addition to directing the film, also wrote the picture. I have always said that my four favorite words in film are “written and directed by”. There is definitely something about a writer, who is also a director, being able to fully visualize and interpret his own imagination and idea, from start to finish. Here, Nolan does a better job writing than directing, but that is saying something because he seems to know exactly what he wants to do with the camera in the director’s chair. The screenplay that Nolan has written here is one of the best I have ever seen and easily the best I have seen since 1997s L.A. Confidential at least. Every little detail and explanation is there for the audience. For a plot that is so complex and has so many facets, Nolan and his editors are able to create a film that is relatively simple to follow if the viewer at least pays attention. But at the same time, he creates a film that is also so open for interpretation and forces the audience to consider so many things while viewing it. This is one of the strengths of the film, however.
At a relatively long two hours and twenty-eight minutes in runtime the film flies by with non stop action and really strong exposition. The film is a grand achievement for both its ability to test the viewer and make her/him think, and also as storytelling masterpiece. Everything was thought about before by Nolan and he reveals everything at the precise time the viewer needs to see it. His special effects team and cinematographer compliment his vision so well that what we are left with to view is nothing short of spectacular. This is one of those films that once you leave the theater, you want to discuss/think about it for hours upon hours, or better yet, just see again, and again, and again.