Friday, July 23, 2010

The Dream Police

Christopher Nolan is a director of rare abilities. He dreams big and, unlike other filmmakers who make films on a wide scope (I’m looking at you Roland Emmerich), actually has the talent to pull it off. For forty years Batman had been battling in a cartoon world filled with foes who’s most intimidating threats where things like, “You haven’t seen the last of me, Caped Crusader!” In Nolan’s hands Batman must contend with the new Joker, a man who is part domestic terrorist and part world’s worst (or, maybe, best) sociologist. So, when Christopher Nolan wants to make a movie about human beings with the ability to enter the dreams of others, we’re not talking about Randy Quaid fighting a snake man with Kate Capshaw here… By the way, for those keeping score, that is the second reference to 1984’s “Dreamscape” made on this blog. If you can find the first one, I’ll send you a free windbreaker.

There’s quote from and Edgar Allen Poe poem that in essence sums up the film “Inception”. "All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream". In a world where the technology that allows others to infiltrate dreams exists Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team are the best extractors money can buy. They make their living as dream thieves, entering peoples’ subconscious and stealing important ideas. One day, however, a powerful Japanese businessman named Saito offers Cobb the deal of a lifetime. You see Cobb has been on the lam for the last several years, if he returns to the states he’ll be arrested for his wife’s murder. He’s like the Roman Polanski of psyche-thieving non-pedophiles. Cobb is, of course, innocent and Saito offers him a free pass back into the United States to see his children again if he can complete one more assignment. But if you thought this was going to be another simple extraction like the others you are quite mistaken and unfortunately no longer eligible for the windbreaker.

What makes Cobb so good at his job, and ultimately what makes Nolan so good at his, is his ability to create dreams inside of dreams. The best way to steal an idea is to confuse the target as to whether or not they are still dreaming. Often times in the film people enter other dreams while already in one or wake up from a dream only to find they are part of another dream. Saito sees Cobb's expertise and asks him to perform not an extraction but an inception, he wants an idea planted in someone’s brain and the team’s artistry at creating multiple layers of dreaming makes them the perfect candidates.

The crime film is probably to the most prolific genre in cinema (with the exception of porn and talking dog movies) and the general thought is that everything that can be done has already been done before. With “Memento”, “The Prestige”, “The Dark Knight”, and now “Inception” Nolan challenges the status quo. Great directors, like Tarantino, or Michael Mann, or Scorsese, work inside of a genre and are able to make something new, to pull the rug out from underneath the audience just when they think they know what’s coming next. Christopher Nolan has made the ultimate post-modern heist movie and if you say you’ve seen everything there is to see [incoming hackneyed joke], much like Aerosmith, Nolan will tell you to dream on.

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