For my standard review of Inception, with all the normal bells and whistles, see here. However, I followed this up with a visit to the IMAX; some thoughts on that viewing and then some further thoughts on the movie itself, after the jump. There are no big spoilers here but I would still recommend seeing the movie before you read too much further.
Why see it on IMAX: There are pros and cons, actually. The cons are all in the picture; there are a few points when the picture is a little muddy or out of focus, and blown up to gigantic proportions this looks so much worse. The picture also appears to have been cropped slightly; while not filling the whole screen, so it’s not down to the 1.44:1 IMAX ratio, it’s not the 2.35:1 ratio you’ll get in most other cinemas.
The pros are in the sound; Hans Zimmer’s amazing score comes over in a much clearer way and captured me in ways that it didn’t manage in a normal cinema. In addition, the 40 speaker system of the IMAX packs plenty of bass, and Inception is not short of ways to exploit it.
I’ve now seen four films on the IMAX format (The Dark Knight, Avatar and Journey to Mecca being the other three). Of the four, this has the worst picture but the best sound. So your choice to see it will depend entirely on your priorities.
Further thoughts: Although this is not a twist movie in the classic sense, there is an ending which has generated huge amounts of debate. So it’s always good to be able to reflect on the experience having seen that ending. While it’s easier to follow the ebb and flow of the movie second time around, as you’re not paying quite so much attention, there are answers to some questions and more questions raised.
What does come through the second time, as you can take in the surroundings better, is the quality of the component parts. Nolan has a knack for making fantastically eccentric choices for some of his smaller roles (see Rutger Hauer in Batman Begins and David Bowie in The Prestige as well as Tom Berenger here for examples), but they invariably work. However, the main cast here, especially the team of six that go into the dream world, as well as Marion Cotillard and Cillian Murphy, are all excellent actors working well and in some cases, at the top of their game. I have struggled to see what everyone else sees in Leonardo DiCaprio for many years – in particular I felt he was wrong in all three of his first collaborations with Scorsese, but in his fourth, Shutter Island I began to see a change and that change continues in a positive direction here.
There’s also a level of visual composition going on here that stands above some of Nolan’s previous work. The travelogue locations help, but there’s also some stunning shots – DiCaprio running through the market place in Mombassa being tracked from overhead, the whole Paris sequence in the first instructional dream, and the bus falling in the rain from the bridge, all mark out how far Nolan has come as a visual stylist. I also hadn’t picked up how good the score is; I’ve enjoyed some of Hans Zimmer’s previous work, including Gladiator and Crimson Tide, but he’s not one of my favourite composers of movie music, but I am actually tempted to pick up the soundtrack for this one, it’s that good.
Detractors have levelled a few criticisms at the movie. They say it’s confusing (not if you’re paying attention the first time), that there are plot holes (a few minor ones, but I will reserve judgement on those for a few more watches, and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment), that there’s a lack of emotion (the central story is a tragedy, and as I said in my first review how much you invest in that will dictate how much you get returned), or that there’s a lack of originality (really?). I’m not here to tell you to like Inception; I fell for it in a big way but you may not. I do strongly recommend seeing it, as it’s one of the few movies in the year you ought to see to see which way you fall, and so you can get involved in the debates about that ending.
While I consider this a 10/10 movie, I would hold off on the word masterpiece just yet. I saw in excess of 600 movies in the previous decade, and only four or five get that title (whereas over 50 got the top mark – hopefully an indication that I choose well in my viewing). However, what I do think is a masterpiece is the way that the construction has already generated seemingly endless debate. Alfred Hitchcock is my all-time favourite director, and there are obvious similarities between him and Christopher Nolan in the construction of their work – maybe one day, Nolan will be able to be held in that same regard.