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Trailer Review

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 3.03/5 (17)


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Rating: The Good – 83.5
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Duration: 120 mins
Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Few films have been as eagerly awaited as the fourth instalment in the Mad Max franchise, not simply because of its jaw dropping series of trailers but because the highly selective George Miller, who hasn’t put a foot wrong since the third offering, was back behind the wheel determined to shoot the entire thing old school. Under a sand storm of hype, it opened to resounding commercial success with glowing critical reviews hot on its tail. Amidst such expectations, it’s possible for fans of the genre to be overly forgiving and for its disciples to be overly harsh. And it may just be that both will have a case.

In Mel Gibson’s place, Fury Road gives us an overtly (but appropriately) monosyllabic Tom Hardy as the former family man roaming the wasteland of a post apocalyptic Australia while dodging one manic tribe of lunatics after another. A self-described personification of the will to survive. When he’s captured by Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe, the leader of a cult like settlement of high octane warriors who turn him into a “blood-bag” (don’t ask!), he inadvertently gets dragged into an epic desert pursuit of Immortan’s wives fleeing under the protection of his most famous soldier, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Fear not if the premise feels a little bewildering, for it’s used to do little more than provide an admirably modest funnel for the high-gear auto carnage that runs non-stop for the first 45 minutes of the movie not to mention the final 25. Contrary to much of what we’ve heard, there’s plenty of CGI but it’s used on the periphery of the invigorating real life stunt work. The result: a feast of cranked-up, rust-eaten behemoths cutting swathes of dust trails through the Nambian desert, sideswiping, spearing, devouring the gravel, flipping like tossed coins, and exploding into rocketing balls of shrapnel! Within the wonderfully narrow parameters of the pursuit, and with no small help from John Seale’s (who came out of retirement to shoot this) cinematography, Miller brings this action to life with with hectic tension and pure excitement and there will come a moment when everyone watching will look away to give their eyes a rest and use that brief reprieve to exhale the words “Bloody hell!” or something along those lines. In the modern age of generic computerised action and simulated movie stunts, this isn’t just rare achievement, it’s a downright reason for celebration. More than that, it’s the blueprint for the future of the action genre!

But it gets better! The characters (though not well developed – wrong movie for that) are plump with personality and coloured with unusual mannerisms befitting a world so different to ours. And it’s in this regard, that writer-director Miller succeeds most impressively. For the first two acts, Fury Road completely owns itself. Dialogue, set-up, plot, characterisation, production and costume design are uniquely organic to Max’s anarchic world, meaning there’s a depth of originality to the movie that’s truly rare. Beyond an awareness that the three main characters are going to make it at least to the last act, little else is predictable. Even Hardy’s Max persona is unfamiliar, an erratic collage of communicative grunts and base intentions (to the extent that he sometimes sounds like a befuddled cartoon character). It’s missing the outback spirit of Gibson’s portrayal but it’s so damn wacky, it seems somehow more in line with this more deranged world. Theron’s Furiosa is played somewhat more accessibly than Miller’s character concept but she is nothing close to derivative in her mannerisms (though in all honesty, she’s still a little bland). Keays-Byrne (Toe-Cutter from the first film) is a law onto himself so its unsurprising that his Immortan Joe qualifies as unique. But that he (and again Miller’s character conception helps abundantly) represents the horror of this futuristic world so viscerally is legitimately arresting. Of course, as is the point, this degree of originality all adds to the integrity of the premise.

Where the film fails to reach the high ground of The Road Warrior and Mad Max, however, is in its final act. Maintaining a single link between premise and pursuit in the first half of the movie worked a treat so it’s all the more disappointing that they went overboard in explaining the motives of the final charge. Worse still is that those motives are no different to the motives of any number of post-apocalyptic characters from Logan’s Run to Battlestar Galactica. With each heartfelt emotion and yearning for a life of green and plenty we get slowly drawn back to normality and everything seems less exotically savage. Miller is essentially repeating the mistakes of Beyond the Thunderdome here. Letting familiar sentimentality intrude on a world where it doesn’t belong. There can be sentiment, for sure, but it should bear the hallmarks of its world’s stripped-down motives. Like those that carried us through the first two acts: survival with a splash of self-determination. Max says it himself in his opening monologue:- he is driven by the instinct to survive and nothing more. As streamlined and action-friendly a motive as you could hope for, an idea which the first two acts champion (to the film’s emphatic benefit) but which the last act loses grasp of. It doesn’t ruin the film, it just tempers its brilliance.

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Layer Cake (2004) 3.86/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 66.1
Genre: Crime
Duration: 105 mins
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Daniel Craig, Sienna Miller, Michael Gambon, Tom Hardy

A fair if slightly forced attempt to replicate Guy Ritchie’s magic formula for slick gangster action and sidewinding cockney slang. Daniel Craig stars as a yuppie drug dealer who, on the eve of his early retirement, gets dragged into dangerous negotiations between a kingpin and a gang of loudmouth wideboys. The plot is multi-tiered but coherent enough to withstand the numerous diversions that director Matthew Vaughn and writer J.J. Connolly take in an effort to woo us with amusing anecdotes about London gangsters and their rules-of-the-street type lessons. Ultimately, however, that effort is why this Layer Cake collapses because whereas Ritchie sewed such vignettes seamlessly, adroitly, and effortlessly into the fabric of his plot, Vaughn labours to manufacture them. Producer of the former Mr. Madonna’s early films Lock Stock and Snatch, Vaughn (Mr Claudia Schiffer as it happens) stepped behind the camera to replace Ritchie when he became unavailable and so some consideration is warranted. Overambition is typical of first time directors but the job of stepping into Ritchie’s shoes is probably more to blame for the awkwardly gratuitous scenes of violence that Layer Cake is peppered with, not to mention the painfully predictable popular music they’re soundtracked to. That said, there’s a tidy cast on show to add a sheen of polish and give the more comedic and dramatic moments their legs. Craig is more than comfortable as the suave and erudite crook (foreshadowing his later 007 transformation), Colm Meaney is terrific as the old enforcer, and Michael Gambon pops up for his usual bit of scene stealing as the big bad boss at the top of the heap. Thus, even though it comes off a touch “Ritchie-lite” and we end up craving for the real thing, Layer Cake does just enough to become a movie in its own right and even offers decent entertainment as it goes.

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The Drop (2014) 3.52/5 (3)


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Rating: The Good – 69.8
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Duration: 106 mins
Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Stars: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini’s final film sees him play a former small time gangster now running a bar for the Chechen mob which doubles as a drop point for their nightly collections. When the bar is robbed, his bartender and younger cousin “Bob” (Tom Hardy), who is simultaneously being drawn into a strange game of cat-and-mouse with a local psychopath, begins to betray his understated appearance by taking control of both situations in contrasting ways. It’s a complicated plot made nicely ambiguous by Hardy’s outwardly soft character and nervous demeanour. But it’s the dissolution of that ambiguity which ultimately gives The Drop its cutting edge and ties the disparate plot strands together in intimidating style.

Though Gandolfini’s “Cousin Marv” amounts to a support player, he’s central to the movie’s permeating pessimism. It’s the type of turn we had come to expect from the dexterous old pro, a sophisticated blending of pettiness, ego, ruthlessness, and humanity that serves as a final reminder of his tremendous depth as an actor. Hardy continues to hold his own with the best in the business by adding yet another unique personality to his repertoire and he rather delicately drives the film with the subtle detail to his sympathetic “Bob”.

Ultimately, Belgium director Michaël R. Roskam’s film spins a dark and unforgiving yarn that forges new ground in the crime genre but repels as much as it seduces. Nicolas Karakantsanis’ bleak photography dull with pitched yellows and browns  sets much in the way of tone but, like Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) screenplay, it lacks heart. As the movie progresses, it intrigues beyond any initial expectations but struggles to carry us. As with its visual profile, the personalities are just too harsh. Naomi Rapace’s would-be love interest threatens to turn things around at a couple of junctures but ultimately she, like the story’s potential for genuine emotional resonance, is a little wasted.

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Warrior (2011) 4/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 73.3
Genre: Sport, Drama
Duration: 131 mins
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Stars: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte

One might expect a movie set in the world of mixed martial arts to be nothing more than another vehicle in the sport’s locomotive-like publicity convoy. That it’s not, is only the first surprise Gavin O’Connor’s fight drama servers up. Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy play Brendan and Tommy, two estranged brothers who were separated when the latter took off with his mother to escape their physically abusive father (played by Nick Nolte) years earlier. The older Brendan stayed with his father only to shun him at a later date and settle down as a physics teacher and family man while Tommy lost his mother, escaped poverty by joining the Marines, and served in Iraq.

The story begins with a ferociously volatile Tommy showing up at his father’s door 14 years later to throw insults at the now recovered alcoholic – not to mention his former wrestling trainer. However, it’s not long before he asks the desperate old man to train him for a blockbuster MMA event in which the winner takes home $5 million – so long as only training is discussed. Unbeknownst to them, over in Philadelphia, Brendan’s family are in danger of losing their home and so he too decides to return to fighting, eyeing the same prize as his brother. With the second half of the film dedicated to the all out carnage of the cage, the fraternal dynamic is only alluded to (in a standout night time scene that was shot on the Atlantic City waterfront) but it seems that the bluntly manic Tommy has never forgiven Brendan for not leaving with him and his mother and so their inevitable collision in the ring promises to erupt into a grudge match of biblical proportions.

There’s obviously lots going on here and that’s not the half of it. The film is beset with two or three needless subplots mostly concerning Tommy but given the tendency for these types of films to pay mere lip-service to back stories, the attempt to do more as opposed to less should be somewhat respected. It does come together thanks to some contrived character dynamics, some less than believable plot development, and O’Connor’s cleverly manipulative direction but so hair-raising is the end product that most will forgive the heavy handedness. Moreover, if you are content not to dwell on the negatives, the film can whisk you forward in a wave of unsubtle emotion right into the frenzied grinder of the tournament battles.

They’re a rousing bunch of set pieces connected with an adrenaline charged yet elegant montage of highlights from those fights we don’t see in full. And MMA fans won’t be disappointed either given the quality of the fight choreography. Yes, some of the physical untidiness of real-life fighting is filtered out in favour of more flowing moves but the hard edged savagery is represented clearly and authentically. The climax is a little on the nose and unashamedly gives the audience what they want but it undeniably works.

On the acting front, Edgerton shows once again what an interesting talent he is and Nolte does his best to battle the pathos with which his character is overflowing (a ridiculously overwrought drunken-relapse scene notwithstanding) but in truth everyone is overshadowed by Tom Hardy’s monstrous turn. As an unstable brute, it’s a commanding piece of acting that makes quality use of the writers’ best ideas for Tommy and avoids the pitfalls of their worst. Furthermore, not only does he maintain a deep and necessary vulnerability but he funnels it into his character’s personality so completely that it only juices his formidable energy all the more. Movie fans will get much from this film regardless of whether their preference is drama or action, but what will stay with everyone the longest is Hardy.

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RocknRolla (2008) 3.86/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 73.8
Genre: Crime
Duration: 114 mins
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong

“You didn’t realise that they had guns? Big, long, dangerous machine guns with war criminals attached to the trigger?” After a disappointing eight years on the back of Lock Stock and Snatch., Guy Ritchie returned to stylish form with this playful caper movie wherein a bunch of loveable rogues get caught up in a real estate scam between London’s underworld and a Russian oligarch. Things are made even more unpredictable when the junkie rockstar stepson of London’s chief mobster fakes his demise and starts stirring the shit from the shadows, just for kicks.

Credit where it’s due, RocknRolla is one hell of an original crime feature. The characters, the dynamics between them, the plots, and the set pieces are all fresh and forged with an often twisted hilarity. And that it’s all cooked up in a big pot of fun and easy going humour ensures that it’s finest virtue is sheer enjoyability. Moreover, it was critical for Ritchie to take himself less seriously after the pretentiousness of his previous two outings. The dialogue isn’t as overtly sharp as Lock Stock and Snatch. but it’s more than tinted with wit and satire. This more mature and seasoned approach to Ritchie’s writing is a nice development in his career and with the real estate plot, it was necessary to the film. However, his directorial style is still defined by the burning intensity of a young talent trying to catch the eye of his audience but given the carefree nature of the film, it doesn’t hurt the script. In fact, it complements the playfulness of the plot.

In front of the camera, Ritchie assembles the cream of Britain’s current crop of talent with Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, and Idris Elba playing the small time chancers and setting a charming tone both as a team and on their own. Thandie Newton is in delicious form as a deviously eccentric accountant and Tom Wilkinson scores yet again as the colourful if sometimes cartoon like mobster kingpin. Best of all though, are Toby Kebbell and Mark Strong. The former, as the eponymous meddler, puts in an enigmatic and lyrical turn to meet his cockney character’s writing head on. The latter, as Wilkinson’s charismatic smooth talking trouble shooter, shows yet again that he’s the most interesting British actor on the go at the moment.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) 3.15/5 (2)


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Rating: The Bad – 57.8
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Comic Book
Duration: 165 mins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Morgan FreemanMichael Cain

Stunning but only in its capacity to underwhelm, The Dark Knight Rises may have had an army of fanboys defending its name on (and even before!!) its release but this supposed movie extravaganza is nothing but a damp squib. Christopher Nolan’s final contribution to the Batman franchise sees Gotham being held for ransom by a formidable foe named Bane (Tom Hardy) who hijacks the city under the threat of nuclear destruction. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, a physically weakened Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) who has hung up his cape these last few years poses little threat to the savage Bane and must rediscover his zest for life in order to defend the city once again. Along for the ride are the usual assortment of characters from Michael Caine’s Alfred to Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon as well as a few newcomers, namely, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a boy wonder type, and Mathew Modine as a bigwig in the police department.

After struggling with the coordination and overall pacing of the multiple subplots in Batman Begins yet seemingly mastering them in the The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises is a return to the hectic, rushed, and just plain muddled film-making of Nolan’s first installment. Side stories are merely introduced and with no time to let them nor the characters they’re built around develop, they’re accelerated, truncated, and fleetingly revisited all with the intention of bringing them together at the end. Unfortunately, given their slipshod construction we could care less about any of those characters by the time they get there. Even Batman elicits little in the way of the audience’s concern as the interminable final act plays itself out.

The character who suffers the most in this is Hathaway’s Catwoman as her early sequences showed some promise as the potentially treacherous nemesis of the Caped Crusader. But like every other character in this movie, the tension she offers peters out and the treachery becomes jarringly ordinary. Yes, it doesn’t help that Hathaway is operating in the shadow of Michelle Pfeiffer’s seminal turn in Batman Returns wherein she came to embody the very essence of feline treachery but in truth she was never even given a chance to compete. Tom Hardy puts in an interesting shift as the bad guy and Nolan sets up his character and introduces him effectively. However, because his brooding menace culminates in nothing more than a bunch of physical beatings he dishes out, the character ends up stagnating and even diminishing in threat.

On the technical front, Wally Phister’s cinematography, Lee Smith’s editing, and the visual effects are undoubtedly spectacular but with such an insubstantial story underlying them, the movie begins to feel like nothing more than a slideshow of striking images. This becomes rather jading and the film feels more and more like a visual marathon. The set pieces are elaborately set up but such is Nolan’s tendency to truncate every aspect of this film that, with the exception of the reasonably impressive opening sequence, they’re never allowed materialise into anything like what we saw in either of the first two installments. In fact, if it wasn’t for Hans Zimmer’s thrilling score we would barely notice the tepid action that this movie repeatedly serves up.

In the end, the abiding memories of The Dark Knight Rises are of the endless yet entirely nondescript hand-to-hand battles (somebody finally teach Nolan how to direct a fight scene, please!) and of Batman flying very slowly away from those fights in his nebulously shaped flying machine (don’t ask!). In fact, one desperately struggles to comprehend why so many have raved about the movie. It’s true that Nolan hires the cream of the industry’s technical talent and so his films have a very shiny gloss indeed but with such confused and unfocused writing and direction it’s all just a bottle of smoke.

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Blackhawk Down (2001) 3.86/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 74.4
Genre: War, Action
Duration: 144 mins
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Tom Hardy

Describing a film that focuses on a single battle which doesn’t even last 24 hours as epic might seem a little counter-intuitive but Ridley Scott’s dramatisation of the 1993 Delta Force/Rangers incursion into the Somalian city of Mogadishu is as deserving of that description as A Bridge Too Far was. Like that film it focuses on a number of different characters across different aspects of the mission and each with their own personalities. The pace of this film is relentless and it’s to Scott’s, writer Ken Nolan’s, and the actors’ credit that the characters manage to develop in such a taut whirlwind of action. There are too many good performances to mention them all but Josh Hartnett and in particular Eric Bana score very well.

There are a few cliches littered throughout the main body of the film and the dialogue can be a little uninspired and at times jingoistic. Furthermore, despite a few token gestures, the Somalian rebels are portrayed as a mindless horde of automatons or cartoon evil doers. However, in the absence of any loftier ambitions, Scott and co. find themselves with an excuse to cram as much action as possible into its two and a half hours which isn’t a bad thing because the action is as good as any war film before it or since. Most important for a movie with action on a scale this big, it’s also perfectly co-ordinated (due largely to Pietro Scalia’s sublime editing) so that the viewer can keep track of events.

Unfortunately, Jerry Bruckheimer’s ugly, heavy handed, cliche-ridden touch is all over the ending and it undoes much of the power of the brutal war sequences by hammering the audience over the head with soppy sentiment. It could have ruined the whole thing but thankfully, the visceral thrust of the film is so immersive that the ending is practically negated by it. Also worth mentioning, is that this is one of the few pre-blu-ray technology films that transfers superbly well to that format, a testament to Slawomir Izdiak’s stunningly graded cinematography.

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Inception (2010) 3/5 (4)


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Rating: The Bad – 43.5
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 148 mins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom HardyTom Berenger

A team of corporate spies who infiltrate the dreams of various business executives to steal their secrets are hired to implant a critical thought in the mind of a CEO so as to manipulate his company’s future. But, as their elaborate preparations begin, things start to go wrong with reflexive consequences.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with a mess of a movie such as this. Okay, firstly, fans say the film takes us into a world unlike anything we’ve seen before. Well it doesn’t really. Anyone even remotely familiar with Star Trek or Stargate SG1 will know that the ‘dreamscape’ episode is a tired staple of the sci-fi genre and, what’s more, they all fall at the same hurdle: a lack of jeopardy – though we’ll get back to that issue later.

(By the way, this is necessarily a long review so for those who think while reading the first few paragraphs, that it has missed the point of what Nolan implies with his final shot, please make sure to read the third final paragraph)

Let’s get the small stuff out of the way first. There are all sorts of forgivable (forgivable if there was one or two of them) movie-making errors littered throughout Inception. The “surprise” ending was so heavily flagged (albeit in one place quite cleverly), and was in fact so obvious, that one was fully expecting it from early in the second act. Worse still, was the lack of bravery in fully committing to it. Instead, we have a final shot that includes a rather cowardly escape clause cloaked in the artificially profound (if it’s obvious, it’s just not profound, no matter how much one wants it to be). The action was pedestrian at best and granted, while it wasn’t helped by the protracted and tediously premised story, the choreography of the climactic battle sequence was truly uninspired and formulaic. This last issue has been a recurrent problem for director Christopher Nolan as even the excellent The Dark Knight was hampered by lazily conceived ‘token’ fight sequences (e.g., the nightclub sequence).

Furthermore, there’s no overt villain in Inception, whom the audience can use to counterpoint the good guys with. Just a series of faceless henchmen. Not that it mattered much as the secondary “good guy” characters were so one-dimensional, it would’ve been difficult to identify with and care for them even if they were facing a visible enemy (and while one may argue that that ties in with the ending, it makes the film less appealing). And then there is the pretentious, bombastic, inaccessible, and just plain artificial dialogue. The script felt like it was written by an adolescent who has just discovered the joy of putting big words together to describe what s/he thinks are profound philosophical quandaries that nobody but her/him has stumbled upon before. Expressive? Yes. Original and disciplined? Absolutely Not!

But these are minor quibbles compared to the major problems that lie at the very center of Inception as a film:

The most unforgivable problem with Inception is without doubt, its appalling story construction. When you’re interested in telling a good story, you set your stall out early on (i.e., establish your universe) and then you get on with telling your story within that universe. Take Star Wars (Episodes IV-VI) for example. 50% of that universe is explained in the opening credits and the remaining 50% is explained within the first 20 minutes. Everything that happens from then on, right throughout Episodes IV-VI, happens within the boundaries of that universe (no further explanations are required). That doesn’t happen in Inception because the writers continue to add new rules throughout the course of the first two acts and even through the final act! Therefore, instead of representing the one unmovable touchstone which the audience can reference at any time to get their bearings, Inception’s universe is constantly in flux. The result is utter confusion and prevents the audience from connecting with the world so that they can get on with enjoying the story.

However, what’s truly unforgivable about this breakdown in structuring is the motive behind it. Rather than serving some deeper profound and even reflexive purpose, each of these aforementioned rules seems to be included for no other reason than to serve some visual flourish the director/writers had in mind. For example, in Nolan’s world, things explode when the characters become aware that they are dreaming. Ever have a lucid dream? Did anything explode? No, more likely you said “hey, I’m in a dream, time for some flying – or something else!” There’s no logic to this rule, it doesn’t make any conspicuous sense in either relation to the film’s premise or to any of the other rules. In such circumstances, it’s clear the writers don’t have a story to tell, just a bunch of ideas they think are cool which they proceed to tie together in the loosest of fashion. Worse still, because these rules have no logical bearing on each other, the characters are forced into explaining the rules to one another in one contrived instance after another – contrived because they’re really explaining it to the audience.

Everything in Inception either just about makes sense or just about doesn’t make sense. The world Nolan creates is so fragile that you daren’t go about pulling on any loose threads lest the whole thing come apart. For example, remember when Ariadne tells Cobb: “Tell your subconscious to take it easy”, Cobb says: “it’s my subconscious, remember I can’t control it”. Well, Saito had no trouble getting his men to do his bidding – and they were projections in someone else’s subconscious! And while we’re on the subject, why weren’t Cobb’s subconscious projections attacking Ariadne from the beginning? After all Cobb knew it was a dream from the beginning and so, therefore, did his subconscious.

A director must be committed to telling a story of substance or else he’s just Michael Bay. When story is paramount, all rules are drawn from the same logical universe. When not, you have a bunch of independent rules all doing different things. But Nolan wanted to saturate his film with flashy special effects so he created a series of rules that defied logic and, in betraying the “idea” of a grounded story for the superficial, he alienated the audience – and this is not even to mention the tiring effort that the audience has to invest in keeping all these rules together which only results in yet further alienation.

The subject of alienating the audience leads us nicely to the other central problem with Inception: the lack of jeopardy that comes with all dreamscape stories. When we heard Nolan was to write/direct such a film, one might have assumed that the writer/director of the clever Memento had come up with a nifty and original way of instilling jeopardy into the story but alas, he didn’t. He merely fell back on the same old clumsy device: you croak in a dreamscape, you croak in real life (Yawn!!!). Okay, so you don’t actually croak, you fall into some nether world described by Cobb as “the shores of our unconscious” (yes, he used those exact words – it doesn’t matter that Jung said them, they’re literal barf!). The result is of course the same pseudo-jeopardy or “I can’t believe it’s not Jeopardy”. This is the reason that all the dreamscape episodes of Star Trek were so awfully tedious – because none of it was real. It was all the loose imaginings of a character that gave us nothing to grab a hold off. Inception is just as tedious but, with the sprawling attempt to contrive an original sense of jeopardy, their nonsensical and endless descriptions of the ‘dream purgatory’ makes it truly excruciating as well.

But surely it can’t be that bad. After all, why do so many people love the film? Now, that’s the most important question. One could argue that people like to feel intelligent and Inception makes a wider band of people feel that way than most films. Inception bases its premise on simplistic, windy, pseudo-psychological ideas but it does so in a garbled, muddled, and nonsensical manner. Essentially, therefore, Inception is neither intelligent in premise nor in writing but because of the aforementioned problem with a universe of disconnected rules, it is convoluted. So in order to figure out what the film is about, one must sit down and pay attention. But this in itself, does not make it clever. After all, one could sit down and spend an hour untangling a series of long ropes. One doesn’t need intelligence to do this but one does need to concentrate and follow every frustratingly random turn the ropes take. In other words, perhaps the fans of Inception merely mistook the convoluted for the complex – and that the half-baked windy verbose dialogue made it easier (or more tempting) to make that mistake. After all, humans are egotistical creatures and we like to process all the ambiguous things we do (those which are open to interpretation) into something self-praising – especially if the information we are processing is crying out for such superficial reformulation. So why not assume that the untangling of what Nolan passed off for a story is something that takes intelligence on our behalf and not simply effort? Just move on and whatever we do, don’t look back at the now untangled mess and begin scrutinising it – lest we see it for what it is.

The other explanation is that Inception works like the fabled naked emperor. With all the effort it takes to keep the various rules in mind, surely many would choose to let them go and just watch the film. They might suspect that it’s crap but hey, maybe they missed something when they stopped paying attention. So rather than coming across as someone who didn’t understand the film, they simply say “yeah, it was great”. Maybe they even convinced themselves it was, rather than admitting to themselves the possibility that they couldn’t understand it. In other words, perhaps people may have mistaken the convoluted dialogue and plot for complexity and intelligence because it was too exhausting to follow the dialogue and plot all the way through and confirm it was all just smoke in a bottle.

Of course, a third explanation might argue that the absence of a logical story is in fact the ultimate confirmation of the ending which Nolan alludes to (attempting to avoid spoilers here!). But wait! We must remember that Nolan left that one open for interpretation which means, in essence, both possibilities *must* be plausible. This is why one can say for certain that the nonsensical universe they created was the result of failure on the part of the writers to write a coherent story and not some devious plan from the beginning. By leaving the ending open, one can only assume they are hoping that the section of the audience who didn’t have the energy to follow all the ridiculous twists and turns through to the end, will fool themselves into thinking it all made sense. Moreover, this is also why we can call the ending a cowardly escape clause. One suspects that Nolan and co. realised they had a bottle of smoke on their hands and so someone had the bright idea to include the “get out of jail free” card, namely, “if the audience *do* realise it doesn’t make sense, then we can claim we never meant it to!” Well maybe *this* is in fact Nolan’s biggest crime of all! – the creation of a context that excuses gross indiscipline on behalf of the writer/director.

Rule No.1 in good creative writing classes has been and always will be: “DO NOT MAKE THE STORY A DREAM. You are cheating the audience of the time they invested in the story if you reveal it at the end *or*, if you reveal it from early on, you are removing any reason for the audience to invest in the story because none of it has to make sense.” To make the mistake of ignoring that rule from the outset and to proceed to *attempt* to tell a coherent dreamscape story is bad. However, to then fall back upon the dreamscape scenario to acquit yourself of your failure in telling a coherent story is entirely worse.

Okay, there are of course some positives that must be acknowledged. Hans Zimmer’s music is good if not a bit overdone and it does its best to carry you through the seemingly endless tedium that is the third act. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is flawless and even astounding in places. Nolan captures some of the movie’s gravity bending scenes well and his pacing in the final part of the hotel room sequence (room sequence not the corridor sequence!) is superb. There is also a healthy array of acting talent with Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Cillian Murphy being somewhat watchable despite playing severely limited roles.

However, none of these small positives come close to remedying the awfully conceived, pretentious, and grossly undisciplined story-telling, not to mention, the totally flawed premise. Cut through all the fluff, and this film is built around the notion that a group of meticulous professionals can craft, manipulate, and exploit a world that defies all such ambitions due to the intangible whimsy that constitutes it. Maybe that’s what forced the writers into a proliferation of disconnected rules (though let’s face it, the lure of shiny effects is strong) but, if true, that was just compounding one failure with another. The big words and convoluted sentences are just a smokescreen designed to stop you discovering that the writers didn’t find a way around that inherent problem.

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