We haven't yet gotten to the point where we're comfortable leaving SteelyKid with a babysitter, so seeing the movie everybody's talking about took a while. Since she's off at Gammy's, though, we got a rare night to ourselves and went to the movies.
My immediate reaction is that it's great to see a movie that's kind of smart and not based on anything dominating the box office. If this helps break us out of the endless cycle of re-makes and comic-book movies, I'll be as happy as anyone.
This is an extremely well-done movie, with everything shot, acted, and choreographed very well. There was only one hiccup in the visual effects that I remember, and the action scenes didn't go too far into motion-sickness land.
The plot was original without being all that surprising. The final shot, in particular, was crashingly obvious (I thought of what I would've preferred to see instead), and the general outline of things wasn't hard to predict. The steps on the way to the obvious conclusion were all done well enough that I didn't mind, though this was a rare movie where I noticed the score and found it kind of obtrusive. Look, it's great that you hired ominous horns, but they don't need to be blaring in every single scene, ok?
More comments including SPOILERS below this point, for the rare person who is slower to see this than I am.
-- The actors playing Arthur and Eames bothered me for half the movie. Not their performances, which were excellent, but why they looked familiar. I eventually pegged Arthur as the teenage alien from "Third Rock from the Sun," which IMDB confirms, but Tom Hardy (Eames) doesn't seem to have been in anything I've seen, so now I'm bothered by trying to figure out who it is that he looks like that I have seen in something.
-- Ken Watanabe's old-man makeup was transparent enough that for a while I expected the whole thing to turn out to be part of the original scheme to get whatever they were trying to steal from him.
-- The obvious problem with the whole scenario is that the few dreams I remember are never as coherent as the scenarios they use in the movie. I mean, sure, I sometimes dream about talking to people I know in a cafe, but it's generally a cafe with dinosaur baristas, or something like that. The dreams they used were missing the surreal element that's usually present when I have any recollection of my dream at all.
This is obviously necessary for the "is it real?" plot, but I would've liked to see some acknowledgment of this in the movie.
-- The process by which they plant the idea is awfully contrived, but about the best they could do, I think. The fundamental problem is that the idea they're trying to plant is kind of implausible-- who inherits a multi-billion corporate empire only to break it up? It's such a ridiculous notion that even if they got the idea planted in Fischer's head, I can't imagine that it would go through.
I suspect it's done the way it is to set up the parallel between Fischer needing to reconcile with his father and Cobb needing to reconcile with his dead wife, but this is an aspect of the film that doesn't really stand up to any prodding.
-- Also, why would a Japanese titan of industry have any influence with American law enforcement? And why would he pay off the team before seeing if Fischer actually split the company or not? Really, thinking about the caper plot at all leaves me hoping that it's all intended to be a dream...
-- The final shot of the top spinning was crashingly obvious, particularly with the ominous horns blaring oppressively. Also, it was held a bit too long if the goal was to suggest ambiguity about the nature of reality.
What I would've preferred to see: After Cobb went out to see his children, the camera obviously had to track down to the spinning top. I was sort of hoping that rather than just holding the shot of the spinning top for a long time, they would go for a different way of introducing ambiguity. Specifically, I would've liked to see Michael Caine come back into the shot and either knock the top over, or just pick it up and take it away.
That's partly because I would like to see Michael Caine have something more to do in the movie than just "Hey! It's Michael Caine!," but I think it would serve most of the same purpose without being quite so cliche. I also think that, if the intention is for it to be a dream, it would further indicate that Cobb doesn't care any more-- in that case, Caine is just a projection of Cobb's subconscious, which is now in charge. If it's not a dream, and Cobb's really home for good, having somebody else take the totem away would be a nice symbol that all the dream-hopping stuff is behind him.
-- What's my theory of what "really" happened at the end? I don't really care. It was an enjoyable caper movie, and required more brain power than the typical summer blockbuster, and I'm happy enough with that. I wasn't so impressed with it that I want to pore over it frame by frame to look for clues.
I suspect it's intended to be a dream, mostly because Cobb's kids apparently haven't aged a day in however long he's been on the run. The top-level plot also makes more sense as a dream than actual reality, as noted above. But I'm not going to lose sleep over it either way.
Cobb's kids apparently haven't aged a day
I wondered that myself. Apparently there are two sets of kids in the credits, but the framing and lighting is, of course, deliberately ambiguous.
An interesting justification for the horns, I think.
I was more bothered by the whole "they have invaded your mind to steal your secrets, and to keep those secrets safe, we need you to think about them" motif.
I'm well convinced that John Nash would have looked at the two children, and pronounce himself "completely round the bend".
The kids actually had aged, and if you look at IMDB, you'll see they're played by older actors in the final scene.
My main problem with the movie was that the top was originally introduced as a check to make sure that you weren't in someone elses dream. And the mechanism for it doing so made a decent amount of sense, only you know what the thing feels like, so only you can recreate it in your head.
But at some point it became a device for making sure you weren't in any sort of dream whatsoever, which made less sense and wasn't really consistant with what had been established earlier.
I liked watching the film, but everytime I think back on it I get more convinced it didn't really make sense, and kinda retro-actively enjoy it less.
If not for wanting to see and enjoy the movie's take on dreamscapes and theory in CGI, I thought alot was questionable and hated the EXPOSITION PIXIE character of the college girl, not woman. Who respresented every tween fangirl of Leo DeCaprio to run along beside him in the movie and spout explanations and have conversations with Leo's character to the audience as if we're retarded idiots. I'd have rather had the story unfold and let the audience realize and understand the plot and critical twists for themselves.
Thus, I have no need to see it again. I KNOW EVERYTHING about the movie by seeing it once. Like many GOOD MOVIES a person should be talking, thinking and wondering about certain scenes and need to rewatch.
I had the same sensation of recognising the actor playing Eames but couldn't place him, until I checked the IMDB and saw he played Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis.