Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Inception”

The topic of dreams and what our minds do or are capable of doing while we sleep utterly fascinates me. I dream regularly. In some dreams, I have super powers and can jump over buildings; in others, I am running from a reoccurring clown bent on eating me. Most dreams, however, I have little to no knowledge that I’m even dreaming: I’m at home doing a mundane task or packing for a vacation.  But it’s the moment when I realize that I’m in a dreaming a “lucid dream” that I either wake up or begin to be able to control it.

Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan brought this topic to the forefront with his film Inception. The film is set in the not too distant future in which mankind learns to access and master our minds to control our dreams and influence the minds of others who are also dreaming. Originally this was for pure scientific pursuits, but it soon becomes clear that certain individual’s minds hold valuable secrets that can be stolen by invading the dreams of high profile people. Economic trade plans or geopolitical undermining could be gained for a certain price.

Our main protagonist is a man that specializes in those very skills. Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a professional thief on the run who uses his skills of dream manipulation to steal secrets from his targets and sell them off to the highest bidder.  Reluctantly, Cobb agrees to take on a near impossible mission with the promise of clemency for his crimes and the ability to return to the U.S., where he was forced to flee and abandon his children. To help him on his mission, he recruits an ensemble group of fellow “Extractors” who include his friend Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Eames (Tom Hardy), a skilled conman with a knack for impersonation. Lastly they are joined by a brilliant young architect (Ellen Page) who will help them construct the dream spaces for their intended target.

The crew plan to do something very few have accomplished, a technique called inception. Inception is defined as planting an idea into someone’s mind to influence them into making or changing a decision. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) who recently inherited his dying father’s energy conglomerate. The group plans on traveling deep into Fischer’s mind to give him the idea that he should break up his father’s empire. Things go from bad to worse as Cobb and the others begin their heist and soon realize the dream sequence is quite unstable and openly hostile to their presence. While in the sequence, they are trapped, and there is no going back due to the complexity of the operation. They must succeed, as it’s the only way back home to reality.

This is a complex but deeply rewarding film. I had to view it at least three separate times to fully appreciate it. None of Christopher Nolan’s films can simply be described; in fact, most could have a whole film course dedicated to them.  The styles that Inception exhibits is a mix of a sci-fi, action, and suspense.

Inception was a financial success, earning $828 million of a $160 million budget. The popular website Rotten Tomatoes still rates this film 87% fresh, with an audience approval rate of 91%.  Inception would go on to win four Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. This is a film made to be watched in IMAX. However, you can watch this masterpiece on a regular TV, however many times it takes to stick, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I do!

Inception is available at the Union University Library.

*Rated PG-13 for Violence and some language.*

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Dark Knight”

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster film The Dark Knight. As far as films featuring Batman go, this is by far the most dramatic, thought-provoking, and epic in scale. The film boasts an all-star cast of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, sparring off against his greatest nemesis, The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger’s performance in this role would earn him a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor.

The film’s supporting cast contribute in no small part to the memorable depths of this film. Gary Oldman portrays Jim Gordon, one of the few remaining honest and incorruptible cops left in Gotham. Gordon is followed by newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart. The two seek to battle crime legally and prove the system can work to defeat the criminals of Gotham. The cast continues with Michael Caine reprising his role as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s stoic butler and father figure. The film’s lead actress is that of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s childhood friend and romantic interest of both Wayne and Dent.

The film is filled with such familiar and iconic themes that make it so memorable to audiences that it will inevitably transcend time and culture. Aside from the classic good vs. evil encounter, the film’s themes run much deeper embodied by our lead characters. We see a tragic hero in that of Bruce Wayne as he forgoes his own happiness and dreams in order to become a symbol of hope and justice for the citizens of Gotham. Contrast that with one of the most iconic villains to ever appear on film: The Joker. This character is deeply frightening as his motivation is so devilishly simple in that his only desire is to unleash chaos on the people of Gotham. The Joker is disgusted by the world with its rules, laws, and order. He sees the world and the people in it as a bad joke. Due to this mentality he has sensed morphed himself into a twisted and disturbing parody of how he views humanity. His aim is to terrify and corrupt the people of Gotham. What makes his motives even more insidious is the fact that he isn’t interested in coming out on top or winning; his only goal is to ensure that everyone loses. As Alfred puts it in his grim take on the Joker: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

This film features a dynamic clash between Order & Chaos, and how far good people will compromise their morals and ethics before they become the very thing they sought to overcome. The Dark Knight is simply a masterpiece- not only as an action-packed thrill ride, but the themes it expresses through its characters and setting will no doubt be studied and praised for years to come. If you’re watching this film for the first time I’d advise you to hold on tight because it is going be a bumpy ride. If you are giving this a second go, try and appreciate the film’s subtleties.

 

*Note: this film is Rated PG-13 and features some language, intense action, and some frightening scenes. *

**You can check out The Dark Knight trilogy from the library.**