For me, the very best movies are the ones that leave us speechless. Oh, we may try to say something meaningful or make some attempt to communicate the film’s impact, but if it is truly good, truly significant to us in some way, our words will fall short and seem but feeble stabs at sharing the experience. One such experience for me occurred several years ago upon seeing The English Patient. Ironically, I do not even like romantic movies. However, as with any moment like this, it was a perfect combination of events, people, life situation and the image/sound/story of the film that combined into some sort of indelible mark. Even now, years later, there are pieces of it that I cannot fully unpack and so can only describe it by saying that this film has become a kind of benchmark. This is not the only film that I can say is in this category. There are certainly others. I Am Legend is another, though more for life situation and story than for filmmaking excellence.
Yesterday a friend said to me “Go see Inception! Right now! This instant! Go” and since this is the person with whom I saw not only The English Patient but also several movies on my list of life’s great movies, I did indeed go to see Inception. It did not disappoint. Not even for a moment. It neither began how I expected, proceeded as I thought it would nor end how I anticipated. While using familiar tropes, it did so in a somewhat unfamiliar way. It was visually impressive, creative and made excellent use of sound, music, color and light. It was one of those films that seemed to somehow enter into one’s subconscious (and I am intentionally using this analogy here) and plant seeds of tension and anxiety at just the right depths to grow at the right moment. And even now, I am reaching for words to describe that which has, at least for the time being, left me speechless.
And so, since I want to say something about the movie but seem to be failing, I will instead say something about Leonardo DiCaprio. I have never been a fan. At least not in his Titanic period, that is for certain. However, I re-discovered him in The Departed. Older, meaner, scruffier and far and away better than I had remembered him to be. Then I saw Blood Diamond and it was then that I became convinced that he was no longer the squeal-producing pretty boy of the sinking ship but was, in fact, a real actor. I completely bought into his character in Blood Diamond, which was crucial to the success of that story. I decided to look back at some of his other work, starting with Gangs of New York which I had not till that point seen, and then moved forward. I was impressed and still am. The same was true for each of his roles and holds for Inception as well: watching his performance I was able to let go of the fact that it was an act, that it was Starring-Leonardo-DiCaprio-as-whoever, and instead experience the character he was creating. To enter into the dream that is the film and accept it as my reality for that moment. (See what I did there?)
There are other good actors in this film as well. Ellen Page (Juno), Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies, Nine), Tom Hardy (Layercake, RocknRolla), Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai, Batman Begins, Memoirs of a Geisha), Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Dark Knight) all gave good quality performances. But I was greatly surprised by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom I had only seen in Ten Things I Hate About You and would never have picked him for this role and would have been So Wrong! He gave an excellent performance and was a good fit for the role.
I highly recommend Inception and will likely see it again soon.