Film Review: Inception

17/07/2010

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is the best film of the year so far, and a pinnacle which all blockbusters should strive to match.

A team of specialists, led by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb, are hired by a business man to infiltrate the dreams of his rival and plant an idea; a near-impossible feat even in this world of dream extraction. Cobb hopes this last job will be the key to his way home…

Inception works on every level – it is an incredibly entertaining film. The special effects are seemless, and Wally Pfister’s cinematography is spectacular. Hans Zimmer’s score is suitably pervading, perfectly matching the tone of the on-screen action.

But perhaps the greatest achievement of Inception is the combination of interesting storytelling with slickly produced, high-octane action sequences. These scenes excel not only because they are well made, but also because there is a significant narrative that they work within.

Nolan provides his audience with a completely original screenplay, one that he wrote himself. Whilst the ideas Inception promotes have been explored in science fiction films and books before, the film nonetheless offers filmgoers an original blockbuster; a blessed relief considering much of Hollywood’s fare in the last few years.

The concept of inception (that is to say, planting an idea in someone else’s mind) is an incredibly powerful one. With so little known about dreams, Nolan is astute to capitalise on this. With its interesting plot and narrative twists, Inception provides a winning formula of on the one hand offering intellectual stimulation, whilst on the other not being too complex as to lose half the audience. The film thus retains the entertainment and accessibility to appeal to the mainstream audience, whilst giving viewers an intelligence missing from most recent blockbusters.

As ever, Nolan appears to elicit superb performances from his cast. Regular Nolan players like Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe do a great job, whilst newcomers to the fold such as DiCaprio, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt excel in Inception. Tom Hardy is excellent as Eames; the exposure the actor is likely to garner from this film will probably make it his wisest career move.

Inception really is this year’s definitive blockbuster, one that deserves to be seen on the big screen. It is the type of film Imax theatres were made for.

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Film Review: Iron Man 2

30/04/2010

Suspend your disbelief (as is called for by all comic book films), and Iron Man 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Make no mistake, however, as sequels go, Iron Man 2 is no Dark Knight.

Following on from Iron Man, the sequel focuses on Tony Stark as he faces a new nemesis in the form Ivan Vanko. Coupled with this is the issues the protagonist faces in his personal life, particularly with his health…

Iron Man 2 is very much a typical comic book film sequel, albeit a good one. Themes from the first film are carried through, characters gain more depth, and the narrative is built to an exciting climax. However, in one sense, it is very much like the first film; new characters are introduced and obstacles are generated to form an archetypal narrative arc. In this way it differs from The Dark Knight Iron Man 2 lacks the depth and creativity of Nolan’s Batman sequel.

Most of the genre’s sequels concentrate on the story of the villain, whilst also developing the motives and trials of the superhero. The origins of the hero are inevitably covered in the first film, thus the back story element must be fulfilled by another character. Iron Man 2 follows this lead, as we are almost immediately introduced to Ivan Ranko. The film bucks the trend somewhat by later sidelining this character and firmly focusing on the hero. Tony Stark is in many ways the antithesis to Bruce Wayne; outrageous and arrogant, he revels in his superstar/superhero status.

Robert Downey Jr. once again gives a charismatic performance as Tony Stark – one of the highlights of the film. Mickey Rourke is suitably cast as antagonist Ivan Ranko, offering just the right level of over-the-top-ness required for the role. Scarlet Johansson is slightly more enigmatic as Natalie Rushman; it is unclear whether her slightly stilted performance is intentional, or due to the actresses’ limited range.

Kudos to Jon Favreau for directing an entertaining action film. The special effects are excellent, and the action scenes are what fans have come to expect from the big-budget genre. A welcome addition comes in the form of the AC/DC soundtrack, providing the perfect accompaniment to the high-octane visuals.

There is no doubt that Iron Man 2 will do good business. A third film seems inevitable, however like this sequel, it is unlikely to match the critical acclaim enjoyed by the original.