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: Whip It

10/04/2010

Whip It is a funny and entertaining movie – a promising start to Drew Barrymore’s directing career. “Be Your Own Hero”, the publicity for the picture asserts; a message the director certainly seems to have taken to heart.

Whip It focuses on misfit teen Bliss and her attempt to escape small-town drudgery by joining a roller derby league. In the process, as well as finding something she excels at, Bliss formulates a new life for herself. Her new life, friends and boyfriend, however, come at the expense of some of the more positive elements of her previous conservative upbringing…

In some ways the film is what one would expect from Barrymore; an independently produced picture, with a hip soundtrack and quirky but apt casting. Ellen Page is convincing as young Bliss, perfecting the rebelling teen attitude. Whilst there are great performances from all involved, it is Juliette Lewis who steals the show as ultra-competitive rival Iron Maven.

There is no doubt that Whip It is a female-centric film. Rather than taking a preachy tone pushing a feminist agenda, Barrymore keeps in light, advocating instead the positives of female friendship and having confidence in oneself. It is heartening to see that along with the positive female portrayals, the men are also depicted in optimistic light. Too often strong female characters are balanced with negative male portrayals, but thankfully Barrymore eschews this archetype.

Barrymore’s directorial debut accomplishes the rare feat of being both lighthearted and inspirational. It is an enjoyable film to watch, but there is also a real optimism to the messages it sends. Along with the strong female depictions, Whip It reinforces the importance of finding your own identity and having the confidence to pursue your goals. With this in mind, it is Drew herself who is also rousing, going from child star to wild child, from much-loved actress to producer and now director. Thus, her transcendence is encompassing enough to be inspirational to males as well as females.