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: Shutter Island

20/03/2010

Often, Martin Scorsese makes it all better. Every now and again, tired of the incessant remakes, sequels and sub-par star vehicles, one longs for a bit of quality in mainstream Hollywood cinema. It seems that Mr Scorsese has heard our cries, as Shutter Island is a thoroughly enjoyable film, reinstating a degree of quality missing from many other recent films.

Granted, the film not an entirely original affair; it is based on Dennis Lehane novel of the same name. However, Scorsese’s picture is an exceptionally well crafted suspense thriller. Whilst perhaps not being on quite the same level as some of the director’s earlier work, it nonetheless harks back to the Classical Hollywood thriller, popularised by Hitchcock and others.

Shutter Island tells the story of a US marshal and his partner who visit an island inhabited solely by a hospital for the criminally insane. Originally called to investigate the disappearance of a patient, their inquiry uncovers something deeper…

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a compelling performance as the marshal haunted by the death of his wife and the atrocities he witnessed whilst serving during World War II. Shutter Island features many of the Scorsese hallmarks, although this time the persistent theme of psychology and the frailty of sanity is brought right to the forefront.

As ever, Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is on point. The production design, particularly of Ward C, is excellent. The editing, cinematography, design, and the jittering score combine wonderfully to generate an atmosphere of trepidation throughout the duration.

Perhaps the one downside is that the ending may be disappointing for some viewers. However, for over two hours Scorsese grips the audience with this immensely absorbing thriller.