Besides its intriguing philosophical issues, Inception is a sight to behold thanks to outstanding work by cinematographer Wally Pfister, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, and set decorators Larry Dias and Doug Mowat. Yet, what makes Inception visually stunning are its special effects, for Christopher Nolan relies not on odd or fake-looking computer-generated images, but rather on old-fashioned real stunts.
That is not to say that CGI isn’t employed at all, but that when it is, it is done effectively — not for cheap thrills or to save money. Scenes like the one where a hallway spins while characters have a fistfight, or another in which the city of Paris folds in over itself like a puzzle piece fitting in place are both well-crafted and amazingly fresh in a day and age when dazzling an audience is near-impossible. After all, with the advent of CGI the magic of special effects has become less and less "magical." Nolan, however, allows us to once again feel impressed by incredible and incredibly well-realized visual effects.
Admittedly, despite its many virtues Inception is not perfect. For a movie about dreams, it’s surprisingly straightforward as its first third is filled with what some could easily consider "too much exposition." After all, we’re talking about dreams. How often do we ourselves understand the dreams we have? In fact, our own dreams are at times impossible to even conceive of in our waking minds; Nolan’s dreamworlds are all too clear.
But maybe this is a misreading of the movie. Nolan doesn’t seem as interested in trying to make the audience feel as if they’re in a dream as he is in using dreams as a means to manipulate the characters and the story to accomplish tasks that would otherwise seem unbelievable — or downright absurd — in the real world.
Ultimately, what can be said is that Inception is an indelible experience. In today’s movie world, computers make it easier to create L.A. imploding upon itself than to show us believable human stunts. Inception, however, reminds us that it’s not the scale that matters, but the effectiveness of what we see. It’s a film that looks like a blockbuster, while showing us it has an awe-inspiring brain to go with its brawn.
In Inception, Christopher Nolan has given us a movie that is both immensely entertaining and thought-provoking. Let’s hope he gives us many more.
© Nathan Donarum
Photos: Inception (Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.)
4 Academy Award Wins
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister
Best Visual Effects: Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Pete Bebb, Paul J. Franklin
Best Sound Editing: Richard King
Best Sound Mixing: Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
4 Academy Award Nominations
Best Picture: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer
Best Art Direction: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat