Let me start by saying that I saw it. And I want to see it again. Not because it belongs to my best films ever DVD shelf, but because I have my share of unanswered questions. And just like Memento, I’m sure I’ll find the answers on the second watch cleverly plugged into the story. Nolan likes to tempt & tease. He wants you to come back for more, again and again, until you’ve cracked it. And then, you can anoint him as the God of mind-f#%cked stories. Just that, this time even though I’m tempted to re-enter his carefully constructed world of the layered dreams, I don’t think I’m going to be wow-ed.
First things first. The concept intrigues. And engages. Makes you think. And before you know it, you’re struggling between what’s real and what’s not. Fair enough. Though, I’m not sure if it’s exactly a brand new idea. Matrix is probably the godfather of the real Vs virtual paradox. And then there have been others that have explored the idea of living in the mind, or in an alternate virtual environment. I thought Tarsem’s ‘The Cell’ & the obscure Jude Law/Jennifer Jason Leigh’s ‘eXistenZ come close. Infact, one of the scenes towards the end of the film made me wonder if this was Shutter Island all over again. Eternal sunshine maybe a genre apart, but somehow creeps in as well. But all these references take nothing away… on the contrary, they help you place Nolan’s new world in context. And he tweaks it quite a bit. So, it’s not set in the conscious mind, but in a maze of carefully-crafted dreams. Fuelled by imagination, constructed by architects and controlled by a set of logic and laws that are as malleable & transient as the dreams themselves!
The film’s setting therefore lends itself to an extraordinary scale. And forges some unique action sequences that are here to stay! I loved the zero-G stunts, and almost every other thing with twisted physics. The scene where Page experiments with city architecture is absolutely fascinating. As the story progresses, you keep wanting to pick the director’s brain. How on earth did he manage to construct such a coherent labyrinth of ideas and then weave them into intricate plots, without seeming contrived or predictable… all the while deftly leading his characters deeper and deeper through a vortex? And you can’t help being sucked in. It’s giddy. It’s exhilarating. It screws your mind.
So, what’s my grouse? Nothing that’s terribly important! Just that, somehow I feel Nolan didn’t need a visual spectacle to keep me hooked to this story. Maybe, he wanted to scale up post the Batman movies. Maybe he felt that his audiences expect atleast that from him. But for me, I would have been just as happy without the mega-military intrusions, and the spectacular avalanches. I would have been just as happy to skip the very Bourne-like Mombasa sojourn. Just as happy without the mega-adventure & action tag. Because if it’s about the mind and the ideas, I’m happy being served word-play! The mission and its improbability intrigue me anyway… I don’t need guns to steal or plant ideas, I’d rather watch thoughts steal thoughts, or thoughts plant thoughts. At the most, throw in some chases in mazes, and confound me with the surreal. Fox me with deep thought and the vivid imagination and the crazy physics. Like Di Caprio's mind that lives in a multi-storeyed apartment, set in the most splendid & decaying mega city by the sea. And honestly, that was more interesting.
Which perhaps explains why, the innermost dream and finale was reserved for Di Caprio quietly battling his demons. Or Fischer’s final chat with his dad. The final scene was pure wicked! What I didn’t get is a basic question - How is everyone in the same dream? And even, how did Di Caprio know that the Jap guy was in limbo? Though, I did like the idea of using Ellen Page’s character for the audience’s standpoint. If you’re not sure what’s happening, just wait for her to ask around!
But the answers aren’t that important. Chances are when I see it again, I'll probably find it. Because Nolan is one of the finest story-tellers of our time. Just that, he might have done a bit too much with this film.