Christopher Nolan is Stanley Kubrick meets The Wachowski Brothers, not as good as the former but better than the latter, and with Inception he has made a film that prompts slightly giddy but not entirely frivolous assertions of a ‘saviour of British cinema’ ilk.
The basic story is simple enough: Di Caprio ventures into the dreamscapes of others to ‘extract’ information from their subconscious. He is exiled from his former existence for reasons not initially explicit – and he is given the opportunity to perform an ‘inception’ (the planting of an idea designed to alter wakeful decisions) to reclaim his life.
Much tricky ‘is he awake or isn’t he?’ curiousness aside, the film is enjoyable, on one level, as a series of action-sequences, for those that don’t want to have their minds twisted: simply switch off and inhabit the weird excitement. If you want to try and engage with the film as it ravels its plot extrapolations, expect plot holes and much demands on suspension of disbelief: it’s certainly worth succumbing. Trying to fathom the dimensions, plummets from one dream to another, switches in perspective, feasibility of narrative joins and overriding swish mindwarping is great fun, as long as you’re prepared to be at least slightly lost and askew at points.
Visually it is, now and again, gasp-inducing. Entire sections of living, breathing city are cut away and re-positioned as if by a sandpit God having a slightly inappropriate meddle. Ruined, neglected skyscrapers relinquish chunks into crashing waves amidst a fairly spectacular dreamscape rendition. And there’s always Marion Cottilard.
Cottilard forms part of a pretty great cast that includes a Garfield-languid Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an increasingly impressive DiCaprio and someone wearing a Tom Berenger mask. DiCaprio wins.
Of course, the film poses the inevitable questions about the (dubious) sophistry of film, the role of the viewer as complicit in fantasy, the lot of the conjurer of same fictional worlds. These facets do add depth to the film, although even without them it’s a reality-ripping ride of exhilarating proportions with the feel of a really good Bond film on acid nightmares.
As for the ending: all I can say is the following. At the screening I attended, it was met with a collection of post-coital-sounding ‘Ahhhhhh!’s.
Michael Cera is basically Jesse Eisenberg. There is no discernable difference. Vague physical disparities aside (he’s a bit more cuddlesomely marsupial, looks more like Beck and offers perhaps a slightly more exacting shorthand as to the current ‘diffident, subverted cool nerd’ box-office template): they’re square pegs for not-actually-that square holes. Realistically, they are interchangeable. And having two of them around is no bad thing. You do wonder, though, what will become of them when they are post-25. Look at Biggs: vanished.
Here, Cera plays Nick Twisp, a variation on a well-worn theme: nebbishly uncool teenage boy with a desparate urge to get his end away. Because he’s reasonably intelligent, he doesn’t just want anyone. The fate that soon befalls his mother (after the death of her grizzled, dyspeptic, trailer-bum boyfriend, played by Zach Galifianakis) is a cautionary hint: she’s ended up with Ray Liotta’s sleazebag copper, who looks ravaged and spent and wears a taut, pock-ridden face which has three operative modes: scary scumbag, confused convict and de-make-upped Joker. Twisp is soon after a Lindsey Lohan and Emma Stone hybrid (Portia Doubleday) who he’s met at a camping park. She’s not over keen: he’s too nice and ditheringly polite. But she’s bored so leads him on in swift coquettish mode until he’s infatuated. She soon leaves, packed off to French boarding school when the overtly-religious folks get wind of his aims. Soon enough, he follows.
Amidst all of this he’s also managed to derive a more assertive, alluring alter-ego, borne of an attempt at hybridising his paramour’s likes to decisively end her deliberations and conquer. So, there’s a bit of Serge Gainsbourg, a 70s moustache and a lot of insistently errant, pseudo-exotic brattishness. You can guess the success rate – and the amusing transgressions. Vehicles crashing is a theme.
Cera is perfect for this kind of thing, and it’s a funnier, sharper example of the genre than most.
Knight and Day is absolutely insane, like a vacuum-packed array of scenes left out of ten years’ worth of action films for being too nonsensical suddenly detonating onto the screen in a mayhem-medley, fronted, for some kind of narrative consistency, by an oddly delighted Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. But it is, in the main, fun.
The two leads have a bizarre chemistry: it’s a bit like watching new age but knowing commune siblings cram too much into five minutes of playtime. Diaz is too manic and Cruise realises as much: he reigns it in a little. There are only a few unstrung Jerry Maguire moments. And it works.
Diaz is off to her sister’s wedding: at the airport, she bumps into Cruise. She likes him, even though he’s clearly a bit odd these days. Her signposted lusty, blushing glances after him tell you as much. She makes sure she bumps into him again, and, eventually, they end up on the same flight. Which is full of assassins out to get spy Cruise. He lays waste to the lot in slapstick, Grosse Point Blank fashion, and Diaz becomes an unwilling sidekick for further absurdities.
You get a fair bit of almost-nudity, islands aflame, erupting planes, engulfed cars upside down on the freeway, shootings, car chases, sub-subterfuge, a clandestine rendezvous, rooftop escapes, kidnappings and even a death-or-perhaps-not-in-the-water-last-gasp-leap, surely the last of these for a good while.
Diaz is still playing it wide-eyed dolphin-smile oh-my-God style and, unbelievably, this still works. You like her. You want no harm to come to her. She knows this and has therefore never altered her performance, and never will. Nor should she?
Cruise has openly admitted he wants to play it broader these days – probably due to no longer being taken entirely seriously, so it’s a reasonable career move. He’s a good actor, exceedingly under-rated, and he can do comedy like this without much exertion. The script, though, is less funny than it is entertaining. You wonder what Billy Wilder might have done with him.