Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” – Review by Michael McVey
Originally Published in The Irish Emigrant, July 19, 2010
With the huge global success of The Dark Knight, filmmaker Christopher Nolan was given carte blanche to develop his next project for Warner Bros Studios. The result: this summer’s Inception, is an intricately plotted heist/epic set in the world of dreams. Most studio films with enormous budgets ($150 mil!) are designed to play for broad audiences, using recycled plots and characters. Nolan has delivered an unusual and welcome challenge to the status quo. Inception is thrilling, different.
It features a terrific ensemble cast lead by Leonardo DiCaprio, leading both his dream team and audiences through a labyrinthine plot. Inception expands on the visual stateliness Nolan has developed in his other unconventionally structured films, such as Memento, Insomnia, and The Prestige. We get many staples of big budget, tent-pole fare: Action set-pieces, explosions, grand special effects, big movie stars with killer wardrobe. And while it is entertaining, this movie stands out among the studio releases for having a bit more on its mind than explosions. This is a film that challenges audiences, yet is still watchable even if you get lost along the way. Though I’ve only seen it once, I suspect this movie gets better every time you see it. Nolan focuses many of his cinematic tropes on the nature of reality, perception and the power of the mind – as it is the ideas that are the true stars of Inception. I just wonder how he explained the plot to those Warner Bros studio execs!
Here’s the trailer we’ve all been watching over and over. This my wind up being the best, if not most watched trailer of the year. If you’ve seen the movie and dug the score, then you’re gonna love the second video.
Update: I saw Inception three times in July, once mit Bronwyn und Stefan. I taped their thoughts the next evening. Stefan is very passionate about his views. Video taken during Boston’s Annual Shakespeare in the Park – 2010. We were chilling for Othello, starring Seth Gilliam, aka Carter from “The Wire.”
Film as Art
Week 07 – Planning the Mise-en-Scene, Assignment 7
Bunker Hill Community College – April 8, 2010
Watch Sunshine. Choose one scene from the movie and describe the entire mise-en-scene (everything that you can see and hear, including the actors’ movements, costumes, lighting, sound, set, camera angle, and shot-size).
Scene – Full Sunlight, Kaneda’s Decision
A powerful, low tone sounds as we open on an extremely wide aerial shot of Icarus II’s heat shield. The camera sweeps over the vast field of metallic panels. Yellow, orange, and red fires glimmer on the distant horizon. The looming sunlight slices through the darkness, racing towards our characters, Kaneda and Capa. The electronic crackle and shimmer of the heat interweave with the film’s score. An ethereal chorus sustains an ominous, almost mystical chord.
We cut to Kaneda, Captain of the Icarus II. As he stands in his unwieldy, gold-plated space suit, the camera dollies in from a low medium shot to a close-up. A critical heat shield panel closes slowly on frame left. We see the reflective glow of the approaching sunlight glisten across his helmet. Behind him, there is nothing but the cold, empty void of space. The feminine, computerized voice of Icarus updates the ship’s status: “89% of shield in full sunlight.”
We cut to an extreme close-up of Kaneda’s eyes, the interior of this helmet. His eyes absorb the approaching sunlight. The fiery horizon is reflected across the screen, refracted through his helmet’s small slot. The sunlight intensifies before him, from soft orange to a severe yellow. Kaneda’s eyes widen, his breath quickens. The electronic score sounds like a submarine buckling under the pressure; low-frequency droning underlies the soundtrack.
We cut to an extreme close-up of Capa’s gloved hand. He too dons a gold-lined protective suit. We track Capa’s hand as he installs a mechanical device inside a broken heat panel. The low-frequency soundtrack continues.
We cut to an extreme close-up of the dark interior of Capa’s helmet. His face is strained and sweating on the left of the screen. On the right are small electronic displays – one of Kaneda’s helmet interior and the one of the Icarus’ bridge. We are able to see through the helmet slot to the exterior, where Capa installs the component. Capa breathes heavily. Subtle electronic beeps and whirs complement the droning soundtrack.
We cut to a low, wide shot of the dark exterior. Kaneda is maneuvers in the zero-G over to Capa from screen right to left, and we pan slightly to follow. As Capa toils, the sunlight’s orange aura silhouettes the open heat panel. A work lamp floats in the mid-ground. Kaneda’s static radio communication to Capa punctuates the intense score: “Capa, go back. I can finish this.”
We cut to the interior of Kaneda’s helmet. The shot is a close-up, a mirror shot of Capa’s helmet interior. Kaneda’s face holds the right of the frame. Through his helmet slot, the burning yellow glow strengthens. The in-helmet displays flicker ominously with static as Kaneda broadcasts his final order: “Go.”
We cut to an exterior medium shot. At this moment, John Murphy’s score cues a swelling adagio. Capa and Kaneda slowly pass each other in zero-G, their bulky-suited bodies parallel with the heat shield’s surface. As they pass each other, the soundtrack drops out and lets the score emotionally supplement the fateful decision.
We cut to a grand, sweeping aerial wide shot of the set piece. It is a stark contrast to the dark interior of Capa’s helmet. The frame is filled with the overwhelming orange and yellow glow of the sunlight. Lens flares add to the FX shot’s effectiveness and realism. The sunlight dances like a fire in the distance. The shimmering sounds of an electronic inferno rise as we push past Capa and Kaneda, who are dwarfed by the scale of Icarus’ heat shield. While Capa has covered some distance to the shield’s edge, it is insignificant compared to the distance left to travel. Unheeded by Icarus, Capa restates his question: “Capa returning to airlock. Do you copy?” The camera rotates as it flies by, keeping Capa and Kaneda center frame. As our angle changes, the background becomes the icy emptiness of space, and the sounds of the fire fade. The voice of the ship’s pilot Cassie responds: “Copy, Capa. Hurry.” The shot illustrates the enormous distances between the men, the shield’s edge, and the devastating heat approaching them. The score swells as the camera pulls back, the two men barely visible. The camera begins to shake violently, as we break into the red sunlight’s threshold. The voice of Icarus updates: “91% of shield in full sunlight.”