Last night, I went to the movies and saw Christopher Nolan's new film Inception for the second time, and while it's not a perfect movie (and its flaws are more noticeable on a second viewing), it is a great one, and proof positive that not everyone in Hollywood is out of ideas. Nolan proved with Memento and The Prestige that he can tell a cerebral, intellectually challenging story, and with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight that he can stage bravura action sequences, but this is the first film in which he's really married the two, and the combination works brilliantly most of the time. What really impressed me, however, was the way he took familiar elements from a number of well-established Hollywood genres (heist flicks, neo noir, action blockbusters, and so on) and put them together in a totally new way. Even as I recognized many of the scenes as something I had seen before, I was continually amazed at his ability to fit them into a story and give them a twist I hadn't seen before. Like many other viewers, I saw the much-discussed final shot coming, but rather than annoy me with its predictability it gave me the same sense of giddy completion you get when you complete a supremely difficult jigsaw puzzle. It was only predictable because it fit so very well with the rest of the movie, and Nolan had earned it by telling his story so well to that point.
It's the kind of movie that restores my faith in Hollywood film-making as an institution that has something unique and valuable to contribute to the life of the American mind (weakened by a hundred Transformers 2s and Clash of the Titans remakes as it is). It's the only place in which the brainy ideas of an art film can meet the grand visual imagery made attainable by multimillion dollar budgets and access to the latest in cutting edge film-making technology, and as long as there's a wizard like Nolan around to make the alchemy work, it can still produce some damn fantastic entertainment. Here's hoping another Batman sequel doesn't distract Nolan from making the next Inception.
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