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Warning: due to the nature of this film, there may be spoilers.

Now then…

Usually by now I have some sort of idea as to what I can say about a particular movie, especially for the ones that I write a week late.  They’re easy enough to figure out and write about, noting their qualities and their short comings.

Christopher Nolan, sir, you’ve given everyone something to chew on.  Like that overcooked steak that’s impossible to chew, or, for a more vegetarian friendly example for myself, … erm, I really can’t say.

Anyway, this film has its markings in several genres.  It’s definitely science fiction, that’s for sure, but also has the neo-noir influence wrapped in it as well (the sci-fi noir, as some may go on and call this).  It’s a thriller, and one may consider it a heist thriller as well, at least that’s how the most recent trailers tried to play it as (successfully I might add).

There is no time or location setting: this film could take place right now or twenty years in the future.  Everyday architecture is used quite well, with Paris and the chase scene in Mombasa (filmed in Tangiers) being the best used.

But it’s the dreams everyone is wondering about.  The dream within a dream within a dream, and that’s the riddle, the maze.

In essence, that’s the allure of the film, trying to figure out the riddle.  I’m curious as to whether there is one – actually, the last shot is the biggest riddle, which I will refuse to discuss here – as the film is essentially a heist thriller.  The riddle – the dreams and more dreams – give the film its impressive depth.

There are two main plot threads, both involving the concept of “inception”, which involves planting something, primarily an idea or thought, within the dream to make someone believe that it was their own idea or thought.  Dom Cobb is the character central to both plots: he’s hired by Saito to plant an idea into the son and future owner of a rival energy corporation to disband the company before it becomes a true monopoly.  The other involves Dom’s wife, Mal, and I’ll leave that one at that.

For the main plot, Dom creates a team to help infiltrate the mind of Robert Fischer (the son): Arthur, the Point Man for all of his missions; Eames, the Forger, who assumes the identity of a person that the infiltrated knows; Ariande, the Architect, who is required to build the dreams, each one more elaborate than the next; and Yusuf, the Chemist, who has a chemical that allows the dreamers to stay asleep for a much longer period of time, with an unexpected payoff for anyone who “dies” within the dream.

As you can see, this film is filled to the brim with plot, which unfortunately sacrifices a lot of character development.  Everyone has some semblance of a personality, usually to make their required traits or skills.  Dom is the only one who gets a lot of development though, much in part due to the film being as much about him as it is about attempting to infiltrate a man’s dreams.  Because of this, he’s the only one we can really care for, even as we learn stuff about him and his wife, and what he ended up doing along the way.

The lack of character hurts the film only slightly, as this is a plot driven film from beginning to end.  It’s tightly wound as much as it can be, which, given the way the movie is as layered as the dreams are, is truly incredible to behold.  It’s not every day when you go to a movie like this one and be required to think.

Actually, I do it all the time (look at most of the indie movies I’ve seen this year), but it’s rare for a major studio release to give us something this thick and juicy to think about.  That’s probably what the science fiction genre allows for us to do is think, and to think in especially complicated ways, often about the meaning of life.  Inception gives us a little piece of that, throwing us into a world of dreams that may or may not be like ours.

It’s also an exciting action thriller, and as such, you can still switch your brain off enough to not have to think about everything and just enjoy it.  Seriously, this movie is almost impossible to beat: a deep thinking movie and an excellently filmed crime thriller to boot.

In all honesty, keep your brain on.  You’ll find that you’ll enjoy it much more if you allow yourself to ponder everything that the film throws at you.

Especially the last scene.

A-

Note: the score by Hans Zimmer is equally as impressive.  Listen to it at times and you find a hint of sci-fi noir in it as well, almost like the Vangelis score from Blade Runner.

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And, it’s started.

Obviously, writing these will take some time to get used to.  With this one, being that this is the second time I’ve seen it, I can more readily write things down quickly.  For other movies, like ones in theaters or DVDs that I’ve owned and never watched, I will require more time to digest them.

But, for now, let’s get right into this.

Oh, before I begin, I’ll do two things: one, find a trailer, and two, quick possibly spoil the film.  You’ve been warned about the latter, so if you haven’t seen this, stop reading, go rent the movie (or borrow off of me since, you know, I won’t be watching it in a while), and then read what my thoughts are (or, actually just as good, write your own).

Also note: these write ups will be quite unorthodox (which I discovered after writing the following about the movie).  Again, you’ve been warned.

Ready?  Good.

I suppose I can start with the character of Summer (she is in the title of the movie after all), which, while she’s not too particularly well developed, actually works in other ways for the character of Tom.  The main problem with her is that all we ever see of her is when she’s with Tom.  As such, we know Summer through how Tom views her.  The non-linear storyline jumps around from early to later in the relationship showing the good, the bad, and the ugly of Summer, which, if I’m right, shows she’s a nice, outgoing and engaging young woman (good), is highly non-date able (bad), and, well, the same applies to ugly.  So, it seems that there is only two aspects of the character.  She’s honest though, which is a good thing: she says from the start of this doomed relationship that she doesn’t really care for relationships, hates labels, and enjoys having as much fun as possible, which, in the year 2010, seems to be the set up for many young hipster type relationships nowadays.  As it stands, given the two traits she has, she comes off more as a flat character than intended, which brings the film down slightly.  If the film split its time between her and Tom, she’d be more well-rounded.  Blame the script, in essence.

And yet, don’t blame the script.  Still with me?  The story itself is set and revolves around Tom, not Summer.  Well, it’s set around both, but this is Tom’s story, in which he finds love, or what he perceives to be love, mingles and dances with it, finds a false happiness, and then, through a realization of the failed relationship, begins his life anew.  Summer is his drive, and he’ll do anything to get her to be with him, but he’s also too late in that regard.  Only towards the end of the movie (and the overarching relationship with Summer) does Tom begin to realize that what he’s been doing is false, and so he sets out to do the thing he wants to do the most: for him, he likes to draw architecture (it’s what he went to school for in the first place).

Yes, Summer is a plot device, but a lovely plot device about the hopes and dreams and failed expectations of a relationship that was doomed from the start.  Get beyond this slight, and you have a wonderfully enjoyable film.

And it is quite enjoyable.  The movie, non-linear as it is, jumps back and forth through different aspects of the relationship, from beginning to end to back again, setting Tom up for dread and misery and rebuild.  It’s completely bereft of the everyday cliches found in practically every other romantic comedy, simply because this can be a real life romance.  Rom-coms follow a simple, yet dreadfully unoriginal formula that’s worked for ages: man meets woman (or reverse), they hate each other from day one, they’re forced to spend time together that neither cares for, they acknowledge the character flaws between themselves and each other, and find that, hey, we actually like each other, then end up together in the end (though with the prerequisite of having to break up at least once through a misunderstanding).  Simple, popular, consistently works, yet boring and predictable.

(500) Days, thankfully, aspires to be more.  When I originally saw this, I had the expectation of Tom actually succeeding and getting back with Summer.  Yet it didn’t happen.  Summer meets someone else, gets the feeling that Tom describes to her early on about “knowing love when you feel it”, and gets married (surprisingly quick too: between breakup and Tom’s rebuilding, it’s only 200 days, or a little over six months to meet someone, get engaged, and get married).  I was sad, no doubt, since Tom is a likable guy.  I wanted him to succeed, and yet he didn’t.  Not until he changed himself, but, like I said, it was far too late.  He changed, but he couldn’t with Summer.  She found someone else, someone who, as she said so bluntly to Tom, was everything that he wasn’t.

Therein lies the greatest aspect of this movie: that it aspires to show something more real than what is normally seen in movies.  By and large, it succeeds.  Well, no one will get to have their own dance number sequence after the first night in bed together (which is by far the best dance number montage in recent memory and one of the best scenes in the movie itself), but still, it succeeds because it feels like life itself, which is quite refreshing and, unfortunately, sucks sometimes too.