The most bracing idea behind Christopher Nolan’s trippy dream heist epic is his hauntingly resonant motif about a man trying to make amends for past transgressions. In “Memento”, Guy Pearce was trying to piece together his life and resolve the (maybe?) murder of his wife. In “The Prestige”, perhaps the most complete yet overlooked film in Nolan’s career, Hugh Jackman reboots himself to maddening proportions in order to carry out the perfect allusion, triggered by revenge and obsessive compulsive memories of his wife. And in “Inception”, it’s easy to get caught up in the nonlinear dream states that fold in on themselves, or guess exactly what that final shot means, but the most invigorating concept for me is Leonardo Dicaprio’s silent stretch of the imagination just to go home to his wife and kids. Whether any of this has anything to do with Nolan’s own emotional capacity is up for debate, but it drives “Inception” into a near cathartic experience while maintaining an equal amount of ‘wowness’ in the supporting performances (Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy especially) and complex heist that sometimes veers into the ludicrous. Bottom line, I bought the ludicrousness because its so expertly staged and edited. “Inception” held me in complete rapture from start to finish. One of the very best films of the year.
Speaking of ludicrous, Philip Noyce’s “Salt” is a supreme disappointment after all the chatter about “throwback 70’s thriller” and female Bourne talk. The problem is this- what makes the Bourne Trilogy so terrific is it’s attention to realism that “Salt” blows out the window from the first chase. The image of Angelina Jolie jumping from eighteen wheeler to eighteen wheeler on the highway and its bevy of stand-around-and-shoot-poorly-government-agents strikes me as nothing throwback. Where Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass maneuvered Bourne out of tricky spots with careful calculation and quick witted thinking (such as the masterly edited scene as Jason Bourne escapes the downtown London subway station through observation and body cloaking with other people) Noyce and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer love the nauseating effect of slow-down/speed-up method of filmmaking that has become ingrained in video game consumerism and blockbuster action films as Jolie bounces off walls and expends grenades with sultry looks of satisfaction. I was bored after 15 minutes and only got worse as the action intensified. And the worst part? We’re left with the possibility of a sequel.