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Inception

Every once in a while it doesn’t hurt to have to think while watching a movie.  Although there’s a place for mindless escapism, trying to piece together a story’s puzzle can be just as much fun.  Inception has a grand time offering such a jigsaw with a multitude of clues for viewers to decipher.  We should thank director Christopher Nolan as his fertile creativity discards the ‘game show’ mentality other commercial films display.
 

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief specialising in the art of extracting information from a person’s dreams.  Marked as a wanted criminal and haunted by visions of his deceased wife, he uses his skills to escape his demons.  His equally capable team includes Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who creates levels within dreams and Ariadne (Ellen Page), an ‘architect’ who maintains their balance.  Hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe) who wants them to do an ‘inception’ – planting an idea – into a business rival, they accept the challenge little realising the dangers that lie in their target’s murky subconscious.
 

Inception is an extraordinary film that can be enjoyed on many levels.  At once a science fiction action fest and then morphing into reality-altering drama, it delves into the concept of dreams and how we interpret them.  Although this idea has been used various times, never has it been given such expansiveness.  Nolan really wants his audience to experience this strange universe by ensuring they concentrate on the plot’s complexities.  The rewards are there for those who do with some exceptional performances and startling imagery maintaining its high quality.
 

You’re never quite sure where events are headed but what’s amazing is how the story never goes off the rails.  So precise is the intricate plotting that everything connects perfectly with the viewer forced to question what they’re watching.  It’s fascinating that whilst the characters have control over certain aspects of dreams, they aren’t totally in command.  Anything can happen which makes the tale more exciting.  Backed by a booming soundtrack and an intelligent and literate screenplay, Inception manages to satisfy the criteria of an all-encompassing blockbuster.
 

Good on Christopher Nolan for making effective use of the commercial success his Batman films have given.  It seems taking the safe route in formulaic dreck is not for him and that’s something for which to be thankful.  Although all of its connotations may not be understood, Inception is daringly different mainstream fare with the director’s determination to think outside the square a bravely imaginative bold stroke. 
 

Rating out of 10:  10

Greenberg

If misery loves company then Greenberg’s central character seems to live by that mantra.  Thriving amongst its dark shadows, his peculiar nature is a perfect fit for director’s Noah Baumbach’s latest.  Known for delivering left-of-centre offerings, Baumbach’s ability to draw comedy from someone’s constant self-pity is a good skill.  That he does with a character living in a maelstrom of chaos adds well amongst his previous exploration of personal dysfunction.
 

When his brother asks him to house-sit, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) quickly accepts.  Recovering from a recent nervous breakdown, he thinks this may be a chance to re-connect with life.  Moving in, he meets his brother’s assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig) who sees the troubled soul within.  Looking for answers herself she begins an odd romance with Roger.  Stumbling into this is an old friend Ivan (Rhys Ifans) who still holds a grudge.  Looking after a house, a sick dog and sorting his messy existence is an endurance test Roger tries to overcome with mixed results.
 

Greenberg shows the value of having some personal goals.  Roger and Florence don’t have any and are lost souls aimlessly wandering through life without much purpose.  It’s not until they meet that they begin to formulate some future plans and face up to their foibles and past mistakes.  Ivan plays a key role as he forces Roger to examine his self-destructive nature and achieve the potential he knows he has.
 

These are successfully interwoven in the archly amusing script with Stiller’s performance standing out. That such a selfish and grumpy character can garner any sympathy is down to his characterisation with Stiller replacing his usual manic persona with a more emotionally subtle rendition.  He’s in fine company with the characters feeling more real with the comedy arising from the situations rather than being forced.  This mix of humour and pathos slips easily within the script’s semi-comic tone.
 

Greenberg may be an acquired taste but its examination in beginning and re-igniting relationships is well handled.  While life may get us down sometimes there’s a world out there to explore which is something this quirky offering tells in its own individual way.
 

Rating out of 10:  7