Tag Archives: marion cotillard

Inception (2010)

Note: This film was the main topic of discussion on Episode 9 of my podcast, The Cinescope Podcast. Give it a listen for a more in-depth discussion!

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Christopher Nolan is one of the more visionary film directors working in the industry today as evidenced by the audacity and realism of his Dark Knight trilogy and the scope of Interstellar. Inception is no exception, and it proves to be perhaps his most personal film to date – he wrote and fine-tuned the script over a period of nearly a decade before having the chance to actually make it, and his hard work definitely paid off.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the world’s best dream extractor; he enters people’s dreams to steal secrets from their subconscious. He’s good at what he does, but he lives an unfulfilling life, separated from his children due to charges against him for a crime he didn’t commit. To clear the charges and see his kids again, Cobb makes a deal with Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe), who promises to use his influence to clear Cobb’s name in exchange for inception – the placing of an idea into someone’s head via their dreams. Assembling a team to assist him, Cobb puts everything at risk in order to see his kids again, with failure meaning that he’ll be in prison for the rest of his life.

Nolan’s creativity is incredible here, with him taking things that are familiar to us, like a “kick” – the falling feeling you get while in bed that instantly wakes you up – being used in new ways, in this case as a means of waking up from a dream before the time runs out on their special dream-sharing machine. He also introduces the idea of “projections”, which are physical (within the dream itself) manifestations of our subconscious that can be spoken to in order to gain information or to learn more about the person creating the projections. I find the “mechanics” of Nolan’s dream world endlessly fascinating as I learn more about these as well as things like how Nolan envisions the effects of outside stimuli such as slaps or needing to use the restroom within the dream.

The story itself is in the style of a heist film, but the setting doesn’t allow it to be anything even remotely close to generic. For starters, Cobb and team aren’t stealing anything but are instead putting something there – an idea. There are elements of science fiction and blockbuster action, but at the same time the narrative carries a surprisingly emotion weight with it as we witness Cobb struggling with the loss of his wife and his guilt at having caused it, as well as the strained father/son relationship between Robert and Maurice Fischer (Cillian Murphy and Pete Postlethwaite, respectively). There are multiple scenes that can leave you in tears, but there are also moments of comedy (Tom Hardy’s Eames has a few notable one-liners) and incredible action sequences, with my favorite being Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fight in a rotating hallway.

Each member of the cast shines, so I won’t talk about them all, but I do feel the need to highlight a couple of them. Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb brings another all-star performance to the screen here, alternately treating us with scenes of anger, anguish, personal torment, guilt, and compassion. Marion Cotillard appears as his wife Mal, and we see her in various states of maliciousness and sadness. As the story between these two characters unfolds, we learn of the true tragedy that ended their marriage, made even more heartbreaking by the beautiful performances of both DiCaprio and Cotillard. Tom Hardy’s Eames shows off not only his comedic chops, but also his ability to be both intellectual and ready for action…watching his performance in this movie, you could make a pretty convincing argument for Hardy as the next (or eventual) James Bond. And the last character I’ll talk about here is Ellen Page as Ariadne, the young architect who joins to team in order to design the dream levels that the group will be diving in to. She acts as the sort of communication liaison for the audience; as someone new to the group, she’s a vehicle for exposition allowing characters to tell her (and therefore the audience) about the dream sharing process as well as a way for us to get a glimpse into Cobb’s difficulty with restraining his dangerous projection of Mal that jeopardizes their mission. Page is calm and intelligent and is therefore a comforting presence amidst all of the chaos they face on their mission. Additional shoutouts to great performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur (and his amazing rotating hallway/anti-gravity action scenes) and Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer.

I also won’t talk about Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score here, mostly because I’ve already written a review on it. However, I will say that this score marked a turning point in my opinion of Zimmer’s work. For most of the first decade of the millenium, I thought that he copied himself too often, but his music here innovated and showed him at his experimental best, and the majority of his work since then has been taken in a similar direction. Nolan/Zimmer is as inspired a pairing as Spielberg/Williams or Zemeckis/Silvestri because the two of them understand each other and have similar visions of scope and artistic expression.

This review was surprisingly difficult to write because there’s so much good to be said that I couldn’t narrow down very well. The bottom line is this: Inception is Christopher Nolan at his absolute best. The story and dream world are incredibly engaging and fun, and the performances from each of the actors as well as from Hans Zimmer are top notch throughout. I have nothing but praise for what has become one of my all-time favorite movies.

-Chad

RECOMMEND!

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of violence and action throughout

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White House Down (2013)

White House Down

Roland Emmerich likes to do things to famous buildings in his movies. In Independence Day (1996), he blew up the White House. In The Day After Tomorrow (2004), he buried the Statue of Liberty in snow up to her waist. In 2012 (2009), the White House is destroyed by the USS John F. Kennedy coasting into it via tsunami. Nothing new is brought to the table in his latest directorial effort, White House Down – the White House and Capitol buildings are both severely damaged and nearly destroyed, but hey, at least we have fun along the way.

Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a US Capitol police officer, a man who has struggled to hold a steady job and to be a good father to his daughter, Emily (Joey King), who is obsessed with politics and the current US president, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Cale takes Emily to the White House when he goes to apply for the president’s Secret Service, but he is rejected by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Dejected, he and Emily join a tour through the White House when the worst happens: domestic terrorists take over both the Capitol and the White House, gathering the tour group as hostages and trapping the president in the building. John must find a way to help protect both the president and his daughter before time runs out.

I’d never seen a Channing Tatum film before this, and I found that I didn’t hate him, so great for you, Mr. Tatum. Sure, he’s not spectacular, but he could have been a lot worse. The important thing is that he does the action well, and there are even a few moments when his character’s relationship with his daughter feels at least kind of close to genuine. Speaking of his daughter, Joey King, who I’d only seen as the young version of Marion Cotillard’s character in The Dark Knight Rises (my review), is charming here, if not a bit too smart for her age, but who cares? She’s sweet, she brings the proper mindset and stubbornness of a preteen, and she provides Tatum’s character with great (if not a little bit over-the-top) motivation. Jamie Foxx does a great job as always as President Sawyer. He carries the air of authority well, and his likable personality in the role brings a lot to the film. Lastly, Jason Clarke proves yet again that he can play the crazy character well, though this time he’s not torturing suspected terrorists (Zero Dark Thirty) or shooting a rich man who ran over his wife (The Great Gatsby); this time, he’s a mercenary who takes over the White House…and apparently he can hold quite the grudge. He does well with it, though, and I like him as the villain. Other notable performances come from James Woods, who plays Martin Walker, the head of Presidential Detail, and Nicolas Wright, who plays a quirky White House tour guide who serves mostly as comedic relief. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also in the movie, and, though I’m not really a fan of hers, she isn’t awful here.

For the first bit of the film, I tried too hard to take it seriously: I thought that it was trying to make a political statement or teach a valuable lesson, and I thought that the circumstances were incredibly ridiculous, but the frequent inclusion of (quite effective and humorous) one-liners and the tendency for things to be just a bit too convenient for our protagonists – and sometimes for our antagonists as well – helped me to realize that even the movie wasn’t taking itself too seriously. Once I realized this, I started having a lot more fun, which is what I really think the purpose is here. Is there a message or a political statement to be found somewhere? Yeah, sure, probably – maybe a comment on how dedicated people can be to the people (or country) that they love? –  but that’s not the point of the film…the point is for it to be a fun action film, and it does a great job at pulling that off. Don’t go in expecting a whole lot of substance, but also know that the action isn’t mindless either. White House Down is good for what it is and good for what it isn’t; it’s not spectacular, and it’s not endless pointless explosions, but it is good for a few laughs and a few decent dramatic moments, and it succeeds the most at being what it’s meant to be: a fun summer action flick.

Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Here’s a brief spoiler-free review of the final film of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Taken as a whole, this film was fantastic on nearly every level, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have any faults. I had problems with understanding certain characters, from Bane (especially) to Miranda Tate to Jim Gordon to Bruce himself. A couple of the plot points in the first half confused me a bit, but the second half was so incredible that it made these and any other minor faults seem like nothing. Initially, I didn’t agree with some bits of the ending, and, because of that, I decided that it was slightly behind The Dark Knight in terms of quality, but I’ve been mulling things over since the movie ended – it’s starting to grow on me, so the final film of the trilogy may end up being my favorite. Old faces and new faces alike do an awesome job onscreen, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Tom Hardy as Bane standing out as particularly great. Overall, it’s an outstanding film; if you enjoyed the first two, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you enjoy this one as well.

Now, onto the review FILLED with spoilers, so, if you haven’t seen the film yet, DON’T READ ON. (skip to end for spoiler-free conclusion)

There are two key bits of speculation that have been circulating the Internet for quite some time now that proved to be correct: 1) Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul and 2) Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man who will take over for Batman. Good job, Internet people! Also, Batman did technically “die”, so there’s a third speculation come true.

Bane proved to be one of my favorite film villains of all time. Sure, I had trouble understanding him at times, but Hardy’s presence onscreen was bone-chilling and terrifying. I’m not going to sit here and waste time comparing him to Ledger’s Joker, but both had a quality about them that made it difficult to look away – no matter how badly you wanted to at times. The most fascinating part about this character is that he is the first villain who could physically best Batman…and he does in an awful way. Though we couldn’t see most of his face, Hardy did a fantastic job with communicating through his body language exactly who Bane was and what he was capable of. I wish that there had been more of a defeat of Bane by Batman, but I suppose that the defeat we witnessed was the only one that mattered because the title of “head villain” was passed on to Miranda Ta- oh, excuse me – Talia al Ghul.

Hathaway as Catwoman was very good as well; in fact, I managed to watch the film thinking, “hey look! It’s Catwoman!” instead of thinking, “hey look! It’s Anne Hathaway!”, which is a plus for someone like her who hasn’t done a film like this before. She looked the part and did a fine job with the character.

I was very impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his character; he came out of nowhere, but he certainly exhibited the detective abilities and physical skill needed to be a future Batman…more on that later. The leadership he showed in gathering the forces in Gotham to fight and bringing Batman back to the city was outstanding, and I really felt myself rooting for the character…and not just because he was on Batman’s side.

Since I’ve read both of Michael Caine’s autobiographies now, watching him onscreen in The Dark Knight Rises was a particular treat, especially because we got to see him display a wide range of acting ability in this film than we did in the previous two films. When he cried at the end of the film, I nearly cried; Caine is a wonderful actor with a career spanning decades, and seeing him deliver such a powerful performance in this film at his age (he’s 79 years old) was a great thing to witness.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Not much to say here, but they both did a fantastic job with their roles, especially Oldman.

Christian Bale’s as Batman was admirable in the sense that we see him truly fight for the first time – not physically, necessarily, but for his life, something that we hadn’t seen from Batman before this film. He’s a man who has been through quite a lot both physically and emotionally, and he has suffered in just about every way that a man can suffer. Bale does a great job with truly showing Batman’s humanity in this film…for the first time, the person who wants him dead knows his true identity, so there is no way for him to hide or use theatricality to his advantage. It’s man vs. man, and there’s no darkness to hide in anymore. Bale displays Bruce’s resolve to give the city all that he has and makes not only Batman a hero, but Bruce Wayne a hero as well.

Aside from a slightly confusing first half (which, thanks to Wikipedia’s Plot section of the film’s article, isn’t all that confusing anymore) and the occasional problems with the voices, my only issues regarded the ending. I knew that I didn’t want Bruce to die, so that’s nice, but I wanted him to return to Gotham and have an emotional reunion with Alfred. At least, that’s what I wanted at first. Walking away, however, and taking some time to think about it, I was actually pretty satisfied with how they ended it. Batman is no longer a villain in Gotham but a hero instead, and Bruce Wayne has reached that point in his life when he no longer needs Batman…he is finally at peace, living out his life the way Alfred wanted him to. That being said, I still wish that we had seen more than just an acknowledgement between the two.

I also don’t know how I feel about the whole “(Robin) John Blake is the new Batman” part of the ending; if it was just meant as a teaser that will be left alone, cool. I like it. BUT I really don’t want to start a new franchise with Gordon-Levitt as the focus – Chris Nolan has made it pretty clear that he won’t be doing any more Batman after this film, and I don’t want a sequel trilogy or whatever to be made and it pale in comparison to what Nolan has done with Bale in these three movies. Who knows…maybe it could be good, but I don’t really want to take that chance. Of course, the decision isn’t up to me, so we’ll just have to see where Warner Bros. takes it from here…if anywhere.

***SPOILERS OVER***

I’m having trouble with deciding which film I like more: The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises. On one hand, I don’t want to like this film more just because it’s the last film of the series. On the other hand, I don’t want to like The Dark Knight more just because of Heath Ledger’s Joker; I’m trying to find a balance between the two so that I can make a decision excluding those factors. Though The Dark Knight Rises didn’t end the way I wanted it to when I walked into the theater, I walked out of the theater thinking that maybe, just maybe, Nolan’s ending was better than the one that I had fantasized for the film on my own. So, for now at least, I’m going to call this a tie, but it’s entirely possible – and highly likely – that the finale of the trilogy will come out on top.

As fans of Batman, we all have Christopher Nolan to thank for bringing this incredible character to the big screen in such a big way and for dedicating himself fully to finishing what he started. Batman Begins was groundbreaking, The Dark Knight was breathtaking, and now, with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has brought a third, final film that ends the trilogy in a hugely satisfying way.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence, intense sequences of action, language and some sensuality

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Hans Zimmer, here!