It's January here on To The Escape Hatch (and everywhere else too, I guess) so we are of course holding our annual celebration of fantasy and science fiction, the Escape-athon. For my submission I'm also involving the LAMB's Acting School, who are currently focusing on Joseph Gordon Levitt. The Venn diagram of JGL and fantasy doesn't feature too many movies in the intersection (it's pretty much this and Looper), but fortunately one that does appear is one of my favourite movies of the past decade, Inception.
To date Inception is my favourite of Christopher Nolan's films. It's that rarest of creatures - a hugely successful summer tentpole that's also wholly original and incredibly complex, whilst remaining vastly entertaining. If you're unfamiliar, it follows a team of "extractors" - people who enter dreams to extract information - who are hired to perform the first successful inception, wherein they plant an idea that the target will believe to be their own. In order to accomplish such a task the team - led by Leonardo DiCaprio, and comprised of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao and Ken Watanabe - must enter deep into the subconscious of their target (Cillian Murphy), meaning once inside the first dream they must then enter a second and third level of dream to really make the idea stick. Unfortunately for the team, any events that occur within the dream above will take effect on the dream below. This is best shown in today's clip. Here, Yusuf (Rao) is charged with protecting the team in the first dream, but has hit a spot of bother with their target's in-dream security, and is having to evade them in a car chase, with the rest of the team asleep in his van. This impacts upon Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), who is undertaking a similar task in the second level of dream, where he is protecting the sleeping team in a hotel room unaccustomed to taking place in the mind of someone in a fast, often not upright vehicle. In the video, the fight sequence starts at about 0:45. Let's take a look:
|Inception by Chris Skinner|
I like how the dream effects build up in intensity. Arthur first suspects something is up when a light tremor occurs as Yusuf begins to drive the van erratically. Colliding with a motorcyclist causes the hallway to lurch to one side, at this point to Arthur's benefit as one attacker begins to gain the upper hand whilst a second aims a shot. The real danger is shown when a sharp turn causes the first goon to be launched the length - now height - of a hallway, presumably to severe injury if not worse, whilst Arthur is fortunate enough to merely be thrown into a wall. Then comes the money shot, the long corridor scuffle that sees JGL and the stunt man (apologies, I don't know his name) to traverse all four walls/floors/ceilings in a sequence that is frankly a little nauseating to think about. Having them fall into a room full of general hotel paraphernalia is a nice touch, with all the objects flying around adding to the chaotic nature of the fight. And then it ends, with a single shot and Arthur, ever the level-headed professional, checking the gun and discarding it immediately.
As fight sequences go, that's a pretty unique and ambitious one, even more so when you take into account that it was all shot practically, with Gordon-Levitt and various stunt men roaming around a giant rotating centrifuge with the camera locked to it, so although it appears like the fighters are the ones constantly spinning it's actually the corridor itself. If you remove the fantastical elements it becomes a fairly straightforward scene - our hero fights off nameless goons in a hotel hallway, crashing into a room before they all try to reach a gun first - but the ingenuity and innovation required elevate this scene to greatness. I'm not saying it wouldn't be impressive and noteworthy had everything on screen been created digitally, but credit must be given for the hundreds of people involved in overcoming a seemingly endless amount of obstacles to achieve what is ultimately a very short scene that doesn't even involve many major characters. Apparently it took 2 weeks to rehearse and another 3 weeks to actually shoot, but it is absolutely worth it.