Friday, November 16, 2012

Film Pairing — The Once And Future Noir

Blade Runner ranked first on a list of top nine crime films I posted here earlier. If I were to redo the list I might have to make room for Inception. 

While it doesn’t have the wonderful noir moodiness of Blade Runner, Inception is exceptional.  Someone described it as a heist movie.  That works for me.  A team of criminals with specialized talents go about the delicate process of stealing information from the brain of one person in order to implant that idea into the brain of a person who will believe is his own.  We travel not in the outside world but in the world of dreams and dreams within dreams.  The laws of reality, as they often do in my dreams anyway, are suspended.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film’s protagonist, played by Leonardo DeCaprio, is a deeply flawed dream traveler who brings with him a team of experts to carry out the heist.  Among the other actors are Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Cilian Murphy and Tom Berenger.  Michael Caine makes a brief appearance.  As you might expect from Nolan, though, the real star are the special effects — dazzling in their imagination and convincing in their execution.  Oddly enough and unlike say, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, there remains a cold genuine connection to reality after all.  The images may be oddly placed and even fold into themselves, but it is not truly as fantastic as dreams or nightmares might be. No matter which dream we are witnessing, these are familiar worlds.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Blade Runner is a masterpiece.  I have no authority to say so.  It is simply my opinion.  The world created in this film is recognizable in the sense that we understand such things as modes of transportation, the concept of robots designed to be human-like, and characters who are cops and robbers.  However, the characters are more broadly and colorfully imagined — more exotic and unpredictable without being absurd.  These are people we can come to believe exist, which is important because some of them are “replicants,” who are not considered human, have no feelings, aren’t, in some minds, alive. But is this true? The simple plot belies the implications, historically and currently, of those who view others as unlike them, perhaps even less than human.  Other races or ethnicities.  Undocumented immigrants.  People of another class or in a different circumstance.  It’s a simple, but powerful story.

Based, many say “loosely,” on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ridley Scott has a world that is both different and relatable.  Harrison Ford is at his best.  Rutger Hauer and Sean Young are perfectly cast and give the performances of their careers. 

These two films offer a night of challenge.  Inception, particularly, demands that you pay attention.  If you get up for a second glass of Pernod, put the DVD on “pause.”  For a different reason, you won’t want to miss a moment of Blade Runner.  Each frame is a work of art.  Both films will make you think, imagine, question. 

I suggested Pernod as an accompaniment to the night of films because of its near hallucinogenic quality.  Whatever you choose, it should loosen you up a bit.  It’s not a night for Scotch or Martinis.


Richard L. Pangburn said...

Whereas, we've seen BLADE RUNNER countless times, we've only seen INCEPTION once, on the big screen. You assessment makes me want to see it again.

I recall being annoyed with the battle scene in INCEPTION, as I thought it cliched and yawn-stifling overlong. I may have to give it another shot.

Ronald Tierney said...

Thanks. I agree that the end might have been a bit too long and it doesn't have the moodiness of Blade Runner, but the dream within a dream within a dream remains pretty fascinating.