By Lisa Trifone
The last film I saw in movie theaters before the shutdown order was Hello, Dolly! in glorious 70mm at Music Box Theatre. Arguably not Barbra Streisand’s most critically acclaimed work, it’s nevertheless a joy to behold on the big screen, all vibrant colors and grand production design. That was just over five months ago (oof), and now, with all the most stringent health and safety practices in place, that venerable movie house on Southport has made us a movie-going offer we can’t refuse. Though the Music Box has been screening films in person for a few weeks, they sweeten the deal today with the country’s only 70mm print of Christopher Nolan’s Inception presented on their extra-large screen ten years since its initial release and in preparation for Nolan’s newest film, Tenet, to open there on those magical, oversized reels on September 3.
I have seen Inception multiple times, including upon its original release in 2010 and many times since. It’s not a perfect film, but it is always an impressive one, and this latest exhibition is undoubtedly no exception. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone five months (or five weeks, or even five days!) without seeing a film in a movie theater, so I was admittedly emotional as I settled into a center, socially distance seat about halfway back from the screen in the theater’s main house. (The majority of the 750 seats have been proactively blocked off, leaving only four-seat sections every other row to sit in. The social distancing is real.) As the lights dimmed and Hans Zimmer’s imposing score thundered in, the first few moments of the film trembling up on screen the way only real film can…reader, I’m not ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes. There is truly nothing like seeing a movie in a movie theater.
We all have to calculate our own comfort levels with every day activities right now, as the only way to remain completely safe from the virus is to stay entirely quarantined. If a trip to the cinema is in the cards for you (and again, the Music Box is doing everything right in terms of safety protocols given the circumstances), this is one hell of a way to return. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Cillian Murphy, Inception is a movie within a movie within a movie within…you get the idea. DiCaprio is Cobb, a particular type of bandit in an alternate version of the world where it’s possible to dream collectively, opening the subconscious up to bad actors looking to extract sensitive information for profit. When Saito (Watanabe), a high-powered mogul looking to take down the competition, promises Cobb he can clear him of the charges keeping him from his young children, Cobb sets about assembling a team to try something no one thinks is possible: incepting an idea rather than extracting one.
At just over two hours long, Nolan (who also wrote the film) crams a whole lot of plot into a relatively short runtime; having seen the film enough times to remember what’s coming, it struck me this time how much of the dialogue is expository, just there to remind us which dream we’re in, who’s motivated by what and where exactly this might all end up. DiCaprio is the epitome of a movie star (as he was then, is now and ever shall be), his magnetic on-screen charm as strong as ever; and the ensemble holds up too, with Page, Murphy, Gordon-Levitt and especially Cotillard more than meeting the high standard he sets. But what gives the film its real sticking power is the sheer scope of the picture, images anyone who’s seen it already will remember easily: Paris folding up on itself. Decrepit skyscrapers crumbling into the ocean. That van falling, falling, falling into the watery depths. It remains monumental movie magic, ten years on and surely long after that.
Inception is now playing at Music Box Theatre on 70mm. Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased online in advance. Be sure to review the theater’s safety protocols in advance of arriving.
Third Coast Review is Chicago’s locally curated website, specializing in Chicago-area arts and culture coverage. Read more at thirdcoastreview.com