Monday, July 26, 2010
Inception: Daily Caller is a manic, needlessly complex, and ultimately trivial movie—good for a few hours’ entertainment in a sweltering summer, but mind-numbingly insubstantial. The initial premise is promising: former Beltway star Tucker Carlson, anguished at having dropped to the Schlussel-Breitbart level of American punditry, assembles a team of accomplished sociopaths and professional liars (led by newcomer Jonathan Strong) to sedate young Ezra Klein and journey deep into Klein’s unconscious to find the vault where he keeps the names of the members of a secret society known only as “Journolist.” It’s like Fantastic Voyage meets The Matrix, and some of the special effects—like a free-fall fistfight between Dave Weigel and Jeffrey Goldberg in a zero-gravity hotel corridor—are remarkably convincing. But the plot goes awry when the intrepid Carlson discovers that the sleeping Klein is dreaming of yet another list. This is apparently made up of a still more shadowy group of academics and political commentators who are, in turn, collectively dreaming of ways to develop techniques for “inception,” that is, planting ideas in other people’s minds so deeply that the people believe the ideas to be their own. This could have been an opportunity for some genuinely innovative and challenging filmmaking, the dream-within-the-dream-within-the-dream taking any number of surreal forms. But it’s just at this point that Inception: DC runs out of imagination, revealing a secret society in an Arctic fortress devoted to some of the most banal and mundane machinations ever machinated. Middling obscure and openly left wing university professor Henry Farrell is shown dreaming up an “Open Letter” together with 106 fellow sleepers (giving new meaning to the term “sleeper cell”), while on still deeper levels, teams of liberal and center-liberal dreamers plot to criticize Sarah Palin for her ignorance and inexperience. At which point the befuddled viewer can only ask, was this trip really necessary?
There may be some kind of paradox in the fact that the dazzling high-tech wizardry of Inception: DC is ultimately deployed to uncover the weakest-sauce “conspiracy” in the history of conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, the real mystery, as always, lies hidden in plain sight: the mystery of how a team of accomplished sociopaths managed to get so deep into John McCain’s brain as to persuade him to nominate Sarah Palin in the first place, and then to “suspend” his campaign in response to the financial crisis so that he could fly back to Washington and stand around the White House muttering and looking angry. The day that bizarre story comes to light is the day we’ll finally have a political/psychological thriller worth watching.