Inception: Truby reviews Christopher Nolan's latest – Part 1 of 4


John Truby is regarded as the serious writer’s story coach and has taught his 22-Step Great Screenwriting and Genre courses to sold-out audiences.   Truby continues to serve as a story consultant to the major studios, including Sony Pictures, HBO, and Disney Studios.  Truby’s best-selling book The Anatomy of Story newly out in paperback, has received glowing reviews and is used as a textbook at film schools across the country.

Today John Truby reviews the summer blockbuster Inception in four parts (links to the other parts are at the bottom).  Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio and was directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan.

Inception takes off like a rocket and then slowly runs out of fuel. I loved the mind teaser of a plot, but found the longer the movie went on the less I cared. How a film can generate two such different responses has to do with the most important relationship in a story, the one between plot and character.

In the past with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan, along with his co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer, has shown himself to be one of the masters of movie plotting. Once again, Nolan gives screenwriters a masterclass in how to build plot. Plot is the most underestimated major skill in storytelling, with a lot of specific techniques you must learn to work as a pro. And make no mistake, the ability to pack more plot in your script is the single most distinguishing feature in a script and film that hits big.

Most writers don’t realize that many of the plot techniques they will use for a particular story are determined by one of the first choices they make in the writing process: what genres will I use to tell this story? Indeed, Nolan’s most brilliant move in writing this script was in combining two genres that are almost never together: science fiction and caper.

Science fiction is the biggest of all genres, as huge as the universe and beyond. That’s why it’s so notoriously difficult to write well. It has a broad, loose structure that covers vast scales of space and time. The caper, also known as the heist film, is among the tightest and most focused of forms, built on a specific and high-speed desire line. That’s why caper stories are almost always very popular.

By combining these virtually opposite forms, Nolan allows the audience to have their cake and eat it too. They get the epic power of science fiction with the driving speed of the caper.

This is a 4-part Truby Screenwriting review: click for part 2, part 3, part 4.

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