'The Words' Is 'Inception' With Stories Instead Of Dreams [Sundance 2012]

Like the dreams of Inception, The Words is a story about a story within a story. On the top level, there is a plot featuring Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde. In the middle, there's Jeremy Irons, Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana. And on the bottom, there's Ben Barnes and Nora Arnezeder. With direction by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, the film's structure is its second most interesting aspect. When The Words is at its best, those three tales are weaving together to speak about the decisions people make and how living with them can be the hardest thing imaginable.

The Words will be the closing night film of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on Friday and while it won't win any awards, it's an entertaining, literature-centric story that will keep you interested and guessing.The Words begins with an author (Quaid) reading from his book, also called The Words. Down a level we go. That book concerns Rory (Cooper), himself a newly-minted famous writer who, along with his wife (Saldana), is going to an award ceremony. As that story unfolds, an old man (Irons) appears and throws Rory's life totally off-balance by telling his story. Down one more level again. The film then shows that narrative unfolding.

What all of these layers have in common is that they hammer home the fact that humans are responsible for their decisions, especially the bad ones. And all the characters in The Words make bad decisions. It's a simple, straightforward message delivered with skill and precision. The score keeps the pace and intensity while each of the actors, more a part of an ensemble rather than a featured player, compliment each other nicely.

CBS Films picked up The Words early in the festival so it'll likely hit theaters later this year. Audiences will mostly enjoy unraveling its mysteries, even if they won't blow your mind.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10