Inception or more plainly written is the planting of an idea deep inside someone’s subconscious while they’re asleep. Sometimes the planter of the idea must go 3 dream levels deep inside the plantee’s mind to make the idea stick or make the plantee think the idea is their own. This idea can be anything but for Christopher Nolan’s story the idea the Extractor must plant is to break up an empire before it becomes monopolistic. Selfish for the man hiring the team to carry out the Inception but watching it play out is a symphony – a maestro’s finest work. Christopher Nolan has total control; he doesn’t have much to prove only putting out the two greatest Batman films ever made plus some of the most profoundly entertaining thrillers in Memento and The Prestige.
Describing Inception to someone who hasn’t seen it, or any Nolan film is a hard ask (minus his two Batman films, its Batman). The best option for anyone who has zero experience with this director is to just go in and see for themselves. A dream, within a dream within a dream but within that is a convoluted yet confounding experience of being completely engrossed in a story that itself becomes attached to the viewers subconscious well after viewing. Just like with Memento, a story about a man with short term memory told in reverse order, Inception is a multiple watch film to fully grasp the complexities and small details that will undoubtedly be missed the first or second time watching.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an Extractor. Him and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) travel into the depths of a targets mind to steal information that is securely protected by safeguards. When the target, a wealthy man Mr. Saito (Ken Wantanabe) hires Dom and his team to break up an empire, the team must deal with forces of nature outside of their control – Dom’s memories of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).
“Draw me a maze in 2 minutes that can be solved in 1” Dom says to his new architect Ariadne (Elliot Page). The job of the architect is to create the world starting with a small detail (a lamp post, phone booth or brick wall) and build a lush environment that can be navigated by the team effortlessly while not obeying the laws of physics.
The idea, simple enough is brilliant. Ideas can fester into someone’s mind and destroy them from within. The idea of Inception is possible because Dom first did it to Mal. Nolan himself worked on the script of Inception for nearly a decade and with a scale of this magnitude, the timing of getting every detail must be precisely thought of two to three times over. This film doesn’t work if Nolan didn’t direct and succeed with two large scale Batman films. Inception doesn’t work in a small-scale capacity – every dream, reality, and everything in-between Dom’s team travels to has an intimacy to it all in the scope of every level.
Visually, Inception is unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. Every frame is built, filled with real life experiences, and then deconstructed in a way that only Nolan knows best. Fellow collaborator Wally Pfister is back behind the camera bringing Nolan’s vison to reality.
But the funny thing about Inception is grasping the concept of reality. If I were to guess its Nolan’s favorite topic to explore in his films. Immediately when we wake up after a night’s sleep and remember we dreamt, it quickly fades away never to be fully remembered again. Until the déjà vu kicks in. Dom describes it multiple times that we never know how a dream begins only remembering the middle of it and then waking before it ends in a kick, desperate to go back into that world and see its conclusion. Getting lost in that idea is what Nolan builds upon. Wanting to revisit the dream to see how it ends can cause desperation, it can destroy a person’s mind, turn them hollow inside and make them act in a way that puts others at risk. Nolan crafts this experience in such a manner that every viewer can see themselves in almost every character’s point of view. Their motivations, methods and experiences are well thought out and executed with a precision that Nolan is known for.
Again, Nolan puts together an outstanding ensemble cast around leading man DiCaprio. Leo proves his talent with his charismatic performance – you can’t take your eyes off him whenever he speaks. When looking at it more closely, Inception is about a man who misses his children. How long can Dom’s father-in law (Michael Caine) deliver presents to James and Phillipa? Do we agree with Cobb’s methods? Absolutely not, but we can appreciate his journey to stop at nothing to get back to them, yes. Rounding out the cast is Tom Hardy as Eames who excels as a forger and identity thief, Dileep Rao as Yusef – the chemist unrestricted from regulations, Cillian Murphy as Robert Michael Fischer – the heir to his father Maurice’s (Pete Postlewaite) empire who Dom and team need split up.
When the topic is about the mind, reality or time manipulation in some fashion Nolan is at his absolute best (I still think The Dark Knight may be his best film overall). Inception adds to Nolan’s legend backed by stunning visual effects, a breathtaking score by Hans Zimmer and beautiful cinematography. Technically, Nolan is one of the best working directors today – every detail is accounted for while any criticism may be forgiven. Of course, Inception wont land the same for everyone – it’s easy to see why some may not see the beauty in this film. It’s confusing and possibly a giant mess not bound by science that’s hard to explain and decipher. It’s more about the characters and their individual journeys that hold the most weight amongst a strong screenplay and outstanding performances. I guess we all need our own totem to figure if our reality is real after experiencing this film.
Written By: Christopher Nolan
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Music By: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography: Wally Pfister
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Elliot Page, Ken Wantanabe, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine, Tom Berenger
Release Date: July 16, 2010
Running Time: 2 Hours 28 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
My Score: 4.5 out of 5