I am going to try and do the unthinkable; review “Inception”. A film that baffles and in all counts shatters the senses, causes you to doubt everything you’ve been told. A follow up to the box-office and critical smash hit “The Dark Knight”; director Christopher Nolan crafts a modern day masterpiece. The levels of complexity and careful direction are mind blowing in the highest sense; trying to decode all that “Inception” has to offer literally gives me a headache. I sat in the theater after the credits started to roll for a few moments trying to figure out what the hell I just watched. Then the fear set in on how to review a film that would take the level of explanation as advanced calculus would require.
The plot revolves around Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) specialize in “extraction”. The process of entering ones mind through dreamscape in order to steal information, when a job goes south the two get a new offer. An opportunity to perform the impossible — “inception”, this involves planting a new idea or concept into the mind and make it seem it was organically formed or the idea will not stick in order to skew ones decisions. All sounds simple, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Cobb seems to have more in stake than just a job offer and spirals out of control.
Without revealing too much of the plot I will refrain. The complexity comes in when the team starts entering dreams within dreams in order to get deeper into the targets’ psyche, different layers if you will. At one point there are four layers of dreams all taking place consecutively, going back and forth through these levels is a feverish task. Then there is the time constraint in the dreams, inside a dream the equivalent is 5 minutes in the real world = 1 hour in the dreamscape. Then when you start getting deeper into other layers it multiplies by 20. So when in each layer the time is different which affects everyone else in a different place in the mind. Yeah I know, have fun figuring that out.
As smart and well written as the concept is, it is approachable. Sure it’s complex and confusing but it all seems real which allows the audience to get into story and figure everything for themselves. This is where Christopher Nolan’s expertise comes in, he seems to be able to add a real world dimension to his stories which add a new level of understanding and appreciation to the material. “The Dark Knight” for instance is about a man in a bat suit fighting crime against a crazy clown, but Nolan adds so much depth and emotion to the characters and ambiance that it seems authentic. “Inception” has a strong sci-fi overtone but is done in a way that makes you believe that it could actually happen.
It is a concept that would fail in the hands of any other writer/director. Nolan knows how to tell a story which is incredibly important in a film like this.
At its core this is an action film — a thinking man’s action film. Certain targets may be trained to counter act the extractors and put up certain defenses, usually armed guards. This is where the action takes place, necessary action. I say “necessary” because a lot of the time you will have a big action scene in a film and it doesn’t seem to quite fit, that’s because it is out of place and does not move the story forward. In “Inception” the action helps the plot forward and actually makes sense, Nolan combines traditional run and gun scenes with run of the mill car chases but when in the dream world it all becomes much more.
The ensemble cast really shines, DiCaprio adds a lot of feeling to his tortured character. The supporting characters all seem organic and real, Gordon-Levitt is fantastic as usual and Ellen Page was actually very good (I did not care for Juno). Ken Watanabe is always great as is Michael Caine, but like I said it is an ensemble and it meshes extremely well. In a world of Hollywood remakes and sequels, it is great to see some originality coming through. Maybe now we’ll see more films like this in the future, which is exciting.
The score by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight / Batman Begins / The Last Samurai) is amazing, adding hair raising suspense during some of the bigger action pieces. Suck it Danny Elfman. At 148 minutes, “Inception” is a haul but it blows by with ease once you get hooked. This all leads to an emotion and perfect climax that will leave you talking the entire ride home, I feel it may be the new 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Inception” will be dissected and examined scene for scene in order to truly comprehend the intricate finished product.
I got into a half hour discussion right after the movie of what it all meant at the end, then I realized much like 2001 it is all left up to the audience. Your interpretation is your own, there is no wrong answer. The fact that a summer blockbuster can initiate such emotion and thought makes it something much more, “Inception” is a modern day masterpiece in a world filled with trend followers and awful renditions of 80’s television shows and movies. “Inception” leads the pack, right into the next generation of great film making.
Once in a great while there comes a film that defines a generation and is daring enough to take risks in order to create something new and thought provoking. King Kong (1933) Seven Samurai (1954) The Godfather (1971) Pulp Fiction (1994) and Goodfellas (1990). Then there is “Inception” in 2010. 10/10