Wow. I don’t even know where to start with Inception. I can’t help feel a little inadequate trying to review this film with only one viewing but here goes. Inception is the latest masterpiece to emerge from the mind of Christopher Nolan. With a lineage of impressive movies like Memento, Prestige, and Dark Knight, Nolan was sure to wow viewers with this mind bending tale which is a mix between Dreamscape and Oceans 11. In many ways, this is also like a ‘fixed’ version of the Scorsese’s awful mess of Shutter Island. Looks like for Leo that 2nd time is a charm.
Inception is about a team of dream ninjas led by Cobb (Dicaprio) whose job it is to steal corporate secrets by entering via dreams. A heist is presented to Cobb which involves a high risk procedure called ‘inception’ which is planting an idea instead of stealing it. This is a much more complicated process which involves entering multiple layers of the sub-conscience and potentially could result in becoming a brain-dead vegetable for Cobb and his team.
First of all, Inception is the reason why I started reviewing movies in the first place. It’s a film that truly stretches the imagination and possibilities way beyond the 2 hour viewing time in the theater. Nolan beautifully displays how to tell an innovative story that is very complex but not incomprehensible. Inception is basically a high-brow bank heist with multiple layers for the team to navigate. There is a genius plot device of how each layer of consciousness translates into longer stretches of time than the previous layer. So an hour in one layer may feel like a week in the layer below. This formula would exponentially multiply the deeper you go in. It’s strange to comprehend but Nolan uses it to brilliantly unfold the story with gripping tension. There is a scene involving a falling van which I thought was one of the most simple yet creative sequences in decades.
The only way to make a movie like this work is with a lot of exposition which is allowed through the eyes of newcomer Ariadne (Ellen Page). Because of the unfamiliar territory of this reality, the ‘rules’ of this world have to be clearly explained and must be dogmatically committed. Normally, I have a strict ‘show don’t tell’ policy but surprisingly, the screenplay does an excellent job at working through the layers and layers of exposition early on in the story. With the precision of an instruction manual, it is clear what you can and can not do while dreaming- and for the most part it works with satisfaction. Nolan does a thorough job reinforcing all of these strange ideas and making sure that it matters to the plot. It particularly builds to the final scene which leaves you wondering (and dreaming) what really happened.
The images crafted for this movie are truly ground breaking. It’s low tech compared to Cameron’s Avatar which shows you the importance of ‘practical’ effects rather than CGI. Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s ‘wire-fu’work was some of the most convincing effects I have seen in a long time.
There are many other strengths to list too. Leo spits out another excellent performance as his typical tormented, self loathing anti-hero type. The supporting cast is strong, the music is even stronger, and the pacing is almost perfect.
I had some minor quibbles, like the final action sequence feeling a little bit too much like an uninteresting James Bond film with all the skiing. Nolan’s continual weak link is his female casting. I love Ellen Page but she can’t quite match the emotional force of the movie. There are also a lot of loose ends which isn’t necessarily bad but I felt I wasted some emotional energy trying to sort out all the rabbit trails. Perhaps a second viewing will help it.
All in all, Inception is the stuff that we only dream of. I think it is the best movie of 2010 and only makes me anticipate Nolan’s future work. If Nolan were to steal anything in my dream, it would be my wish that he make the next Superman movie 🙂