Inception is a colossal piece of work, not only as a storytelling marvel, but also as a technical achievement. It’s so rare these days that we, the moviegoers, get to experience something wholly original. Much like he did with 2000’s Memento, writer/director Christopher Nolan has taken it upon himself to redefine a genre (heist/action) in positively mind-blowing fashion. Inception demands multiple viewings. Whether or not you wish to take the journey a second time is really the only way to truly judge how you’ll feel about the film. Sign me up.
Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is the most talented extractor in the world. What does an extractor do? They enter someone’s dream state in order to steal valuable secrets. Cobb’s skills have made him a wanted man, for both good and bad reasons, and have cost him his relationship with his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), and his estranged children. When offered the chance to get his life back by executing the opposite of extraction, inception (the act of planting an idea in someone’s subconscious), he can’t refuse. Cobb assembles a crack team, consisting of long-time partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt, in a star making role), master of deception Eames (Hardy), “architect” Ariadne (Page), and chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) to pull off this all-but-impossible scheme.
Taking place in dreams within dreams within dreams, Nolan maintains purposeful audience disorientation for the nearly the entire running time. The first act explains the rules and regulations of intercepting and creating the worlds of dreams. Time and gravity change depending upon how many layers are eclipsed. If someone dies in a dream, they merely wake up in reality. Or is it reality? Nolan digs deep enough and exposes everyone’s own dream experiences enough (do you ever remember the beginning of a dream?) that we get pulled in. The second act, loaded down with jaw-dropping, gravity-defying action sequences, is the main event.
Though we care enough about the characters, the film never hits all of the emotional notes it intends to. Cobb’s relationship with his wife, whom he may be recalling through memories or dreams (your guess is as good as mine), is central, but never completely involving. This makes the ambiguous ending, which is sure to draw extensive debate, feel a bit hollow and gimmicky – some may even scream cop-out as the litany of questions never come close to getting answered. In that way it is exactly like a real dream. How many of our questions in dreams ever really get answered?
Not since Memento has a film this intellectually challenging been released, and to release it as a summer blockbuster is a bold move. Rest assured, Inception has some truly stunning action sequences and eye candy (a scene in which Paris folds in upon itself is truly astounding), but it takes 148 solid minutes of concentration to comprehend the ramifications of these sequences. This is a mesmerizing, hypnotic experience. Nolan dares the viewer to jump into his multi-layered world, his own maze, and dedicated moviegoers will not be able to resist – even for a second, third, or fourth time.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 148 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.
Theatrical Release: July 16, 2010
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe