Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard
Why do we dream? Does anyone really know for sure? Probably not, but writer-director Christopher Nolan takes a stab at breaking down the structure of a dream and the influence of the subconscious in Inception. There’s nothing more perplexing than the unknown and Nolan uses that to his advantage. It’s one thing to simply make up a story about a theoretical concept, but it’s another to come up with a scenario and actually make it feel real and that’s exactly what he achieves in Inception. It may be Nolan’s dream world, but it’s so exciting, so disturbing and seems so authentic, you might start to wonder.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor. He’s employed to sneak into people’s dreams and steal their secrets. Turns out the gig comes with some serious baggage and Cobb wants out, but the only way he can safely return home is by completing one last job for a businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe). The problem is, Saito doesn’t want Cobb to snatch someone’s secret information, he wants him to do the unthinkable, plant an idea in a subject’s mind – inception.
The general premise, while intriguing, can sound pretty absurd, but Nolan approaches the story in such a well thought out and artistic manner, it practically feels real. Even when the information is sparse, Nolan grabs hold and doesn’t let go through sheer stellar action and cinematography. In the film’s opening scene, little is known about Cobb’s line of work, however, you’re eager to join his cause making the reality of the situation a little easier to digest when Cobb comes to. And that’s when the real fun begins.
Once the stage is set, Cobb begins to assemble his team for the inception gig. He’s already got his right hand man, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but now must find himself an architect. That’s where Ellen Page comes in. She plays Ariadne, a budding designer who’s swooped up by Cobb and hurled into his dream worlds. Cobb also enlists the help of a forger, Eames (Tom Hardy), a chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and even agrees to take his employer, Saito, along for the ride. Together they’ll infiltrate the mind of an heir to a major corporation, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy), and plant an idea so deep inside, he’ll think it was his all along.
Inception clocks in at a whopping 148 minutes, but not once will you feel compelled to check your watch. The drizzle of data during the opening sequence quickly becomes a shower once Cobb amasses his crew and from then on, even blinking can run you the risk of missing a vital piece of information. You’re not a member of the audience, you’re a member of Cobb’s team and should you misstep, it could thwart the whole operation.
Further aiding Nolan’s effort to suck you into the scenario is his superb depiction of the action. In reality the colors are rich and the characters engaging, but once the player drifts off into sleep, Inception has the power to really blow your mind. Ariadne’s first venture into dreamland is particularly memorable. As a novice in the arena she tests out her surroundings without restraint. Amidst the overwhelming amazement of it all, she fails to recognize the danger at hand and when she’s left staring it in the eye, the terror is overwhelming. Nolan’s ability to transfer the sensation of the characters to the audience is truly profound. At one point, a man goes headfirst into a windshield and you can practically feel the impact yourself.
Nolan’s filmmaking technique is the tar of this film, but that’s not to say the cast doesn’t add to it. Everyone is superb. As usual, DiCaprio commands your attention with ease. His character is packed with uncertainty, a doubt that creates an immense amount of frustration for it puts his life and his teammates’ lives in jeopardy as well, yet he still manages to make Cobb appealing and even emit a sense of comfort. Page is responsible for most of that likeability for it’s her good-natured character that gives the audience a taste of what’s beneath Cobb’s harsh exterior. But it’s Arthur and Eames that are the most fun of the bunch. Hardy delivers the majority of the film’s humor while Gordon-Levitt pulls off an absolutely incredible fight sequence. Watanabe aces his portrayal as well taking Saito from a two-dimensional businessman with an agenda, to a fully engaging and endearing individual. Without running the risk of spoiling any of the film’s reveals, Cotillard’s assessment will be left at this – she’s incredible.
However, even with all of these assets, there’s one thing that makes Inception a little frustrating; it’s difficult to understand. The confusion doesn’t necessarily spoil the experience, but it certainly puts a damper on the drive home. It’s easy to feel like you missed something, or perhaps you didn’t miss anything at all. Maybe it’s just a concept left to the viewer’s imagination. Either way it makes it feel as though something’s missing or isn’t quite complete.
On the other hand, this is a key element that makes Inception particularly impressive; unlike most good films that offer an enjoyable experience and send you on your way, Inception stays with you and not just on your way home, but for quite a while. The more you try to decipher the clues and ways in which the story plays out, the deeper you venture into Nolan’s world and the more enraptured you’ll become in what you’ve just witnessed. But be careful for if you go too deep, perhaps you’ll never come out.
By Perri Nemiroff