Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)


Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Earnes), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer Jr.), Marion Cotillard (Mal), Michael Caine (Miles). Screenplay by Christopher Nolan. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Rating: 12A. Running time: 148 minutes.

One of the many things we learn in Inception is that we never experience the beginning of a dream, but instead are always thrown right into the middle of the action. The film itself starts similarly, and so will this review by honing in on a scene way into the drama: as the main characters plan the film’s main event – how to plant an idea into a man’s mind and completely convince him of its reality – they start talking and considering things that are completely wild and would have made little sense to us an hour previously. But in the context of what we have slowly learnt, they begin to talk and we start to comprehend their genius. Then we realise everything they say, everything they think and everything they do is just one fragment of Christopher Nolan’s mind. If they are so incredible, then that must make him God. I say this with a clear head and no amount of exaggeration: Inception shows us his imagination is beyond the realm of mortals. The mortals are me and you, the mere benefactors of his creation. And just what a creation it is.

The world of Inception is ferocious and fascinating. Forget any other film you’ve ever seen about dreaming that has tried to be clever with them. They, along with Nolan’s previous mysteries The Prestige and Memento, all look like child’s play now. Inception uses the power, potential and complexity of dreams on a whole new level. We are shown a world here where mind-manipulation is now a real possibility by hacking into the subconscious. People trained in such a profession are called ‘extractors,’ and Cobb (DiCaprio) is the self-proclaimed world leader in the field. He can take architects and co-conspirators with him into a target’s dreams, all of them perfectly conscious of what they are doing except the target himself. Then he can force information out of the target without his or her knowing, and potentially, if the new challenge is successful, Cobb can implant information too, regardless of whether it’s true or false.

I expected the plot to be this mind-blowing, firstly from Nolan’s track record but also from the snippets of information trailers and interviews have given over the last few months. What I didn’t see coming, however, from the director of Memento and The Dark Knight, was a film with this much emotional depth. The marketing campaign might have sold Inception as a pure heist film, but don’t be fooled for one second. It turns out DiCaprio, after Shutter Island, is now playing his second tormented soul of the year. Like in that film, his character Cobb here also has a dark history of issues with his wife, and they map out and infiltrate the plot of Inception to make it not only even more intriguing than it already was, but also surprisingly moving and disturbing on an emotional level. In short, and whilst remaining spoilerless (I promise), Cobb is attempting the job the film revolves around because of what it will buy him: a ticket home to his children through the power of the man he is doing the job for. Cobb has been accused of killing his wife, and remains wanted in the US for murder. Achieving the inception (the implantation) would buy him his freedom from those charges, but what you never expect is the story underlying her death. I’ll leave that to the film to tell, for so much of its magic lies in the implications of this story and its accompanying horror.

There is so much here that one viewing will never reveal. I’m guessing three repeats at a minimum will be necessary to fully appreciate not only the intricacies of the story and to fully understand it, but also to grasp the true extent of Nolan’s genius. For now, however, I know enough from first impressions to be able to tell it clearly will, with time and deep thought, be perfectly coherent, and also undoubtedly an absolute masterpiece.

I mentioned one magic moment at the start, and I’ll end with another, which happens to be at the film’s end. I said the beginning is confusing, and by the time the finale comes along if you’re like me then you most probably will have forgotten about it. But then Inception comes full circle and hits you hard, hard, hard. I’ve never had such delight come over me as the final credits have come up for a film, for all the right reasons. If you don’t make this a priority to go and see right now, don’t ever ask me for a piece of advice again.

2 Responses to “Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)”

  1. 1 26 for late 2010, or early 2011 (Part 1) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film
  2. 2 Academy awards: what will win and what should. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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