Inception is like no other film you’ve ever experienced. Sure, we’ve all seen our fair share of alternate realities in film before – The Matrix obviously comes to mind – but what Christopher Nolan has created here is a film which crosses a courageous line only few filmmakers would ever attempt. With films such as Memento (2000), and his grand re-imagining of Batman, we know Nolan’s not afraid to do just that.
Speaking of Memento, it’s said that Nolan began writing Inception‘s screenplay during the filming of it. A decade-long writing job for any film would seem like overkill, but when it comes to this film, it’s not necessarily crazy, once you think about it. The amount of work creating the multi-layered story, especially writing it in such a way as to make it understandable to the viewer, would have been a very daunting task. Luckily, we have plot points and characters holding our hands throughout the story’s progression, but without making it feel annoyingly obvious.
Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled extractor, someone who goes into the manipulated dreams of others to extract ideas, secrets, information, whatever it is he needs from his target. The ability to do this comes from the Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous (PASIV) Device, an extraordinary machine with injectors you attach to your arm, placing you in the dream world almost instantly. While in the dream, his mission is to acquire what he needs and get out. However, it’s not so simple because there are some rules and risks to adhere to and be aware of.
After a failed mission, Cobb receives an offer quite like in The Godfather: an offer he can’t refuse, consisting of the chance to, upon completion, go home to his children whom he hasn’t seen in some time. It’s no surprise that this mission (a “Mission: Impossible” of sorts) isn’t going to be so easy… He must plant an idea in a man’s head causing him to wake up from the dream a changed man. Although this may not sound difficult, the film explains it all quite clearly, and that is where the title of the film comes in.
He’ll need help along the way, so he assembles a team of very talented people. Among them are Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a trusty longtime partner; Eames (Tom Hardy), a skilled manipulator; Yusuf (Dileep Rao), an excellent chemist; and a newcomer, Ariadne (Ellen Page), a brilliant young architect recommended by Cobb’s intelligent father-in-law, Miles (Michael Caine), who introduces him to Ariadne and her talents.
I could actually tell you the entirety of Inception‘s story and, even then, you wouldn’t be spoiled. In this film, there are no real plot points, no twists, that someone could ruin for the viewer. For the most part, knowing anything before seeing the film unravel for itself brings you no further to knowing what is actually going on without seeing it first, and describing Inception isn’t exactly an easy thing to do… Seeing it is the only thing that matters, and the only true way to know what it’s all about.
The acting in the film, as a whole, is very well done. As with Page, I’ve personally never seen DiCaprio do a questionable acting job in any film, and Inception continues that tradition… the rest of his team is no different. The demand for top-notch drama isn’t here, but it doesn’t need to be. Some drama elements are included, though, highlighting the story of Cobb and his ex-wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), who is a much more important character in the film than simply being a partner presence or love interest.
When it comes to the action sequences, you can tell they’re very “Nolan” – by that I mean extremely well executed, even if the scenes may sometimes seem reminiscent, on the surface, of others we’ve seen before. (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was quite the same.) What makes these scenes different, however, is the emotional weight to them. You care more for the characters involved rather than thinking of their inclusion being exploited for a body count, or just characters to fill in the film. There are also several excellent scenes involving changes in gravity and rotation to be remembered, for sure – these scenes are quite intriguing to say the least.
The films of today usually consist of many recycled elements from other films, and we’re often bombarded by sequels, prequels, re-imaginations, and reboots. While there are a few similarities you may notice between this film and others like it, Inception remains a remarkable piece of film-making that is intelligent, thought-provoking, and still highly original. As with any film, some of what is in Inception may be a little less impressive as years come and go, but the story, intelligent layers, and creativity will surely never be forgotten. Nolan has impressed me several times before, but even his epic-action powerhouse, The Dark Knight, may have been dethroned by this film (and this is coming from an avid Batman fan).
One of the best things a filmmaker can do is make an excellent film knowing only they could have pulled it off so masterfully. (I can only assume Kubrick would agree.) What Nolan has done with Inception is made something that has never quite been done before, and at the same time, a film that may never be attempted again. The roadmap to this film is lost in a dream, and that is a great thing, indeed.
Mike’s rating score: 10/10
Mike’s liking score: 09/10
- Inception won four 2011 Academy Awards: Best Achievement in Cinematography; Best Achievement in Visual Effects; Best Achievement in Sound Editing; and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing. It was also nominated for another four: Best Writing, Original Screenplay; Best Achievement in Art Direction; Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score; and Best Motion Picture of the Year.
- Inception won the AFI Movie of the Year award (2010).