Inception is further proof that Christopher Nolan is a narrative genius. Is it a heist movie? A tale of redemption? A state-of-the-art action movie? A spell-binding sci-fi film? A psychological thriller? Or maybe a stylish film noir? Well, in essence, it’s all of the above and then some.
With Inception, Nolan delivers a film that consists of layers upon layers. A nuanced representation that is as deep and intricate as the very subject matter he attacks: the examination of dreams, reality and the human psyche. It’s a film that exercises the mind and the eyes all at the same time, in equal measure. One that will leave your jaw on the floor and the gears in your head spinning double-time by time the end credits roll.
At it’s simplest core, Inception is a heist movie. Possibly one of the most original and refreshing heist movies ever done, at that. Except in this heist movie, the “loot” isn’t a physical item. Rather, it is an idea plucked from the mind of another by infiltrating the mark’s dreams. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a former “architect” who organizes these heists. Basically, he’s the Danny Ocean of the dreamworld. His job is as a hired-gun of sorts to infiltrate people’s dreams and extract valuable ideas/thoughts from their minds. The job takes an interesting turn for him one day, though, as business tycoon Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb to do the opposite. The job: sneak into the mind of Saito’s competitor, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), to implant an idea. The process: inception (hence the movie’s title).
The plan is for Cobb to embed the thought into Fischer’s mind that he should break up and dissolve the corporation that he will soon inherit from his father, who is on his deathbed from the start of the movie. To achieve this goal, Cobb hires a group of elite men (and one woman) to aid in this intricate scheme. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Arthur, the researcher. Cobb’s right-hand man. He’s the Brad Pitt to DiCaprio’s George Clooney. He also brings in Ariadne (Ellen Page) to take up the role of architect which, for reasons I won’t get into now, Cobb can no longer do himself. You also have Eames the forger (Tom Hardy) and Yusuf the chemist (Dileep Rao). Together, the team sets out to do what all but Cobb believe to be the impossible. Not only go inside Fischer’s dream, but to take it to an unprecedented level of going three levels deep: a dream-inside-a-dream-inside-a-dream. All to embed a single thought into Fischer’s subconscious.
All of this plan is jeopardized, though, as Cobb fights with guilt and remorse of his own that manifests itself within the dreams in the shape of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard). As the crew makes its way deeper into Fischer’s subconscious, they must fight off his mind’s protection as well as deal with Mal who is seemingly around every corner trying to screw up their plans. She does it all in an attempt to bring Cobb back to her as Cobb seemingly can’t let go of her. This provides an emotional depth to the movie as Cobb seeks redemption for the tragedy that befell his family. All the while, trying to complete the “heist” so that he may get home to see his children. While not his best performance, DiCaprio does a nice job at portraying this man on the verge of losing control. A man torn between two worlds and stricken with grief and guilt. All while trying to remain the tactical leader as they navigate the labyrinth of the dreamworlds that Ariadne has constructed.
Meanwhile, to add more emotional depth to the film, you witness as Fischer is taking on the journey through the dreamworld. During the process, his relationship with his father is examined and Fischer looks to find acceptance and closure in that chapter of his life. Being the antagonist, Fischer’s character is given an arc and emotion that makes you actually sympathize with him which is all too rare (or at least not so well crafted) for the antagonist in a movie. By the end, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an antagonist in film that you can connect with so emotionally and sympathize with. To add even more depth to the movie, through all of Fischer’s (and Saito’s) story, you’re given a sort of examination and study on the practices and deceit of the corporate world.
Not purely a treat for the mind, Inception does an excellent job of, not only getting you thinking, but also getting you ooh-ing and ah-ing over the stylish visuals and set pieces of the film. One of the most impressive scenes is that where Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) must fight off goons in a hotel as the dreamworlds gravity constantly shifts. Resulting in a spiraling tunnel of a hallway which provides a very cool setting for the fight scene that ensues. On top of that, your eyes are treated to such spell-binding visuals as the city of Paris being folded and doubled over on top of itself. Watching as up remains up, but also becomes down, flipping half of the city upside down as Cobb and Ariadne look skywards to watch the cars driving and people walking on the upside-down city above them. Furthermore, you have some very fun action scenes like a car chase which involves a train plowing through the city street. Or even the Bond-esque chase and fight down snowy hills…on skis no less. All of which provides for some eye-popping entertainment. A lot of which is as stylish and action-packed as another great examination of reality, The Matrix.
Inception truly will keep you on the edge of your seat. Adrenalin pumping. Mind working overtime. It proves to be one of those rare gems that is both visually striking as well as being a mind-bending adventure. It’s one of those films that can be enjoyed just for the action and visuals that are on-screen. But at the same time, can be taken to a much deeper level on which to appreciate it, providing much more substance to the style which warrants multiple viewings.
The movie takes a hold of you and never lets go. It will leave you marveling over the style of the film afterwards and leave your mind puzzling over ever single detail of the intricate plot well after the credits have finished rolling. Nolan’s action-thriller takes an existential look at what is and isn’t reality and adds such dazzling effects to it that you can’t help but be awed as the story unravels. It’s a daring and very well constructed adventure that only further cements Nolan’s reputation as one of the finest filmmakers around today, if not of all-time.
Inception is yet another fine display of how intelligent a filmmaker Nolan is and what control he has of the thriller genre and narratives. As the lines between genres blur and your mind and eyes are left in awe, you truly see Nolan is indeed one of the most innovative and well-rounded filmmakers around. This blend of style and substance is exactly what every Hollywood blockbuster should aspire to create. Plus, with an excellent star-studded cast, Inception is an absolute must-see. Even one of the finest films of the year.