Inception: Nolan’s masterpiece
Rating: 4 out of 5*
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine and Ken Watanabe
Director: Christopher Nolan
The Inception unfolds is a near-future setting in which devices have been invented that allow individuals to invade the dreams of others and, if they’re clever and experienced enough, extract secrets revealed by way of the subject’s subconscious.
One of the best such thieves is Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is being recruited for a job by corporate magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe) after failing in an espionage attempt to steal one of Saito’s secrets. At first, Cobb isn’t interested, but then Saito offers a carrot that Cobb can’t refuse: the opportunity for past crimes to be forgiven – something that would allow him to return to the United States and see his two young children. The nature of Cobb’s infractions is not immediately revealed, but they involve his wife (Marion Cotillard). What Saito wants is not an ordinary request. Instead of asking for an extraction, he demands an inception – the implantation of an idea deep in the subconscious that will bear future results. Most dream thieves consider this impossible, but Cobb disagrees, because he has done it. It’s risky and dangerous, but possible. The target is Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), who has just inherited the corporate empire built by his father (Pete Posthelthwaite). Cobb assembles his team, beginning with his frequent compatriot, Arthur (Joseph-Gordon Levitt). Together, they recruit an “architect” – the individual who builds the dream worlds. She is Ariadne (Ellen Page), a student studying under the tutelage of Cobb’s father-in-law (Michael Caine). After Ariadne undergoes her training (which serves as a tutorial for the audience, as well), the final two members are brought on board: Eames (Tom Hardy), who can impersonate anyone in a dream, and Yusef (Dileep Rao), a chemist whose drugs can keep sleepers sedated or bring them back to wakefulness. Together with Fischer and Saito, these five travel into a dream-within-a-dream-within-a dream where, three levels deep, they attempt the inception.
Nolan’s Inception is a very good film that involves the intellect while at the same time not ignoring the visceral. There are numerous straightforward action scenes, including Matrix-like gravity-free hand-to-hand combat and a car chase, that inject some adrenaline into the proceedings. In fact, the entire second half of the film amounts to one massive, carefully choreographed sequence of escalating suspense as dangerous circumstances unfold across three levels of dreamscapes. Hans Zimmer’s pounding score and Nolan’s careful cross-cutting tie everything together perfectly.
Seemingly half of Nolan’s Batman series cast is in the film – Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine. Of course, when working with actors of that caliber, it’s hard to go wrong. DiCaprio undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most versatile actor, brings full weight of his talent to bear on a difficult role. DiCaprio has to hint at unpleasant secrets in Cobb’s past while forging a bond with the audience. It’s up to the performer to make Inception more about human beings than about special effects. He succeeds and that’s one reason why this movie isn’t only about challenging ideas and eye candy. Ellen Page is very good and so is Marion Cotillard in the very few scenes that she gets.
The special effects in Inception serve the story, rather than the other way around – which is a rare occurrence these days, when the emphasis seems to be on providing viewers with visual amusement park rides. In Inception we are presented with cities where streets defy gravity by arching overhead and massive cliffs that collapse into the sea. There is a point to everything, most often to illustrate how dreams distort the commonplace into something that defies the natural laws.
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. Just don’t miss it for anything.