“Inception” is pretty much the cinematic equivalent to a Rubik’s Cube. It’s really fun to play with but nearly impossible to figure out. I’m sure even the film’s most ardent fans can’t fully decipher all of the film’s meanings but it’s such an absorbing piece of work that could only be handled by the same guy who brought us the blockbuster “The Dark Knight” two summers ago. While Christopher Nolan, who cut his teeth in the independent world has moved on to sprawling action movies with bigger budgets, he’s still managed to keep his dignity intact. He never takes the easy way out by succumbing audience expectations. He does what he wants to do it and how he wants to do it and while you can feel the influence of dozens of other films in this particular work it still feels original enough to not feel like a rip-off. “Inception” is a movie that is only successful because of the “man” getting put behind it. It has stars! It has flashy effects! It has a humungous advertising campaign. This film would never work as an art house indie, although it retains many of the ideas often found in those types of films. Here though with a bigger playground to play on Nolan is having a ball and his number one interest is the audience and giving them the time of their life.
“Inception” takes place in an alternate (though realistic) world in which people have been able to “hijack” people’s dreams. By hijack I mean enter a person’s dream and steal information that can only be found in a person’s subconscious. Let’s just say Freud would have a field day with this flick. And who knew that rain in your dream means you have to take a leak? Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb who is part of a dream heist team. He’s the “extractor” the one in charge of getting whatever info his team needs to get. There’s Ellen Page’s character Ariadne who is the architect; she can actually design the dream world. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the point man. Eames (Tom Hardy) is the forger who can impersonate the target in the dream world. Think of this team as sort of an Ocean’s Eleven but instead of getting inside a safe they are getting inside someone’s mind. They even dress the part with most of them spending the film dressed like they’re about to shoot a GQ photo spread. It turns out what they really want to do is plant an idea inside the mind of the mark – Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer – and they have the ablity to enter into the dream world of people who are already in a dream.
Does this sound confusing? Because it sort of is. There are several different dream levels. Once they’re in a dream they can go to sleep within that dream and enter a new dream and so on. They do this because every time they enter a new subconscious state real time slows down dramatically and let’s them accomplish more in less time. The last third of the film takes place within minutes of real time and yet they have what seems like hours to complete their mission. Nolan does a great job of constantly making sure we know where we are and when. We know what dream we’re in and who is where. The crosscutting between all these dream worlds is pretty astounding. I smell Oscar.
All of the actors give great performances although Leo probably has the juiciest role. You see his deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) appears in his dreams and tends to disrupt his subconscious heist plans a lot. He had to leave his two young children behind for reasons I won’t get into here. But what really stands out here are the film’s jaw-droppingly awesome action sequences which are like nothing you’ve ever really seen before. Sure you’ve seen similar stuff in movies like “The Matrix,” but most of this stuff is pretty photorealistic and Nolan employs as many practical effects as he can. A sequence in which Arthur must battle some bad guys in a rotating hallway is simply astonishing. Not since “A Nightmare on Elm Street” has a rotating room had so much personality.
While I’m still a little confused on random bits of the plot and sometimes everything doesn’t quite gel as quickly as you’d like, Inception is a wildly imaginative and fun ride. It has awesome visuals an interesting story and a wonderfully epic cinematic feel. It’s pretty close to rivaling “The Dark Knight” as the de facto “intelligent” summer blockbuster. Sorry “independent” Nolan fans, he’s playing in the big leagues now and I think “Inception” is a home run. GRADE: A-