Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: July 16, 2010
Running Time: 148 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating Scale = 1 to 10
In an otherwise disappointing summer season at the box office (see Knight & Day, The A-Team) comes Christopher Nolan’s brilliant psychological thriller Inception. Though the film’s running time is a bit long in the tooth, it is no doubt the best movie I’ve seen this year, and perhaps the last decade or so. Yes, you read that correctly. Inception is unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. Sure it borrows a few tricks from movies like Blade Runner, 2001: Space Odyssey, and even latter cult classics like Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days. But the sum of its parts is truly something to marvel. When asked to describe the movie, I told someone that it was one part Bond, one part Donnie Darko, and one part Ocean’s Eleven. I have no doubt that my cinephilic friends will come up with a better way to describe the movie. But bad comparisons notwithstanding, Inception is a dandy.
It is also a juggernaut. Shot on multiple locations across the globe, and replete with engrossing special effects like never ending staircases (M.C. Escher would be proud), and cities folding on top of one another, it is a movie of significant scale. Yet the story is also dense and quite complicated. As such, I’m going to attempt to describe it with some pretty broad strokes.
So here goes: Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb. Cobb’s trade is that he can enter and manipulate other people’s dreams. Along with his sidekick Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb uses this skill to extract the most precious secrets of powerful individuals. Currently living in exile, Cobb accepts one last job from a Japanese business man named Saito (Ken Watanabe), who promises to make it possible for Cobb to go back to the U.S. so that he can be with his children. In exchange, Saito wants Cobb to perform what was previously thought to be impossible: inception. The concept behind inception is to plant an idea in one’s head in such a way that that person believes that it’s theirs. Unable to construct the landscape of these dreams on his own, Cobb recruits Ariadne (Ellen Page) to serve as the “architect” for this big job. Cobb is also aided by Eames (Tom Hardy) and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) who serve as the “forger” and the “chemist” respectively. Simple enough right? Well, this is when the movie gets a little confusing. As the team enters the dream, they meet resistance from subconscious figures in the mind of the mark – the heir to the throne of an empire that is Saito’s chief rival – that manifest themselves as dangerous villains willing to protect the mark’s mind at any cost. This is where the real action begins.
Somehow in all of this, Marion Cotillard comes into play as the fallen wife of Cobb who continues to appear in these dreams. Her role as a constant foil makes it necessary that Cobb face to deal with how her death has affected him.
In the end, the twists and turns, the action, the score and the set pieces make for one hell of a ride; to say nothing of the top-notch acting. As a viewer, you find yourself struggling to keep up as Nolan delves deeper into the various levels of dreams (dreams within dreams). Critics will say that the dream sequences that Nolan constructs are not nearly imaginative enough but that is beside the point; after all, that’s what the architect (Page) is for. My personal belief is that a movie of this size and scope can only be loved or loathed. Those that fall into the latter category will likely do so because they either don’t get it, or resent the praise the movie has received. Since it’s rare that I’ll fawn over any movie to this extent, I have no qualms about placing Inception amongst my favorites of all time.