Last night I took a second stab at Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” The reason why…well frankly, I loved it the first time and I wanted to re-experience the whole thing to catch any minor detail I missed. Second of all, because my parents had not seen it yet and I urged them to witness it in theaters, otherwise they would be doing a disservice to themselves. Third: Well, what do you know? I have not yet written a review for the movie.
Yes, it is true. You see, I first saw “Inception” on opening day (July 16th, 2010). During this time period, I was so caught up in my social life and summer and everything else, and as a result, I was waaaaay backed up with movies and music reviews. It was then that I came to the decision that I should take a brief hiatus from everything. As it turned out, this could not have been a more therapeutic exercise as I emerged smarter, wiser, better spoken and, oddly enough, more popular than before with an all-new blog. I am now much happier with the new format and blogging does not feel like a chore in the slightest.
When it came time to see a movie for this weekend to review, I thought, “What better movie than ‘Inception?’” And ho-ley crap! After a second viewing, I love the movie even more. There is so much greatness in this movie that it borders on being perfect for me. Director Christopher Nolan (better known as the director of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”) performs so many feats that only the finest filmmakers can execute, which is a huge kick considering this was released during a borderline awful summer movie season. Nolan states that he worked on the script for roughly nine years. I do not doubt this claim for a second.
The film follows Dom Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio), a man who makes a living off of extracting peoples’ secrets from their subconscious as they are sleeping. In the large opening sequence, he and his associate Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are shown attempting to gain confidential knowledge from a wealthy and powerful business leader named Saito (Ken Watanabe), disguising the whole operation as an exercise in Saito’s mental protection from these kinds of heists. In short, their plan fails and they are fearful of going back to face their employers.
However, Saito offers a seemingly reasonable gig. He wants Cobb to invade the mind of one Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), who is the heir to a rivaling corporation, to perform inception; the placement of an idea into another’s subconscious with the intent to alter a person’s viewpoint. In this case, Saito wants Fischer to stray from his father’s corporate footsteps so that he will give up the company and Saito can have total control over his respective industry. So Cobb gets started on assembling an extraction team to carry out this mission.
His team includes himself, Arthur, architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), forger Earnes (Tom Hardy), sedative specialist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and Saito himself. Let me be emphatic in saying that there is not a single wasted performance among any of the main players. Fact is that this may boost many of these actors’ careers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in particular is excellent in the role of Arthur, Cobb’s right-hand man who is responsible for carrying out background checks on targets before mind infiltration takes place. Aside from Levitt, Page delivers likeable intelligence to the character of Ariadne and I simply loved Hardy as the cocky master of disguise Eames.
However, problems start to set in when the team carries out their mission. The number one problem involves unpredictable projections of Cobb’s deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) that constantly intervene with Cobb’s psyche, preventing a flawless execution. Another detrimental obstacle is the threat of entering limbo, or a state of disassembled dreaming. Due in part to strong sedatives, mortality is now an issue in the dream world.
“Inception” is a film unlike any other I have ever seen, or that I will probably ever see. While borrowing a few elements from movies like “The Matrix,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Blade Runner,” “Inception” remains a highly original piece of work, innovative in both its storytelling and its technical merits. This dream heist includes what seems like an endless amount of crucial details. This film takes plenty of time (especially in the first half) for exposition to these elements, which pay off massively when it comes time for the final task. Somehow, Nolan manages to never overload the story with all these rules. The entire film runs at a fast pace with this material, almost to the point where every minute counts and leads up to the end result.
I must mention that the first time I screened the movie, I saw it in an IMAX theater. An IMAX theater is the perfect place for a film of this massive scope. The opening minutes bring you in immediately, mainly because you feel disorientated and lost during these scenes. Like I said, there is a purpose for these types of moments and you must be patient for these events to become more relevant and thus, all the more enthralling.
In terms of visual effects, “Inception” uses absolutely incredible practical effects that blew me away and left me scratching my head upon first viewing. Take for instance a scene in which Arthur is faced with fighting off a number of defensive projections created in Fischer’s mind. This sequence is performed in rickety gravitational conditions, due to occurrences in a previous dream mode. I do not know how on earth they were able to choreograph this entire scene so impeccably, and frankly, I never want to know. Or how about the entire city of Paris folding in on top of itself as if it is a light piece of bread and cars and characters continue forward at 90 degree angles?
At the end of the day, the real reason why Cobb takes Saito’s generous offer is so that he can return to his children in the states. Cobb has been a busy man ever since Mal’s death with his job. All the while, he misses his children terribly as he has been separated so long from them. I am not only glad that they included this emotional thread to ground the story, but I am also glad that this element did not overpower the film in the slightest. One could only imagine how much different of a movie this would be if they relied on this subplot.
Trust me, I am only scratching the exterior surface of “Inception.” I am hardly even being abrasive with my scratching. Just like the several dreams within dreams, this movie is multi-layered and has endless repeat value. I am absolutely baffled by the fact that such a smart and intricate story was so profitable among the typical summer moviegoing crowd and that it became such a huge triumph (Don’t get me wrong, I am not discouraging anything). I suppose everyone likes to be challenged every once in a while at the theaters. Nolan and company have indeed put up a few challenges of their own. How can any one filmmaker recreate this variety of mind-bending storytelling? How will everyone follow up this masterpiece? Is there any explanation for the way things wrapped up in the end?