Quick Hit: Confusing, beautiful, and original – it’s rare that a film accomplishes all three, but this film does that and maintains them.
I remember the first time I watched the movie Inception. I like science fiction movies, and I like confusing and complicated ones – as regular readers are probably tired of me saying, I enjoy time travel, so those two words go hand in hand with it. Therefore, it’s pretty incredible how confusing Inception is and is still enjoyable. It spoon feeds you almost nothing. Christopher Nolan, who wrote and directed this film, reportedly started writing during his other mind twister Memento. And this one does nothing short of pack a punch.
Creating the visuals that Doctor Strange would eventually use ad nauseam, Inception takes us deep into the mind of different people through one of the most basic tenants that all of humanity (and some animals) share: dreams. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a master thief, but he does his work through diving into people’s brains and extracting information. But while on the run from several corporations, Cobb is given an opportunity to solve some problems from his past and dive into the reverse – he is given the job to plant an idea in a person’s mind.
First off, there are a couple things that occur over and over in Nolan’s films. One is the fear of the loss of control. It occurs in Memento, The Prestige, and the Dark Knight trilogy. And what could be more of a loss of control than having someone plant ideas in your head that you think are your own? The paranoia behind this idea is extraordinary and, frankly, a bit terrifying. It’s as if our favorite dream persona Freddy Krueger decided he didn’t want to kill you in your dream anymore; instead, he was just going to control the rest of your life.
Themes aside, much of this film is extraordinary. There are so many visuals that were groundbreaking and still dazzle the mind. One scene, where Joseph Gordon Levitt is tutoring Ellen Page’s character, shows paradoxes occurring in a way to trick your mind. Which leads me off on a Segway a bit, but it ties in I promise – in the Hannibal Lecter series of books by Thomas Harris, Lecter has constructed an elaborate “mind palace” where he goes to extract memories and information. That is the first thing I think of here, because the surroundings of the dream are populated by the dreamer’s subconscious.
There’s also the action, which frequently sneaks up on you. You can tell that Nolan was gearing up for his finale of Dark Knight Rises, because the action in that film is often similar. In fact, the similarities drop into the actors as well, with both films featuring JGL, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, and Marion Cotillard (and Cillian Murphy, who only has a bit part in Rises but was the paper villain in Begins). There’s a reason why – you see the emotional manipulation in Cotillard’s Mal, and Hardy’s scene stealing presence is on display here as well. This isn’t to take anything away from Leo’s acting, he is almost always good.
My favorite thing about the movie was its incredible uniqueness. I’ve never seen a movie that does less to convince you of the reality of all the moments on screen. Most movies are trying to get you to believe what's on screen, not question it. This all culminates in some of the finest moments in the film as the dreams are collapsing in on themselves. We see JGL being awesome (see above), Cillian Murphy having a heart to heart with his father, the whole crew falling off a bridge, explosions, fighting... it's really fantastic. I can't imagine having written this. It deserved all four Oscars it got.
By the end of the film, like our hero Cobb, we’re questioning what is real. And what more could you ask from a movie than that? I’m giving Inception an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"