“I hate to be out of control”
Inception represents filmmaking, creativity, and entertaining escapism at its best. This “dreamworld” action fantasy features amazing filmmaking skills on all levels – music, acting, direction, special effects, and a highly developed plot that demands audience attention all the way through.
Director/screenwriter/producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) solidifies his filmmaking stature with another huge hit that takes audience into the concept of the “dream world.” Constructing in the dream world taps into some incredible potential for imagination. “In the real world we have to choose but not here,” says one of the characters.
This mysterious action fantasy stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Ellen Page, Ken Watanbe, Cillian Murphy, Pete Postlethwaite, Tom Berenger, Lukas Hass, and Sir Michael Caine.
Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) heads a team of dream infiltrators while dealing with Mal (Cotillard) who is very important to him personally and is a big factor in the dream world. Mal’s involvement adds unpredictability and some menace that requires that the team take extra precautions … as if that’s not enough tension as they can still die and their defenses are never down – even when asleep. DiCaprio’s intelligence, heart, and emotion combine with Cotillard’s incredible range represent perfect casting as they anchor the film’s emotional core.
All-time box office films have always had a great ensemble cast. Nolan creates a genius approach for his ensemble by transforming Cobb into a different type of leader.
Cobb leads with knowledge … especially the knowledge of the incredible challenges he faces. Cobb knows his resource pool as he meets with each amazing person, which also establishes background and credibility. Then he demonstrates how to disperse everyone’s skills in each situation. He maximizes his options so the team (and audience) can easily adjust to extreme situations like “everyone’s on their own” for a while.
This team includes manager/researcher (even producer) Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), specialist Eames (Hardy), pharmacologist/transporter Yusuf (Rao), and new member Ariadne (Page), an architect. Gordon-Levitt did all his own stunts (except one in the spinning hallway sequence) out of necessity, which creates a world that audiences can fully escape into. Hardy provides plenty of appeal/charm and gets one of the film’s best one-liners. Rao adds intellectual credibility to the characters while balancing the realistic tension with his raw reactions during an incredible, extended chase sequence.
Page has maturity beyond her years in her central role that audiences can identify with the most as they learn about this dream world with her. She gets into this world by letting someone “completely let me in” then uses her skills to help Cobb and the team succeed and survive.
Page’s realistic intelligence (mental and emotional) naturally pulls her close to Cobb and Mal’s background is still a must-see in addition to being an essential exposition for audiences. Mr. Saito (Watanbe) hires this team and even gets into the action quite a bit. Watanbe’s dialogue delivery and screen presence are a big plus here.
The team focuses on Robert Michael Fischer (Murphy), heir to a business empire, his father Maurice (Postlethwaite), and executive/family friend Peter Browning (Berenger), Robert Fischer’s godfather and fellow executive at the Fischers’ company. Architect Nash (Hass) and Professor Stephen Miles (Caine) also factor in as Cobb’s father-in-law.
The knockout 148-minute plot, developed by Nolan over several years, often maneuvers through the main timeline instead of being linear. Nolan refines the plot by eliminating specific details like exact years and saying “many years ago” instead. Nolan provides some helpful logistics like how five minutes of real time equals one hour of dream time, which expands into more levels. He enters other elements that support the overall concept like “kicks,” “limbo,” “projections,” and “mind navigation.”
Attentive audiences never get left behind as the plot progresses but they’re never privy to too much information so prepare for several surprises and twists. The flashbacks help with explanation and background for the audiences.
The themes of deception, life choices, creative thinking, mental health, sheer will, beliefs, and how an idea forms then solidifies in the mind can overwhelm at times, but give audiences a rich web to immerse in.
The psychological aspects of the plot really impress … how our dreams/nightmares show our layers of wishers and desires and how we have to look at them honestly otherwise they can cause harm to ourselves and others. The movie accomplishes to protagonistic goals – saving someone and accomplishing good.
Nolan’s direction style always has an epic scale that must be seen on the big screen. For example, Nolan enhances a street chase sequence with an amazing overhead shot in a narrow alley.
The impressive visual effect shots (about 500) are even more special, because, as usual, Nolan largely leans on intricate set design and incredible stunt work. Sound plays a huge role here and elevates to a high level with the film’s visuals. It creates a high emotional impact in the constructed worlds full of tension, intrigue, and mystery.
The mind-bending special effects create a high level of escapism that will have you (and a top) spinning until the very end. Highly recommended (**** out of four stars) with an audience that has completely bought into the plot and enjoyed a highly cerebral experience that’s very entertaining. This four-time Oscar winner (cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing, and visual effects) is rated PG-13 f0r sequences of violence and action throughout. Besides Mal’s menace, large people group stares start to get tense, but in steady volumes and not for dramatic effect … the basic plot is tense enough.
Inception is the quintessential concept film that’s worth exploring on extended home video versions. Look for this modern classic to re-release in theaters soon – hopefully also in IMAX theaters as in the original release.