I have to admit that I labored long and hard to come up with a clever title for this one. I even thought of (Inter)ception. In the end, I realized that no matter how long and hard I tried, I wouldn’t come up with anything smarter and cleverer than the subject of this review. So this particular post is going to be quite tame. Actually everything seems tame in comparison.
Inception, Chris Nolan’s latest, is a very simple movie. Let me correct that. It is a mind-boggling concept in the guise of a simple movie. And there in lies Chris Nolan’s genius. It would have been so tempting for him to get lost in the very loose framework that the concept defines. After all, everything’s possible in a dream world. In our dreams we are heroes and serial killers. In our dreams we oppress the boss and drive cars way above our pay grade. So when Nolan would have started penning this story about a bunch of people who travel through others’ dreams to steal their deepest darkest secrets, I can only imagine how easy it would have been for him to create a “Gilliam-esque” world – full of fantastic creatures and visions which defy the logic of the real world. Like a Dali painting perhaps.
But, Nolan didn’t. Instead of getting lost inside the never-ending spiral that could be “Dream-walking” – he focused on the characters and their mission instead. When the credits were rolling in the end, my mind was full of questions. How did these guys travel into dreams of others? How do they manipulate what happens there? What prevents Inception from being an erudite and obtuse “concept movie” is Nolan’s audacity to take all this for granted.
These guys travel into dreams of others. They are dream architects, they can build and break anything inside your head. Now let’s move on to the plot.
And as crazy as it may seem, it actually works. The audience is thrown head first into the crazy world of dreams, without any build-up or background – and we all just go along. Maybe, a movie about the subconscious just makes sense to ours. Of course there are points, like when “rookie” Ellen Page arrives on the scene as Ariadne – an architecture student who would build complex dream worlds – and DiCaprio’s Cobb has to explain the whole concept of “Dream Invasion” to her, thus answering a lot (not all) of the questions that would be forming in even the least imaginative of minds. But, at the end, a lot of it is “just there”. If you don’t get it, don’t feel too bad… the frenetic pace of the movie will carry your confused ass forward until it all comes crashing down in one massive kick. (you have to see the movie to understand what that is)
Inception is terrific cinema by any standards. Surely, one of the best in our generation. The concept aside, everything about the movie validates why we spend so much money and time to watch someone elses creation and why Cinema is the defining art of our time.
The casting is superb, with DiCaprio picking up right where he left off in the excellent Shutter Island – as the tormented widower who is struggling in a mire of guilt and regret. He is rapidly becoming the defining actor of our times. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is uber-cool as Arthur, DiCaprio’s right hand man, proving that he is much more than the Chocolate-faced hero we saw in (500) Days of Summer. (That zero-gravity fight sequence is awesome!) British actor Tom Hardy (who played Heathcliff in the TV version of Wuthering Heights) is great as the wry and funny Eames. One of my favorite actors, Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Letters to Iwo Jima) is also at his best, along with Cillian Murphy who is nothing like the Scarecrow character he played in Batman Begins. The beautiful Marion Cotillard is just perfect as the haunted (and haunting) wife-projection, Mal, and is the only true “villian” in the plot. Hans Zimmer’s music is never noticed. Which means that it perfectly captures the mood of the movie. The Special Effects are brilliant, and so are the fight sequences.
But the real hero of Inception is Christopher Nolan. The whole movie is about the power of “One Beautiful Idea” that takes hold of your mind and doesn’t let go. “Inception” is that idea for Nolan that will define his career and will set a new standard for other more-celebrated filmmakers to follow. The care and attention to detail that has gone into the screenplay and plotting is thunderingly obvious. He could have rested on the laurels of The Dark Knight and moved on to the next billion-dollar generating sequel. A lesser man could have done that. But Nolan chose to present his adoring audience with a ring side view into his prodigious mind. And a thousand reasons to munch more popcorn and lose oneself inside the beautiful world of cinema.
A 10/10 to Inception. Watch it.
Update: An awesome post which analyzes Inception as per Jungian archetypes. This should really answer some questions… only read it if you have seen the movie…
Update no. 2: The link seems to be down… I can imagine a lot of people heading towards it! 🙂 Keep checking…