YOUR MIND IS THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.
One of the most exciting things we can experience in our lives takes place when we sleep. Scenarios play out in our dreams that are genuinely unpredictable and emotional. Regardless of whether they happen in a large-scale setting or in more intimate situations, dreams remind us of what truly makes us tick and provides clues to our personalities. Dreams fascinate me… and apparently also Christopher Nolan who’s been nursing the idea for Inception since he was 16. After making The Dark Knight (2008), he found himself in the situation where few studios had the balls to deny him the opportunity to make his dream come true.
Deceiving with dreams
Dominic Cobb and his point man Arthur (Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are specialists at arranging dreams where a target can be deceived into thinking that events are taking place in the real world; Arthur’s job is to provide intelligence and they’re also working with an “architect” who designs the dream worlds. However, the latest mission goes awry and the target, a Japanese businessman called Saito (Ken Watanabe), ends up hiring Cobb’s team for a new job. He needs them to incept an idea into the mind of a prominent rival’s son (Cillian Murphy) that will cause him to dismantle his dying father’s empire. In return, criminal charges against Cobb will disappear and he will be able to see his children again. A new architect will have to be hired since the old one was lost in the previous mission, and Cobb’s father-in-law (Michael Caine) introduces him to a brilliant student of his, Ariadne (Ellen Page), a masterful creator of mazes.
As the complicated mission begins, Ariadne realizes that it is likely to be compromised by the fact that Cobb’s late wife (Marion Cotillard) is still very active in his dreams and constantly threatens to interfere with the scheme…
Finding clues to a dreamscape
In a summer where few blockbusters manage to deliver, Inception took on on a life of its own and became so wildly praised that some audiences were bound to be disappointed. I really can’t understand why Nolan is being compared to Stanley Kubrick when the Wachowski siblings and The Matrix (1999) is a more appropriate comparison.
Just like its predecessor, Inception plays around with alternate dimensions and makes up complex rules that don’t always make one hundred percent sense. There were many times throughout the film where I came close to losing confidence in Nolan’s capabilities. Having Ariadne ask Cobb over and over again what is going on, as the only way to make sure audiences keep up, is a lazy solution (especially since Ariadne should know what’s going on). And that whole sequence where everybody’s chasing each other on skis and then battling out in a wintry lair, turning Inception into a James Bond movie, seems like an odd fit.
Still, when all the pieces come together and everything is resolved in all the dimensions (but still leaves one major, intriguing question unanswered in the final scene)… one is prepared to admit that this is a hell of a ride, with impressive action sequences and an intelligent, human story that is reason enough to watch the movie all over again and try to find more clues to this dreamscape.
Very good performances by DiCaprio who’s playing a tormented character along the lines of Shutter Island, Gordon-Levitt as the humorless partner and Cotillard as the haunting wife; also great fun to see Tom Berenger back in his first major motion picture since Training Day (2001). Hans Zimmer’s electronic score is slightly reminiscent of Blade Runner (1982), providing additional impact to Nolan’s muscular vision.
Inception 2010-U.S. 148 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Cinematography: Wally Pfister. Music: Hans Zimmer. Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Dominic Cobb), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy… Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite.
Trivia: James Franco and Evan Rachel Wood were reportedly considered for parts.
Oscars: Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing. BAFTA: Best Production Design, Special Visual Effects, Sound.
Last word: “Certainly ‘Inception’ plays with the relationship between films and dreaming in a number of different ways. I tried to highlight certain aspects of dreaming that I find to be true, such as not remembering the beginning of a dream. And that is very much like the way films tell their stories. But I wouldn’t say I specifically used the grammar of the film to tell the audience what is dream and what is reality.” (Nolan, Wired)
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What’s there to like? Sure, it’s big and self-important and needlessly complex, but at the end of the day it’s about a certifiable headcase and his team of ghouls mentally raping an innocent man on the solid-gold say-so of a rich guy who has people tossed from the tops of skyscrapers. (Oh, but they help their victim resolve his “daddy issues” en route to “inspiring” him to destroy his livelihood– and potentially the livelihoods of thousands of his employees, too– so that makes it all okay, right…? Wrong.) A bunch of jerks working for a bigger jerk. “Inception” is an amoral, heartless mess.