Inception – An Early Review
My mind has just been blown.
Inception (2010), the latest film from writer-director Christopher Nolan, is a mind-boggling exercise of epic proportions. Not since David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001) has a film left me so utterly speechless; I do not even know where to begin with this review. The film is a combination of all the best parts of The Matrix (1999), Memento (2000), Dark City (1998), and the television show Lost, put together in one spectacular whole. This is a film that will remain with you for days, trying to put all the pieces together. Even now, hours after watching the film, my mind is still racing, wanting to learn more. It is a film that must be seen to be believed.
***WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS BELOW***
The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, an expert thief (the same name as the thief in Nolan’s first film, Following (1998)). However, it is not jewelry or money that he is good at stealing, but ideas. He is a thief of the mind: Cobb has the ability to enter the dreams of others, and expose their most hidden secrets, the most buried ideas that one does not want anyone else to know; this is called “extraction.” Like an expert craftsman, Cobb can enter the world of the dreamer, navigate the perimeter, take down obstacles, and crack the safe with the slightest effort. This, of course, makes him a hot commodity for those trying to learn the private aspects of other people.
Things get interesting when Cobb is hired by a former target in Saito (Ken Watanabe), the head of an energy corporation desperate to take down their main competition in Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy). To do this, Cobb must do the reverse of his expertise, and instead of taking an idea out of his target’s mind, he must place an idea in it: the idea for Fischer to take apart his business, which was built by the hands of his estranged father. This type of mental manipulation is called “inception.” If Cobb accomplishes this, he will be reunited with his children, taken from him by circumstances that I will not get in to here.
Cobb assembles a team of experts all specializing in the set up of this daring reverse-heist. Newcomer Ariadne (Ellen Page) will lay the groundwork, the literal world that the action will take place. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) will be the number two on the team, Eames (Tom Hardy) will be the undercover man, while Saito and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) provide back up. I was reminded of heist movies ranging from Bob le flambeur (1956) to Ocean’s 11 (2001) in the way the crew members prepared diagrams, plotted out the action, and designated the escape routes, all in anticipation for what will happen. The only difference with Inception is that it will all happen in the mind instead of the bank vault.
Now pay attention closely, the next part may get a little confusing.
To avoid any risk of being detected by the dreamer, the team decides to put the target in to a multilayered dream: a dream within a dream…within a dream. This will take us from the streets of an urban city to the heights of a snow-capped mountain. By doing this, the ability to con the target in to opening his mind will become easier, but for the team, it’ll make things riskier, for they have the chance of getting lost in one of the dreams, believing it to be reality, and never waking up. Things get even worse when they realize that the target has subconsciously prepared defense mechanisms, in the form of mercenaries and armed soldiers, to stop and kill them from entering the deep realms of his mind. At the same time, one of the crewmembers holds a secret of their own; a dark memory that has the potential to not just ruin the plan, but also risk the real-lives of everyone involved.
Now, what I have just described to you is nowhere near what the experience of this film is; the movie is a completely original mind-trip. Christopher Nolan has crafted a story that not only bends a character’s thoughts, but also plays with time, space, and visuals; everything we see on screen is subject to manipulation. For example, time itself is portrayed as an element that can be twisted and shaped. A character explains that in the dream world, time is stretched: what takes 5 minutes in the real world can last days in the dream. Therefore, if the thieves are in a dream of a dream, they can stretch time longer, giving themselves more room to implant their idea in to the target. In fact, all the action that takes place near the climax of the film lasts only seconds in the first dream state. Confused? Don’t worry, I was too, but this playing with literal conventions opens up the film to new possibilities, Nolan has certainly created something here that is entirely unique.