Since sleeping is one of my favorite activities, and I keep hearing so much about this movie, I was pretty excited to see Inception. I feel like I completely missed the boat when this came out over two years ago and I am glad finally to have caught up. I remember everybody in my psychology class in high school exclaiming its brilliant relevance and leaving me wondering what this masterpiece of cinema was. The best way I can describe it is mind-blowing.
So for those that are as uninformed as I previously was (it happens to everybody from time to time), Inception is about a man named Cobb (Leonardo DiCapprio) who must succeed in the almost impossible task of implanting an idea into another’s mind in order to return to his children. Because he was accused of killing his wife, he has been on the run for an untold amount of years. He works as an extractionist, which means he steals thoughts from other people by infiltrating their dreams. He basically has been taking illegal extraction jobs, until the man he was extracting an idea from turns out actually to be auditioning him for an even bigger job, inception. He wants to Cobb to plant an idea into the heir of a competing CEO, thus crippling his competitor’s stranglehold on the energy market. Once the job is completed, he will clear Cobb’s name and he will be free to return to his family.
All that’s left is inception. It’s not hard to convince Cobb to do it, and once that’s decided they need some more people. First they head to France for an new architect, the creator of the space that the dreams take place in. Cobb used to be an architect, but he can’t do it anymore. While you are in a dream, your subconscious projects thoughts that are represented as people. Besides personifying your thoughts while dreaming, they also work like white blood cells, keeping foreign invaders out. When people share a dream, they bring all of the subconscious projections with them. Because Cobb has so many personal demons, his projections exemplify his immense guilt, and is thus infinitely more dangerous. His guilt is mainly personified by his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), for reasons that we find via Ariadne (Ellen Page) the new architect, as she delves into Cobb’s past in order to protect the team from Mal.
The clever thing Nolan has done with this is made both the journey into the self (in this case Cobb) and the big heist job happen at the same time. So when they are planting an idea in the mind of a corporate heir to break up his father’s business, they are also facing Mal in the process, which forces Cobb to come to terms with his own guilt (which I refuse to tell you the cause of).
So once the team is assembled, they go to work planning. In order for inception to work, they have to plant the idea really deep down in the subject’s subconscious, and use the simplest form of the idea. In this case, they use break down “I will break up my father’s empire” into a more basic emotion, reconciling the subject, Fischer (Cillian Murphey), with his father with the idea that his father wants him “to be [his] own man.” They are messing with this guy’s mind for their own personal gain, but at least they have the decency to be nice about it. They decide to use three levels of dreaming, a dream within a dream within a dream, in order to go deep enough to have the idea stick.
When you’re dreaming, your brain function speeds up, making the events in the dream pass by quicker as well, and effectively slowing time down. In order to wake up, they have to synchronize a “kick,” the feeling of falling that wakes you up from a dream, on all the different levels. This allows Nolan to have a lot of fun with slow-motion. I mostly associate slow-motion with cheesy sports movies, but it works awesomely here. Not only does it have a purpose, but it looks great, as you are seeing it used in a way that it usually isn’t. It is used throughout and often involves water, so you can see the water moving in slow motion as well as the people with great detail.
The acting was solid across the board. I like DiCapprio and he has a great film to add to his resume with this one. While his character seemed to be driven by one thing, he brought this out without making it obnoxious. Cobb could have been more complex, but that might have been going to far as you already have the shared dreaming concept to get used to. Cotillard as Mal was very creepy, but at the same time not so creepy that you were like “man, what did Cobb ever see in this chick?” I also really liked Tom Hardy as Eames, part of Cobb’s inception team. He’s British, and brings the great dry British humor to the movie. The only character I had a problem with was Ariadne. She was just pushing so hard into Cobb’s past; it was annoying. Usually I’m fine with those type of characters, because I want to know what’s going on in other character’s heads too. But she was pushing so hard, I was like “give it rest, seriously.” I would have preferred if we had just been inside Cobb’s dream without her. I understand her function, but she was obnoxious about it.
Inception not only features great special effects, but a great story and a great concept behind it. It’s very original, and allows for character development and a discussion of it’s broader themes outside of the film. That’s rare in a summer blockbuster action type movie. That said, that’s still what it feels like and works great as. It’s deep without being stuffy or boring, and funny and active without being pointless. This was my first introduction to Nolan and I’m very excited to see his other films.
“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
Long story short: 3/4 stars