The summer is typically a time for Hollywood to dump its least intellectually stimulating but usually visually impressive movies into theatres nationwide in an effort to cash in on a largely ignorant populace that is all too eager to part with their hard earned money. Thankfully, Inception is not one of these films. While this film specializes in being visually stunning and thoroughly engaging on a visceral level, it also functions quite well as a “smart” film, one that requires a little more thinking than the average brainless action movie that’s so common in mainstream cinema.
The introductory scene sets the stage for the rest of the film, having merely toyed with the idea of extracting a memory from someone’s mind, the plot takes a much different turn after this scene and the true nature of the movie is revealed as the concept of “inception”, the process placing an idea within someone that is subconsciously accepted as originating within their own mind, is explored. Thought to be impossible, expert Extractor Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is convinced that it can be done.
So begins the movie proper as Cobb sets out to assemble a team of highly trained experts in various aspects of shared dreaming for the risky and highly dangerous job of planting the information deep within the subconscious of the Mark, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Fischer’s father is the head of a multinational energy corporation and also on his deathbed and his son is in line to inherit the “family business” when he dies. Saito (Ken Watanabe), a powerful Japanese businessman, wants to influence the young Fischer’s plans for the business after his inheritance. In exchange for his services, Saito promises to help Cobb return to the United States, and the children he left behind.
Inception is certainly one of the more challenging movies to follow and it only increases in depth and complexity as the film continues. One example of this is the idea of layered dreaming. Initially, it is explained that the mind functions far faster in dreams than it does in the real world so five minutes worth of sleep within the real world equates to an hour’s worth of time in a dream. But, as you go even deeper into the subconscious, the amount of time you have increases exponentially. Because of this, the majority of the film takes place within a span of minutes and scenes that stretch on for a great deal of time. This is handled very well, however, and rarely seems to drag on too long within any one scene.
This truly is a film for videogamers. Inception can become very confusing, very quickly as Nolan stacks layer on top of layer (literally). The interesting thing about this is that gamers deal with this type of thing on an almost constant basis. Consequently, we are able to process the kind of mind-bending and surrealist set pieces and scenarios, including a pretty awesome zero gravity fight scene that are continuously thrown at the viewer in Inception. With that said, paying close attention to what’s going on is paramount in order to be able to follow what’s going on in the film.
Inception makes great use of its excellent cast. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of the brilliant Extractor who is constantly tormented by a shade of his deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) is one of the best in the film. Ellen Page lends the right amount of perkiness and naiveté to the young Architect, Ariadne. Two characters who add some humor and levity to the situation are Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the man in charge of researching potential targets and Eames (Tom Hardy), the Forger, who possesses the ability to take the form of others within dreams and adds a dry sort of humor to the proceedings.
The only thing that really disappointed me about Inception was its ending. All of the buildup and for what? An ending that’s left entirely up to the viewer’s interpretation. Endings like this are a pet peeve of mine and always seem like a cop out employed by lazy writers and directors to add an air of intelligence and mystery where it isn’t needed. Hollywood, please stop using these kinds of endings. Granted, they get people talking but for all the wrong reasons.
Unnecessarily abrupt ending aside, Inception was just the kind of aesthetically pleasing but still intellectually stimulating film that this summer needed. There’s something for almost all types of moviegoers in Inception, from your average casual moviegoer who just wants to sit down with a tub of popcorn and a giant Coke and have some fun to the pretentious film critics who desire a little more intellectual stimulation than the average summer blockbuster can provide. Inception is a hell of a great ride that satisfies on just about every level and saying that it’s one of the best films released this year is not a difficult thing to do in any respect.