By Dave Campbell | July 16, 2010
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
Inception begins with us meeting Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) washed up on a beach and unconscious. Armed guards take him into an open room with an old man. They speak vaguely and it is pointed out that Cobb is carrying a small metal top (totem) and a gun. We then cut back imbedded within a dream inside the mind of Saito (Ken Watanabe), which has been manufactured by Cobb the Extractor and his team; including Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the Point Man, Eames (Tom Hardy) the Forger who can change identities within the dream, and Nash (Lukas Haas) the Architect who designs the world of each particular dream. The team is hired to use the science of sleep (a MacGuffin suitcase device that injects compound drugs into their systems while connecting them into a shared dream) as they enter the mind of a target picked by their client and extract secret/private information wanted by the said client. Unknowingly, Saito is testing their abilities before he himself hires them for a job…or criminal information extraction, whatever you want to call it.
Ultimately Saito hires the team of theives, but his special request is for inception; i.e. implanting an idea into the mind of his corporate rival, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy). Due to the death of Fisher’s father (Pete Postlethwaite) the team hopes to hit his emotions with information that will lead him to disband his father’s corporate empire. To make this all happen, Cobb’s team will have to dive into several layers of dreams within dreams of those connected to get deep enough for the inception. To insure their success, a new architect is sought out in the form of a graduate student named Ariadne (Ellen Page) who studies under Cobb’s old professor/father-in-law, Miles (Michael Caine). Ariadne quickly forms the skills to design the dreams and while learning from Cobb, she enters the darkest places of his mind which hold memories of his deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).
Inside these fabricated dreams, if an individual is harmed they will experience pain just as if it were real, but if they happen to die, the “kick” wakes them up. This is unless you are layering dreams like they need to do for inception. If you die in a dream within a dream your mind enters a state of indefinite limbo. The journey to the completion of the inception takes the team into uncharted territory that tests the abilities and sanity of Cobb as the haunting memories of Mal and their shared “dreams” pour over him uncovering the truths of how he discovered inception.
At it’s core Inception is a heist movie, but it’s also in sci-fi action thriller territory along with films like The Matrix and Dark City, but it goes beyond the genre boundaries completely holding on to it’s own originality and appeal. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan retains his indie sensibilities, great tone, and balance reminiscent of his successes with Memento and The Dark Knight. He executes drama with his precise style and confidence while pulling from influences like James Bond films, director Stanley Kubrick, and artist M. C. Escher who all slip through the seams of this labyrinth head game. This is exactly the kind of film movie goers deserve for their money…no gimmicky 3D, no over saturated CG, just rich intriguing story accomplished at the hands of detailed craftsman with an amazingly built cast.
Earlier this year I gushed about Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent performances in my Shutter Island review, and his role in Inception takes them all. I know that he’s Scorsese’s boy and all, but those films only prepared him for the demands that Inception would call for. Beyond Leo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ((500) Days of Summer) rocks the hell out of this movie, Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) hypnotically captivates, and the always adorable Ellen Page diversifies with a much more mature and approachable character to her previous roles. One of my new favorite actors Tom Hardy (Bronson) plays a pivotal role that I hope only gains him the exposure that he deserves. Aside from the standouts, Tom Berenger (Training Day), recent newcomer Dileep Rao (Avatar), and Nolan veterans Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins), Cillian Murphy (Sunshine), and Michael Caine (Harry Brown) complete the excellent support credit.
Christopher Nolan has intelligently knit together a mind bending dreamscape with layers of complexity equivalent of the string theory of quantum physics. An astonishing spectacle of epic proportions, Inception leaves us to ponder over our perceptions of reality, dreams and the spaces in-between – all the way to the incredible climactic ending that will leave audiences completely perplexed (in a good way). Inception is truely a dream within itself.