Posted on 8/09/10 04:45 AM
Initial Score: 10
-Dreams are subjective realities which so often at the time seem like the real thing we don't question the reality we're presented with, it's only after waking up do we realize our perception was flawed. Lucid dreaming however, is the ability to identify when in a dream even being able to control what occurs and it's this ability Christopher Nolan seems to be most interested in playing with in Inception. Nolan started on the script while filming Memento, a brain twister in it's own right and seeing the finished product 9 years later reinforces my belief he used his previous films as practice for what is one of the most ambitious works ever filmed. The nature of reality is tricky to explain or prove definitively but you know what it is much like oxygen, but what if a lucid dream simulated reality and reality felt dream like? Christopher Nolan is a master puppeteer when it comes to making the audience define reality from fantasy all the while dropping enough hints for us to figure it out and not leaving us in the dark as long as we pay attention not letting Inception's seemingly straight forward plot wash over us as so many modern movies let us get away with.
-Dom Cobb played by Leonardo Dicaprio is the most skilled extractor in the business, that's what you call someone who with the aid of technology is able to steal any valuable idea one might have while sleeping. When attempting to extract from rich businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) he's countered with a proposal to do the opposite, Inception; the insertion of an idea into one's head for as yet unknown benefits. Saito dangles the possibility of Dom being able to return to his 2 kids in the U.S and settle the fate of his wife (Marion Cottilard) without fearing criminal punishment for as yet unknown crimes in front of him and having done it once before accepts the proposal before Saito says "Assemble your team". Which is exactly what he does and how we're introduced to Arthur played by Joseph Gorden-Levitt in his most impressive role to date Arthur is an extractor too and in many ways similar to Cobb. Next is Eames (Tom Hardy) a forger capable of impersonating in dreams, then Yusuf (Dileep Rao) a chemist who concocts the sedatives needed to keep everyone asleep long enough to pull off the heist. Araidne (Ellen Page) a prodigy architect capable of designing elaborate pathways in the mind is the final recruit she's introduced by Michael Caine who plays Cobb's father in-law Miles who also taught Cobb a former architect himself.
-With the team introduced in typical heist movie fashion they plot against the target of inception Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy.) Along the way Cobb teaches Ariadne the ins and outs of dream manipulation which acts as a brilliant tutorial device for her as well as the audience giving both a clear understanding of the 3 levels of dreaming. First the dream, then a dream within a dream, and finally a dream within a dream within a dream all of which would be impossible to display without confusion especially when juxtaposed to reality had it not been for Nolan's clever rules and logic keeping all the layers plausible without alienating the attentive viewer. Most impressive of which is the rule of time moving progressively slower the deeper into a dream which you go so with 3 levels of dreaming and reality there are effectively 4 clocks simultaneously counting down adding dramatically to the tension felt each step of the way.
-At one point an entire city folds in on itself in perfect symmetry, a gravity defying hallway fight ensues as if the combatants were swimming, and a van takes an hour to fall off a bridge all these moments rank among the most impressively choreographed action scenes ever filmed.
-Inception has many influences from the greatest sci fi's such as The Matrix, Dark City, and Blade Runner to Nolan's own Memento and The Dark Knight, but Shutter Island seems to be the most obvious since both films have Dicaprio successfully playing a burdened protagonist who'd feel at home in any noir, play with his perspective, and feature strained relationships with his wife.
-The true genius of inception is like it's 3 levels it has 3 levels of comprehension every engaged audience member must go through. First because of Nolan framing the big picture in a fairly straight forward manner the actively engaged viewer may lose sight of many fine details but retain the grasp of the plot, then upon further inspection of those finer points beyond the general plot even the most perceptive viewer will reconsider their position on several plot points. And finally in retrospect to the general plot, the carefully laid out trail of breadcrumb details ambiguously leading to multiple conclusions, and fusing them to adhere to the rules Inception sets up the reconsidered notions can be concluded upon or be put under even further scrutiny.
-The mental defenses Fischer projects act as the catalyst for nearly all of the gunfire, explosions, and chases making Inception one of the most entertaining action movies I've ever seen at face value. Because of how well edited the action is the personal stake we the audience tie to the conflict is never cut; we're always interested because we know what failure would mean for the team.
-Hanz Zimmer's score relentlessly adds to the tension and intensity of the time needed to pull off the inception and as a clever nod to Nolan's universe Zimmer constructed a score to reflect the slowing down of time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVkQ0C4qDvM
-Inception like 2001: A space Odyssey is about ideas and scope more then the characters but unlike 2001 We're given with at least 1 richly developed lead who has enough sullen looks and emotional complexity to make Orsen Welles proud. Leonardo Dicaprio in one of his best roles in an already admirable career displays once again all the negative emotion a man can carry with him. Ultimately however, it's Nolan's script which allows Cobb to drop one or two details at a time along the entire way that by the climax his character arc is revealed to have more heart and significance then the entirety of casts in many other films. The supporting cast isn't entirely developed but they don't need to be this is Cobb's story the other players are meant to act as functions within the scheme of the inception and even with that Ellen Page manages to wring every last drop of concern from her character. Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the mostly silent strong approach with just enough playfulness to come off as a likable and essential second in command, Ken Watanabe in contrast to his villainous role in Nolan's Batman Begins is someone who we grow to care for and displays a wide range of feelings of authority mostly wisdom alongside Michael Caine. Dileep Rao displays an archetypal obsessiveness for knowledge men in fields of knowledge often have and yet has a likable warmth to him, and Marion Cotillard is incredible displaying many different emotions often switching them at a moments notice never missing a beat in dialogue.
-In a time where originality is sorely lacking in movies evidenced by endless sequels, remakes, and spin offs it's nice to see something as creatively original as Inception and even nicer to see how such a multilayer patchwork of reality and fantasy rewards multiple viewings as well as incisive analysis giving a viewers a point to go through it again beyond sheer entertainment value. Also unlike films like Mulholland dr. Inception isn't confusing for the sake of artistry or atmosphere it's not really confusing at all on the surface but it's the richly layered details within details which leave audiences in heated discussions long after the credits roll making us ponder over every scene in multiple perspectives for better or worse. The labyrinthine metaphors beautifully litter every frame because while Inception is paced briskly we still have the architecture of how confusing the film could have been in the back of our minds.