Well, it’s official. I have finally decided to expel film trailers from playing any part in my judgment of a film. This is a case of extreme trailer misrepresentation. The teaser and the theatrical trailer present this as just another blunder of a summer blockbuster. All that the trailer implies is the films extensive action scenes. It represents none of the depth of insight and character in this film. I did not go into this film very hopeful. It just seemed like a waste of anybody’s time. I thought (as I have in the past several years), “Why on earth do the studios keep releasing these generic, pointless action flicks?” All that the film had going for it was a very good cast and a pretty interesting title. Well, Inception is neither generic nor pointless. It has something that very few mainstream movies have at this time of the year. It has character. And it has insight. The film knows how to play with the human mind and its fears and desires even more so than the heroes of the picture. Sure, there are several wild and crazy action sequences sprinkled throughout, but there is always a reason for them: character. Often times with films today, the story and the thrill of the audience depend on the number of explosions and the amount of violence and how much adrenaline gets pumped through their body. Not so with Inception. This film is a deep, complex character study, with well developed characters. Never indulgent and not too show-offish.
Besides characters, the film also thrives on a brilliant story concept: the possibility of sharing dreams. It’s such a simple concept, but writer/director Nolan forms one of the most complex and intriguing stories in recent cinema history. The idea is this: Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is a thief, who has learned a way to invade the dreams of subjects and steal ideas from their mind. He can take out anything. An idea for a new business partnership, or the most intimate secrets of a country’s government. He can bring others into the dream as well, creating an artificial world of stunning realism. Then someone comes to him with a job. A risky job, but Cobb has to take it for a very specific reason I will not reveal. The job is not to steal an idea, but to plant an idea into the mind of a dreamer, through a process known as inception. From here, the story evolves into a complex, intriguing drama that you must pay attention to. That is one of the few problems with the film as a whole: it requires an excellent attention span and a crafty mind. If you let your mind wander even for a moment, it is nearly impossible to figure out what is happening. Even with a focused concentration it is difficult to follow all the layers of the movie. Every now and then the film is a little too convenient. I got worried when I heard the words, “I engineered the sedative to leave the inner ear and balance system unharmed.” Come on! Things aren’t that simple. But these sort of plot-holes are forgivable.
So Cobb assembles a team of dreamers who will go into these artificial worlds along with him and the subject in whose mind they must plant the idea. He also hires an architect to build the environments for the dreams, a talented young student called Ariadne (Ellen Page). Over the course of the weeks and the hours in the dreams, Cobb and Ariadne form a bond over a deep, dark secret Cobb hides within his subconscious, and haunts his dreams, posing a threat to anyone who shares with him. But now, don’t give away too much to your readers.
For the first thirty minutes of this odyssey of the netherworld, the film appears to be just another summer action movie. But as the layers of the film one by one are peeled away, an insightful and powerful essay on the human race begins to unfold. A study of what motivates us as people, and how we all wish to manipulate our surroundings. The themes in this movie are very deep and they seem to have a very strong impact on the audience. The main theme of the film is basically the dangers and the risks of hiding memories inside of you. Memories are—as the film says about an idea—like a virus, highly contagious, and often times deadly. This is the case in the memories of our hero. And only he can keep them at bay, but not forever. At some point the secrets of his past will overflow and either define or destroy everyone involved. And eventually, they will realize the dangers of what they do. The dangers of this art of inception, and ultimately the destruction that comes from trying to play God. We’ve seen this again and again in films such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Jurassic Park. But Inception deals with it in a unique way that has never really been done before. Nolan creates a world for us to live in, as should all movies. But lots of movies fall short, and fail to carry us to that other world. This film succeeds more than it should in this department. It takes us on an emotional thrill ride full of thrills from both the action and the insights into the minds of the characters.
But alas, no film is all good. Like anything else, Inception has its faults. Probably the biggest for me is the soundtrack (a lot of people complain about the complexity of the story, but a labyrinth of ideas is essential for this type of movie). And by soundtrack I mean the musical score. It could have done without one completely, or at least used less of it. Hans Zimmer’s thundering, percussion driven march is possibly the most intrusive thing I’ve ever heard. A musical score should add, not detract, from the action at hand. Instead of drawing attention to the film, it draws attention to itself, which no artificial force should ever do (this goes for visual effects too, James Cameron). In an ideal world, the audience shouldn’t even notice a score until its out of the theatre on its way to the bathroom. And as I mentioned before, there are a few story points that are either too convenient of downright ridiculous (like the concept of “limbo” later on in the film).
But overall, the film is exceptional when compared to other summer blockbusters. I’d even go so far as to say it may warrant a Best Picture nomination if they pick ten again this year instead of the traditional five. Christopher Nolan is certainly a talented director and writer. This gem of a film, while maybe a little too long, is deep, insightful, infectious, and in a certain sense beautiful. This is truly a cinematic experience like no other. For those skeptics out there, heed not the Inception as portrayed by its trailers. Go and see it with an open mind, and who knows, maybe it will plant an idea in your head as well. I’ll certainly never dream the same way again. Now lets pray that they don’t get all excited and make a sequel. That would be the ultimate travesty. Especially with the shocking and inconclusive ending which I will not give away. So, happy screening.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents, in association with Legendary Pictures, a Syncopy Films production.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Cillian Murphy, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lucas Haas. Directed by Christopher Nolan
Rated PG-13 for scenes of violence and action throughout. Release Date: 18 July 2010