Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas and Talulah Riley.
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Distributed by Warner Bros. 148 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Christopher Nolan has made something of a specialty out of making movies as a giant mind fuck.
From his early days with the elegant technical exercise Memento to his current notoriety for the latest reboot of the Batman series, Nolan’s work always has a hazy and slightly disorienting nightmare quality.
Inception may be his most labyrinthine psychodrama yet, and it is also one of his best.
And, fittingly, the dreamy state of the auteur’s filmmaking is made specific. Inception is a film that almost totally treads in the landscape of dreams.
Little things like logic and reality are not a concern here, simply because they are not an option in a dream. As one character points out, a dream feels completely real when you are experiencing it. It is only when you wake that it somehow feels wrong.
Dream worlds are a dicey proposition for even the most disciplined filmmaker. French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) seems to have come closest to capturing the trance state, and Tarsem Singh’s The Cell had fascinating hallucination sequences interspersed with a rather predictable realistic serial killer plot.
However, Nolan’s Inception comes wonderfully close to capturing the oddly off-kilter world behind the wall of sleep.
The concept behind this very, very high concept film is as complicated and limitless as it is ultimately simple. A group of futuristic (there is no exact time frame given, but Inception seems to take place in the near future) thieves realize that there is no place that human beings are more vulnerable than in the dream state. Therefore, they create a method to invade people’s dreams, where they can manipulate what is happening and cause the subconscious to give secrets and information of real world riches.
As a film that takes place almost entirely in a dream state, of course normal rules of gravity and logic are out the window. This leads to a series of arresting visual effects – the most stunning of which are probably the city of Paris folding in on itself and a desolate beach city crumbling down into the water.
Of course, this constant dream state also somewhat saps the action of gravity. As the characters say several times throughout the film, when you die in a dream it simply means that you will wake up – though eventually this safety valve seems to become stuck.
However, these incredible scenarios are tethered by a strong set of performances – including Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Leavitt as two of the thieves, Ellen Page as one of their new accomplices, Cillian Murphy as the latest victim and Marion Cotillard as a late wife who becomes a ghost haunting one of our heroes’ subconscious.
They act like this all makes perfect sense and somehow due to the strong filmmaking and acting, it actually kind of does.
Or at least it is like a dream. It feels completely realistic when you are experiencing it. It’s only when you leave the theater that some parts somehow feel wrong. However, the experience is such an interesting one that some slight flaws are easy to overlook.
Inception might be one of the most complex films to ever become a box office smash. For the most part, I think that massive wave of existential viewing is a very good thing for the world.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 27, 2010.