Inception Movie Review
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Reviewed by: S.I.
Christopher Nolan’s inception is part-science fiction, part-crime caper. It reveals all of Nolan’s strengths and weaknesses. The movie diminishes his mind-bending work in 2001’s Memento and 2006’s the Prestige, and yet, somehow heightens it. It’s more polished, as if with themes of his work. He isn’t whittling the themes down, but pushing further down the part towards cinematic understanding. Inception is Nolan’s only originally written movie since his 1998 debut Following. It isn’t based on a comic book, short story, or novel, so it’s as close to Nolan’s mind as you can get. As multi-layered as Inception is, it’s really about a group of thieves, who led by Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), enters people’s dreams to steal their ideas.
Dom Cobb is an Extractor. His job is to invade a target’s dream and steal corporate information and ideas. Soon mysterious billionaire Saito (Ken Watanabe) offer cob a project unlike any he’s ever untaken. Instead of extraction, Saito wants Cobb to try inception, which is the act of stealthily putting an idea into a target’s mind and making him believe the idea is totally his. It is nearly impossible to accomplish and totally illegal. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s competitor and industrialist Maurice Fischer (Peter Postlethwaite). Cobb starts globe-hopping from Paris to Mombasa to assemble a team to help with the inception-cold as ice Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the Pointman, college student Ariadne (Ellen Page) the Architect, dapper Eames (Tom Hardy) the Forfer, and mad Scientist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) the Chemist.
Inception is a labyrinth of dreams. Nolan is Daedalus. He’s created a celluloid maze of twists and turns using pieces of ancient theology. Ariadne is named after the mythological Greek princess whose thread led Theseus out of Daedalus’ Labyrinth. Yusuf is named after the Koranic prophet who deciphered dreams. The team creates and enters levels of dreams together. There are wheels-within-wheels and dreams within –dreams. But not all dreamers are powerless. Those with the power can build worlds in which buildings rise out of the ground and moving in zero-gravity is as natural as walking.
In the middle of all this are the actors whose characters ground the film in reality. Without their hopes, and fears Inception is an empty maze. But Christopher Nolan’s weakness has always been tapping into true emotion, partially because his female characters are underdeveloped. The emotional cores of his movies are rarely more than hollow shells. Even Cobb notices when he speaks to his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard): “you are just a shade of my real life. You’re the best I can do; but… you are just not good enough.”
The male actors not only fare better, but they have enough chemistry among them to even bring young Ellen Page into the fld. Leonardo DiCaprio gets the job done as always. He shouldn’t have to constantly prove himself, but he does. Ken Watanabe’s Saito becomes an older brother figure for Cobb and both Watanabe and DiCaprio bounce off each other beautifully.
Tom Hardy’s Eames is a muscular, sexy flirty dandy. One moment he’s calling Arthur darling, the next minute he’s firing a grenade launcher. Joseph Gordon-Levitt still has a child –star stigma attached to him, but as he approaches 30, Inception has morphed him into a man. Arthur is like cut glass-cool, efficient, rarely rattled.
Inception is a prime example of Christopher Nolan’s light touch. You can see his faint fingerprints, but they don’t muck up the joint. For a movie about the unreal-Nolan and his crew rely more on the real world than other filmmakers. The dreamscapes in inception are hospitals, hotels, and mountainsides. Real-life dreams aren’t always this structured, but accomplishing an unstructured look would be cinematically ridiculous. Some of Nolan’s fingerprints are coincidental. When the team needs to be awakened from dreams-Edit Piaf’s non, Je Ne Regrette Rien is the music that snaps them back to reality. Nolan chose the song long before casting Cotillard who won the 2008 Oscar for playing Piaf in La Vie en Rose. Perhaps some things are beyond even the architect’s control.
Music is as much a part of Inception as everything else. Hans Zimmer’s score is unforgettable, pulsating, and impressive. It jolts and electrifies. Despite its fever-than-usual special effects, Inception is a technical wonder. Each dreamscape has its own colour palette. There are greys and blues of Yusuf’s rainy dream sequence, the dark brown shadows and golden light of Arthur hotel dream, and the stark winter white of Eames’ glacial dreams. Other achievements stand out as well. The wardrobe, for instance. Each actor is dressed to kill-or at least dressed for a spread in GQ. Not a hair is out of place, each three-piece suit tailor-made. It wound be the best eye-candy there is, were it not for the 360 degree rotating room morphed into zero-gravity sequence of Arthur’s dream.
Strangely, Inception comments on its own inelegance. There’s a moment when Arthur demands that Eames be more specific. The same could be asked of Nolan. Some of the mechanics of dream theft and inception are vague and glossed over with visual coolness. Despite all this, Inception is Nolan’s best directed movie and the best summer blockbuster in years. It isn’t the second coming of anything – that kind of hype is insulting. But it is proof that kind of Hollywood can still go above and beyond. It can use its old action movie formula with a new premise. It’s proof that the human imagination can go much farther, and it ought to.