“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” So says David H. Everett and Inception agrees to the fullest, by constructing a world where dream and reality collide to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish the two.
Inception, at its very basic level, is a heist film, except instead of robbing a bank or jewelry store the characters break into a subject’s subconscious via dreams and their big pay-off is information. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are specialists in “extraction”, breaking into someone’s mind and taking whatever information they’re hiding. However this can only be accomplished when the subject and extractors are sedated and hooked up to a “sleep machine” of sorts (similar to “jacking into” the Matrix) allowing for multiple layers of dreams to be created (dreaming within a dream).
Cobb and Arthur are eventually hired to do the opposite of extraction: “inception”, which is planting an idea deeply enough into the subconscious of a target, so that they wake up thinking the idea was theirs, allowing you to plant any idea (sinister or benign) without a trace. They plan on doing this by creating a triple layered dream (dreaming within a dream within a dream, get it?) and so they set out to recruit a team and plan their attack for this widely considered impossible feat.
Chris Nolan has apparently been working on this script for the past ten years, and it’s obvious. The film knows all of its rules and lays them out clearly within the first hour, but as is the case with any movie that takes such pains to set everything up, there’s gotta be some sort of monkey wrench thrown into the machine to complicate matters. Inception makes damn sure of that by throwing in triple-layer dreams where time and gravity exist at different levels and you can fight off security guards in a constantly rotating hotel hallway (which was the coolest scene in the entire movie) and plots twists and revelations that are so simple yet when discovered they’re exhilarating. What makes this film so stunning is the way Nolan weaves all the complex layers of the plot into a seamless narrative that’s simple to follow. He doesn’t hold your hand and walk you through it, but simply lays out the information and trusts that you’ll know what to do.
In addition to the spot-on storytelling, the film looks spectacular. The CGI isn’t too over powering, which is impressive considering the amount of crazy cities-folding-on-top-of-each-other action that looks like it was ripped straight out of a bad acid trip. Nolan actually opted out of using CGI for any scenes that he could, for instance the hotel sequence which I briefly mentioned above was shot on a set that simply rotated along its axis. Using more traditional techniques in place of CGI adds believability to what is happening on-screen, making the visuals all the more impressive.
Of course all the sharp visuals don’t mean a thing if the cast doesn’t deliver, and luckily for us every actor on board slips straight into their characters adding a level of believability and emotional connection to this reality-bending drama. Leo plays a man who is packing some serious skeletons in his closet. The mental exhaustion he has starts to manifest itself physically as the movie carries on and he gives off an impression of a man who is barely able to keep his world together brilliantly.
Ellen Page plays Ariadne “the architect” who is in charge of constructing the dream world of the subject in the form of a giant labyrinth. She does a fine job playing a curious college student drawn into such a dangerous task and her relationship with Leo (as she becomes the only one to discover the reason why he is so tortured) is great. Marion Cotillard gives off an eerie performance of Cobb’s wife that fits so well later in the movie as further revelations of her character are made and the rest of the cast are all outstanding in their supporting roles. I particularly enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of Cobb’s suave partner, Arthur, as he delivers the perfect amount of humor and bad-assery.
From excellent storytelling and breath-taking visuals to a first-rate cast, Inception has all the ingredients of a great film and pulls them together to make one of the best examples of world building all summer. You’ll enjoy every minute of this film and I guarantee that after the credits roll you’ll want to see it again.