Despite all the warning that this episode is a “spoilercast” of Inception, we actually only spoil for about 10 minutes, and we give fair warning. Enjoy.
The following review is designed to be as vague and spoiler-free as possible.
From Christopher Nolan, the “do no wrong” director of The Dark Knight and darling of internet film fan sites comes Inception, Hollywood’s last great hope for the summer blockbuster season. Nolan himself is probably the biggest name of the project, his star outshining leading man Leonardo DiCaprio. The rest of the cast is made of indie stars Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Cillian Murphy, with Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite thrown in for good measure. The message is clear from the casting alone, this is not your Knight and Day blockbuster fare.
Inception follows DiCaprio’s Cobb, internationally renown thief, who invades the dreams of his victims in order to steal secrets from them. He’s hired by a shady mulitinational billionaire boss for ‘one last job’, to enter the dream of another billionaire and plant an idea in his head. Planting an idea, or Inception, is the ‘cross the streams’ of dream invasion apparently, but Cobb takes the job anyway, as it may just allow him to clear his name and return home. These little cliches are perhaps used to ground an otherwise very confusing film.
To further complicate things, Cobb has to deal with his dead wife constantly invading the dreams, or is it memories, he’s creating. Or something.
To be honest, the plot isn’t all that important. This is a classic heist movie, one part set up, one part execution of the heist. The first half of the film is devoted to training Ellen Page’s Ariadne, the young architect brought on by Cobb to build the dreamscape of the heist. Inception take almost an hour and a half training Ariadne, setting up the final caper and explaining the rules of the dreamscape it will take place in. It should be boring, constant exposition and explanation is the cardinal sin of movie making, but it all moves along at such a cracking pace and with such visual flair you really don’t have time to notice.
The disappointment is the final dreamscapes are not nearly as inventive as these training dreams. After watching whole cities crumble into the sea and streets of Paris fold over onto themselves, the heist itself, for all its space time trickery, is really just a series of action sequences. The ripple effect that links the various layers of dreams together is impressive, but at least for me there was no real sense of tension. You kind of get the feeling that the heist had been written and rewritten by Nolan so many times that all the pieces would have to eventually fall into place. He wouldn’t allow anything else.
It’s no surprise from the trailer that the further DiCaprio, Page and Co enter this world the more we’re left wondering where reality ends and dreams begin. Is it all just a dream in the end? Does any of it make sense? To be honest i have no idea. I’d say that will only become clear after a third or fourth screening. I can say i was riveted from the first to the final frame.
With The Dark Knight, Nolan brought a level of psychological terror and philosophical pondering to the superhero genre, a genre not exactly known for such adult themes. Here he brings the same level of sophistication to alternate reality Science fiction films like Total Recall and the to the ‘bullet time’ conventions of The Matrix. That he manages to pull it off is remarkable.
Its not the achievement of The Dark Knight, its not even as good as that other summer blockbuster Toy Story 3, but like Avatar it is a wholly original work by a master film maker, and as such should be seen in a cinema. Nolan’s vision, flawed as it may be here, deserves the biggest screen possible, and the box office needs to reward Hollywood for allowing Nolan the artistic freedom to dream.