Inception (2010)

Film review: Inception (2010), directed by Christopher Nolan

IFIf you’re confused about what goes on in Inception, you haven’t really been paying attention. If you’ve heard about Inception because people keep raving about it and wonder if it’s any good, you haven’t seen it, clearly. (It’s currently #9 on the IMDb Top 250 list.) From the director of the rebooted Batman franchise, Christopher Nolan, comes a film that should have got some sort of award for Mindfuck of the Year.

The basic premise of Inception is that you can put yourself in a drug-induced dream state and therein manipulate other people’s dreams. Sort of like lucid dreaming taken to an extreme level. You have architects, who can construct a world to put the subject in, and other people can go in and try to help. Psychic warfare? You bet!

One of these people capable of all this, is Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), but he doesn’t construct worlds anymore, he just goes in and gets the job done. He lost his wife (Marion Cotillard), so he’s a bit messed up. Along with his pal Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb gets to recruit a new architect for his team, the imaginative Ariadne (Ellen Page), who Cobb’s father or father-in-law (I forget which one, but he’s played by the legend that is Michael Caine, and that’s all that really matters) points out to him, as she’s one of his students.

“Man, this dream STINKS!”

They’re hired by Saito, a Japanese business man (Ken Watanabe), to influence the actions of a Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), who has just lost his dad (the late Pete Postlethwaite in one of his final roles). He needs to be persuaded to break up the family empire and sell it off in parts … to Saito, of course. How best to influence the man? By getting to him through dreaming, of course. And to do that, they need a bigger team, so time to recruit Eames (Tom Hardy, Heathcliff ‘09) and Yusuf (Dileep Rao). If only Fischer wasn’t protected by his dad’s old right-hand-man (Tom Berenger), eh?

What follows is an intense journey through layers of dreaming, to boldly go deeper than anyone else has ever dared to go before.

“So wait … are we dreaming right now?”

Now, I like dreaming and I like lucid dreaming, and it’s amazing what you can do in dreams. This film would’ve been impossible to make 20 years ago, because it relies heavily on CGI for effects like bending a street and doing 90 degree turns and start walking on a vertical surface, and so on. It’s a mind-bending treat to look at.

What they need to do with Fischer is to get him the idea to break up the company in a dream, but they can’t just barge in say “here’s a great idea!” but they have to make him think he got the idea himself, and that it just “came to him”, not that it was planted there by your biggest competitor. It’s not the easiest thing to do, put it that way, but it’s fascinating. Sometimes it’s the sort of thing you need to do in real life too, convincing someone that it’s THEIR great idea when you want to get something done that they otherwise won’t do. (DIY, anyone?)

“Err … I didn’t do it?”

If you concentrate, you should be able to follow the levels of dreaming, because it’s about a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream kind of thing. Also, there is a place called Limbo, and you don’t want to go there. That’s like the deepest level you can go, and it’s very difficult to escape its alluring clutches. The ending is deliberately vague, to leave you guessing if Cobb is still dreaming or if he’s actually in the real world. Is he? Isn’t he? Who knows? Who really cares?

I bet this film gave Edit Piaf an upswing in sales, seeing as how they use her iconic Je ne regrette rien as a warning sign that they’re about to make the jump from one dream level to the next, ascending one. Fascinating how it all works, anyway.

Inception is not a slow-paced film, really, it sees plenty of action, and the characters are likeable, even if Cobb is the only one we really get to know about properly. Ariadne is basically there as the prop newbie character to explain how everything works for the audience, and to mess with what Cobb is doing in order to show more of him. But she does it in a butt-kicking kind of way, so that’s okay. Cotillard is creepy.

Still, it’s a movie to confuse, amuse and amaze and it’s not half bad, actually. I won’t go raving about it at every available moment, but it’s a 4 out of 5 spinning tops from me purely for actually requiring the audience to be equipped with a brain.

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