Should I Watch..? Inception
What's the big deal?
Inception is a sci-fi thriller film released in 2010 and was written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film has a large and impressive ensemble cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy and Marion Cotillard. The film's complex plot involves a team of professional dream infiltrators attempting to plant an idea into a victim's subconscious on behalf of a wealthy client. The idea for the film was only realised after Nolan's considerable success with Batman Begins (1) and The Dark Knight (2). Released to widespread critical acclaim, the movie took over $825 million worldwide and received a total of eight Oscar nominations, winning four of them. With its themes of reality and dream-states as well as a deliberately ambiguous ending, the film is one that certainly justifies more than one viewing.
Inducted into Benjamin Cox's Hall Of Fame
What's it about?
Dominick and Arthur are two professional "extractors" who have perfected the use of experimental technology to infiltrate a target's subconscious in order to extract information during a shared dream experience. Their latest client is Saito who wants them to perform something that it believed to be impossible - inception, a process of planting an idea into a subconscious. The intended target is Saito's business rival Robert Fischer who Saito wants to break up his father's company while in exchange, Saito will see Dom's criminal record wiped clean.
Preparing for this job, Dom begins to assemble a team to help him - Eames (a con-man and forger), Yusuf (a chemist who have created a powerful but stable sedative) and architecture student Ariadne who is responsible for creating the labyrinthine nature of the dream-states. With Saito on board to supervise, the team begin their ambitious plan with Dom hiding a dark secret - his subconscious is tainted by memories of his dead wife Mal who frequently appears in the shared dream states to wreck revenge...
Dominick "Dom" Cobb
Robert M. Fischer
Release Date (UK)
16th July, 2010
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nominations
Best Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction
What's to like?
Like The Matrix (3) before it, Inception is one of those films where the best advice is to jump in and enjoy a truly unique and visionary film that pushes visual effects beyond their capabilities. There's little point trying to explain a film like this because it works on so many levels - the film works as an action picture, an intelligent thriller, a heist flick, a tragedy and even a modern noir. Nolan is almost showing off his talent as a film-maker of extraordinary skill and bravery, crafting a genuinely brilliant film that works damn hard to try to throw the viewer into confused submission.
He isn't the only one on top form - DiCaprio has become an actor for the ages and reminds Academy members of DiCaprio's talents as well as the fact that he was long overdue his Oscar. The rest of the cast also deliver top-drawer performances - Hardy plays against type as Eames while Cotillard is a chilling femme fatale in the classic mould. But if the film is remembered for anything, it will be the stunning effects that take the headlines as they are on a par with The Matrix or Terminator 2: Judgment Day (4) back in the day. Highlights include the city of Paris folding onto itself, a full-on shootout in a hotel room spinning in zero gravity and a thrilling climax on a snow-covered mountain-top base. If anything, the snow sequences feel almost normal compared to the wizardry we see earlier in the film.
- This is one of six films that Nolan has directed within the IMDb's Top 250 films, at time of writing - the others being Memento (5), Batman Begins, The Prestige (6), The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises (7) and Interstellar (8).
- The Edith Piaf song Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien is a key plot device in the film. Cotillard won her Best Actress Oscar playing Piaf in La Vie En Rose (9). The film's theme is actually the first notes of the song played extremely slowly and whenever the song is heard in the film, it is played slowly - as if in a dream.
- The set for the hotel corridor was originally intended to be 40 ft. long but was eventually built to over 100 ft. It rotated a full 360 degrees and with the exception of one stunt, Gordon-Levitt performed all the stunts himself.
What's not to like?
Let me stress that this is not a film for the popcorn munching masses - we need to be awake and alert to get the most out of this film, like you were when you watched Nolan's chronologically challenged Memento. The plot is not the easiest to follow - the film's action takes place in a number of dream-states within dream-states where logic and cohesion aren't necessarily present. It can be difficult keeping track of the plot which isn't afraid to throw curveballs and surprises at you - apparently, Japanese viewers have a number in the corner to remind them which realm of reality they're presently in.
The only other aspect I didn't like about the film was the sense that Nolan was merely toying with us, displaying his skill as a writer and director with an arrogant smugness. I'm a big fan of his work, truthfully but with Inception, I couldn't escape the feeling that he was behind the camera whispering "look how clever I am" to his audience. In many ways, this could be taken as a compliment as I have never felt like this about any other movie but this is one picture that any director would be proud to have on their CV. It's that good.
Should I watch it?
Without question, this is one of the brightest, bravest and most astonishing films I've seen in a very long time. Inception is the cinematic equivalent of a good whiskey - it's complex and not to be rushed but certainly worth savouring. Nolan demonstrates once again that he is one of the best directors currently working and with this film, he should feel free to approach any subject he wishes and receive whatever budget he requests. One of the top five films made this side of the Millennium, for my money.
Great For: action fans, intelligent audiences, philosophers
Not So Great For: the easily confused, vertigo sufferers, narcoleptics
What else should I watch?
With an enviable track record, Christopher Nolan has created some truly brilliant movies in a relatively short space of time. Assuming that you've already seen at least one of the Dark Knight trilogy (and the box office receipts suggest that most of you did), his non-Batman work is also well worth your attention. Memento is an ingenious thriller about a man unable to retain short-term memories attempting to track down his wife's killer while The Prestige is a classic thriller involving two rival stage magicians.
Considering the scope of story-telling, dreams have normally been used as a cheap plot device to write off disastrous seasons of Dallas or as the playground for Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare On Elm Street (9) series. Going back, you have classics like The Wizard Of Oz (10) or Disney's Alice In Wonderland (11) but certainly nothing that approaches the subject the same way Nolan does with this film.