Inception, released last weekend in theaters and the most recent movie from director Christopher Nolan. If you choose to stop reading my review now, just know that it is everything that is good about movies, one that keeps you interested from start to finish, has a polish to it and a style all it's own, and in general is better than 99.9 % of most movies that ever make the theaters. So if you're going to stop reading my most likely ranting review, know that I'm giving it a 4-star rating and enjoy the movie.
Working on a script for ten-plus years, Nolan does what very few writer/directors can do; he creates a unique world that is unlike anything you've ever seen. It is intelligent in a way few movies are and it requires, it demands that you pay attention. People walked into the theaters 4 or 5 minutes late, and all I could think was "Well, they're screwed." Coming up with the best way to recommend this movie, I'll say this. Watching it, you get that feeling that you're watching what a movie should be; an experience. The visuals, the acting, the writing, Hans Zimmer's pulsing score, it all comes together in a way few movies do. Here comes the hard part, trying to explain the plot.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best of the best at what he does. He's a dream thief, able to steal your deepest, darkest secrets through your subconscious while you are asleep. With a specialized team and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he is able to insert himself into someone's dreams and find out everything and anything about them. But this time, he's messed up and he is being blackmailed by an employer, an extremely powerful business man named Saito (Ken Watanabe). Instead of stealing an idea, Saito wants to implant an idea in someone's head, a rival businessman, Fischer (Cillian Murphy), so that he'll dissolve his huge empire. Cobb isn't interested until he finds out the stakes, then he goes about assembling a team to perform this 'inception,' a more dangerous technique and harder to accomplish where all the risks are raised.
To say that is the whole plot is underselling the movie. I could do reviews and reviews that really delve into what the movie is about and probably still miss something. In creating this world of dreams and subconscious, Nolan has made his own sets of rules as to what can and can't happen. Because of that, as a viewer we have no background with any of this and are forced to pay that much more attention to keep up. Honestly though, I paid attention -- no talking, no texting, no bathroom breaks -- and feel I have a pretty good grasp of what's going on. If you're worried about being confused, just go in with an open mind and do your best to keep up. At a certain point, just go along for the ride and enjoy yourself.
As was the case with Nolan's previous big-budget movies (the two Batman movies and The Prestige), he's able to put an impressive cast together. If you had told me 10 years ago watching Titanic that I'd like DiCaprio as an actor, I'd have said you were crazy. But starring as Cobb, he continues a string of movies where he's not just tolerable, he's a strong actor who can stand on his own. Joining him on his team are Ariadne (Ellen Page), the architect of the dream worlds they go into, Eames (Tom Hardy), the forger, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the chemist, and Gordon-Levitt as Arthur. Hardy especially stands out, but all of the team more than hold their own. Watanabe and Murphy are more chess pieces to be played with, but their presence alone helps the story. French beauty Marion Cotillard is perfectly scary in a supporting role, and then add in Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Caine with small parts, and you've got a can't miss cast.
One reason I enjoyed the TV show 'Lost' so much was that it played with your perception of time and space. Where better to continue that trend than in your dreams where anything and everything from your own subconscious can make an impact? That was an element that caught me by surprise here. You can be in someone else's dream, but your own thoughts, fears, worries can fight their way into the dream-world. DiCaprio's Cobb is a prime example of this, a tortured individual with a checkered past. The best part of the movie though is the execution of the inception, a three-leveled dream as Cobb's team goes deeper into Fischer's "mind." Time is shorter in certain levels than others, what may only be seconds in one level is years in another. There of course has to be limbo then, where there is no time and dreams float about with the minds they belong to. Trippy ideas all of them, but certainly incredibly creative.
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips made an excellent point about Inception, stating that this is at its heart, a heist movie, that one last job. That's the movie's strength. All these crazy visual tricks play into it as cities fold in on each other, gravity goes out the window, and time doesn't mean as much. It's basically the craziest, most involved heist ever with Cobb looking to pull off that one last job that will reunite him with his family. At its heart, Inception has that small angle, a family man trying to right a wrong, and on a bigger angle, a huge, incredibly unique storyline that pulled me in from the get-go. It's a movie that is nearly impossible to review without giving away far too much. If you've made it this long, I'll say it again. Just go see Inception and decide for yourself.
Inception <----trailer (2010): ****/****