Mind-blowing doesn’t even begin to describe director Christopher Nolan’s latest foray into the mystifying realm of the subconscious. Like Following and Memento before it, Inception builds upon several truly clever concepts, but where his previous efforts only alter the timelines and the chronology of the information the audience receives, this film also plays with time itself, expanding and adjusting it to suit the adventure and mystery. Add to that the film’s focus on the already enigmatic nature of dreams and their Jungian infiltration, disruption, and manipulation by experts (both in front of and behind the camera) and you’ve got a movie so stunningly complex and thought-provoking it practically demands repeat viewing – not because it’s too confusing to absorb all the creative ideas the first time around, but because it’s just so astonishingly brilliant.
When asleep, the mind’s defenses diminish, allowing infiltration and deception by those with the ability to navigate the intricacies of the subconscious. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one such “extractor” whose experiences with dream sharing are both enlightening and tragic. A fugitive from the U.S. for his involvement in corporate espionage and his implication in murder, Cobb is presented with an offer he can’t refuse: attempt a seemingly impossible undertaking of “inception” on a rival of energy magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe) in exchange for a chance to return home. But the task of planting an idea in someone’s dream rather than stealing it requires intricate planning, forcing Cobb to recruit an “architect”, Ariadne (Ellen Page), a “forger”, Eames (Tom Hardy), a “chemist”, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and longtime extracting partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to help execute the complex operation. Once their meticulous mission begins, Cobb’s dark past and their target’s unexpected awareness threatens to tear apart their carefully fabricated realities. Those that make it out alive may never awaken to the truth.
Few films can achieve the level of creativity of Inception, a masterwork of complexity, intelligence and ambition. Dreams have always been an endlessly fascinating subject for movies, a concept that can be explored again and again without ever being repetitive or derivative (if handled correctly). With no rules, the possibilities are immeasurable, limited only by the minds of the designers. Writer/director Christopher Nolan uses this to fashion an unpredictable, intense, unknown, mazy world full of spellbinding visuals and consternating twists. Anything can happen and just about everything does. Although he’s renowned for jumpstarting a new Batman series, Nolan is well on his way to being more highly recognized for his mind-numbing psychological thrillers.
The film opens with a dream within a dream sequence to demonstrate a notion, to plant a seed of doubt in the viewer’s acknowledgement of the unfolding events, and to introduce us to unique characters with a job that warrants plenty of explanation. With theories on extraction (retrieving information from a dream), inception (planting information in a dream), dream-sharing, the subconscious’ emotional influence, limbo (dying in a dream), projections (inhabitants of a dream), instability, and suspicion, all presented rapidly, the mysteries and lack of origins outweigh the answers. “Who’s subconscious are we going into, exactly?” asks Ariadne, confirming the confusion general audiences might conjure with the plot. Fortunately, despite the half-a-dozen people tapping into a single dream, the impressive fight sequences in Escherian landscapes, the masterfully constructed differences in timeframes for each level of dreaming, and the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream finale, Inception proves to be both understandable and entertaining if you concentrate. Pay attention – it’s definitely worth it.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)