Inception (Film Review)
4 out of 4 stars
For those doubting Hollywood’s ability to produce truly great movies anymore, they need look no further than ‘Inception’ to have their fears assuaged. With its mind-blowing storyline, infinitely memorable cast of characters, and incredible action scenes, ‘Inception’ is not just the best film of 2010, but also one of the best sci-fi films ever made. Like ‘Avatar’ or ‘The Dark Knight’ before it, ‘Inception’ has all the elements of a cultural phenomenon in the making, easily topping both those films in sheer ambition and storytelling skill. Once again, director Christopher Nolan has single-handedly proven himself as one of the most talented and original figures in the industry.
Set against a dark vision of the near-future, ‘Inception’ stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, a corporate thief who specialises in the dangerous art of extraction: physically entering a person’s dream and stealing their ideas during their sleep. Unfortunately, Cobb’s activities have made him one of the world’s most wanted criminals, costing him his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) and his family in the process.
However, when mysterious businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) offers Cobb a final job in return for his freedom, he is forced to undertake an impossible task – planting an idea in a target’s head instead of stealing one. In this case, the target in question is Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), the heir to a massive corporate empire which rivals Saito’s own. To accomplish this monumental task, Cobb must recruit a team of expert dream specialists to aid him, beginning with long time associate Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Subsequent members include college student Ariadne, an ‘architect’ who constructs the world of the dream (Ellen Page), Eames (Tom Hardy), a skilled thief who impersonates subjects within the dream, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist who provides the necessary drugs to prolong the target’s sleep.
As with DiCaprio’s earlier psychological thriller ‘Shutter Island’, ‘Inception’ possesses a truly captivating story, one that engages the viewer’s intellect, emotions, and adrenaline glands. Almost every scene of the film is filled with tension and intrigue, with the story twisting and turning in unexpected directions as the characters delve deeper into the dream world. In fact, it pays for viewers to know as little as possible about the film prior to their first viewing, as even the opening sequence has its fair share of surprises and secrets. Without being convoluted or confusing, ‘Inception’ is undeniably a smart film, a rare quality in today’s brain-dead Hollywood climate.
Of course, there’s plenty of action to balance out the movie’s more cerebral qualities. In fact, ‘Inception’ just might be the most ambitious, expertly filmed, and all-out exciting action picture since ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ in 2003. Whether it’s the classic James Bond style opening, the frantic car chase down the streets of Manhattan, or the zero gravity fight in the hotel corridor, ‘Inception’ always realises the limitless potential of its premise. Because the characters are aware of their presence in the dream, they can consequently alter the very fabric of the world around them, resulting in action sequences that are just as mind bending as the film’s plot. Coupled with composer Hans Zimmer’s dark, electrifying score and Nolan’s masterfully taut direction, the thrills of ‘Inception’ truly need to be seen to be believed.
Yet for all its dazzling visuals and plot twists, ‘Inception’ is also a tragic love story, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the genre since 1982’s ‘Blade Runner’. Although Cobb’s wife Mal is already deceased at the beginning of the film, she continually reappears as a hostile presence in Cobb’s dreams, stalking him and even physically threatening him. To make matters worse, Cobb’s visions of her increase as the team moves further into the dream world, jeopardising the fate of the entire mission. Unlike most genre films where the romantic subplots are awkwardly placed in to fill time, ‘Inception’s love story is genuinely powerful and moving, providing an emotional anchor which drives the events of the entire film. This, more so than any other element of the film, is ultimately what lifts ‘Inception’ above its action movie brethren and into the realm of true movie classics such as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Star Wars’.
For all of Nolan’s brilliant work on the film though, equal credit must go to the film’s flawless ensemble cast. As the lead protagonist Dom Cobb, star Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an Academy Award-worthy performance, effortlessly portraying a world-weary man hiding a tortured soul under his charming exterior. However, the supporting cast is arguably even more impressive, with even minor roles filled by Oscar nominated actors such as Tom Berenger and Michael Caine. As the additional members of the dream team, rising stars Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Ellen Page, and Tom Hardy consistently light up the screen with their charisma, delivering performances that should swiftly turn their characters into pop culture icons. Similarly, veteran actors Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy also leave their mark with two more enigmatic characters, Saito and Fischer. Last but certainly not least, French actress Marion Cotillard gives a truly remarkable performance, managing to be both spellbindingly beautiful and hauntingly chilling as Mal. Like DiCaprio, Cotillard’s performance should easily earn her a nomination at next year’s Oscars.
Finally, ‘Inception’ is also one of the most visually striking films of its time. Set only a few decades into the future, the film sees its characters travelling across five continents as they race against time, hopping between cities like Paris, Tokyo and New York at a speed that would make James Bond envious. As expected, the filmmakers use the chance to display some superb on-location cinematography, capturing some spellbinding footage of the world’s most imposing urban landscapes.
The real visual treats, however, are in the dream world, where all the laws of physics come second to the power of the imagination. Although it would be a disservice to the reader to reveal too many of the film’s secrets in a review, anything is possible in the world of the dream – from a spinning top that never falls to an entire city crumbling to the ground like a child’s Lego set. Like ‘Avatar’ last year, ‘Inception’ is undoubtedly another turning point in the advancement of today’s special effects.
Although the Oscars are still six months away, ‘Inception’ at the very least deserves a nomination for Best Picture and Best Director, if not an outright win. For even though it raises the pulse like no other film this year, this sci-fi magnum opus is far more than just an action movie with a higher than average IQ. It’s a one of a kind experience: an epic, moving journey into the deepest depths of the human soul and back. Even in its darker moments, Christopher Nolan has managed to create a dream that the audience genuinely won’t want to be woken up from.
‘Inception’ is currently playing in mainland China and Hong Kong.
What did you think of Inception?
- 4 out of 4 stars (93%, 13 Votes)
- 3 out of 4 stars (7%, 1 Votes)
- 2 out of 4 stars (0%, 0 Votes)
- 1 out of 4 stars (0%, 0 Votes)
- Didn't see it yet but am planning to (0%, 0 Votes)
- Not planning to see it (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 14