This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph
Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian
Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
RunTime: 2 hrs 28 mins
Rating: PG (Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: http://inceptionmovie.warnerbros.com/
Opening Day: 15 July 2010
Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in "Inception", an original sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction: stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible—inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse; their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.
“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.” -Sigmund Freud
Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” plays very much like its subject matter described so aptly above by Freud. On your first viewing, you will quite possibly only grasp just a fraction of its complexity, but the brilliance of what this reviewer proclaims as Nolan’s masterpiece lies in how engaging it is- even though you cannot quite fully comprehend what Nolan is trying to say. Indeed, it may take multiple viewings for one to absorb completely his audacious new creation that dares to tackle as dense and intricate a subject as that of dreams.
It isn’t easy to understand the nature of dreams, particularly because they seem to defy logic. The same can probably be said of some of the elements in “Inception”, but in order for one to understand what dreams really are, one has to first accept that they are not part of the conscious mind, and therefore cannot be understood by rationality. Freud proposed that the rational mind is just that one-seventh of the iceberg that we see, and the rest of the mind is made up of the preconscious and the unconscious. Freud also believed that dreams were the road to the unconscious and existed in the preconscious, a state between the conscious and the unconscious mind.
It is in this context that Nolan invites his audience to approach “Inception”. Here, Nolan imagines a world of corporate espionage where a thief enters a person’s mind during his dreams to steal ideas. This process he terms “extraction”, done by a team of people who design the architecture of the dreams, plant several people including the subject into the dream, forge identities within the dream and then proceed to steal the idea from the subject. Leonardo DiCaprio is the master thief of them all, Dom Cobb, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt his long-time right-hand man Arthur.
But this latest mission is different- a tycoon Saito (Ken Watanabe) wants him to plant an idea (so termed inception) within a rival’s (Cillian Murphy) mind in order that he will break up his ailing father’s business empire after he takes over. Cobb agrees to this dangerous mission- a fugitive wanted for the murder of his wife, Saito promises that if Cobb succeeds, he will wipe Cobb’s slate clean so he is allowed to return to the United States to see his children. So Cobb begins assembling his team- the architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), the forger Earnes (Tom Hardy) and the chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao)- think of it like a heist, only much more complicated.
As Cobb explains the rules of the game to his team while preparing for their mission, Nolan is too establishing the rules of his game to his audience- what it means to die in a dream, why one can feel pain even when you’re in a dream, the significance of the people you see in your dream, the difference between dream time and real time. Not to spoil the experience to you- but suffice to say that there are many many such rules that Nolan plays by in his movie. Those who have had some experience in the study of dreams will likely grasp this more quickly, but those who have not may take more time to accept the logic and regulations behind Nolan’s world- hence the multiple viewings.
Regardless, there is no doubt that it is engrossingly intriguing. All this takes place in the first half of the movie, which sets the stage for the inception itself in the latter half, an ingenious conceit set within a world of layered dreams that defies any description. Nolan uses the interconnectedness of these elaborate dream layers to intercut several breathtaking action spectacles - the storming of a vault within the Arctic within a zero-gravity fight along a hotel corridor within a high-speed vehicular freeway chase. Each of these would be thrilling in their own right, but with Nolan’s vision, Wally Pfister’s expansive photography and Lee Smith’s fine editing, the simultaneous unfolding of these set-pieces is utterly riveting.
Besides grand action, Nolan also delivers heart-wringing moments courtesy of Cobb’s troubled past with his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), who threatens to wreak havoc on his missions by surfacing from his unconscious in the most inopportune manner. We’re kept in the dark most of the time, believing that Mal is an insidious presence Cobb is unable to eradicate, but Nolan’s reveal towards the end of the film that puts into perspective Cobb’s unresolved guilt delivers an emotional finish that will leave you floored.
As with his previous movies, Nolan displays a knack for choosing actors who can best embody the characters in his films. While DiCaprio’s role here may be reminiscent of that in his earlier Shutter Island, there’s no question that he anchors the movie with a perfectly calibrated performance that is equal parts intense and heartfelt. The rest of the supporting characters fill out their roles just as vividly- Joseph Gordon-Levitt radiates confidence and suavity, Ellen Page displays suitable wit and grit, and in particular Marion Cotillard exudes both sultriness and danger in an edgy yet eventually heartbreaking performance.
But “Inception” is Nolan’s vision through and through- and in fact, a visionary director and a master filmmaker at that. Many years Nolan spent refining his screenplay, and it shows in the great detail and complexity that makes “Inception” both an intellectual and visceral enjoyment- just take the names of the various characters, each of which have a special significance. With “Inception”, Nolan invites you to open your mind to possibilities- possibilities of alternate realities, of complexities beyond the conscious mind to grasp and most importantly, of the power of imagination. It is that rare gem of a film that is so multi-layered, so profound and so fascinating that you’ll want to experience it again immediately after you’ve seen it- just so you can fully appreciate its genius.
(Inception is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, a work of sheer brilliance that astounds on intelligence, spectacle and heart)
Review by Gabriel Chong