Any sane man could not possibly hope to accurately describe what Inception is about after only one viewing, but, I don't consider myself a sane man, at least, not often. So, here goes. Inception concerns a man named Dom Cobb, who is the master of a very particular set of skills, those being, the ability to enter someone's subconscious by way of dream invasion and navigate their minds, looking for, and eventually stealing, their most precious secrets. Cobb lives his life on the run; something happened to him in the past that forced him to abandon his home life, leaving behind two children. His problems seem on the verge of being resolved when he is approached by a very powerful business man, Saito, to perform inception. Instead of stealing a idea from a target, one will be planted! Cobb quickly assembles his team and commences with the operation, but, something in his fractured psyche is constantly tormenting him, and soon, he and his crew are fighting for their lives, trapped in the very mind they invaded.
There! How was that? Look, as with all plot overviews, it sounds simple and straightforward, but the plot of Inception is anything but. This is an ingeniously crafted story, wonderfully gripping and full of surprises and twists that you can easily get lost in. It's also exhilarating as hell! I don't think I've ever been on the edge of my seat for as long as I was in this film. Nolan has proven before that he can make an intelligent action movie that is accessible enough so that the thrill seekers won't get lost, but smart enough so that everyone else will enjoy it as well. He outdoes himself here. Those ten years really paid off!
As has been said previously on this blog, Christopher Nolan has assembled a cast to die for! Leonardo DiCaprio is, of course, Cobb. As this tortured master of psychic theft, DiCaprio brings a lot of the unhinging qualities that he put to use earlier this year in Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island to the table, and I mean that in the best way possible. It's a great performance from DiCaprio, one that easily ranks with The Aviator and The Departed as one of his best. Ellen Page finally breaks out of her "hipster teen" stereotype as Ariadne, the person tasked with constructing the dream world that the operation will take place in. A lot of what she has to say could be boiled down into simply exposition, but, Page is a good enough actress she manages to overcome this hurdle. As the person who constantly brings Cobb back to earth, Page is at one point confused and frightened, and steadfast and committed the next. It's a big step forward for her, and I hope she continues to take roles like this in the future. Ken Watanabe plays Saito, the man behind the operation. It is difficult to understand him at first, thanks to his ridiculously thick accent, but, once you get over that, you'l find that Watanabe is more then capable of pulling off this complicated anti-hero. Marion Cotillard shows up as... wait, I can't give that away. Cotillard is fantastic as usual, but I cannot say anything about her performance or her character in the interest of your cinematic experience. Sorry.
Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, and Michael Caine all show up, and do their usual, excellent work, but it's Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy that run away with the movie. I'll start with Hardy first, because, well, you all know how I feel about Levitt. As Eames, Cobb's "forger", Hardy finds himself in the role of comic relief at the beginning, but he quickly becomes the most level headed and capable guy in the whole thing. His nonchalant attitude goes a long way towards lightening the mood of the picture. His character seems to actually be enjoying everything that's happening, and it's pretty arresting. He also gets to kick some serious ass in the finale, so, that's good. And now, on to JGL, the man I incessantly drool over. As Arthur, Cobb's "point man", Gordon-Levitt is amazing, and, surprisingly badass. JGL has always cemented his performances with a the gravitas of a true professional, but he takes it to the next level here. It's a marvelous performance that should seriously get some Oscar buzz come January.
Nolan is a rare breed. He is an action director, but also a character director. He realizes that simple truth; all the mayhem in the world means nothing if the performances aren't good. He works his magic here, yet again. The performances in Inception are great, at times, even spectacular.
The top is crucial. Pay attention to that thing!
Nolan has really outdone himself here. This is, quite possibly, the smartest, most well thought out summer movie, well, ever! Outdoing every film from this season, and every film from past seasons in terms of originality and brains, Inception is not a movie you take a bathroom break on. Leave the theatre for even two minutes, and you will miss something crucial, and the whole thing will make no sense. I love Nolan for assuming that the audience is able to keep up with him, but, despite what some critics are saying, I didn't think this movie was too smart for most people. Sure, there are some truly confusing ideas being thrown around, and one showing is not nearly enough to get everything, but, it's not a terribly hard movie to follow, provided you pay attention!
But, enough about that. You wanna hear about the action, and you have every right to. This is a summer blockbuster, after all.
Sweet Jesus, there is some good action in this movie! Remember the fist fight in the tumbling hallway that featured heavily in the trailers? It's better then you imagined it! That car chase in the rain that was only briefly shown in the marketing? It's one of the best chases I've ever seen! Nolan employs the smartest tactics with his violence, and, smartly, keeps as much of it as real as possible. For example, the tumbling hallway fight. How did Nolan do it? Simple. He built a hallway, put it on a machine that made it tumble, then put his actors in it and made them fight. Not convinced? Alright, how bout' another example. There's a sequence involving an avalanche in the end. How did Nolan do this one? Even simpler. He blew up the mountain and threw his actors in front of whatever came cascading down! Ballsy stuff, but it turned out beautifully! I'm still at a loss as to how he did the gravity defying sequences that come near the finale. It looks too real to be CGI.
There is some marvelous CGI, to be sure, but, the action primarily relies on the real thing. Real explosions! Real fire! Real stunts! This is what action movies used to be like, before Michael Bay took over. Nolan's starting a revolution. Let's join him!
At one point, I tore my eyes from the screen and looked at the people sitting around me. Every single person in the theatre had their eyes glued to the screen. Not a single person was blinking! A few people's mouths hung agape, they were so awestruck! When the screen went to black after the the devilishly clever cliffhanger of an ending, the entire audience, myself included, let out an enormous cheer! It was not some fluke. It was not the incredibly late hour that we were seeing this movie at. It was not something in the popcorn or some contaminant in the air that made these movie goers behave in this odd manner. It was a brilliantly enthralling masterpiece! From the opening shot to the finale fade, Inception takes hold of you and never, for a second, lets you go! I didn't think Nolan would ever be able to top The Dark Knight, but he has done just that; this is the finest example of his talent! How he tops this one, I haven't the foggiest! There will be people who find Inception to tame for them. Do not listen! This is an exciting, visually breathtaking, damn good piece of film. It's not just a summer blockbuster. It's something else!
BUT ON AN ENTIRELY NEW LEVEL!