Dom Cobb is a thief for hire with a rare skill- he can enter people’s minds through their dreams and thereby learn their secrets. Japanese businessman Mr. Saito appears with a somewhat different proposition for him. He wants Cobb to enter the mind of Robert Fischer Jr., who is about to inherit his father’s massive business empire, to plant a simple notion: to break-up his father’s conglomerate and sell it off. In return, Saito will make it possible for Cobb to freely return to the US where he is currently wanted by the police. Cobb accepts and assembles his team with a plan to plant the idea deep in Fisher’s mind by generating a series of dreams within dreams so that he eventually thinks he came up with the idea himself. As the intended deception grows ever more complex, Cobb has to deal with his own emotions and feelings of guilt which are projecting themselves into the dreamspace………
Folks on here probably know I don’t really rate Nolan much. Memento and The Prestige I found fairly good but no more than that, while his Batman films I just found dull and, despite the serious approach, having no more depth than Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies and a lot less fun. I wasn’t that excited about seeing Inception which looked liked Dreamscape meets The Matrix, but ten minutes into it, that bastard Nolan had me and I knew I was watching something very good indeed. No, it isn’t that original, I also saw elements of Existenz, Solaris and the obscure Possible Worlds. However, it’s probably true that there aren’t many original ideas left, and what Nolan has done is simply genius. Much like the Wachowski brothers, but possibly with even better results, he’s taken various ideas, mixed them with some of his own, and come up with a film that is an intelligent, thought provoking piece of cinema that is also a thrilling satisfying blockbuster. Make no mistake, it requires one’s full attention and may be too much for some [five people walked out of the showing I was at] as almost every minute you discover or are told something important, but it also has all the thrills and spills you could want and maintains an incredible fast pace throughout it’s two and a half hour running time.
We are thrown into matters straight away, and hit the ground running. With barely a let up, we begin to be fed reams of exposition, but usually in a clever and interesting way so it doesn’t all just seem like exposition. Some early action,such as a North African foot chase and a car chase, could have come from a Bourne movie and are predictably over edited, but at least the camera isn’t shaking like an epileptic! Once we embark on the film’s main mission about half way through, things really kick into high gear and never let up. The excitement builds and builds, and while the action, such as a gravity defying fight and what looks like an ‘upgraded’ version of the climax to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, may not be that special on it’s own, the editing between events happening in different places is simply superb and I haven’t been on the edge of my seat for such a sustained period of time in ages. Fantastic stuff, and all the time we are aware of what is happening and where. Indeed Nolan’s script is a brilliant example of how to incorporate tons of crazy ideas and yet make sense. Although we are often having the rug pulled out from under our feet and some things remain ambiguous, in the end he does basically play fair.
I was especially impressed with the way the dream worlds were protrayed. Unlike the usual way dreams in films are shown, with much soft focus, elaborate fantasy and a strong ethereal element, my dreams, and I expect most people’s, are quite realistic, things appear real and the wierd, out-of-synch elements don’t dominate for a while. This is the way they are done in this movie and it works superbly [ although of course it may also have been done so that we don’t always know if we are in a dream or not!]. Of course we still get to see some amazing sights such as parts of a city changing! I also loved that Inception has an emotional element that for me has been previously missing in Nolan’s films. They seemed cold and mechanistic and I didn’t care about anyone in them, however here the hero’s torment and guilt over his marriage gives the film a very moving centre even when we’re constantly finding out new things about it. Another subplot revolves around a father/son relationship and is almost entirely off screen but does climax in a very touching scene near the end.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives his second multi-layered performance of the year though he’s really playing quite a similar role to that in Shutter Island if you think about it! Of the rest of the cast Marian Cotillard stands out even though her character is constantly a mystery and her appearances are fleeing. There is one thing that really lets Inception down, and that is Hans Zimmer’s [the composer who records a whole orchestra then drowns it out by recording a loud synthisizer over it!] omnipresent but monotonous score, it’s not actively detrimental to what’s happening on screen [except maybe in the final scene] but doesn’t match it and I kept thinking what somebody like Danny Elfman, John Willians or Howard Shore would have done with the material. Generally though, I was blown away by Inception and I doubt there will be a finer film this year. I’m actually looking forward to Nolan’s next film…….though I’d prefer it if it wasn’t the next Batman!