STARRING: Leonardo Dicaprio, Ken Watanabe,
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy,
Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, Michael Caine
2010, 148 Minutes, Directed by:
Batman movies and taut thriller exercises such
as Insomnia, writer / director Christopher Nolan likes to muck around
with the minds of his audience . . .
He enjoys the sport of
deception, poking around the confines of unreality to fashion complex illusory
puzzles that demand the utmost movie-going attention. You’d be a fool to even
Inception is Nolan’s Fat
Man mind-bomb; it’s a lavishly Byzantine thriller, dripping with layers upon
layers of subconscious excavation, attempting to wrap viewers up in a heist-like
adventure to help swallow the complex dreamscape machinations. It’s a bold,
stunning feature of impossible technical virtuosity. It also has the tendency to
be about as emotionally stimulating as a dry college lecture . . .
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is
a mental extractor, plugging into foreign minds through shared dreaming to
retrieve items hidden deep within the folds of the subconscious. With Robert
Fischer (Cillian Murphy), an evasive businessman who’s heir to a financial
kingdom, Dom is handed a difficult target to infect, requiring the services of a
team to help him through the entangled dream world.
With point man Arthur (Joseph
Gordon-Levitt), architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), forger Eames (Tom Hardy), and
tourist Saito (a barely intelligible Ken Watanabe), the group slips into their
sleeping minds to manufacture a way to retrieve what’s being kept inside of a
safe in Fischer’s head. For Dom, the job is especially difficult, with torturous
memories and appearances from his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) helping to
complicate the job at hand, placing the group in immense danger as new levels of
the subconscious are accessed.
What is reality? It’s a
question Inception delights in picking apart, as Nolan forges a film
directly devoted to expanding the finer points of perception.
Ambitious doesn’t even begin to
describe the picture, and it’s always interesting to observe the filmmaker
working his way through a troublesome, strenuous concept, with Inception
a kissing cousin to Nolan’s 2000 picture, the time-twisting Memento.
Nolan’s masterful with this type of psychological bath, delighted with the
opportunity to bend reality and pull his writing inside out, manipulating screen
elements to create a puzzling whole. Inception allows him 150 minutes to
create as much uncertainty as he can.
"All the chatter has a nasty way of disrupting the flow of the feature
. . ."
Of course, there’s also
something approximating an action movie to tend to, featuring the director
conducting an explosive symphony of the unreal, setting Dom and the gang loose
in an artificial world where anything is possible.
Diving through levels of lucid
dreaming, the spectacular screen highlights begin to pile up with astonishing
usage of complex and superbly detailed special effects, bringing to life the
gravity-defying work of the team, who find themselves jumping further into
Fischer’s head to elongate time (mere seconds in the real world lasts hours,
months, and years in the dream world), as panic sets in when Mal comes to
disrupt Dom’s burning concentration.
Despite the screenplay’s
commitment to abstract arenas of confrontation, the visual elements here are
expansive and inventive, taking cues from The Matrix
and M.C. Escher to create a contorted enigma on a majestic widescreen scale.
To keep Inception at
least approachable, Nolan maintains a steady influx of exposition to clarify the
dreamland surroundings. This is a complex and charged feature, but it’s also
unbelievably verbose, electing to explain every trip to the brain in laborious
The chatter has a nasty way of
disrupting the flow of the feature, with much, if not all of the first half
devoted to discussion and uninspired explanation, keeping the picture
dangerously monotone as everything is spilled in a clunky fashion that betrays
the imposingly esoteric visual impression.
Nolan aims to position viewers
in a place of comfortable confusion, but to achieve that difficult posture, he
robs Inception of outrageous pace and invigorating character transitions,
draining the story of emotional involvement (Dom’s red-faced struggle with Mal
is key here, but doesn’t reverberate as intended). Every character is saddled
with nonstop questions in this script; after an hour of unbroken chatter, it
seems as though Nolan might’ve fallen asleep as well.
Inception is a
challenging film with a dynamic range of illusions, but it’s utterly cold to the
touch, paranoid about losing the audience, yet staying aloof to the bitter end .
- Brian Orndorf