An Inventive Fire-starter

Movie Review: Inception (2010)
Spoilers: none


is an incredible film. It goes where most films involving dreams dare not go, which is to say, way past using dreams as flashbacks to momentary regrets or fears of impending doom, or as a way to showcase off-the-charts screams that end in a sweaty wake-up. These uses are always to accent a plot and provide teasing suspense, but seldom what the movie is really about. Not so with Inception.

Inception refers to taking an idea and subconsciously implanting it into another's subconscious without that individual knowing it. Leonardo DiCaprio and his “dream team" exist in a world where it is technologically possible to link up individuals to enable them to share dreams. They are extractors, robbers, top experts at fishing out personal information from minds. Though less crude than using ski masks and 12-gauge shotguns and pointing them in the face of a scared 7-11 clerk, is it stealing all the same—and in the most invasive and intimate way possible.

Inception runs well over 2 hours in length with DiCaprio and the team leading a highly risky operation to implant a single thought into the mind of a business tycoon, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) so that his opposition, Saito (Ken Watanabe) will be able to seize the opportunity to dominate the world energy market when his competition's enterprise has been dissolved because of the implanted component. Being that we're talking about dreams (and dreams within dreams), you know without knowing anything else that the film's mechanism of delivery will involve a complex schematic. 

DiCaprio, as Cobb, strikes a deal with Saito to transmit the piece of information to his opponent in return for his name to be cleared so that he may return to America to see his children. He fled the country as the prime suspect in his deceased wife's murder. Cobb seeks out a chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) to provide the perfect sleep aid to keep the team unconscious for the needed amount of time of the operation. Ariadne (Ellen Page) is an architect hired to construct dream sequence buildings, roads, hallways, corridors, and even air ducts. A library's worth of data and research is collected on the subject down to the lower-most levels of the psyche.

This is an art admirer's dream, involving stairway paradoxes and reality-bending optical illusions that are brought to life with seamless skill. Unlike dreams, which can possess an element of chaos that baffles the logical mind, the movie brings with it a clarity that both takes into account and answers the questions about how any one person's dream or dreams could be melded or shared with others. Through captivating car chases, long falls off of embankments and railings, and close-quarter grappling in conditions of weightlessness, the script forgets to take into account nothing.

Our minds capitalize on the vast quantities of information we take in daily, putting it together as though it is our own or someone else's creation. Cities or rooms collapse (or begin to explode or be swept apart as by a tornado) when dreams collapse as you start to discover that you are in the dream state. If you die in your dreams, you wake up. And not knowing where you are in a dream or where it begun is a giveaway to the fact that you're dreaming, which would seem to beg the question of when and where one dream ends and another begins. But even that quandary is answered for us.

Objects are created while awake, personalized objects of definite weights and shapes that are special and relative only to you. They are called totems. When you feel or see these, you know you are not dreaming. Hence, for the viewer, there is clarity in a world where clarity the term makes not a lick of sense. But there can be cause for alarm when you are in someone else's dream; mess around too much and you become the target of projections—character generations, or more accurately, machinations of the psychological defense mechanisms of a mind to repel all other forms of consciousness. 

Consider this review a primer. I am only laying the groundwork for this thorough thought-provoker, a work of stunning multi-tiered complexity, with reaching symbolism that will call for it’s re-watching. For only brief moments does it bog down in the trying extremities of the story—and mostly they rest on the part of the viewer for not being able to keep up. We have a rather long wait until the film reaches its emotive peak, which isn't found until the very end.

Christopher Nolan, who brought us Momento (2000), brings us Inception, a film that demands a lot from its viewers, but falls behind in only one major regard; it stands too emotionally distant in its profoundness. While it may be that one who travels the globe will find the greatest mysteries inside his head, it is the film's noticeable lack of personal relevance that comes across to its audience. A thousand machine gun shell casings lying on the sidewalk can't hide this flaw. But here is a movie that has taken on a life of its own in a plot that will have plenty of fans who specialize in understanding the "nuts and bolts" of every little piece of furniture or encounter or object or story point. It is the truly inventive movies that are known to start fires.



Grade: A- (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: PG-13 (for violence and intense adult situations)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Summary: In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption that involves executing his toughest job yet.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio "Cobb," Joseph Gordon-Levitt "Arthur," Ellen Page "Ariadne," Tom Hardy "Eames," Ken Watanabe "Saito," Dileep Rao "Yusuf," Cillian Murphy "Robert Fischer," Tom Berenger "Peter Browning," Marion Cotillard "Mal," Pete Postlethwaite "Maurice Fischer," Michael Caine "Miles"
Genre: Action / Mystery / Sci-Fi / Thriller