Inception, the latest film from writer/director Christopher Nolan, is about the power of dreams and the ability to enter somebody else’s dreams and manipulate them. Like most of Nolan’s films, Inception requires audiences to be more than passive observers. This is a thriller-suspense-action movie that borders on the realm of being art house. It is not surprising that the film is receiving rave reviews from critics. It is, however, shocking that it is receiving amazing reviews from audiences and was the number one film for the weekend of July 16, 2010. This is especially shocking considering how empty the theater was that I watched it in on a Saturday night in Findlay.
What could possibly explain the success of a film that seems to defy Hollywood’s notion of what a blockbuster should be? Part of it is that audiences have not seen a film like this since the 1950s or 1960s when Alfred Hitchcock was in his prime. While Martin Scorsese paid homage to Hitchcock earlier this year in Shutter Island, Nolan seems to have outdone even a modern master like Scorsese in the Hitchcockian elements.
At the heart of Inception is the story of Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who needs to prove his innocence in order to return home to his children. In order to do this, he must do one last job of planting the seed of an idea in another man’s dreams. Things are further complicated by the fact that Cobb has not freed himself from his obsession of his wife, who keeps showing herself in his subconscious while he is invading other people’s dreams.
Although Nolan works the themes common to Hitchcock like the innocent being wrongly accused and people dealing with their obsessions, he does so in a manner that is true to him. Inception is not a mimicry of the Hitchcock style. Nolan succeeds because he understands what Hitchcock understood. Films are an artistic expression where you manipulate time and space in order to please an audience.
Inception is without a doubt the best film of the year. It is better than the somewhat similar Shutter Island. And although it is currently number 3 on IMDB’s Top 250 Movies (behind only The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather) and is getting rave reviews from every major critic, it is likely to get passed over during the award season. Despite the great writing, directing, and acting, Inception will ultimately be seen as an entertainment movie and not an award worthy film.
I am giving Inception five out of five stars because it is a truly great film in every way possible. With his understanding of story, character, and what pleases audiences, Nolan has once again proven himself as one of the great directors of this century.