Inception is the rare type of film that succeeds in a variety of ways, in particularly in its ability to present a high concept, fantastical premise that is still curiously rooted in and relatable to facets of reality. While radically thought-provoking and clever in its own right, one cannot help but wonder if the philosophical, psychological, and cinematic ground covered by writer/director Christopher Nolan is not somehow hindered by inevitable relations to The Matrix. But where the latter often got just a little too caught up in its own unto itself world, often times eradicating its already thinly-spun sense of human emotion and sentiment, Inception exceeds its predecessors through its deft balancing act of gracefully executed dreamworld action sequences and permeable displays of significant humanity from a well-rounded cast.
Nolan certainly knows how to write a film just as well as direct one and with this story being born from years of script development, the resulting narrative is as convoluted, winding, and enveloping as an actual dream. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in yet another foolproof lead role as Cobb, an extractor who enters one’s externally induced dreams in order to retrieve important information and secrets that the dreamer is concealing in the subconscious. Cobb and his team of dream invaders enter “shared dreams” through employment of a mysterious device that sedates its users and somehow links them all in a community dream that is predominately shaped by a chosen individual’s subconscious. While the device’s origin and purpose are only hinted at (a government program’s invention for militaristic simulation practices), Inception forces its viewers to accept that explanations and back-stories are arbitrary. As Cobb explains to freshman dream architect, Ariadne (Ellen Page), one never remembers the start of a dream, the dreamer is always dropped right into the middle of the action. And more importantly for the audience, upon leaving the theater, “dreams feel real when we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was strange.”
The film’s sophisticated playfulness leads to some hefty mind-blowing and ambiguity at times, running with fully appreciated gimmicks of what is a dream and what is reality, culminating in a final shot that is both gratifying and satisfying, and yet potentially frustrating for some, and will undoubtedly dominate the online fanboy debate boards for weeks to come. Yet, while the plot structuring and persistently swift pace of the film may be slightly overwhelming for a portion of the summer moviegoing crowd, Nolan is extremely careful to seal any potential plot holes, answer any unresolved questions, and back-up any inquisitions regarding the logistics of the series of events. If the audience takes the effort and initiative to retrospectively work out the movie in its entirety, the experience will certainly be one of the most rewarding and purely enjoyable moviegoing mazes of the year (much more so than Shutter Island earlier this summer).
Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Dileep Rao round out the team of dream searchers who spend the length of the movie attempting to pull off the difficult task of inception (planting an idea in a person’s subconscious). Cillian Murphy plays the subject who is receiving the idea, the son of a dying corporate giant whose company is in direct competition with Watanabe’s character, Saito. The team must infiltrate his mind and try to plant an idea that will benefit Saito’s company. In exchange for a successful mission, Saito has agreed to arrange for Cobb’s safe return to his children, who he has been forcefully separated from for reasons that need not be explained here. Actually seeing Inception is the only way to completely appreciate its intricacies, technique, and creativity. Much like a dream, an explanation can only illustrate so much; it must be seen to truly be experienced.
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