Inception remained my favorite film of 2010 from the time I saw it until the end of the year. I got a chance to revisit this amazing film when it showed up on one of the movie channels of which my satellite service was offering free previews. Recording and re-watching this film at once reminded me of why I loved it as well as challenging me to think about this film in new ways, which will be explored in their own post. And since I was able to record it on DVR, I’m not sure I’ll bother to buy a Blu-Ray player for it after all. But who knows?
“Inception” is the best movie I have seen all year, with the surprisingly stellar “How to Train Your Dragon” following very close behind, and it is probably the greatest film I’ve ever seen with the exception of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
The film’s single most divisive quality, judging by reviews of critics and average moviegoers, is its accessibility. I went into the film with only a vague idea of what the film was about, nervous that I wouldn’t be able to follow the plot (I’d watched director Nolan’s “The Prestige” the previous night, which I had trouble understanding). Not once did this become a serious issue. Every single plot point slid effortlessly into my understanding in a way that felt unusually comfortable, as though this film were made for me (or I was made for it).
The film’s basic setup is pretty simple. As the Flixster summary states, humans have the technology to enter other people’s subconscious minds (through dreams) and acquire or even manipulate thoughts and ideas. The subconscious mind can be divided into layers of dreams, each stacked one inside another (a concept that does happen in reality), and an idea that is buried deeply into one’s subconscious exerts an unfathomable power over that person’s whole being.
Enter our main protagonist, Dom Cobb (DiCaprio, who does a fantastic job). A sort of thought-thief by trade, he is looking to perform one final job so he can head back home to the United States to see the children he was forced to leave in the hands of a caretaker.
The job? An energy mogul is about to pass his empire onto his son, and if the son carries on his father’s legacy, this will cause a resource monopoly. Cobb and his diverse band want to keep this from happening by convincing the younger party, Robert Fischer, to reject his father’s inheritance. Cobb and company will do this by entering into Robert’s dreams and deeply embedding an idea — a process known as the titular “inception.”
What does a dream look like? That is the job of an “architect,” a sort of subconscious game-level designer, and as is par for the course for all of the acting in this film, Ellen Page performs amazingly as the character Ariadne.
The plot progression is fairly straightforward. Cobb progressively recruits specialist after specialist, then he trains Ariadne on the intricacies of world design. Then the journey into Fischer’s mind begins and grows ever more complex.
The special effects throughout the film are magnificent without becoming excessive, whether they demonstrate the significance of watching a street literally roll up upon itself, or they simply serve as the means for a number of tautly produced action scenes and vehicle chases in a wide variety of settings. This film does not have a 3D version but simply does not need it.
The characters are equally enjoyable, whether to watch as they develop or to simply watch at all. Cobb truly shines as a man stricken to his core by the recent death of his wife, and this theme serves as both an anchor for his character and an obstacle for him to overcome throughout the whole film. This later becomes extremely relevant when thinking about Cobb’s inability to be with his children, or his familiarity with the process of inception.
Let me simply say, however, that I was less than impressed by the marketing. The pre-release trailers for the film did not excite me at all (“what is the film actually about?”), and even after the positive word of mouth began to pour like a flood, I still had a hard time becoming motivated by the actual marketing. The reason for this is that the film’s magnificent special effects are basically deprived of their meaning and context. Why is the drink in that glass tilting? Why is that building being flooded? Why are those two men in the hotel being flung toward one another? All of these things make perfect sense in context, of which none is present in the trailers.
On a very positive note, I want to commend Christopher Nolan for absolutely mastering the concept of pace in his storytelling. I could not have improved this film by speeding up or slowing down the plot progression, and it is one of the most tightly written works I have ever beheld. This reminds me in retrospect of when I was writing a Facebook-note review of the Will Smith film “The Pursuit of Happyness” a few years back. I wrote the review only a few hours after seeing the film, but because of that film’s story structure and random-events plot, I hardly remembered anything that had happened. Conversely, with “Inception” I didn’t get around to writing this review until nearly a month after I saw the film, and yet the only details of the plot I forgot were a few character names and minor bits and pieces. “Inception” is a masterpiece that, God willing, I cannot wait to watch again. Maybe I’ll buy a Blu-Ray player for it. That or “How to Train Your Dragon,” if not both.
“Give him the kick!”