Inception – Film Review

The firm I work for is now one of those companies that advertises prior to the feature movie in the multiplex (sorry, I hate those commercials more than you do). In appreciation, the media group that sold us the space arranged a free screening of Inception as a thank you. Now I was planning on seeing it on a paying ticket, but this turned out to be great timing. Free is good.

I have to get this off my chest. Can you believe the nerve of those Inception actors? They command millions of dollars in fees then show up to the set and sleep, yes SLEEP through their entire performance! Despicable.

Despite that little annoyance (I’ll try to maintain control), I was quite stimulated by this labyrinth of a picture. It has been widely discussed that Warner Bros. allowed Christopher Nolan to make Inception as a reward for delivering large box office returns on The Dark Knight. Many people in the industry didn’t believe Inception had big box office potential and late in the game even Warner execs are rumored to have suggested that Nolan also release a 3D version. Thankfully he didn’t go along, holding the line on his film in that 2D form factor, and, taking in gobs of ticket sales anyway thank you. Well played.

Mr. Nolan’s gift is rearranging time and space in such a way that both his characters and his audience are exposed to clues and experiences at the same time, which leads to a richer viewing experience. He is one of the few directors today that puts us inside the celluloid. In fact, he traps us there and we are unable to escape until the credits roll. And even then we are haunted for the next few hours. I hope they don’t let him design roller coasters. Nolan is more concerned about pacing and sequence and is comfortable letting some of the details dangle. For example, there is absolutely no explanation of that silver, hard cased luggage that launches everyone into a dream state. And I’ve never seen a film where more bad guys fired bullets and missed their protagonist targets. They even fire them in slow motion and still, nothing. I swear all of them have “Maggie’s Drawers.” Nolan doesn’t bother with such things. He doesn’t need to since apparently he has access to a time machine in the editing room.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a tough, smart dream hijacker for hire. He specializes in corporate espionage with a bit of a twist. He enters the dreams of his targets and steals their ideas for money. Dabbling in these dark arts can only lead in one direction, further down into an inescapable blackness. In a sense, Cobb re-engineers the process and tries to implant ideas (Inception) into people’s dreams that alters their thoughts when awake again. Who hires him and why is not as important as how Cobb assembles his band of mind robbers. There’s a chemist, a techie, a strong man and a rookie, played by Ellen Page, who provides a fresh perspective to the entire operation. It’s carefully planned, but completely unpredictable. An experiment all around.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb and Marion Cotillard as Mal

The acting is strong, but the real performance comes from Nolan, the production design and the pacing of the story. It’s quilted together in a rich tapestry of drama with a wonderfully wicked back story driven by romance. It seems Cobb has, had (I don’t know, you figure it out), a wife named Mal (Marion Cotillard). They spent years building a dream world, only to have it backfire on themselves and their children. All throughout the job, Cobb is haunted by Mal, and it puts the entire operation at risk. It’s another intriguing aspect to this complicated set piece that few people could pull off. Cobb’s motivation is fueled by his desire to return to America, and his children, but he’s a wanted man in the U.S. and would be arrested immediately upon setting foot inside the country. He is promised complete forgiveness by the powerful man who hires him to perform this inception.

The film requires more than one viewing to unlock all its complexities. But it does tire one out a bit, so by all means, rest up and clear your mind before you enter the world of Inception. Then make good on that promise to yourself to keep a dream diary. It might be more important than you think. Highly recommended.

The official Inception site, pretty basic, is here.

Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers

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