Review: Inception

By the film’s definition, inception is the process of entering someone’s mind through his dreams and planting an idea so deep within the subconscious that when he wakes up, the idea feels organic and natural. I would like to know who broke into Christopher Nolan’s dream space and dropped the seed that would become the idea for this film, because whoever it is, “it” is an indisputable genius.

Nolan’s previous efforts from his debut feature “Following” to his breakthrough film, “Memento,” have always toyed with the mind, but “Inception” takes the filmmaker’s mind- bending tendencies to a literal degree. As far as elaborate high-concept stories go, “Inception” blows away his earlier films and possibly every film ever made. The painstaking plot and contextual detail of a world where dreams can be shared and people can enter the minds of others and exist with their own free will creates a “wow” factor that has no comparison. If it does, then none of them pull it off half as well as Inception. Sheer wonder and fascination at the magnitude of what Nolan’s own mind has constructed will carry nearly everyone’s interest throughout the entire film.

In this world, a group of “dream thieves” led by a man named Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) specialize in an advanced form of corporate espionage — the stealing of ideas from within the mind. When they find themselves in a spot of trouble after botching a job, their subject (Ken Watanabe) turns around and offers them a shot at redemption. It would entail inception — a near-impossible feat. Cobb is a fugitive of the United States and if he succeeds, he would get the papers he needs to get through customs and finally see his kids again.

Nolan has literally assembled a “dream team” of up-and-comers and rock solid veterans. The cast combines some of his regulars and past collaborators (Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe) as well as some of the most respected young talents working today (Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy). Regrettably, the plot complexity of “Inception” shortchanges most of these characters due to the amount of time the script must spend on explaining itself and its world. Only Cobb, who blames himself for his wife’s (Cotillard) death, receives a complex psychological profile, but it provides just enough humanity to make Inception go beyond thrills. In addition, the poise and maturity of a Page and a Gordon-Levitt give the illusion of multi-dimensional characters which further suggests that Nolan’s made more than a fun science-fiction romp, even if maybe that’s the bulk of what makes the film great.

“Inception” also possesses the visual scope of a summer blockbuster despite being such a heady thriller. Nolan uses the film’s concept of “dream architecture” (this is the role that Page’s character plays in the process) as a chance to create some fascinating locales and film some incomparable action sequences necessary to bump the film up to a more epic status. Conveniently, the inception job involves taking the subject (Murphy) into three dream stages (dreams within dreams … yea, it gets that intense) which provides three exciting backdrops for the action. No doubt that Nolan took great pleasure in running a locomotive down a city street. The fight scene in a rotating hotel room set stands out as the action highlight and the snowy ski chases on the mountain hospital set could well be Nolan’s audition to direct a future James Bond film. So many diverse sets, yet longtime Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister captures them all just right and gives the dream ones a lucid feel that is nice and subtle.

Complex barely begins to describe this monumental undertaking. Nolan must have spent months if not years fleshing out the details and drawing up plans for this idea to make it all work. The script pushes the quote that “ideas are like viruses,” growing exponentially, and this film does just that, creating more vast a concept than any moviegoer, casual or junkie, could ever imagine and rapidly so. Not surprisingly, this labyrinthine story is responsible for the film’s weaknesses just as much as its strengths, but Nolan has outfitted the film with only the best actors and production members and does not allow confusion or holes in logic to overshadow how immensely entertaining it is.

Despite public perception, “Inception” will not be heralded as an entertaining film that has the goods to garner a slew of Oscar nominations for its dramatic content, but instead as one of the most imaginative and brilliant concepts ever executed on the scale of a big-budget blockbuster. Films like this one are almost never born as major studio tentpoles. They often come from intelligent amateur/independent filmmakers with no budget and just a big dream for a unique film. Nolan, however, has refused to cave in to making pictures that aren’t in that spirit and with his success from “The Dark Knight,” he is part of the privileged few who can execute this type of film — one that studios would normally be afraid to back — on a budget in the hundred millions. If “Inception” becomes the financial success expected of it, a new and long-awaited dawn of studios funding complicated high-concept movies could be upon us. Now that’s an idea.

4.5/5 Stars

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starrin: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard


  1. Lauren Freddy says:

    I was thinking about you today and wondering if you had seen Inception yet. I’m seeing it tonight and am so glad I got to read your review!

  2. Steven says:

    Glad I could be of help, Lauren! Hope you’re well. You’ll have to let me know if you agreed with my thoughts :)

Leave a Comment