Sometimes I wish I could just worm my way into certain people’s minds. Oh the mayhem that I would cause. Hell, I can see myself becoming either really rich, extremely acclaimed, or immensely hated – oh wait, I can’t be the last one as I’m already considered this world’s biggest jerk in some circles. But on the other side of the spectrum, I wouldn’t appreciate anyone inviting themselves into my subconscious. I mean, I don’t even know what type of sickening and perhaps even mentally deranged thoughts I have stored where the sun don’t shine. But mind invasion and psychic espionage are the main focus in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which hits theaters this weekend, and it doesn’t need any sort of mind-reading to see that this film is destined to become one of the most impressive box-office hits of the summer. However, you also don’t need any sort of sorcery or advanced technology to have been able to tell that “Inception” was set up for brilliance before it even was released (which I so expertly did in another article for It’s Just Movies). I guess that’s two people you can trust when it comes to delivering the goods in everything cinema – Christopher Nolan and myself.
Granted, Nolan is no Mariusz and for that reason I can forgive him for releasing the over-hyped yet ultimately only slightly-above average “The Dark Knight,” which was praised for sporting a hearty performance from the now deceased Heath Ledger. Now that I’ve re-watching the film in question, I must say that I don’t understand public opinion sometimes. Ledger’s performance was eerily similar to the entire Sid Vicious persona and Christian Bale’s work as the legendary dark knight was nearly untranslatable and just plain lacking in charisma. But hey, Nolan is still one of the favorite directors. His work in “Memento” was breath-taking, his direction in “Insomnia” was impeccable, and his work in “The Prestige,” well, let’s just slide that and “The Dark Knight” under the rug and forget they ever happened – oh crap, that means you have to rip that vintage Joker poster off your wall. Oh well, the room needed some sprucing up anyway and don’t act like I don’t see those Rocky bobble-heads.
But enough trash-talking and let’s get down to business. In “Inception,” you’re introduced to Dom Cobb, a calculating corporate thief, who just happens to be a bit high-tech. See Cobb is in the business of dream extraction, which basically means he infiltrates a person’s mind (preferably a powerful business-owner), sneaks through any mental defenses and takes any corporate secrets with him. But this promising career choice has made Cobb a wanted fugitive and has cost him his wife’s life. However, she still haunts (and hijacks) any extraction that Cobb is involved in (I’ve heard of vengeful wives but this is ridiculous).
But Cobb is offered a chance of redemption, but in order to get his name cleared, he isn’t tasked to steal an idea but instead to plant it through a process called “inception.” With that Cobb assembles the “A-Team of Inception,” which consists of Arthur, the weapons guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Ariadne (Ellen Page), the architect who is assigned to create these dreamscapes, Eames (Tom Hardy), the counterfeiter, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the medicine-man. The target’s name is Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) and it’s the team’s task of planting the idea that Robert should eliminate his father’s estate.
In the film Cobb tells Ariadne to make a maze which takes two minutes to draw and one minute to solve. Well, it seems like Nolan tested himself the same way. It reportedly took him eight years to finish the screenplay to “Inception,” and it was time well-spent. It’s a maze that takes eight years and more than two hours to just absorb the basic premise. That being said, Nolan is the master of his domain in “Inception.” We, as the audience, are forced to believe his characters because they hold some promise of a larger and more enlightening truth and Nolan uses this interest effectively as he continuously changes the board and thus manipulates the plot into almost fragmented truths that come together beautifully at the film’s conclusion.
“Inception” is Nolan’s magnum opus. Without the anti-charisma of Bale in “The Dark Knight,” the film really flourishes on interesting characters. DiCaprio is spectacular as Cobb, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that both Cobb and DiCaprio’s character in “Shutter Island,” were surprisingly similar, but this wasn’t enough to overshadow the actor’s impeccable dramatic timing and his talent during the film’s action sequences. But the real surprise comes from Levitt, who I expected to be sort of the comedic influence of “Inception,” boy I was wrong. In fact, Levitt plays the almost heartless weapons handler. The actor shows incredible range in this role just during the time of his career where everyone expected him to stay within the “(500) Days of Summer” realm.
Another surprise was actually handed by Michael Caine. It’s not because of his acting but instead for his screen-time. The acting legend (let’s forget about “Harry Brown” for a minute) only appears in about three scenes and the fact that Nolan even went out of his way to cast Caine in such a minimalist role just seems like the director’s way of screaming “look I can hire any actor I want.”
Now onto the actresses, Marion Cotillard lends an excellent performance as Mrs. Cobb. She’s ominous yet almost comforting at the same time and Nolan does a great job at very slowly unraveling her character and her motives. However, Page is not at the same standard. Sadly, her character just appears whiny and immature when sharing screen-time with such acting talents. Perhaps it’s not fair to judge Page so harshly as she is the youngest and least experienced of the leads, but if you’re in the business, you need to be able to take criticism and quite frankly, her performance sucked.
But an engrossing script with oodles of intellectual backdrops and a plethora of standout performances aren’t the only things that “Inception” has going for it. It has features impressive visuals which range from just being awe-inspiring to just capturing beauty on camera and it never feels like the computer generated images are there for the hell of it, these visuals are put in place for a reason – they’re orchestrated like the rest of this mystifying thriller and are just boosted by a transporting score by Hans Zimmer.
That being said “Inception” is the summer blockbuster of our dreams and missing out on seeing such well-made cinema should be considered an absolute nightmare.
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