The long awaited, much hyped, latest effort from The Dark Knight director, Christopher Nolan, hit screens across America at midnight this morning. Inception is an incredibly fun film driven by an off the edge of reality story line and physics bending special effects (see here for official movie site). Having already been described as “Amazing,” “Mind blowing,” and “Astounding,” by Peter Hammond, Peter Travers and Mark Istook, respectively, it seemed there might be nowhere to go but down. Never mind that it currently has a 9.6 of 10 rating on IMDB since these are generally people who have not yet seen the movie. Thankfully, the 8-9 range is about what it deserves.
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed, Shutter Island) stars as Dom Cobb, the Extractor, a man who specializes in security issues surrounding his client’s subconscious. He also has the ability to plant ideas in the mind of a target. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Miracle at St. Anna) is Arthur, the Point Man, responsible for finding targets for the team. Tom Hardy (Bronson) is Eames, the Forger. He impersonates people within the dream world in order to forge a physical form and identity. Instead of forging with ink and paper, think more flesh and blood. Ellen Page (Juno, Whip It) is Ariadne, the Architect, whose responsibility it is to create the levels where the dreams will be played out, somewhat akin to a Dungeon Master in the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
Inception is a smart, cerebral film, that successfully uses its computer generated effects to propel the story rather than getting in its way. The heart of the movie is an attempt by Cobb and his team to break up a business conglomerate by invading the dreams of the new inheritor and encouraging the divestiture idea as his own. This leads to several dream-within-a-dream moments with action happening at multiple levels simultaneously.
Unlike Nightmare on Elm Street, people seemingly move and interact purposefully only when they are sharing a dream. Cobb’s team is each conscious of their actions, but people on the street, for instance, are merely projections of the one who is filling in the dream field (the Extractor). Shared dreams are achieved when multiple people go to sleep at the same time, usually with the assistance of a Chemist. How all this occurs is taken for granted; there is no discovery phase to the film. So well understood is the ability to have ones dreams invaded that some people choose to take training so that their sub-conscious is trained to fight off any attempted invasion.
Inception owes more to The Matrix than to James Bond or Jason Bourne from the slow motion action sequences to the concept of being plugged-in to another reality, though this one is a dreamscape rather than a Matrix. The most mind bending comes from the concept of dreams within dreams where each level is entered just like the initial level allowing for action on multiple levels at the same time. This nested framework also means that action on one dream level affects activity on a deeper dream level; this is especially well done. Different from The Matrix, Inception‘s dreamers do not die when killed in the dream, they merely wake up (with a major exception better explained in the film).
Be prepared: the ending is the best film ending I’ve seen in years. Enough to elicit both stunned moans and applause at 3:00 AM.
Not content to leave it at a sci-fi/fantasy adventure, Nolan, who wrote, directed and produced the film, included two meaningful personal story lines effectively woven into the 2 hour and 28 minute adventure. Inception does not explore the depths of depravity as TDK did, but nor does it ignore the realities of life including broken dreams that sometimes can and sometimes cannot be changed.
Inception, from Warner Brothers, is rated PG-13 for violence and intensity. There are 15 or so swear words spread throughout. There is no nudity or sexuality.