Film review: INCEPTION

Inception ****
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Dom Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Eames), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Cillian Murphy (Fischer), Marion Cotillard (Mal), Michael Caine (Professor Miles). Written by Christopher Nolan. Produced by Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas. Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Inception is the type of film that grows on you. In the film, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) talks about how an idea is the most resilient parasite and how it can spread like a cancer. Well, in the best possible way imaginable, Inception has that very similar effect on you long after you’ve seen the film. It’s been a few hours since my initial screening and my mind has been abuzz with meditations on all of the many, many layers the film has to offer. That’s to be expected from a film directed by Christopher Nolan, and in a lot of ways Inception offers explanations and then doesn’t. It creates an immeasurably satisfying story but still manages to leave you guessing right at the very end, and that is masterful storytelling.

“It’s never just a dream”, Cobb muses at one point in the film, and despite the basic premise, Inception is not just a movie about dreams. Like many excellent Christopher Nolan movies, the film explores various different ideas and themes. The movie most reminded me of Darren Aronosfky’s The Fountain, which used science-fiction as a filter in which to explore his own meditations on life, death and ultimately grief. Inception, while incredibly tragic, is not as meditative as Aronosfky’s film and instead uses the guise of the heist thriller to push along the narrative of the story, always keeping things exciting and revelatory.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Arthur in “Inception”.

Dom Cobb is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.

Inception has its sights more so on letting go and moving on, and the feeling of guilt over ruminations on life & death. Which is quite frankly a really compelling subject matter, which jives perfectly with the state of dreaming. Dreaming often — according to some people, perhaps even according to your own dreams — challenges you to face something you had either repressed or neglected to deal with. On that level, Inception presents its protagonist with an extremely haunting idea of a repressed memory and through the dream world forces Cobb to deal with this and move on. In that sense, and in the non-traditional heist story that surrounds the film, Inception is a fantastically existential yet rewarding film that is driven by a fascinating emotional epicenter.

Ken Watanabe as Saito and Marion Cotillard as Mal in “Inception”.

Everything that happens, including the James Bond-esque third act, hinges on the emotionality of the narrative drive. The major decisions and choices all hinder on the emotionalism of the characters, and because of the multi-layered labyrinth of the film, when you’re watching one scene, which one character tries to obtain information from another, what you’re really watching is something entirely else, something multi-faceted and extremely dense.

In fact, I would have to say that Inception is one of the most dense and complex films I’ve seen in a while. While it is relatively straight-forward in its comprehensive explanation of what’s happening, that still doesn’t mean what is going on isn’t dense as fuck. The best possible comparison for Inception is that of an union: the more layers you pull back, the more in-depth you become. What begins as a relatively simplistic story gets even more and more complex when new ideas and concepts are introduced to supplement what you’re already seeing. However, Nolan is such an incredibly ambitious filmmaker that he never loses sight on what he’s weaving and while Inception is an incredibly tangled web, by the film’s end he untangles everything in such an emotionally, intellectually and viscerally satisfying way that you can only just sit in awe of the filmmaker’s relentless ability to juggle all of these ideas and themes and interweave them into something extraordinary.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb in “Inception”.

Besides the sheer intelligence of the storytelling, Nolan has also improved as a visual storyteller, giving us some of the most incredible action sequences ever committed to film, and that’s not an exaggeration. That was one point in the film that my jaw was literally agape, trying to absorb everything that I was watching on-screen. Nolan builds and builds and he creates one of the most entertaining and incredible third acts ever, having achieved some miraculous type of balancing act between story and action.

Inception is a movie that absolutely warrants multiple viewings just to absorb everything you witness on the screen. There were times that I was so emotionally moved, captivated and simply put awed by the visceral magnitude of what I was seeing. My expectations were crazy high and I’m humbled and amazed by it. It’s just the type of movie that that’s so ambitious and succeeds so well it reminds me why I love movies in the first place. It is, without a doubt, Nolan’s greatest success. I’m just happy to be living in the time where we can look forward to his movies.

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