Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, if there is anyone who attended cinemas in 2010 and remained oblivious of this movie then I’d be very, very surprised. I only hope that those people who were intrigued enough to go and see the movie went in, like myself, knowing as little about it as possible. Because, as many other reviewers have said, the less you know about Inception the better your viewing experience will be. And it IS an experience. But wanting others to share in that experience makes for some difficulties in actually reviewing the thing. To explain what you like and dislike about a movie means actually discussing elements of the movie, which I am loathe to do here.
So what CAN I say about it? Well, the movie has a great cast, a real top notch bunch. The two most prominent leads are played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt but there is almost equal screen time for Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy. Tom Berenger is okay, if unspectacular, while Michael Caine is very good in what amounts to little more than a cameo role. Lukas Haas gets to muscle in briefly and Pete Postlethwaite makes an impression despite having even less time onscreen than Mr. Caine. Last, but by no means least, we have Marion Cotillard who is superb from start to finish.
The plot, what little I will say about it, revolves around a bunch of people (headed up by DiCaprio) who offer their services in the world of dreams. They can go in and get ideas while unsuspecting people sleep on. The big coup, however, would be the ability to enter someone’s dream and plant an idea. Inception.
And there ends what I will reveal of the plotline of the movie. I know that it’s not a lot to give people but it’s more than enough, really. What this concept means is that Nolan can provide you with some big-budget spectacle quite unlike anything you may have ever seen before on the silver screen. The fact that the characters are entering, and also trying to manipulate, dreams gives Nolan licence to really turn things upside down, sideways and back to front when it comes to the laws of physics and the forces that surround us in our woken state.
The story twists and turns, with some nice ongoing character developments and a layered narrative structure, in a way that keeps you thinking but never loses you completely, as long as you’re paying attention. It’s thought-provoking in ways similar to The Matrix and Dark City but also grounds the events in actions and characters that aren’t actually supernatural or endowed with ass-kicking powers.
DiCaprio continues to be as excellent onscreen as he always has been, Gordon-Levitt is fast becoming one of the best and coolest actors of his particular generation, Ellen Page always does well in my book and everyone else provides able support. It’s Cotillard, providing a counterpoint to DiCaprio’s character and also giving him his main psychological hurdle, who steals the show though. Perhaps it’s because her character gets to go through such a range of qualities or perhaps it’s just because she gets to, in some ways, speak for the audience. Either way, she’s the star in a movie full of talented star power.
The effects are truly jaw-dropping in places, the score (and use of the song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”) works well and the pacing keeps everything just on the right side of engrossing while Nolan spins numerous plates on his way to the last act.
BUT, and I have rarely been so afraid of adding a but than I am with this one, the movie does have its flaws. Nolan has gone back to some bad habits with the action sequences. Two standout moments (one of them being a fight in a hotel corridor) deliver more goods than an amnesiac Santa Claus visiting a house with three chimneys but there are other times, especially during the climax, when it’s all a bit too fast-paced and jittery in the editing department. Sadly.
There’s also the bizarre way in which the movie is both highly original and yet not really all that unique (the two movies already mentioned above are the first two that spring to mind and are acknowledged by Nolan as influences). It certainly gives things a new lick of paint with the box of tricks at Nolan’s disposal but many of the ideas that pop up have appeared in movies as varied as Open Your Eyes and Paperhouse to a number of the Elm Street sequels.
Then we have the plotholes that Nolan papers over, albeit in a masterful manner. It may just be a matter of having to give yourself over to the movie and to completely ignore such minor quibbles but my own viewing experience was slightly marred by things that I thought jarred with the internal logic of the rules provided by the film.
Despite these minor criticisms, I just can’t bring it upon myself to rate the movie as anything less than very, very good and so subsequently it manages to get a thoroughly deserved 8/10.
DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
CAST: LEONARDO DICAPRIO, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, MARION COTILLARD, ELLEN PAGE, KEN WATANABE, TOM HARDY, CILLIAN MURPHY
RUNTIME: 148 MINS APPROX