With the volume of mind-numbing dross that comes out of Hollywood these days, it’s refreshing to find a film that actually forces the viewer to do some thinking. Make no mistake about it; Inception is mind-numbing, but in the best way possible.
The film follows the plight of Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), an ‘extractor’ who has fled the US after being implicated in his wife’s death. In leaving his country behind, Cobb has also become separated from his young children and the film pivots around Cobb’s attempts at a family reunion. But this emotional hook is only the skeleton of a wonderfully confusing and thought-provoking film.
As an ‘extractor’, Cobb invades people’s dreams, entering their subconscious mind in order to ‘extract’ valuable secrets. When he accepts an offer to perform an ‘inception’ – an attempt to plant an idea in a target’s head – things become a little more challenging for Cobb and wonderfully mind-bending for the viewer.
Cobb assembles a crack team – dream ‘architect’ Ariadne (Ellen Page), sedatives expert Yusuf (Dileep Rao), ‘forger’ Eames (Tom Hardy), and ‘point man’ Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – and together they attempt to subconsciously influence the young heir to a multi-national corporation. What follows is a perplexing journey through various characters’ dreams, through dreams-within-dreams and through questions about the very nature of reality itself.
It’s very easy to get lost within the complexity of this film and a number of times I found myself wanting to hit pause, just to have a chance to digest everything that was happening. For this reason, Inception is a brave film – not everyone will enjoy the intricate storyline and viewers who like their films short and flashy might find this to be fairly tough going.
Luckily, there are several cues to help the audience navigate through this philosophical playground. For example, whenever the young dream architect Ariadne asks a question of the more experienced extractors, it is as much about explaining the film’s plot to the audience as it is about moving the story forward. Just as her mythological namesake helped Theseus to escape from the depths of the Cretian labyrinth, Inception’s Ariadne helps the viewer to successfully navigate the twists and turns of the film’s complex plot.
Full credit must go to writer, producer and director Christopher Nolan here for his vision and execution in bringing Inception to the big screen. The film had been in development for ten years prior to its release and it’s not hard to see why.
Where a film like Avatar was visually impressive but lacking an original storyline, Inception delivers on both fronts, keeping the audience on their toes throughout. Sure, Nolan is heavily influenced by the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott and the Wachowski brothers, but Inception still manages a fusion of fast-paced gun-play, engaging storyline and philosophy that few films can lay claim to.
Special mention should also go to Inception’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister, who brings the film’s breathtaking car-chases, amazing cityscapes and action set-pieces to life in a way that is truly captivating. The dream worlds of Inception are particularly impressive and the sight of Paris folding in on itself and the zero-gravity hotel fight will stick with the viewer long after leaving the cinema.
Inception is a film that challenges you to stay involved the whole way through and that is likely to leave you feeling a little dazed and confused. It’s also a film that leaves you with as many questions as it answers and the film’s final sequence is no exception.
If you enjoy films that are thought-provoking and that leave you questioning plotlines for days afterwards then go and see Inception. At times it’s a challenge just to keep up, but it’s more than worth the effort.
The verdict: 5/5