Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two words to describe "Inception"

Christopher Nolan, the visionary director behind "Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight", and "Memento", has finally brought to life his project of more than twenty years. Featuring a cast of some of the world's greatest stars, both young and old, and having been filmed in locations in six different countries, "Inception", in the words of the L.A. Times, "blends the best of traditional and modern filmmaking".

Leonardo DiCaprio headlines as Cobb, a con man who specializes in stealing people's secrets from within their very minds. Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("3rd Rock from the Sun") gives a remarkable performance as his partner in crime. Tom Hardy ("Star Trek: Nemesis"), Dileep Rao ("Avatar"), and Ellen Page ("Juno") round out a team of highly talented "intrusion experts". They are hired by Ken Watanabe ("The Last Samurai") to do the impossible: rather than steal an idea from their target's (Cillian Murphy, "28 Days Later ...") mind, they are to plant an idea through a process called "inception".

There are many words to describe this movie. "Crime drama", "sci-fi thriller", "international intrigue", and "mind-bending masterpiece" all would certainly be on the list. Nolan keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very last second, barely giving you time to breathe as you try to peel the layers and decide what is real and what is illusion. There are many questions to answer as you follow the characters ever deeper into the world of dreams. The greatest questions, however, surround Cobb himself and his motives.

Cobb is not your typical thief taking on "one last job". While his partner believes Cobb is just hoping to complete the job so he can see his children again, Page's character begins to suspect that he is seeking something more. She soon learns that Cobb is haunted by the memory of his dead wife, played by Marion Cotillard ("Public Enemies"), who does far more than simply distract him from his duties. After all, in the world of the subconscious, even the smallest distraction can take you in directions you never expected to go.

Like the layers of the dream worlds the team constructs for their marks, this movie is crafted to convey one story; one single point that comes delivered wrapped in marvelous visual effects, pulse-pounding action sequences, intelligent dialogue, and even a fair amount of humor. That single point, the two words I would use to describe this movie, is "love story". The great mystery of "Inception" is the story of Cobb and his family, his wife and children, what he has done to them, and how far he will go to recover them. While most reviewers may focus on the spectacular special effects or the unique storytelling elements, I believe the central theme of "Inception" is the unraveling of Cobb's character. Everything else is a vehicle for this storyline.

As a writer, I think this is one of the finest examples of good storytelling I've seen. As a moviegoer, I can't think of a better way to spend my money. I would recommend "Inception" to anyone, be they seeking an action movie, an art film, a mystery thriller, or a science-fiction wonder ride. For me, it is all those things and more; but at its heart, it is a poignant love story.

(Read the original review here.)


  1. Yeah, I can sum it up in one word: Phenomenal!

    Seriously, though, I think you're right. While the journey is a fantastic one that plays with the viewers traditional ideas of what is real- and of what makes reality real- the meat of the movie is Cobb and what truly drives him.

    So, do you think he ends up in a dream?

  2. Couldn't (and wouldn't) say. I read once how art is supposed to be a reflection of ourselves and not the artist. If that's true, then I shouldn't tell you what I think; if it's not true (which I believe it isn't), then Christopher Nolan deserves to have his mystery remain intact.

    Mostly, though, I just try not to think about it too hard. *chuckles*

  3. This movie sort of struck a nerve in me, and sent my thought process into overdrive. I left that movie thinking, " What if all of us are truly in purgatory, trapped in this until... a beautiful moment, a singular flair of reality arises, and then, back to purgatory we go!"
    I do believe the movie was amazing, but unanswered questions drive me nuts.