Inception is a wildly entertaining summer blockbuster wrapped in the packaging of a sleeper hit science fiction thriller/heist film. The film excels due to the stunning combination of well executed directing, inspired writing, spot on acting, and seamless production. Though primarily billed as a Leonardo DiCaprio movie there was a large majority of the movie that the ensemble cast took the reins, including a great performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who didn’t threaten to outshine DiCaprio’s but provided an excellent balance to the movie. Inception is one of the first high concept sci-fi thrillers that should be accessible to a wider audience without relying on the appeal of spectacular gun fights and martial arts. If you want to see a technological and intellectual movie that pulls you along for one hell of a spectacular ride then Inception should be at the top of your “must see” list!
I decided to see a midnight showing because I am a big fan of supporting original, non-gimmicky (read: 3D) properties and I sincerely hope that this kind of movie gains popularity in Hollywood. Inception was not only directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Memento) but it was also written by him and is not directly based on any specific book, comic, video game, or any one previous movie. The movie is being compared to films such as Blade Runner and The Matrix, but I believe these comparisons are less direct and more based on similar themes, matching tones, and the shared moods that can be elicited by the films. For example, the style of storytelling that is used in Inception is very reminiscent of Blade Runner and it very clearly leaves a lot of room for interpretation by the viewer.
Without spoiling too much of the film, the main idea behind Inception is that the main character Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an expert, and often the head of a team of experts, at invading the dreams of unsuspecting targets and “extracting” those ideas. The film doesn’t bother with specifics, instead relying on generalities and large picture items and letting the viewer fill in the minute details for themselves reflecting a theme of how the characters interact with the victim’s dreams. While the movie very closely skirts the border of mind-bending possibilities, it manages to avoid going into completely into that realm by staying very grounded in the moments the characters are experiencing and in their actions at that moment. Where Inception really shines is its relation of the dream world to the “real world” and the concept of dreams within dreams. The storytelling is aided by the idea that time passes twelve times faster in the dream world, so large chunks of the movie can take place within mere moments of real-world time for the characters. One of the primary themes of the movie is whether or not that real-world time actually matters to the characters, or if what is really important to them happens only in their dreams.
I have found that in the last few years as I’ve begun to consider myself more and more of a film buff, and also become more of a storyteller in my spare time with activities such as running a Dungeons & Dragons game, is that I take a lot more out of how the movies I watch were directed. One of the best examples of this I noticed last night during Inception. The movie uses multiple layers of story to build one plot on top of another, and in just the right moment these plots all converge to provide not one but several climaxes to the story all at the same time. It creates a cascading effect of excitement as one event builds and ripples into another, all within the span of a few seconds, that is very original not just for films but for any medium of storytelling.
Inception follows the course of several characters digging deeper and deeper into a world of dreams, and the great success of it is that it pulls you along for the whole ride to the point where you start to forget how deep the characters really are and which world is supposed to be reality. While you could call it a heist film, an action movie, or a science fiction thriller – Inception is at its core a simple story about people, how they experience their dreams, and the emotional reactions we have to our dreams.