Assuming that either you have watched the film or would like to know more, keep reading and we will attempt to steer clear of too many plot spoilers. It is somewhat debatable that knowing the end would matter, as the journey itself is worth the price of admission.
Despite a strong cast, director Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige, Insomnia, and both recent Batman’s), is perhaps the star of the film. Delivering a movie he has written over a number of years, perhaps best described as a mix of “The Matrix” and “Heat”.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who is now finally looking his age, plays Cobb an expert in stealing from peoples minds during their dreams. If this is difficult to grasp, then add to the mix the ultimate and thought to be impossible step. Deliberately plant a thought in someones subconscious and allow them to take actions based on your germ of an idea as if it were their own, the Inception of the title.
As Cobb says, “What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea.”
If all this sounds complicated, it is.
Audiences will need to concentrate, as this film assumes a Matrix style awareness of another world as a starting point, rather than an end game. At one point we are three, four or maybe even five steps removed from the reality in which the film commences.
On the face of it, it is difficult to believe we can keep up but provided you enter with an open mind and, as a character often says, “take a leap of faith”, audiences will be richly rewarded. Just when you think, this cannot go deeper without your head exploding, Nolan manages to take you with him even further. Amazingly and most satisfyingly, he manages to bring you back from the deep, to a rewarding ending where a spinning top has never held such significance.
Much like the recent Avatar, there are scenes here that audiences have seen nowhere else, as the world around the characters, bends, twists, sways and morphs as the dreams change shape. Notably a sequence in “France” with streets twisting on themselves as cafes explode in slow motion and fight scenes in zero gravity with revolving rooms. Emerging from the cinema you may experience a “what the hell did I just see” moment, before spending the next hour or two discussing and replaying scenes in your mind.
Cobb’s “Dream team”, if you will, Arthur (Gordon Lovitt), Ariadne (Juno’s Ellen Page), Eames (Tom Hardy), Ysuf (Rao) are employed by uber businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to influence Fischer (Cillian Murphy) a hugely influential businessman, in the direction his company will take in the future.
This is achieved by entering Fischer’s induced dreams during a ten hour flight and interacting with him, all within an architectured landscape of the teams invention. Time slows down in dreams, ten minutes in real life, three hours in a dream and three days in the dream within a dream until ten minutes will be thirty years in level five for example. Of course if it goes wrong, you may never make it back.
Cobb has ghosts of his own which complicate matters further, his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) and children ultimately at stake, in a high risk game that many of the team have no idea they are entering. Once in the dream, the team are destined to fight against Fischer’s subconscious defenses, which are represented as an endless supply of “bad guys”. Having now appeared in most of Nolan’s recent output, Michael Caine appears briefly to add some gravitas to the proceedings, as only he can.
The acting by all concerned is first rate and the direction, sets and style are all glorious to watch. DiCaprio bringing much needed warmth and humanity to what could have been a very sterile, almost Kubrickian environment. The tension is slowly ratcheted up to almost impossible limits, not just on one level but on several dream layers at the same time, you may need two seats to sit on the edge of both of them.
The action is brilliantly staged, combining blockbuster “James Bond” style thrills and set pieces, all within the context of a story much like a Babushka Russian Doll. Each opening to reveal another one inside and so on, until the truth, if there is such a thing, is revealed.
Downsides are difficult to find, other than the simple fact that it is complex movie which demands audiences to come along for the ride, even though a few may want to get off. Some may wonder what all the fuss is about and may “not get it” but in this style of movie, perhaps you get out what you are prepared to put in.
Nolan continues to be the “go to” director for intelligent, thought provoking but above all, hugely entertaining blockbusters.
Arguably the most talented and inventive director currently working, this is outstanding on every level, highly recommended.