One simple idea, says Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), seems innocent enough to plant. But an idea becomes a virus. Once it takes hold, it becomes uncontrollable – it develops a life of its own and ultimately transforms into a viable entity – living, breathing and vividly tenacious.
What must have begun as a persistent inkling in the gregariously brilliant mind of writer-director Christopher Nolan became a cerebral monster of philosophically grand proportions in this summer’s blockbuster, “Inception.”
It begins with a highly disheveled Cobb being brought into the room of an elderly stranger (Ken Watanabe) seemingly running an empire. He presents a device that the latter had not seen in years.
Cut to the real world.
Cobb, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Nash (Lukas Haas) are seen penetrating the dream of the aforementioned (much younger-looking) businessman, Saito. They fail due to interference from a mysterious stranger – the dangerously beautiful Mal (Marion Cotillard), and now they have to bail – their employer simply does not accept failure.
But it seems that Nash, their architect, had betrayed them, and they are suddenly in need of a new one – in the form of Ariadne (Ellen Page), a prodigy graduate school student of Cobb’s father-in-law (Michael Caine).
And so, (at the risk of sounding horribly clichéd) dream-team fully-formed, they can commence with the routine goal of their not-entirely-routine profession: to invade a subject’s subconscious and introduce a designed REM cycle, at which point they begin to extract vital information from the subject’s dream-self – usually something quite valuable, and “not strictly-speaking legal,” according to Cobb.
Stealing information is easy, though. But planting an idea? Instead of extraction, they are tasked to create inception – a risky and ultimately dangerous job.
But one that may finally give Cobb a free ticket home to his family.
And so the gorgeous, blissfully complex and gloriously philosophical world of Nolan’s opens. Five minutes in the waking world is equivalent to an hour in a dream; but dreams have many dimensions. If one ventures into a dream within a dream, then that time is multiplied and an unwary adventurer can easily spend decades in the dreamscape that would only encompass hours in the waking world.
Now, this world is not quite what viewers would expect from the mind behind “Memento,” whose focus dealt heavily with twists and a non-linear storyline. Any turns in plot in “Inception” are seen a mile away and flow seamlessly through the script – but perhaps that’s the point. With a storyline as complex as this one, foreshadowing is a much more useful tool in helping explain the idiosyncratic rules by which this game is played.
You will know (or at least suspect) almost immediately what it is that’s haunting Cobb, but the beauty of this tale is its execution.
And speaking of beauty, the special effects are absolutely mesmerizing. The gravity-devoid elevator scene is truly hypnotic and consistently begs an explanation behind of its engineering. Not only does it look fantastic, but must have been incredibly difficult to pull off, evidently successful through constant training.
The same could likely be said for the script. The plot unravels so perfectly (at least at first viewing) that one cannot help but question the sheer amount of re-writes and edits the screenplay must have undergone. Nolan’s toils have more than paid off in this ambitious endeavor in its grasp toward excellence.
This is only further augmented by the dramatically dark soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, with whom Nolan had previously collaborated for “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” Easily recognizable for his generous use of brass instruments.
Not everything was perfect, of course. Many of the characters felt flat, though cerebral tales are seldom character-driven, so a flaw like that is easily forgivable. The actors did their jobs sufficiently.
DiCaprio was often sympathetic in his yearning to return to his family and Caine – when is he not a definitive nexus of charm? Dileep Rao and Tom Hardy were an endearing joy to watch as Yusuf and Eames, respectively – the Chemist and Forger of the team. Everyone was more than adequate, but the roles were not tremendously difficult.
This is absolutely fine. Character development is hardly the point of a cerebral thriller, unless its purpose is to address the intricacies of that character’s mind, which “Inception” arguably does, but instead it develops an ornate schema of dream theory.
And that is simply perfect. You leave the theatre mystified and while the initial, euphoric reaction may not be overwhelmingly thought-provoking, the subsequent days of wonder will surely send the unwitting viewer back to Nolan’s intellectually-capable web.
And it will be absolutely worth every moment.
Like the central idea of Nolan’s “Inception,” your adventure will begin with the simple viewing of a film; but that pesky, persistent inkling of curiosity and awe will undoubtedly grow, until the very fibers of your psyche surrender their futile resistance.
And allow that proverbial train to take you away.