From one of modern cinema’s master filmmakers, Inception is a bold, inventive & original science-fiction wonder which proves that movies don’t always have to be trashy entertainment fodder to be a blockbuster material for the masses but can be much more and also that the viewers are far more than willing to participate in films like this if one knows how to approach them in a correct manner. Taking ideas from The Matrix and fusing it with the ambience of James Bond thrillers, Inception comes up as a cerebral masterpiece that lives up to its hype & exceeds expectations amazingly well and, even today, continues to be the subject of discussion amongst movie-buffs, thanks to its multi-layered narration, surreal structure & ambiguous ending.
Inception is a contemporary sci-fi thriller set within the architecture of the mind. It presents a world where technology exists to enter people’s dreams & share them. Dominic Cobb is a highly skilled extractor who steals ideas & confidential information by infiltrating his target’s subconscious when they’re in a dream state. After failing a task & hunted by his employers, he is hired by a wealthy businessman who wants Cobb to perform an “inception” on his business rival, a nearly impossible task of implanting an idea into a target’s subconscious. Being offered a chance to get his old life back, Cobb assembles a team for the job but the entire careful planning goes for a spin when things go wrong from the very beginning of the task and what follows next is everyone trying to find a safe way out while Cobb’s past continues to haunt him at every turn.
Christopher Nolan, the director behind the mind-twisting thrillers, Memento & The Prestige and who single-handedly resurrected Batman’s legacy on big screen with Batman Begins & cemented it for ever with The Dark Knight, brings his sweeping cinematic vision & distinct narration style to a solidly crafted thriller that blurs the thin line between dreams & reality quite effortlessly. What Nolan has done here is to raise the emotional stakes of the protagonist to drive the film rather than overshadowing it with the idea of dream & memory. The carefully layered plot is pretty straight-forward if inspected carefully and the first-half presents Nolan literally feeding his viewers with just how everything in this film works, which somehow erases the film’s complexity but then also helps appeal to the masses. The second-half is a steadily paced thrilling ride of surprises & wonders that finally culminates with an ending open for each viewer to interpret his/her way.
Inception features a huge cast starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard & Michael Caine and everyone has done a pretty good job in contributing just enough to the film. DiCaprio stars as Cobb, the extractor & team leader and it is this character’s emotional journey that’s the driving force of this film. Gordon-Levitt plays Arthur, the point man who manages & researches the mission. Hardy plays Eames, a forger who can impersonate others inside the dream world. Ellen Page plays Ariadne, an architect student recruited by Cobb to construct dreamscapes for his mission. Ken Watanabe is Saito, the businessman who hires Cobb to perform inception on his rival, Robert Fischer, played by Cillian Murphy. And Dileep Rao plays the final member of the team as Yusuf, the chemist who provides the medication to keep the dream layers stable & synchronised. Saying anything about Marion Cotillard’s character will be a spoiler only. There isn’t a single memorable performance in this film but the whole sum of the parts did make a bigger & better impression.
Coming to the technical aspects, Inception is a marvel from beginning to end. The set pieces are highly impressive & so are its locations. Cinematography by Wally Pfister is simply remarkable and makes significant use of effective camera angles & camera movements, the different hues for dream & real sequences, the landscapes shots, and also provides more depth & perception to the entire film. Editing can make or break a film but this is also one aspect where Nolan is a master. Inception, throughout its runtime, switches through various plot lines from time to time but it’s done in a manner to pull the viewers in instead of out. Coming to the visual effects, CGI use is minimal, far less than most big budget flicks and the biggest part it played was in amplifying the experience of this film. There surely are some jaw-dropping moments of wonderment in its visuals but it never overshadows the film’s storyline. And Inception is one hell of a musical ride too as Hans Zimmer’s score effortlessly interweaves with the film’s elements. For a sci-fi that deals with shared dreaming, the music of Inception is near perfection and Zimmer truly deserves yet another bow for crafting yet another haunting piece of absolutely stunning & immersive music.
Overall, Inception is a labyrinth of dreams and a cinematic maze of sheer intellect. An intriguing, exhilarating & brilliant sci-fi thriller that is equally smart & innovative in almost all filmmaking departments, it’s one of those rare films that people watch & then argue about and then, very likely, go watch it again. As with most films, there are many who despise the attention this film has received and I agree that there are better examples but then, there also aren’t many films, unlike this one, which in spite of its unconventional narrative was able to connect so well with the masses. As I said, the plot is very straightforward if one pays enough attention while watching it but what’s really intriguing is its underlying themes, symbolism & obviously the ending. Christopher Nolan is one of today’s most bankable directors and he became so by delivering one savouring film after another. And with Inception, he has crafted his most ambitious project with panache, superbly balancing its artistry & spectacle over 2.5 hours and succeeds immensely well in implanting his vision into the minds of most filmgoers. If you’re looking for an incredibly satisfying experience on both visceral & intellectual scale, Inception is my recommendation for you. Multiple viewings advised. Watch it twice, at least.