With The Dark Knight making such considerable bank and uniting opinionated fans and critics alike, Christopher Nolan was essentially handed the keys to the kingdom by Warner Bros. With them in hand and his new-found experience working on big blockbuster pictures, he decided to set about filming one of his own scripts. One that was 10 years in the making -Inception -a highly ambitious walk through the ‘architecture of the mind’. And in doing this, he might just have saved the summer of 2010.
For the first 60 minutes, Inception takes you by both hands and guides you through a world where theft is now commonplace in dreams. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, the best in the business at infiltrating and removing information from the fast asleep. When it’s not explaining the increasingly intricate canons of the entire concept, the film essentially plays out as a maze-like heist picture set in the dream(s) of Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer, a business magnate and rival of Ken Watanabe’s Saito. Cobb is tasked not with extracting information from Fischer’s mind, but inserting an idea within and tricking Fischer into believing that the idea was his own (an inception). If he can successfully pull this off, Cobb can return home to his two young children. If he can’t, he risks death. Or worse -being caught in the limbo of his own mind.
To pull off this gargantuan task, Cobb ensembles his own Ocean’s 11-style group of dream stealers -long-time point man Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), shape-shifting Eames (the exceptional Tom Hardy), mind architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), experimental pharmacist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and the man who gave him the mission, Saito. From here, Inception is a constantly unfurling meld of ideas and rules balanced delicately across two or three different layers at a time. The fact that its stability never comes into question is in virtue of the excellent script and the character of Ariadne, who acts as our guide throughout.
The collective must travel into dreams-upon-dreams if they’re to pull off the inception successfully -and to create something on such a large scale Nolan was provided with a $160m budget (pocket change from the $1bn+ that The Dark Knight has taken globally). It’s used to great effect with fights in rotating hotel corridors, cities eroded by huge waves and a bustling Parisian street folding in half like a sheet of paper.
There’s a look and feel of past Nolan films here, with Memento and The Dark Knight coming to the forefront. Memento for it’s out-and-out mind-trickery and The Dark Knight for it’s sweeping set-up shots of city skylines and constant sense of climax in both the script and the score. Providing the breathtaking soundtrack is Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight), whose capricious music gives the sense that every dream sequence could implode at any second. Wally Pfister acts as cinematographer on yet another Christopher Nolan-directed picture, having worked with him on everything from Memento to The Dark Knight, through Insomnia, Batman Begins and The Prestige.
Inception will be remembered as one of the defining films of the decade, a contemporary masterpiece of modern cinema. Visually stunning, fantastically scored and with mind-bending layered set pieces that play out as microcosms of each other, Nolan has created his finest piece of work yet.