Much like the other films of Christopher Nolan, Inception is clever. It is so clever, in fact, that I think it will become the next Matrix, and it will even surpass it for combining so many little elements that elevate the movie into the realm of masterpiece.
It is the kind of movie that sticks in the mind long after it has finished. It encourages interpretations and input from the audience, yet never crosses the fourth wall. It is well-acted, directed, written, it has stunning cinematography and action sequences, and it contains all the things that make a movie great. And it goes one more, creating not just a whole world to invest our time in, but whole dimensions, whole branches of those dimensions, and just about everything else in-between.
It is certainly a deep film, but in keeping with Nolan’s previous features, the depth is part of what makes it so good. We are treated like adults, and Nolan has no reservations in bombarding us with ideas and theories that require actual thought.
Like Michael Mann, he makes us use our brains, and, in the end, we are greatly rewarded for it. It is something that is lacking in other films, and yet is found in abundance in the classic films of the previous century. For all the special effects and slow-motion gunfights, this is, at heart, an old film that rests entirely on plot. And it is testament to Nolan’s storytelling that he has so effortlessly combined the two. Avatar failed, in the sense that the plot was piece of sentimental rubbish seen a million times before, yet it showcased some amazing special effects. And the reason most people don’t watch the black and white greats is because they don’t have a lot to look at. Inception is an achievement in that it is the first film to really combine both facets of great cinema, and blend them into a convincing whole.
The themes of Inception are expansive. Life, death, time, suicide, love, murder, subconscious, the afterlife -all of these things get a mention, and we do not get much in the way of an explanation. We are left to fend for ourselves, and part of the magic of the film is that we can interpret the messages as we see fit. Much of the film takes place in pre-developed dream worlds, yet when we make the change to the real world, they seem identical. Is this Nolan hinting at a perpetual dream state for everyone? Or is it just a personal theory?
Part of the storyline is that you can become embroiled so deep into a sleep that you remain there, stuck in perpetual limbo for decades before you can come out. This opens up a whole world of theories, which, again, centre on the ‘what if we’re in a dream?’ theory. The movie shows characters who have become so engrossed in the dream world that the real world becomes indistinguishable to them, which is almost like a tease to the audience, and not a very subtle one. In a movie packed with themes, reality becomes one of the most prominent, so it is only fair that Nolan has some fun in making us question ours. In fact, he never addresses whether the world we see as being real in the film is real or not, so we could view it from that standpoint.
Some of the appeal of this film is that among the gunfights and deep philosophizing there is still room for characterisation and a vein of humour. This is what really sends the film into the cinematic stratosphere.
It is all very well creating a deep and intricate plot, but if there is nothing human to relate it to, then why is the audience going to care? In a lot of recent horror and action films there is absolutely no humour, and nobody is going to want to watch a film where you’re going to come out feeling unhappy. In Inception there are frequent witty talkbacks and several chuckle-out-loud moments. But never any more than that, because then we wouldn’t take the film seriously. It is this that makes the film so clever: it’s faultless.
Some say the film is too complicated, however, I feel this is a personal thing, and I for one felt the plot was not too complicated at all; it was merely layered and deep, as mentioned earlier, and requires input and thought -and given the spate of dumb, loud shouty blockbusters from subsequent years that assault the eyes and nothing else, it’s something we are not accustomed to.
The acting is, for lack of a better word, incredible. Nolan has comprised a cast of newcomers, regulars, and a few legends as well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is spot on as Cobb’s assistant, and I feel that his performance is worthy of an Oscar (though he will undoubtedly not be given one). He perfectly blends comic timing, genuine smarts, and action hero bravado. I look forward to what he does next.
Cillian Murphy is a surprise, he carries more than his fair share of the emotional weight, and pulls it off rather well. We are not meant to care about his character, yet we find ourselves worrying when he is put in jeopardy, and the only reason I can think of this is down to the acting, which, in retrospect, is something quite special. He has done a tough job for an actor, which is to turn a character we don’t know into someone we care about. It takes skill, and it comes as a pleasant surprise.
Then, of course, there is Leonardo DiCaprio. This is HIS performance, from the word go, and the film centres on him. Immediately, he commands the screen as if he was born in it. He is confident, but never cocky, emotional, but never saccharine. He is deserving of the best actor Oscar this year for the simple fact that he never loses his cool in the two-and-half-hours we see him in, and he remains utterly believable. He has an arc, and he has back-story, and he uses these things well. He probably won’t win the Oscar, but if at the very least he doesn’t get nominated then there really is no justice in the world.
Nolan has created a thought-provoking film, but it punctuates the psychological mind-bending with extremely cool action sequences that really push the envelope in terms of what Nolan is trying to achieve.
One particular sequence will go down in the pantheon of truly great fistfights with a spin. Some might say that these were inserted by Nolan to garner a more widespread audience, and to an extent that is true, but it is also fair to say that this is a film where the action serves the plot. The characters inhabiting this world are fairly peaceful, and while Nolan may be showcasing some truly original CGI effects, they do not fight unless it becomes absolutely necessary. It is refreshing to see in modern cinema, because more often than not it becomes boring watching unlikable characters that are willing to take on anything without thinking of the consequences. Surprisingly for the subject matter, there are consequences that spread for the entire film. It really is a one of a kind film
To sum up, an original, refreshing, unique, mind-bender of a film that will go down in years to come as the film that proved blockbusters can be good, as well as showing a one-of-a-kind director at the peak of his career. If it doesn’t win Oscars by the bucketful then there is no justice in the world.