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Inception Likely To Be Studied Years From Now

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan
Warner Bros., 2010

Not everyone is going to like Inception when they first watch it.  It’s a movie that in quite rapid-fire fashion goes over some ideas and trusts that you are keeping track, because it won’t explain them again.  But if you keep track, prepare to have your mind blown.  Christopher Nolan, who has covered mind-blowing territory before in his breakout film Memento and his in-between-Batmans-flick The Prestige, is on a roll that very few directors experience: a full decade worth of quality movies, and only one, Insomnia, is widely debatable.

The problem I’ve had with movies in the past that deal with dreams is that it seems like every movie wants to treat dreams like an anything-goes fun house, littered with in-your-face symbolism, or outright guesses at interpretation.  Anytime a movie goes into a dream sequence, I usually just shrug and let my mind wander until it gets out of it.  Rarely is a dream sequence important.  It’s just there to scare, disturb, or trick the viewer.  And who could forget the scene in Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion, where little man Peter Dinklage gets frustrated with Steve Buscemi’s movie because of the dream sequence:

Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know anyone who’s had a dream with a dwarf in it? No! I don’t even have dreams with dwarfs in them. The only place I’ve seen dwarfs in dreams is in stupid movies like this! “Oh make it weird, put a dwarf in it!”. Everyone will go “Whoa, this must be a fuckin’ dream, there’s a fuckin’ dwarf in it!”. Well I’m sick of it! You can take this dream sequence and stick it up your ass!

Well, I feel that way about most dream sequences, dwarfs or not.  Here, Nolan doesn’t want to stick massive amounts of broken memories and weird symbolism into it.  Thank God.  The movie would have been much harder to decipher, and thus, harder to enjoy.

Inception focuses on a man by the name of Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, also enjoying a decade worth of quality work), and his colleague Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who enter into people’s dreams in order to extract secrets.  The beginning of the film has them infiltrating business mogul Saito’s (Ken Watanabe) head in order to eventually steal some ideas for money, so yeah, they’re really no more than high-tech thieves.  Unfortunately, Cobb has a troubled past involving his work, which led to turmoil involving his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), causing her to show up during operations and ruining everything.  Saito gets wise to the operation, but is impressed enough to ask Cobb and Arthur if they’d like to do a job for him.

This involves inception, in which they would have to plant an idea in someone’s head, rather than taking a secret out.  As the movie explains, inception is a difficult thing to do, because you have to make the idea seem like it is the victim’s idea and not just planted there by someone else.  It’s hard to plant an idea, and it has to grow from something subtle from the subconscious.  So we are taken through the difficulties of that, and more people are added to the team: Eames (Tom Hardy), who tried an inception in his life but only came close to succeeding, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a man who deals with powerful drugs including sedatives, and college student whiz kid Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is suggested by Cobb’s mentor Miles (Michael Caine).  Their mission is to infiltrate one of Saito’s competitors, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and give him the idea that he needs to break up his father’s (Pete Postlethwaite) company so that he can make his own name.

The job is complex and I could probably go on and on about the details of what has to be done, but I will keep it simple, and leave the discovery to you.  In summary, they have to create several dreams and accomplish several things before they are urged to wake up, and there are dangers involved going this deeply into a subconscious.  And Cobb’s past always looms and threatens any job.

Nolan incredibly throws all these balls in the air and is able to keep track with multiple dreams.  There’s also the matter of the idea that an hour’s worth of time you believe you’ve been dreaming translates into 5 minutes in the real world, and the dream time exponentially increases the more layers you put on it.  This is a movie worth watching multiple times.  I don’t believe I can give a proper review of it after having seen it just once, because on the first go-around I spent a lot of time immersing myself into the discovery of it all.  Once it’s apparent what is happening, watching the movie a second and third time will likely fill in gaps and inevitably lead to even more discovery.  Unlike 2000’s psycho-killer subconscious flick The Cell, I actually want to see this movie again.

It’s surely one of the best of this year and would be one of the best of any year.  Mind-blowing is rarely this much fun.

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