Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) is a genius. His name ought to be mentioned alongside some of the better filmmakers of this generation. Inception, his latest offering, only strengthens his already impressive resume. Undoubtedly you’ve seen the mysterious trailer with the foreboding score and amazing special effects. When I walked out of the theater I had a slight headache and a big smile. Nolan’s intricate script tested the limits of my cognitive abilities, but it was a great ride.
To all of my cynics out there: don’t be fooled by early superficial similarities to Shutter Island. Yes, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio having some psychological problems and being tormented by a past love. Inception is much deeper than that. The movie explores a world where corporate espionage meets Sigmund Freud. Ok that was a cheesy comparison, but the movie delves into the psychological ramifications of tampering with dreams. Dreams are where we find ourselves vulnerable and powerless to our subconscious. We are defenseless while dreaming, yet very susceptible to the power of suggestion. DiCaprio stars as Cobb, ringleader of a team of dream invaders commissioned by a wealthy Japanese businessman named Saito. Cobb and company are adept at extracting secrets from people’s dreams. They do this by attaching themselves to a device while sleeping. Saito is impressed with their skills but wants to take it a step further. Rather than extract information; he wants to implant it. This is called inception. A business competitor is on his deathbed, and the man’s son stands to inherit his empire. Saito wants the heir apparent to dissolve his father’s company after acquiring it. As compensation, he will call in a favor that will allow Cobb to return home to America. He has been exiled after his wife’s suicide, which the authorities believe to have been a murder committed at Cobb’s hands. Implanting a suggestion is more difficult. Subtlety is key, as the person must believe that the idea is entirely their own. Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) portrays Fischer, heir to the “throne” of Saito’s rival. He and Dad have a tumultuous relationship, and it will be difficult for Cobb to use the power of suggestion. It should be mentioned that when a dream is invaded, the sleeping host’s subconscious seeks to protect it by dispatching people kill to the intruder. Of course this is all a dream, so if you die in the dream, you simply wake up. No harm, no foul right? Not exactly. Cobb will have to pull out all the stops if the inception is going to be successful. He will have to use a dream within a dream. Within a dream. Did you catch that? That’s right, come even further down the rabbit hole with me; let’s stretch our imagination to the farthest recesses of our mind. This is why I left the theater with pulsating temples. I’ll run that back for you. Have you ever dreamt that you were dreaming? That’s a dream within a dream. Now imagine that you are dreaming that you are dreaming that you are dreaming. That’s 3 levels: a dream within a dream, within another dream. Whew!
I really don’t want to say another word about the movie for fear of completely spoiling it. The casting choices were just as perfect as the script. DiCaprio hasn’t had a misstep since…well, never. Suffice to say that we expect excellence from him, especially when he continues to pair with the most brilliant directors who give him the richest material. I also enjoyed J. Gordon-Levitt’s (500 Days of Summer) performance, as his character was the more cautious voice of reason in contrast to Cobb’s reckless impulsivity. Remember, Cobb has more to gain from Fischer’s inception than anyone else. Rounding out the cast is Ellen Page (Whip It), as “the architect.” She is tasked with designing the landscape of the dreamer’s world. She’s been a delight in every movie I’ve seen her in, and this was no exception. As Cobb’s conscience she tries to protect the rest of the team and help him forgive himself about his dead wife, who invades every dream as a symbol of his subconscious.
Every now and then a can’t-miss movie arrives that is so provocative and intriguing that it bears not only repeat viewing, but intense discussion as well. Inception was such a movie, stunning in its visual execution, layered in its complexity, and superbly acted by the players. Have I gushed enough? Inception was Incredible.