Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Dreams’ Inception Is Often A Blockbuster

Back to the blogging grind, thanks to all for the well wishes. It was a great trip, good food, good people, etc.


In 2005 Christopher Nolan attempted to change the way most people viewed both summer blockbusters and comic books with his film Batman Begins. Nolan used that film to remind us that not all summer blockbusters had to be mindless affairs. It is possible to have a summer movie that offered both brains and explosions. Since then Christopher Nolan has continued his trend of making summer blockbusters for all those who prefer substance with their sugary treats. The Prestige and The Dark Knight both offered up much to think about while entertaining immensely. Now with his latest film, Inception, Christopher Nolan has raised the stakes in regards to how much thought, and attention, a viewer is required to put into a summer flick.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an expert at extracting information from people’s subconscious while they dream. Unfortunately Cobb is also a wanted man in the United States, so he is forced to take his extracting job on the road. After Cobb’s ex-wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) sabotages his latest mission, Cobb and his right hand man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are offered one final job by Saito (Ken Wantanabe), a powerful business man who has the ability to make Cobb’s problems in the United States disappear. The only catch is, instead of stealing information, Cobb and Arthur must place information in to the mind of Saito’s corporate rival Robert Fisher Jr. (Cillian Murphy). Cobb knows the art of inception is much more complex than removing secrets from a person’s mind, so he sets out to gather a team of experts to pull off this heist. In order for Cobb’s plan to work he will need the assistance of Ariadne (Ellen Page) the dream architect; Eames (Tom Hardy) the expert forger; and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) the chemist who can create a drug so potent that will keep them all in the dream state for 10 hours. If the team succeeds, it could be the perfect crime. Unfortunately none of them anticipate the deadly enemies that await them on the other side.

If Dark City and The Matrix were to ever have a love child, Inception would be that child. Inception offers up a fresh spin on the heist genre. Many elements standard to heist flicks are present: the ”one last job” motivation; each member of the team having a unique skill, etc. The major difference being that it is not about what is being stolen, but rather what is put in. Inception is an extremely smart film in which the audience does not need a PHD to decipher. Christopher Nolan spends the first half hour of the film establishing everything that we, the viewer, need to know about dreams and the subconscious. I loved how the film considers “the idea” to be the worst type of virus to inflict mankind. So, for example, if someone plants the notion in your head that you look fat in those jeans, that simple thought starts to eat away at you until you eventually discard those jeans. Even if you are unable to grasp all of the philosophical concepts talked about in the film, Nolan designs the narrative in a way that makes Inception accessible to all types of viewers.

The thing I really enjoyed about Inception is that the narrative plays by all the rules it sets up. Unlike other high concept films, such as Wanted, the film never states one thing and then proceeds to do another. Everything in Inception is plausible in relation to the world that this particular film establishes. The timelines in the three levels, four if you include limbo, of the dream world are clearly stated. Even though the van may be shown falling in slow motion we know that in reality it only takes ten seconds to hit the water in that level, which is twenty minutes in the next and so on.

Despite all of the jargon tossed around regarding dreams and the subconscious, Christopher Nolan never loses sight of the fact that Inception is an action-packed heist film. He ensures that every level of the dream world is filled with tense action sequences. The standout being the Arthur’s gravity defying fight with some henchmen in level two of the dream world. I really liked that Nolan opted to give the centerpiece action scene to Arthur instead of Cobb. Out of all the characters Arthur is the most straight laced. He clearly knows how to handle himself with a weapon but he is not as flashy as Eames. Yet when the balance of the mission is on the line, Arthur will do whatever it takes to keep himself and his team safe.

In many ways Arthur is the perfect contrast to Cobb. Arthur knows what the proper limits are for their particular line of work. Cobb, on the other hand, has gone so far past the limit that he continually puts his team in jeopardy for his own selfish needs. If 2010 has taught me anything it is that being married to Leonardo DiCaprio may not be as sweet as most women assume it would be. In both Inception and Shutter Island, DiCaprio’s characters are mentally damaged by events from a previous marriage. The character of Mal in Inceptions could have easily been played by Michelle Williams as they are almost identical in their construction. It is Cobb’s relationship with Mal that is at the core of everything in Inception, without it the film does not work at all. There will be those viewers that complain about the lack of character development for some of the supporting characters. Yet I honestly cannot see how the film could elaborate on them anymore without ruining the central Cobb arc.

For a summer that has been particularly dull in terms of the amount of movies that truly excite, Inception is truly a breath of fresh air. It is not only one for the best films of the summer but, in my opinion, it also one of the best films to come out this year.


  1. Freakin amazing!! I loved almost every single second of this!! Nolan is going to be considered as one of the best directors of all-time now, and I will stand by and say, yes, I have to also agree. Check out my review here: http://dtmmr.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/inception-2010/

  2. @CMrok93 - Nolan has definitely cemented himself as one of the best in the business. I will gladly give your review a read. Thanks for sharing the link.

  3. So great, the cast, the effects, (most of) the plot, everything.

    The end makes me angry.

  4. Welcom back good sir - and I couldn't agree more.

    For me, the fact that the film keeps shoulder-checking to see that van still falling, and Arthur still feverishly working in the hotel is what makes it work. Even though the scenes that are unfolding might seem to be working on their own clock, we're never allowed to forget that the dominoes in front of it are falling.

    Great post on a great flick man - we'll talk more about this at pub night.

  5. @Simon - I loved the ending. I could see how it might tick some people off though. I would like to believe "it" fell but you never know.

    @Hatter - I was impressed with how well Nolan keep all the dominoes in order throughout the entire film. Essentially he is juggling three different versions of the same story. Although they all connect to each other, each one had unique elements that needed their moments in the sun as well. I would love to hear Nolan discuss his writing process for this one.

  6. Correction. It's Dom Cobb. Not Dan.

    I saw this film this past Saturday and enjoyed it.

    Right now, I'm putting Nolan in the list of the best directors out there and he will have a place on my DVD collection soon.

    What I like about the film the most isn't just the visual effects, the direction, and how Nolan kind of broke the rules of the heist film. It's the ensemble cast. While it's definitely Leonardo DiCaprio's film, he was surrounded by a hugely talented cast who can work around him. I think this is my pick for best ensemble, so far.

    I hope to have a review finished posted in my blog this week.

  7. @thevoid99 - Good catch. Made the change. Also I hear you on the ensemble cast work. Nolan always finds a way to bring the best out of his large casts.

  8. @Debjyoti - Thanks for taking the time to give it a read.


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