Plot: In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
-Edgar Allan Poe
Mr. Nolan, shame on you. Here I was reading all those amazing reviews that “Inception” is “mindlowing”, that it is better than “The Matrix”, that it's Nolan's best movie. Neither of which is true. Until I saw this movie I always defended Nolan, but I'm not so sure he is one of the best directors now anymore Here he was with a story with such a great potential, such a rich, complex concept and at one point of the movie I really didn't know how insane he must have been not to see that he is ruining his own movie. And believe I wanted to like this movie, so much. I love movies about dreams. I don't know what failed – that the dreams felt too ordinary? Too much action? The fact the movie was prolonged and boring? Maybe all of those at the same time?
Now, I'm sure everyone is familiar with the story, or at least with the plot - “Inception” is the idea planted in one's mind. Rich businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb (Dicaprio) and his team to do that to Robert Fischer (Murphy), heir of great fortune and the company of Saito's enemy. But Cobb has his own problems, with his wife Mal (Cotilliard) who haunts his dreams.
The story has incredible potential – it deals with technology that is very unique – going inside someone's mind and being in his dream. Nolan doesn't explain it fully, he gives us few details and it's enough to buy it. This is not a problem, at the beginning of the film I just sit back and enjoyed. As the movie progresses we find out that the whole thing is more complicated – there are trainings that can help someone fight with “Inception” built guards in subconsciousness. So the knowledge of dream manipulation is well known then, even if only to wealthy ones. We also see a scene with the people who no longer can dream normally – they are “addicted” to induced sleeping, in deep layers, where minutes are weeks and hours are years. Those where some of the most interesting aspects of the film, mercilessly abandoned by Nolan later on in the movie.
The characters are well developed, well, not for the movie of such a long run time, but Nolan had to show us the shootouts, why bother with characters, he must have thought. But still, by some miracle I call good acting, it works well – we have Arthur (Lewitt) who sort of manages the whole thing and gets information on the subject of the dream, Ariadne (Page), the architect, Yusuf, the chemist who induces the dream, Eames (Hardy), the forger. We care for the characters because comparing to other people in the movie they seem like the good guys, trying to help out Cobb who has good motivation. There are hints of attraction between Arthur and Ariadne, dropped by Nolan later on – again why bother? Action sequences in waiting, those explosions couldn't possibly be omitted, right? Eames brings in a little bit of comic relief and Yusuf is just a tool author of the script uses to get as from point A to B at times.
Cobb's motivation is that he comes back home to his kids. Why? That's what redeems “Inception” a little bit for me. Ladies and gentlemen, Christopher Nolan after years and years, finally managed to portray something a bit like “love story”. That was what's always been missing in his films – a bit of delicateness, a bit of noble emotions. He created emotional core of the movie, at last. Sure it's fragile and it's barely holding together and Nolan shouldn't be credited for the fact it exists at all. All the credit goes to Dicaprio and Cotilliard. But Nolan cast them, so I that idea was good.
Their story is really interesting – they both worked at dream project, how deep can you go, how far can you plunge yourself into dream state (there are dreams within dreams, in the movie we see 3 levels and limbo – the deepest part). There was only a little chemistry going on between them, but I'm ready to defend Nolan here and I'm gonna do this only once in the review. Perhaps it's because of the characters – strong, focused on dreamworld, building their own surroundings. I wouldn't call it love exactly – it's passion for the same things, life you share with someone a lot like you. Anyways, Mal, Cobb's wife commits suicide because she is convinced that reality (? - I'll return to that) is a dream. Cobb doesn't jump off the building like she does. Because of his wife smart ploy he is now accused of her murder and can't come back to USA to his kids. The reason she did it is because he performed inception on her. They were stuck in limbo for years, grew old together. But Mal couldn't quit that on her own, so he planted the idea, that it wasn't the real world. But the idea traveled with her to reality (?). And that ended up killing her.
Cobb's guilt is the main theme of the film. He can't handle it, Mal appears in his dreams, jeopardizes his work, is violent, evil, true femme fatale, nothing like she was in real life (Arthur said she was lovely). He can't cope with that. He can't sleep like a normal person anymore, so he sleeps chemically induced dreams, where he built a prison for his memories of Mal. The sequence where Ariadne follows him there and witnesses what's in Cobb's mind is one of the best in the movie. Ariadne, name borrowed from mythology. The girl who help Theseus get out of the labyrinth. Theseus is Cobb, the guilt is the labyrinth.
Now, that angle of the movie should be shown more, again - addiction to dreaming, inability to leave your dreams behind, confusion, care for another human being. There was enough potential in the story to show many more scenes. But Nolan chose to show us shootouts, skiing and explostions instead. But there is some charm in the fact Nolan didn't use Mal more – she appears as if from nowhere, just like Joker did in “The Dark Knight”. She manages to both gain our sympathy and frighten us in different scenes. Hell of a character, I didn't expect something like this from Nolan, he's not exactly master of creating interesting women in his films.
When I was watching the film I kept waiting for my mind to be blown away.. But at one point I felt as if Christopher Nolan stood behind me and kept bashing my head with the sledgehammer. Now I don't think, that is what people meant when they said it was a “mindblowing” movie. I'm talking about the 3rd dream layer with all the snow, shooting and explosions. First layer – the chase – ok, a little cliche, but given that my mind is supposedly about to be blown away I was cool with that, 2nd layer – hotel without gravity – awesome sequence and I started to expect what's gonna happen in 3rd layer and that it will surely beat that. 3rd layer. And what happened? SNOW happened. Yes. A lot of SNOW.
I was disappointed, but it wasn't the worst. Between the time the “kick” (waking up for the dream using the sensation of falling) starts to occur to when it actually happens it must have been about 20-25 minutes. Nolan keeps jumping from 1st layer where Yusef drives a van and then it starts falling with everyone except for him being asleep, 2nd layer where everyone is sleeping and Arthur watches them and fights the guards, 3rd layer where all the ridiculous shooting and exploding on the snow is going on and the limbo where Ariadne and Cobb try to deal with Mal. And it's all good. I don't mind long action scenes but when those scenes are completely unoriginal, shot without any finesse and they feel so heavy as if I was the one holding the big gun and breathing with trouble in the icy landscape, I mind, and I mind a lot. Layer 1st is just the picture of van falling in slow motion, layer 2 still manages to be impressive, layer 3 is a generic disaster and the limbo – after a little while and interesting walk through abandoned dream city, again - no finesse, all that build up leading to poorly made CGI building collapsing and despite Dicaprio's and Cotilliard's best efforts in delivering the dialogue, dramatic failure. I never pray on movies. But at one point I started to pray. I prayed for that freaking van to hit the water already. Every time it was closer to its surface I was happy. And then they showed the 3rd layer again and I thought I'm gonna fall asleep.
But when that goddamn kick finally does happen it is quite well done. Not mindblowing, but very well executed. But how much suspense can be left in the scene after 20 minutes? Barely any. The best images we got are in trailer.
In fact, I was so bored by this time that when the conversation occurs between Saito and Cobb in limbo I felt like I was in limbo. Stuck in a movie theater. For at least 10 years since that movie started.
Fortunately, then we get the ending scenes which redeem the movie again. Entire “Inception” after the 1st hour which is very good is the series of ups and downs. With the ending being the most important part of any movie, it is excellent here. First we see everyone wake up and then we see series of scenes that with “Time” by Zimmer beautifully playing in the background create the most powerful ending Nolan has done so far.
Now about it – it is seemingly ambiguous. Although my friend who saw the movie with me didn't think that – he thought that it was clear what happened. There is a long debate in internet – is a dream? Is it reality? I think it is reality for several reasons:
1.The whole point of the movie was for Cobb to get out of the labyrinth, to lose the feeling of guilt. What would be the message of the movie if he didn't win with that? “Sweet Dreams, Dom?”Besides he watches Mal die in Limbo.
2.Cobb says that the easiest way to see if you are dreaming is to see if you remember how you got to the point you are now. So in all the other sequences we don't see the beginning – Ariadne and Cobb are suddenly at cafe, Cobb's wakes up at the shore, but here we see wake up on the plane, go through security, meet with his dad. We see the beginning.
3.Kids's faces. Cobb doesn't see his kids faces in his dreams, but in the end he does. There are two things you can argue with, though – why are the kids wearing the same clothes as in his dream? Well, coincidence may be the answer. Another point – maybe Cobb's doesn't see them in dreams because of his guilt that they lost their mother because of him and he can't stand looking at them. Something to think about.
4.The totem (object that behaves differently in reality and differently in dream so you would know when you're dreaming). Cobb has a top, it spins perfectly in dreamworld, it stops and falls in reality. The totem here spins, spins, spins and then begins to wobble. And then Nolan ends the movie. But it wobbled. It didn't span perfectly.
So I believe the end was real. But there are many theories out there, two of which I really enjoyed – one is that Ariadne planted an idea in Cobb's mind to let go of the guilt. I have to see the movie again to determine at which point she might have done that, but it's only a sidetheory and even if it is true it doesn't change the outcome of the movie.
But another theory I heard is very interesting and almost impossible to check – that when Mal jumped she really was sleeping. And that entire movie is a dream. After she jumped she woke up in real world and now she waits for Cobb to wake up too. That story is backed by the fact Mal keeps saying to Cobb that he knows where to find her. Sure, she means limbo, but still I'm not sure how to check if the theory is correct and I must say it's sounds way more interesting than actual events in the movie.
When you saw the trailer you probably uttered “wow” few times. I did too, because I expected that I will see way more of that cool thing with the street rolling and covering the characters or hallway fight. But there is not much in the movie. The street thing is impressive, but what follows is not. Ariadne breaks two mirrors at once. So? The hallway fight and “flying” Arthur makes to give everyone a kick is more impressive, too bad it's interrupted by those awful “James Bond” inspired sequences. The chase was disappointing. But I liked the beginning of the movie, with water breaking in to the room Cobb was in. That's it – beginning, the moment that kick happens and few shots from corridor scene. That is all we've got. Oh and the exploding street around Ariadne and Cobb in Paris. But we saw that in nearly every tv spot that was released.
But fortunately for Nolan he got Zimmer to do the music. That man is amazing – the soundtrack is completely incredible – fast and exciting when the movie needs it to be, has clear theme, has those epic horns we heard in the trailer and beautiful moments (“Paradox”, “Old Souls”, Time”). I read somewhere that Zimmer composed the music without seeing the movie. He's genius. I shed few tears at the ending, only because of his brilliant music. If anything truly deserves Oscar here is “Time” - I can listen to that piece on repeat, over and over again, now that's minblowing masterpiece. The movie also features “Non, je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf – smart ironic choice, given how Cobb has almost nothing but regrets.
The acting is very good and Marion Cotillard shines as usual – she delivers very strong and memorable performance and she is easily the best in the cast. How refreshing, when in Nolan's movies it is always the guy who gets all the praise. Second best performance is by Cillian Murphy who was very good, despite the fact he didn't have too much to work with. Dicaprio must be very careful from now on, since in the last three movies I saw him in, he always had crazy wife and looked sad and angry. He's a good actor but he didn't show anything new here. I wish Bale starred instead, he has more depth in him than Leo. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, watch out because he is about to be a huge star, is very good as nice and likeable Arthur, whilst Ellen Page is incredibly bland as Ariadne – anyone else could have done as much as she did. People dare to complain about Stewart's open mouth – take a look at Ellen here. Watanabe doesn't do much, Caine is barely in the movie. Again, as with “The Dark Knight” Nolan uses the stars to impress everyone with cast and doesn't make a use of it.
The movie is great in that the story is fascinating enough for you to think about it. Create theories, look for tiny things, rewatch the film dozens of times. I surely will rewatch it, many times, but I will have to fast forward through pointless scenes, something that in case of masterpiece I wouldn't need to do. Two years ago I was fooled as many and praised “The Dark Knight” more than it deserved, but Nolan can't fool me twice. This movie doesn't even come close to dream themed masterpieces like “Vanilla Sky” or “Mulholland Drive”. “Inception” lacks heart and soul. It offers gun powder and explosions instead. It's a shame Nolan directed it. The man doesn't know when to stop, he didn't in “The Dark Knight” and here he fails worse because “Inception” is a superior movie. That's why disappointing, unnecessary sequences hurt more. Maybe Fincher, who never made boring movie or Arronofsky who always has so many emotions in his films would be better, I don't know. My point is, dear reader that if you're hoping for absolute and stunning masterpiece...dream on!