Nolan attempts to capture as much of the film as possible through in-camera techniques, which make the action of Inception truly magnificent and stunning to watch.
Rarely when a person walks out of a theater can he or she say they just witnessed something special, something that will forever be included among the greatest films of all time. This happens once or possibly twice in a person’s lifetime. Those lucky enough to see Citizen Kane in 1941 were witnessing a landmark in cinema history whether they knew it or not. The audiences who were first exposed to 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 may not have realized, on first viewing, the magic that Stanley Kubrick unleashed on them but they were the first to experience a revolutionary type of filmmaking.
Now, in 2010, Christopher Nolan has given us Inception, which in many ways is both an homage to those films and a continuation of that type of great filmmaking that seldom happens but has an immediate and sweeping impact on the art of film. Nolan’s film, which can only be described as a spectacular achievement, combines the director’s love for intelligent, thought-provoking stories with massive set pieces and visuals. Not since his first film, Following in 1998, has Nolan been the sole author of a script. Inception, which Nolan has been working on and perfecting for ten years, is a truly original concept that explores how people dream and the ways those dreams can be manipulated and enhanced.
One of Nolan’s demands for his actors and crew members was total secrecy about the nature of the film while in production and leading up to release. Surprisingly, his wish was granted because very little has been released about the true nature of the film not because Nolan is trying to hype the film just as a publicity stunt but because for the audience to truly enjoy the film, each person should know as little as possible. This review will not give away more about the plot or action than does the trailer out of respect to the viewer and filmmakers.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a master in the art of extraction, which allows him and his team to enter a person’s subconscious through their dreams to steal ideas when their mind is the most vulnerable. Cobb is in exile from the United States and his only desire is to get home to his two children. He is given a chance to return home by a mysterious client named Saito (Ken Watanabe) who asks him to attempt the impossible: enter the dreams of a rival businessman and perform the almost impossible act of inception which actually plants an idea in a person’s mind.
Dealing with the dream world has always been a very precarious avenue for filmmakers to navigate because of the delicate balance of reality and fantasy that is required. Nolan delivers a dream world that every viewer can recognize because of his expert understanding not only of the dream state but of how the subconscious reacts to dreaming. Nolan’s vision is fully developed with every detail addressed which allows the audience to completely trust and experience the world of the film.
Nolan’s aversion to CGI unless absolutely necessary works to his advantage like never before because the audience isn’t bombarded with post-production visual effects that detract from the story. Nolan attempts to capture as much of the film as possible through in-camera techniques, which make the action of Inception truly magnificent and stunning to watch. There is one scene that takes place in a hotel hallway which, like the car chase in Bullitt and the tracking shot of Henry Hill entering the Copacabana in Goodfellas, will without a doubt go down as one of the greatest scenes in film history.
In addition to somehow working juggling all the production components of his colossal screenplay, Nolan is also able to extract wonderful performances from his actors who each seem born to inhabit this world. DiCaprio is absolutely brilliant as Cobb, a man weighed down by obsession and guilt who is willing to go to any lengths to return to his children. DiCaprio plays Cobb with the perfect balance of fervor and instability. Cobb’s right hand man, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is the guy who makes Cobb’s ideas work; Cobb’s the director, Arthur’s the producer. It is always surprising how large Gordon-Levitt’s presence is on screen. It is hard not to constantly be drawn to the charisma and confidence with which he imbues every character he plays.
Ellen Page is also terrifically moving as Ariadne, the young architect Cobb brings into his fold to create the worlds into which the crew will enter. Page is never just a supporting performer; she completely inhabits her role and fills the screen with her understated performance and beautifully expressive face. Page and the rest of the cast all feel as if they stepped right out of Christopher Nolan’s mind and right onto screen. The actors are perfectly cast and each gives the performance that the film and Nolan deserve.
Inception has accomplished what few films have ever been able to do—it is an incredibly intelligent concept film that is also a wonderful suspense movie with action that practically leaps off the screen. Nolan has achieved more vivid and awe-inspiring visuals with very minimal use of CGI than the absurd deluge of movies of late that are retrofitted with unnecessary 3D. Inception is both Christopher Nolan’s tribute to the art of filmmaking and his gift to film lovers. | Matthew F. Newlin