Inception (2010) Review

By Patrick Samuel

Ask anyone what this summer’s most anticipated film is, and the answer comes in one word: “Inception”. Already predicted to break box office records worldwide in its opening weekend, and with high hopes of overtaking Avatar, Inception has a lot to live up to, and audiences will be keen to see if it hits the mark.

The film opens not with a stunning visual, but with a thundering sound, announcing its arrival before we see Dom Cobb, The Extractor (Leonardo DiCaprio) washed up on the sandy shores, looking as if he’s just come from the Titanic.

He is then taken to Saito, The Tourist (Ken Watanabe); a man in his later years. The two men seem to know each other although Saito struggles to remember exactly where and when they met. Time seems to have become cloudy.

Saito is actually a very rich and powerful business man who wants to make his own empire the world’s next superpower. Obviously, he is not the only one. The rival though is on his deathbed with his son (Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy) set to inherit everything.

Saito uses the opportunity and employs Dom (DiCaprio) to help him destroy the other empire through the mind of its heir. And Dom seems to be the right man for the job, as his speciality is to extract ideas and information from other people’s minds while they are dreaming.

However, Saito doesn’t want Dom to extract anything, he wants him to plant an idea, and this idea simply is that the heir to be will destroy his father’s empire voluntarily. In return, Saito promises Dom to make all his legal problems go away, so he can go back to the United States to be with his children.

This then forms the premise of the movie and sets us up for a multilayered story told by Christopher Nolan who previously brought us Momento (2000), Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). Dom hires an architect, Ariadne (Ellen Page), whom he needs to construct the landscapes in the dream world, together with Eames (Tom Hardy), The Forger who can impersonate anyone within a dream, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) The Chemist, who formulates the drugs which work in the dream world.

They set about to capture Fischer and induce him into a multilayered dream state (a dream within a dream, within a dream) to find out what emotionally motivates him and to plant the seed of the thought which will eventually lead him to destroy his father’s empire.

Inception’s Cartesian theme of dualism and reality, although previously explored in The Matrix (1999), Donnie Darko (2001) and Mulholland Drive (2001) has never been looked at in such a complex visual form before, and takes a moment or two to fully grasp and appreciate when Dom and Ariadne discuss the rules of dreams as they walk through an exploding market street. Eventually, Ariadne forces Dom to deal with the darker aspects of his mind, which will put the whole team in danger as they open up their minds to him in the dreams.

Inception is visually stunning, not surprisingly. As Ariadne plays with the architecture in her dreams, she creates mind bending spaces and learns to use these skills to build further paradoxes. Dom’s own crumbling ocean-side city is another marvel, while Arthur moving through a gravity-free hotel certainly has elements of Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968).

The score created by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Batman Begins) is masterful and commanding. It moves easily from deep resonating string arrangements in the lower scale to full on orchestral for more demanding sequences in the film. However, it never overshadows the dialogue or what’s happening on screen.

As we move towards the climax of the film we come back again to the beginning. But once Inception ends, rather like a dream itself, there are so many pieces to recapture and as I leave the movie theatre I find myself questioning not only if everything around me is real, but also how would I know if it wasn’t? I am also reminded of these two lines from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe:

“All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.”
- Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within A Dream (1849)

Overall, Inception was everything I expected it to be. With its story written and directed by Nolan, strong leading cast and accompanying score, all of the ingredients are there. Nolan, with Inception, has given us a challenging and thoughtful piece of cinema and the only thing that’s left to be seen is what audiences and future filmmakers will do with it for some years to come!

Inception is released by Warner Bros. on July 16th 2010 in the UK.

Static Mass Rating ★★★★★

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Produced by Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas
Written by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Wally Pfister