You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling
Christopher Nolan’s films have been snowballing, each film becoming bigger and earning the director more and more freedom to execute his visions as he see’s fit. With Inception he combines a high concept premise with big budget
action & CGI sequences to create what may be his best film yet, a synthesis of his deep,ruminating films such as memento and the monumentally exciting blockbuster action of the dark knight.
The film takes place in a world in which the technology to manipulate dreams has been developed, and ostensibly been abused to extract information from sleeping victims. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a specialist in the field of “extraction”, a complicated process involving the subconscious subterfuge of a target. After an initial scene in which we are thrown into the midst of one such operation, DiCaprio and his partner ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are offered a much more complicated task, that of “inception”. Inception, instead of stealing information from the unconscious mind involves implanting a new thought and is accordingly much more complex. The act requires the utmost of precision and planning, as well as a team of highly skilled specialist’s capable of fulfilling each facet of the feat. DiCaprio readily accepts the offer in return for a chance to be reunited with his children and sets about assembling these individuals.
Inception offers a veritable constellation of stars, almost each major player is inhabited by a brilliant big name actor and the film prospers as a result. While an astonishing lineup, every actor manages to find an unique position in the story as well as demonstrating an entertaining interplay with the other secondary protagonists. Tom Hardy is a delight to watch, bringing a mischievous charm to the role as well as some of the indelible confidence which characterised his role in Bronson. Hardys banter with Gordon Levitt’s more serious yet still suave character is highly enjoyable and provides some much appreciated levity throughout.
Ellen Page doesn’t break too much new ground while playing her sassy, young yet whip smart college graduate, but with that said her performance is solid and her character provides a chance for some much needed exposition on the mechanics of dream manipulation. In most other films, expository exch
anges such as this would seem wrote and contrived, but here not only are they entirely necessary considering the subject, they also manage to remain interesting and in depth without slowing the pace.
As a consequence of the dazzling quality of most of the casting, inevitably an actor whom you cannot put either a name or a movie to will appear. Most of these instances involve tertiary characters, however they are unfortunately jarring enough to be noticeable although it is an expected consequence that
smaller parts will be overshadowed by known quantities and of little real concern.
The nature of the central story conceit is that it allows for an amazing amount of freedom, and thankfully the films budget allows for the promise to be fully realised with an inexplicable number of action sequences and moments of computer generated whimsy which not only boggle the mind but result in a film which never feels dull or overstretched. The premise also justifies action which in any other film would require so much pretense as to be rendered ludicrous before beginning, resulting in salaciously indulgent moments such as anti gravity grappling in a rotating hotel corridor or an assault on a snowy fortress which would feel hokey and implausible in any other film. Having action unrestrained by physical logic is refreshing as a viewer and is surely a wonderful gift for those on the creative side as well.
My one real gripe with Inception is with it’s opening set piece, a legitimately entertaining dream heist of sorts which is evocative of the opening bank job scene in the dark knight. As a viewer, while exciting the scene throws you headfirst into the convoluted world of tampering with dreams prior to any explanation of the mechanics and logic by which it operates. I understand that the audience needs an example of extraction otherwise their only view of dream tampering is of inception, but considering how complicated the entire concept is it may have been wise to provide some context for events. I also found that the dream within a dream idea implemented here perturbed me, as at this early stage I worried that at any stage DiCaprio would wake up and find that preceding events were in fact a dream. Thankfully this sort of shallow trickery has no place in Inception, so feel safe in the knowledge that you won’t be unjustly duped.
The ending is intentionally ambiguous, with two possible options presented while neither is explicitly chosen. I feel that this is not in fact a cop out, but rather presents the audience with the option to choose which ending in their view is correct and I believe that it would be a divisive issue. The choice is palatable because it is well earned, with the plot striving to allow both options validity and while there is no twist in the tale, the tale is so well planned and executed that a twist would most likely detract from the overall quality of the piece for the sake of a cheap surprise.
Christopher Nolan has constructed an elaborate and fascinating jigsaw puzzle, however this is not his greatest triumph, because as impressive as his jigsaw is, his real talent is his ability to put those pieces into a blender then let them fall ever so elegantly into their immaculate and fully formed places. Every moment of watching these pieces fall unpredictably yet perfectly into their places on screen is a pleasure unlike any other you are likely to have in a cinema.