Reviews: Inception

Inception, the latest film from master of mystery Mr. Christopher Nolan, is a spinning, convoluted maze of psychological story and inspired imagery driven by an incredible script and dead-on performances.

Famously written by Nolan over the course of 10 years, the film follows Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of dream-thieves through a series of increasingly confusing encounters and beautifully bizarre set-pieces towards a slightly unclear goal in a world with seemingly pliable rules. The plot is both confusing and intriguing, and it either manages to perfectly straddle the line that divides those two definitions or fall firmly into the former category, depending on your personal taste. I feel that it would take away some of the wonder and weight of the film if I revealed too much about the particulars of the story, so I will keep it vague: Cobb is tasked with planting an idea within his client’s competitor’s mind (the process of ‘inception’) in order to end their monopoly on the energy (?) industry. During the course of the film’s exploration of this story we learn more about Cobb’s team, his past and his family. What follows is sometimes breathtaking, sometimes obtuse, and sometimes brilliant  but always entertaining.

The visuals are stunning; the use of slow-motion is perfect and underlines the grandiosity of some of the scenes without descending into pretension. Nolan crafts some fantastic optical illusions and deploys them at critical points in the narrative. Inception is similar to The Matrix in that the ‘real world’ presented in both films is remarkably dull and grounded but the ‘unrealities’ are freaking unreal. The score by Hans Zimmer is amazing, atmospheric and foreboding in ways that perfectly complement the film’s narrative and visual aesthetic. If I had one gripe with the sound design, it’s that the score would frequently overpower the dialog such that there were stretches during which I had no idea what was being said whatsoever.

The performances are great across the board. DiCaprio is the lead, and Inception is his film to carry – and carry it he does. Despite excellent supporting performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy (seriously, is that the best cast ever?) Inception truly is Cobb’s (and in turn DiCaprio’s) film – Inception’s story is as much the story of Cobb as it is the story of his team’s progress toward their goal, and DiCaprio succeeds in making Cobb a fully-formed and emotionally real character. Despite having more to work with (in terms of emotional range displayed and character background explored) in films like Shutter Island and The Departed, Inception may feature DiCaprio’s most complete performance to date.

Inception is intellect-porn. It’s a mountain of daring, brilliant, fascinating ideas explored using an increasingly complex narrative structure that only those who truly love films like Nolan’s Memento and The Prestige or Shane Carruth’s Primer will get absolute and unabashed enjoyment from. It’s indulgent in ways that film geeks can and should revel in, but in the same breath it’s difficult to recommend to just anyone. However, in my ideal world everyone would love films like Inception.

5/5

reviewed by Ben Vernel

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