“An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.”
Rarely do we see a picture that so deviously blurs the line between Hollywood blockbuster and art-house film. I guess Christopher Nolan‘s own “The Dark Knight” kinda fits the definition, but even that remained a pulpy genre movie, however dark and thought-provoking it was. You’d have to go back to “The Matrix”, I think, to find a film that truly made you wonder whether it was an intellectualized action flick or an action-packed intellectual film. The answer, of course, is that it’s both.
It’s all in the premise which, probably not coincidentally, also reminds of “The Matrix”, but pushed much, much further. “Inception” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, a man who’s discovered a way to go into the subconscious (his or someone else’s), build dreams and interact in them, along with the people who work with him. He uses this capacity to extract information from people, literally going into their minds to find it. But when we meet him, he’s about to try the opposite: planting an idea in his target (Cilian Murphy)’s brain…
Playing around with the nature of reality, various levels of consciousness, dreams-within-dreams and other such heady stuff, “Inception” is a film that requires the audience to pay close attention, and if you do so, you should be about to follow its intricate plot easily enough. Oh, you’ll feel confused sometimes, but only when Nolan wants you to – it’s all part of the fun! Seriously, while I’m sure some nerds could find holes here and there, I personally found the storytelling to be absolutely brilliant, constantly introducing intriguing new ideas and twists while maintaining its internal logic.
The premise is a stroke of genius, really, the perfect metaphor for the creative process in general and filmmaking in particular. Anything can happen, as long as the characters/filmmakers can dream of it, even if it defies the laws of physics. This makes for an utterly unique, unpredictable, mind-blowing visual experience. Amongst other things, it allows Nolan to stage a series of awesome set pieces, as each dream “level” can instantly transport Cobb and the gang to a different time and place.
Here’s a movie that calls to mind both espionage thrillers (the “James Bond”, “Mission: Impossible” and “Bourne” series, notably) and the work of Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, etc.), while also weaving a deeply affecting character study, as DiCaprio’s character is haunted by his dead wife (Marion Cotillard) and… Well, you’ll see! As pure entertainment, it also constantly delivers, in no small part thanks to the supporting performances by Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Dileep Rao, who play the various members of Cobb’s team.
Now, this review barely scratches the surface of “Inception”. For one, a single viewing is obviously not enough to process all of it, then it’s pretty damn hard to try to discuss it in detail without going into spoilers. Still, I suppose you get the essential: this is as epic, ambitious, masterful a picture as anything we’ve seen in 2010. Whether you’re into Hollywood blockbusters or art-house films, this is a must-see.