Director - Christopher Nolan
148 Min; PG-13
Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Marion Cotillard - Mal
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Arthur
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Tom Hardy – Eames
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer Jr.
Tom Berenger – Browning
Michael Caine – Miles
(Note: no major spoilers in this review)
Inception is a magnificent film without any help from my adjectives or accolades, but I will say that what, for me, ultimately makes it a great film, is the hands-down best ensemble casting job for an action/drama in a long time. I am reminded of how I felt about the great heist movies of my generation, the first being Heat (1995) and the second, though some will disagree, is Ronin (1998), both very good movies made even better by the cast of characters who each fulfilled their rolls perfectly. In this film, a mind-bending exploration of the mind and, more specifically, the dreaming and subconscious mind, the entire cast comes together to fulfill rolls which are required but never feel forced, and in the end you cannot help yourself from thinking that not a moment of this film was wasted by character actors just hanging around for no reason.
Christopher Nolan is famous for a flurry of films which were critically acclaimed or, at the very least, cultishly revered. Starting with Memento (2000) Nolan proved he is capable of making a layered film that will have you second guessing yourself at every turn while simply enjoying the mind-f**k you are experiencing. The tale of a man with short-term memory loss told backwards who struggles every moment of his life to understand his identity is said to be the film that Nolan was working on when he began his basis for Inception, a 10-year love affair as it were. In 2002 Insomnia was released and though I do not recall it receiving much publicity, I thought it was a brilliant film that focused on mind games and deception, two qualities woven throughout Inception. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were Nolan’s foray into the superhero genre and both films were widely received as instant classics. The Prestige, sandwiched between the previous two films, has been hotly debated but there is no doubt in my mind that it was a well thought out and executed film.
It is with all this experience that Nolan has delivered to us the perfect Summer movie, one which is full of action and suspense, but not of the mind-numbing variety. You should be prepared to put on your thinking caps when you enter the theater (and I highly suggest you pay the extra $5 for the IMAX experience) and be well-prepared for two and a half hours of thought-provoking suspense. I never even once thought about the time, and the fairly packed theater around me was as quiet as a mouse throughout, in deep respect and thought for the film in front of them, and only when the credits rolled did a collective gasp of relief let go as people immediately began discussing the film. Some had no idea what they had seen (these are the people who only want explosions and no plot), while some began to debate (incorrectly) about some of the dream sequences and the consequences (people who enjoyed the film but didn’t put in the effort required to really GET the concepts), but the vast majority seemed to enjoy very much what they had been a part of, which, if you have to nail it down to a simple thought, would be “That…..Was…..Awesome!”
The basic premise of a man infiltrating the dreams of people for pay, for various reasons, is actually, to my memory, an extremely unique concept. I love this film for its originality and that with every layer added you never feel that you are being spoon fed answers nor do you feel you are being asked too much to figure things out on your own. Leonardo DiCaprio as the infiltrator and Ellen Page as the ‘architect’ of the dreams work perfectly together, never forced and never dull. Marion Cotillard is woven throughout the film as a back story and deeply important role for which DiCaprio must answer or be lost forever. She is the perfect mix of beauty and bitch. The rest of the cast mentioned in the credits is perfect, each playing the part of a willing or unwilling participant in this dream experiment.
It must have taken a hundred re-writes to get everything correct in this film and even now as I rehash scenes in my head I cannot find a single fault with the film. From the bookended opening and closing I was completely immersed in this world of rolling cities and anti-gravitational scenes which pull on the not-really-physical bodies of those in interwoven dreams, and I simply cannot give this film enough praise as an instant classic that, if you are willing to give your full attention span, you will be greatly rewarded.