Inception is so intricately layered, so brilliantly verbose, that to even begin to describe the plot to you would be to rob the film of its power, and cheat you out of what is easily one of the best movie-going experiences of the year. Breathe easy and read on, I will spoil nothing for you. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia, and a little film called The Dark Knight) has become a grandmaster architect of audacious vision. His ability to craft something that will surely entertain us is evident, but with Inception Nolan has constructed a film that transcends mere entertainment. The film is a boldly challenging exercise for the mind, daring us to engage a contemplative narrative that is pulled back one stratum at a time. We allow ourselves to be taken in by the complexities of what we suspect Nolan wants us to know, yet are never truly certain of.
We do so because the journey isn’t a relentless barrage of tiresome lingo, it is a breathtakingly swift and evenly paced visual feast that makes 150 minutes feel like 30. So, in a nutshell, it’s entertaining and intelligent. Imagine you’re on a roller coaster and you’ve been given a Sudoku puzzle, or even an extremely difficult maze to solve by the end of the ride. That gives me an idea of how difficult it must have been for Nolan to mold and sculpt his screenplay. Inception is a masterpiece.
The cast is uniformly strong, an ensemble piece to be sure, and DiCaprio minds the talent around him. He’s not a domineering presence like he was in The Departed or Shutter Island, yet he provides the emotional core needed to connect the audience with the astounding premise: stealing someone else’s ideas by getting a glimpse of their subconscious through shared dreaming. Oh, it gets much more complex than that, believe me. If someone were to ask “What kind of movie is it?”, an easy answer might be “Well, it’s a heist movie.” This barely scratches the surface, but let’s run with that for a moment. DiCaprio plays Cobb, a man who conducts industrial espionage through extraction, stealing ideas. He brings together a team for a job that will involve not only invading someone else’s dreams, but invading their dreams within dreams, and then planting an idea deep in their subconscious so that they think the idea is their own. This team involves cast highlights such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and Ken Watanabe. Not to be outdone, Nolan rounds out his cast with Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, and Tom Berenger (I know, Tom Berenger!?). There is some serious talent on display here, and Nolan films have become the apex of Hollywood casting.
I believe I’ve already exhausted the extent of my ability to give you a brief overview of the plot, which some of you will have already researched a bit for yourselves. It’s nothing that can be described “accurately” by any one person, though it is something that could be debated endlessly by groups of people ranging from film buffs, to philosophy majors. With Inception, Nolan has given us a popular work of art that lingers in the mind long after having left the theater. Personally, it hit a lot of solid points about dreaming in general, as so many of my own experiences with dreaming are personified onscreen. It’s as if Nolan has tapped into the deepest reaches of our subconscious, extracting everything there is to know about how we dream and what we experience while we’re in that dream.
Do you ever dream right from the very beginning? Ever find yourself at a point in time where, during your dream, you’re not quite sure how you got there? Ever wake abruptly from a dream that ends with you falling? These are just tiny threads that make up the tapestry of Nolan’s big picture, all put to work so that we will second-guess ourselves as the film comes to a close. We’ll think we know what we just saw, though we’re sure we liked how we got there, but we’ll have to see it again and again, just to feel like we have a comfortable grasp on it. See Inception as soon as possible, and if you already have, see it again! I know that’s what I’ll be doing…and then maybe I’ll sleep on it.