This review contains spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it, shame on you! It’s been 6 years, go watch it! After you’ve read this of course.
This film is a masterpiece. Inception was written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan and stems from the concept of lucid dreaming – that moment when you are aware that you are dreaming. Inception is a bunch of genres meshed together to make an epic film. You have your sci-fi, you have your thriller and you’ve got your heist. Released in 2010, this hit blockbuster was on many of the critics’ top 10 list. Headlined by Leonardo DiCaprio who isn’t well known in the sci-fi genre. This film plays on the notion of dreaming and the idea of planting someone else’s idea into someone’s subconscious: Inception.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dominic Cobb, a professional dream thief that extracts information by infiltrating the mark’s subconscious in a state of a shared dream world. When he gets offered the opportunity (from Ken Watanabe’s Saito) for his criminal history to be clear so that he can return home to his children. It is an offer that he can’t refuse even if he must perform Inception – which has never been done before. His target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the heir to Saito’s rival company. Cobb assembles his team, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his right-hand man; Eames (Tom Hardy), a British con man and forger; Yusef (Dileep Rao), a chemist who provides the sedative to enable them to enter the dream state. Ellen Page plays Ariadne, a university student studying architecture who gets recruited through Cobb’s father-in-law and her Professor (Michael Caine). Ariadne acts as a voyeur for the audience. She is introduced to the world of dreaming the same time as us and therefore we are learning the same information as well, making the audience not feel isolated and able to understand.
As I said this is very much a DiCaprio film. You can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He leads this film as we delve into Cobb’s backstory, his motives. This is important to Nolan as it makes the stakes higher, as allows us to understand why this is important to Cobb as we root for him and his team to succeed. DiCaprio does what he does best: explain a complex concept with so much charisma and charm that the audience is engaged in the explanation and understand it (as he has done in Catch me if you can, The Wolf of Wall Street). However, the downside to this is that the rest of the cast feel very underdeveloped. Apart from Cobb, Ariadne is the only one to receive a little bit of development, leaving characters such as Arthur, who is very mysterious and Eames, who provides a bit of comic relief with his British charm, as very flat characters that are only elevated by the performances of the actors, While I struggle to care for Saito or Fischer, unable to tell if Saito is a good person or not.
The score, composed by Hans Zimmer is beautiful. It has that techno, sci-fi feels while also maintaining the emotional core of the film. This is one of my many favourite film scores as I can remember what scene the score is in and it can invoke the correct emotions to properly enjoy the film. Tracks such as “We built our own world” can evoke the feeling of entering another world as we are introduced to the dream state. While Zimmer’s “528491” cleverly manages to create two different responses with a mix of emotions as Fischer receives ‘closure’ from his father and the team manage to create inception, while at the same time the fast pace of the score creates tension as we know that the team is running out of time and need to get out of the dream to avoid being trapped.
One of the most noticeable tracks from Hans Zimmer’s score is “Dream within a dream” and this is because of the scene that accompanies it. This is the scene in which Arthur fights Fischer’s subconscious while simultaneously Yusef is trying to avoid Fischer’s subconscious on the first level, because of his driving, this causes the gravity to be slightly distorted in Arthur’s dream, and he fights the subconscious on walls, ceilings and floors. The cinematography in this scene is superb, there was no CGI used and the scene was created using rotating sets with was brilliant. The minimum use of CGI in the film, gives it more of a plausible feel, preventing the film from becoming a fantasy keeping it in the realm of sci-fi. The end result of this scene is that it looks very slick and smooth, it is nothing that you’ve ever seen before and you get lost in the visual spectacle. It will be one of the many scenes that you remember from the film.
“Time” is Inception theme, which has become a very popular score by Zimmer and is played in the final minutes of the film. The ending focuses on Cobb as he leaves the airport after completing his mission, he sees all the people in his dream and goes home to his children for the first time in a long time, “Time” aims for an emotional ending as it plays on Cobb’s emotions, as he spins the top as he greets his children. The spinning top plays an important symbolic motif in the film as it is Cobb’s totem that represents and separates reality from fiction. It represents the danger of his lifestyle as it is the only thing to keep your mind in check. If it keeps spinning, you’re dreaming. It topples, welcome back to reality. The ambiguous and open ending, might frustrate you – Did Cobb get his happy ending? Has he gone crazy? What about his kids? But this was a smart move from Nolan as throughout this whole film separating reality from dreams and trying not to lose your mind in the dream is a common theme in the film. The last shot is of the top; it looks like it is about to topple but Nolan, jump cuts to black before the audience can see. This makes it open to interpretations, and sticks with the audience more as it makes them question what they have just seen as well as the topic of lucid dreaming.
This is a great film – scratch that – this film is like Christmas and your birthday mixed together. It’s entertaining and very easy to get lost in the visual spectacle of the film. Everything about it is magnificent, some of the effects in the film I have never seen before but have seemed to pave way for films like Doctor Strange. Everything is great about it, the only downside to this film is that it drives on DiCaprio too much and while he pulls it off, it falls to the expense of the cast, it would be nice to know more about the team. This film leaves you wanting more. It is one of the few sci-fi films to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, which is deserved as it plays on the notion of something that everyone does without thinking.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Scriptwriter: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio; Ken Watanabe; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Marion Cotillard; Ellen Page; Tom Hardy; Cillian Murphy; Tom Berenger; Michael Caine
Running Time: 148 minutes (2 hours 28 minutes)