A refreshingly original idea from Christopher Nolan is like a virus. It embeds deep into the subconscious and blossoms into something that spreads and infects the lives of many. Inception is that virus of an idea. It’s a film that will be a cornerstone, a new entry into the cinema lexicon. Nolan takes a universal experience, pairs that with universal themes, throws in some slick action and creates a multi-layered picture that works from start to finish.
The film is mind-bending in its use of a new language about dreams and dreamscapes. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a man that, with the help of a team, can enter into the dreamland of a subject. He goes into their subconscious and steals or implants ideas. The ability to do this and how they do this is the complicated and exciting aspect of this film, but at its core, Inception is two simple things: a reverse-heist film and a film about the guilt, fear and shame that shape our dreams and take over our lives.
Guilt is a powerful force that can ruin and run our lives. Cobb is trying to erase his guilt through reconciling and changing the past in his dreams, but the past can’t be erased; the past can’t be reconciled through anything he can do alone. The film is spent trying to regain his past and learning to live in the present.
As in a lot of heist films, the protagonist is going to do “one last job”. In this case, the job will get him home to see his kids. The question the film poses though, is, what is home? Where is home? Can home be attained? What is really real? Are the dreams we dream as real as the reality of our daily life? The human brain is complex and still a mysterious figure in our lives. We still haven’t fully understood the realities of our reality.
The cast is sublime. They play their parts well and each character is superbly written. They feel fully formed and not projections of one’s subconscious. Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe all play to their strengths and give solid, believable performances, but the one actor that steals it all is Tom Hardy. As soon as he graces the screen, the film seems to take flight. Hardy plays Eames with swagger and confidence and the audience can’t take their eyes off of him. He’s a brilliant actor.
The script and direction from Christopher Nolan is top-notch. The film is a beauty to look at. It’s visually stunning, but that works well only because the story and script are locked in solid. The exposition of the film may have been a bit much, but it was meant to orient the audience in a disorienting film and it worked, but sometimes a bit of disorientation is a good thing. It makes people want to revisit the film over and over to try and make sense of it all. Nolan makes a film that is disorienting, but sensible.
One of the most powerful aspects of life is the idea of home. We all yearn for a home and that is a big motivation in our lives. We want to build a home, create a home, feel at home, find another to be home with. This aspect is delved into in Inception. It’s the core motivation of Cobb and one of the core questions of the film. Where is home? If our home is only in our dreams, then is home attainable? Are dreams reality? When we find home, we want to hold it, keep it safe and not let it go. This is what Cobb is trying to do and his struggle mirrors the struggle of humanity.
This is a fantastic film that delivers in every aspect. The writing, direction, art direction, effects, story, acting, and themes are all excellent. Thematically, Inception gets to the core of our dilemma in life: guilt and forgiveness. Where is forgiveness found? Can we do anything to attain it? It’s also the story of a journey home. Reality is broken and dreams are shaken in this film. It’s a mind-blowing, but simple journey that all of humanity can relate to.