Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.
Warner Bros. Pictures
***** out of 5
Article first published as Movie Review: Inception on Blogcritics.
Some directors can safely do pretty much whatever they want. From the likes of the late Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino and even Pixar Animation Studios, critics and fans alike will stand behind them through thick and thin. While I’ve been a long-time fan of Christopher Nolan, and even though he may only have his seventh film under his belt with this weekend’s "Inception," I would like to officially welcome him to the fold.
After his big break with "Memento" at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, he has gone on to continually prove himself with each film better than the last. Through "Insomnia," "Batman Begins," "The Prestige" and "The Dark Knight," Nolan has been on a never-ending streak of one-upmanship with himself. Something that sets him apart from other directors, and yet another reason for such high acclaim besides his directing skills, is the fact that all but one film (his Swedish remake "Insomnia") he has either written alone or co-written. Something most directors are definitely not well known for these days.
Now Nolan brings us his most game changing, groundbreaking, surreal and hypnotically breathtaking masterpiece of all with "Inception." Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb who is an extraction artist: someone able to enter your dreams to steal valuable secrets from within your subconscious. We first meet him washed up on the shores of what would appear to be an Asian hideaway. From there, he is brought face-to-face with Saito (Ken Watanabe) to learn they have met before.
Flashing back to their first acquaintance we find out that Cobb, and his current team, consisting of right-hand man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and “architect” Nash (Lukas Haas), are trying to steal some ideas from Saito. When he tries to defend his thoughts via his subconscious (in the form of angry or militarized gangs of projections) Saito finds out that they aren’t actually in his own head.
After being given “the kick” (a real-world jolt to remove you from your dream state) and Nash is taken away by Saito’s goons, Saito offers Cobb a chance to return to his homeland of the U.S.A. where he is wanted for murdering his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard). Mal has a tendency to invade Cobb's dreamscape and sabotage his missions. Saito’s mission, should Cobb choose to accept it (which of course he does), sets Cobb off to rally up his troops and gather a new team for his one last job.
The mission is to perform an inception – to plant the seed of an idea instead of stealing one – into the mind of Saito’s biggest adversary in the energy race, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy). Saito wants Fischer to come up with the idea to split up his father's (Pete Postlethwaite) empire, which will bring it down, and give Saito the upper hand. In order to pull off Saito’s plan, the team needs ten hours and must probe deeply enough into Fischer’s subconscious to make him believe that everything is his own idea. However, that means delving down into a third dream-within-a-dream, making it far more dangerous to return to reality.
To reveal any more would be maddening and completely unfair to the film. I will only quickly add this – Cobb first needs a new architect and recruits Ariadne (Ellen Page) via his children’s grandfather Miles (Michael Caine). Also along for the ride are Saito (to keep an eye on his investment), and a “forger,” Eames (Tom Hardy), who can mimic one’s projections to gain information. Lastly, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), seems to be along for the ride mostly to keep everyone safe from attack by Fischer’s highly trained and ultra-violent subconscious.
Everyone knows that dreams are powerful things, and the way they are brought to film here are beyond anything you’ve ever seen before. If this doesn’t lay claim to a lot of gold statues come next year then I don’t know what will. Everything is so seamless you’d never believe they were the work of programmers sitting around entering codes and punching buttons. And Hans Zimmer’s score also will hopefully garner some recognition as the musical score will play endlessly within in your head long after the credits roll. Not to mention that there’s no escaping it these days, as it is used in all of the movie's TV commercials and trailers.
Leonardo DiCaprio continues to bring his A-game as expected and while this may be the first joining of forces between Leo and director Nolan, it’s surely not to be their last. Cotillard continues to shine no matter how minimal the role and Page, while seeming to be limiting her work, at least pops up now and then in films that drive her to show that "Juno" was no fluke (even though anyone paying attention would know she was proving this long before her eggo was preggo). It’s also fun to see Dileep Rao in roles since Sam Raimi first used him in "Drag Me to Hell" (even if his last role was in a little movie you may have heard of starring computer generated blue Na’vi). Nolan also continues his streak of using actors he’s worked with prior including his "Batman" protégé, Caine, Murphy and Watanabe.
The real star, of course, is Christopher Nolan. If he continues to make every film as spectacularly as he has already, the road ahead will be filled with loads of treasures for both audiences and critics alike, not something most directors working today know the beauty of. However, hopefully this won’t feature any kind of backlash where it’s critically applauded and die a box office death. But with Warner Bros. using "From the director of "The Dark Knight"" on everything and anything Inception-related, it should be a safe bet that the best film of the year so far will also be one of the biggest money makers of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, an official Best Picture contender has finally arrived!