“It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.”
The Scoop: 2010 PG-13, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Tagline: Your mind is the scene of the crime.
Summary Capsule: a man skilled at infiltrating dreams to extract information dreams of returning to his children, but to do so he must not steal information but instead plant some in the form of a life-changing idea.
Kyle’s Rating: stroll around the grounds until you feel at home
Kyle’s Review: Inception is the sort of film that you watch, think about while you’re walking to your car, and declare loudly (often only to yourself) ‘I’m going to see that again tomorrow night, Jim.’ So you do, and it’s glorious, and life makes sense again.
For a year that seemed to promise only Tron Legacy and the Coen brothers remaking True Grit, Inception seemed like a solid idea that you didn’t quite want to believe in. Sure, Nolan is big with the Batman and all, but could he meld his big-budget thrills with the cerebral (i.e. practically indie film-esque) elements of his Memento-lead personal works?
Yes. Yes. Oh yes!
Why did we ever doubt the Nolan? Or the Dicaprio? Or the Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Or the Ellen Page? Perhaps you never did and therefore watched Inception without any sense of guilt, secure in your foresight (that Inception would be absolutely brilliant). I had to go see it four times in theaters, with varying assortments of friends and (then-)girlfriends, before I felt I reach a place of proper penitence. Whew! (Thank goodness Inception is worth seeing, oh, about one million times!)
The thing about Inception is that it works on so many different levels. You can take (as I did) a girlfriend (whose psychological instability makes her awesome at first but awful after a while) who will view the film with a focus on the emotional relationships between the characters, considering which each has to gain or lose and thinking of the film as a cinematic essay about dealing with loss. You can take new MFA friends who will use their ‘deep reading’ skills to plumb the meaningful depths of character names and actions, and see the film as a fractal whose every little element reflects the larger meanings at hand. Or you can take a bunch of California hipster girls who just want to see a midnight premiere on an IMAX screen who think 80% of the cast is “really ****ing hot!”
What is most incredible is that Inception sustains all these varied sorts of meditations upon it, and more. I’ve read in reviews that Inception is perhaps the smartest film ever designed to entertain dumb people. That’s a judgement that’s simultaneously unfair (it’s meant for everyone!) and astonishingly accurate. Inception balances superbly on the razor’s edge between being too intelligent for its own good and spoon-feeding information to its audience. There is very little about the basic plots and twists that your average will not understand, and yet each line is like a tooth in that you can look at it merely for its surface intricacies or attempt to extract it to examine its hidden depths. There are so many layers of meaning going on in Inception, just as there are multiple layers of reality. Think fractals and you’ll be fine!
But initially, if for some reason you have allowed yourself to not see Inception yet, watch it as a heist movie with a sci-fi twist. Lost in all the debate over whether the wool is being pulled over our eyes is the fact that Inception works brilliantly as an Ocean’s Eleven-like ‘one last big heist’ film with tremendously charming characters and a terrific MacGuffin: the Pasiv dream machine. Don’t ignore how ingenious the screenplay is in arming us with mostly only the essential details about the extraction process, so that we know the basics well enough to forget about the science and enjoy the goings-on on-screen. Nolan, who worked on the script for Inception for nearly a decade, made sure to render the complex simply and to populate his cast with some of the most photogenic and thoughtful thespians around, making Inception into a thinking viewer’s action-adventure film. No surprise, really, that Nolan often thinks of James Bond films (and would be an excellent Bond film helmer!) when he made his own version of a sci-fi Bond film here, with the keeps-getting-better DiCaprio as Bond.
It’s hard to praise Inception enough. You’ll dig what I mean after you see it once or twice and start to twig on to there being quite a lot of things going on here, including things way more hidden than you might expect. Watch it just for fun but always with a determination to talk about topics later that pop up, possibly in your dreams. It’s always a fun time talking with friends about great films, and when you find a great film that you can debate about endlessly, well, that’s one to see many, many, MANY times!
- Christopher Nolan carefully maintained an aura of secrecy about the film’s plot. While the film was in production, Nolan described it as a modern-day sci-fi action thriller “set within the architecture of the mind.”
- Nolan’s first choice for the role of Ariadne was Even Rachel Wood but she turned it down. Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams and Emma Roberts were also considered, but Nolan ultimately (& thankfully!) chose Ellen Page.
- Leonardo DiCaprio was Nolan’s only choice for the role of Cobb.
- Warner Brothers executives suggested Nolan make the film in 3D but he refused on the (correct!) premise that “it will distract the storytelling experience of Inception.”
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed all his own stunts during his hallway fight scenes.
- Ellen Page’s hair is worn in a tight bun in certain scenes so that SPOILER! there was no need to consider how her hair would move in scenes where there is no gravity.
Cobb: I can access your mind through your dreams.
Cobb: You create the world of the dream, you bring the subject into that dream and they fill it with their subconscious.
Ariadne: How could I ever acquire enough detail to make them think that it’s reality?
Cobb: Our dreams, they feel real while we’re in them, right? It’s only when we wake up that we realize how things are actually strange. Let me ask you a question, you, you never really remember the beginning of a dream, do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on.
Ariadne: I guess, yeah.
Cobb: So how did we end up here?
Ariadne: Well, we just came from the . . .
Cobb: Think about it, Ariadne, how did you get here? Where are you right now?
Ariadne: We’re dreaming?
Cobb: You’re actually in the middle of the workshop right now, sleeping. This is your first lesson shared dreaming. Stay calm.
Cobb: For this to work, we’d have to buy off the pilots.
Arthur: And we’d have to buy off the flight attendents.
Saito: I bought the airline. (shrugs) It seemed neater.
Arthur: Quick, give me a kiss.
Ariadne: They’re still looking at us.
Arthur: Yeah, it was worth a shot.
Mal: You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can’t be sure. But it doesn’t matter: because we’ll be together.
Mal: You keep telling yourself what you know. But what do you believe? What do you feel?
Cobb: I don’t like trains.
Cobb: That price on my head, was that dead or alive?
Eames: Not sure. See if he starts shooting at you.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- The Matrix
- Shutter Island