Two friends of mine had seen Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ a day before me with one friend commenting something along the lines of ‘Run, do not walk to see this movie…’ which he followed up with a list of superlatives on why ‘Inception' was so freaking awesome. However another friend responded with terms that included the words ‘ludicrous’, ‘silly’, ‘pretentious’, ‘B.S’… with the B.S. part spelled out in caps. He did not like this movie. The interesting thing is, apart from an age difference, both of the guys are cut from the same cloth so for these two dudes to have such a disparate opinion on one movie is a little surprising. But who cares about those cats, right? I’m sure Christopher Nolan himself is sitting by his I-Mac dying to know what Christopher Armstead thinks about his movie, you know? Let’s just say that there’s absolutely no need to run to see ‘Inception’. Walking to the theater will work out just fine.
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief. Not just any kind of thief however, for when we meet Cobb he and his partner in crime Arthur (Joseph-Gordon Levitt), have international business tycoon Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) embroiled in a scam to steal some important corporate secrets from Mr. Saito’s brain. Cobb and Arthur are in Saito’s dreams and it is in these dreams that even the most trusted secrets can be extracted. Which is probably why they call the whole process ‘Extraction’. Figured that out all on my own. Unfortunately for our ‘heroes’ Mr. Saito is a pretty smart guy and with the help of Cobb’s wayward dream wrecking wife Mal (Marion Coltillard) he has these guys figured out. Operation fails, the entity that employed Cobb, Arthur and the dream architect Nash (Lukas Hass) is pissed and they are on the run. Not to say anything but these guys are going to need a new dream architect.
The good thing for our guys is that Saito isn’t nearly as upset about this as one would imagine. In fact he makes them an offer. He needs to an idea planted into the head of a major competitor that will benefit his company greatly. This is called ‘Inception’ and it is thought to be nearly impossible. Despite Arthur’s protestations, Cobb takes the job because Saito promises that upon successful completion of this gig Saito will make a phone call and Cobb will be allowed to go back home. It’s mighty complicated but Cobb is on the run from the law back in the States and is desperate to clear his name and be reunited with his two young children.
Cobb needs a team to pull this off which includes Arthur of course, a new architect in the brilliant Ariadne (Ellen Page), a chemist to insure maximum sedation in Yusef (Dileep Rao) and a forger who can mimic personalities in Eames (Tom Hardy). The mark is heir to some super mega Enron type company Robert Fisher Jr. (Cillian Murphy). The plan is to use dreams within dreams to convince Fisher Jr. that he has come up with his own idea that will ultimately benefit Saito Corp. The problems are many. Fisher Jr.’s mind is militarily protected against such invasions. This thing they are trying to do has never been done. Usually if you die in a dream you just wake up but this time they are too deeply sedated so if they die who knows what’s going to happen and most importantly… Cobb is screwed up in the head. Thus his mind is introducing all kinds of unplanned wildcards into this plan which seems doomed from the word jump. Mission Impossible for real.
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ was, is and always will be one of my all-time favorite movies. An original thought committed to film. How rare is that? His Batman movies weren’t of original thought but I don’t think anyone would argue too strenuously that Nolan did do the best anyone could’ve hoped with those movies. Because of the insane success of those films Nolan is awarded that rare opportunity, when the studio system steps on a limb and allows a filmmaker to make a semi-original film, and almost on that alone we have to recommend ‘Inception’. A movie where the director of ‘Memento’ was given a truckload of loot (est. 200 mil) to create another mind-altering psychological thriller.
Visually ‘Inception’ is phenomenal. The creation of the dream worlds and the special effects that went into creating these worlds are amazing. Seriously, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Matrix-esque wall crawling fight sequence? Sweet. Conceptually the narrative is solid because when discussing a world of dreams the possibilities are wide open because anything can happen and in this movie almost anything does. Nolan’s script goes into explicit detail in fleshing the theories and possibilities of the mind and what occurs in these dreams and quite honestly it is fascinating.
But not perfect. This brings me to a couple of issues I had with this narrative. Where some saw depth and complexity I saw unwieldy confusion. Without getting too much into dream levels, projections, and consciousness, lets just mention the fourth level which is a dreamstate limbo. My question is would this ‘limbo’ exist as a singular place? Like Cleveland? A character dies who doesn’t awake in reality but instead goes into this limbo. Our characters go into a limbo created by Cobb, even though the consciousness they were in at the time of this ‘death’ belongs to someone else. There’s a lot of uncertainty in relation to the consciousness thing that our characters exist in as this movie plays out. Sometimes Nolan plays by the rules he’s created in his script, sometimes he doesn’t, which is usually dictated by some sweet action sequence. And shouldn’t these kids of Cobb’s have aged? Maybe that’s another twist or something.
My main issue though is a simple one and it’s ‘motive’. You see in ‘The Matrix’, which some are comparing this movie to, the motive is freeing the human race. In the movie ‘Dreamscape’ which no one is comparing this movie to, though they are similar, the motive is preserving Democracy. In a movie such ‘2001’ which some are comparing this movie to in scale of importance, the motive is unlocking and understanding the secrets of the universe. In this movie the main motive is Cobb getting home to his kids and the other characters getting paid. I’m sorry but that’s not good enough for me for a movie as grand and as epic as this one. For one Cobb is an asshole. If he doesn’t make it home to his kids at the end of the movie, I’m good with that. And Saito avoiding an energy monopoly to his own benefit and the other characters bolstering their W-2’s doesn’t do it for me, at least on a grand scale as this one.
But I did enjoy ‘Inception’ because I like fancy Sci-Fi movies and heist movies. And that’s was ‘Inception’ was… a big time, high concept, action filled heist flick. Paradigm changing? Probably not. Entertaining? Oh yes.