Movie Review: Inception
By Matthew Huntley
July 21, 2010
The director Christopher Nolan has a knack for making movies that demand to be seen twice - at least twice. I use the word “knack” instead of “gift” because seeing a movie a second time isn’t always a blessing. So far, though, it’s been a treat to re-watch Nolan’s films, from Memento to The Dark Knight. That’s also the case for Inception, a film that’s very good but not quite great. Like Nolan’s other efforts, repeat viewings allow us to understand the plot better, but we don’t necessarily become more emotionally attached.
This is a thick, multi-layered thriller that combines action, drama, science fiction and tragic romance into one mind-bending puzzle. It’s absolutely imperative you go into the movie alert and attentive because it’s easy to get lost. Whether that’s a credit or flaw to Nolan as a writer-director is up for debate, but as much as I admired certain aspects of this movie, its elements do not always come together seamlessly and for all its ideas and innovations, it leaves us at a bit of an emotional distance from the characters. Yet, as a pure endurance and intelligence test, we haven’t seen a movie like it in a long time.
In the movie, "inception" is the process whereby an idea gets implanted into someone’s mind via a dream. On the other side of the coin is extraction, in which a person’s own implicit idea is stolen by an intruder, or extractor, also via a dream. The latter is what we find Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) doing at the beginning. They’re trespassing in the mind of Saito (Ken Watanabe), the head of a global energy company. They’ve been hired to infiltrate Saito’s mind in order to uncover plans for his company’s expansion.
Saito, however, discovers what they’re up to, but rather than turn them in, he offers them another job. He wants Cobb to enter the dream of his dying competitor’s son, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy), and convince him to sell off his father’s company, thus giving Saito a monopoly on global energy. In order to do this, Cobb and his team must convince Robert that the idea to break up his father’s empire is his own.
In return, Saito, a very powerful man, will arrange for Cobb to safely and legitimately return to the United States. Cobb has been charged with killing his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), but before he could be arrested and sent to jail, he fled to Europe. As Cobb tells his father-in-law (Michael Caine), this last job could be his ticket to freedom and allow him to reunite with his two children.
There is, of course, a lot more to this story and the plot gets increasingly complex as it speeds along. I’ve only provided the set up. Ellen Page plays Ariadne, an architecture student in Paris whom Cobb recruits to be the dream’s designer, and Tom Hardy is Eames, a thief with a gift for impersonation. His talent comes in handy because once the dreamer’s subconscious is aware a foreign body has entered the mind, it creates projections to attack it. Eames’ job is to assume the identity of Robert’s trusted godfather, Browning (Tom Berenger), so that even Robert’s subconscious won’t start fighting back and the team can carry out its mission. They have enough trouble fending off Mal, who constantly invades her husband’s subconscious and begs him to stay in her non-reality.