Finally, I saw a movie for big kids this summer that I was really impressed with. After months of anticipation, watching Inception was one of the best experiences I’ve had at the theater in quite a while.
Perhaps an especially heightened psychological thriller, Inception starts out as a story about stealing information from the minds of dreamers (for example trade secrets from slumbering CEOs), but quickly switches to a heist of inception, the delicate and dangerous task of planting an idea in a person’s subconscious. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio); his associates, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Eames (Tom Hardy); a young architecture student, Ariadne (Ellen Page); and a sedative expert, Yusuf, are hired by a businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), the victim of their last theft, to perform an inception on Robert Fischer, Jr (Cillian Muprhy), heir to an enormous energy conglomerate. Specifically, Saito wants Cobb et al to convince Fischer to break up his father’s empire, which would allow Saito’s company more room in the market to grow. If it sounds a bit complicated, that’s because it is, and the plot only thickens as Cobb, Arthur, and Ariadne construct a tri-level shared dream in which to implant the idea in Fischer’s mind. Meanwhile, Cobb has his own worries, including legal problems that are forcing him to stay away from home and his two young children. He also suffers from a combination of grief and guilt over the death of his wife (Marion Cotillard) that causes him to spend increasing amounts of time in a dream world of their construction, loosening his grip on reality.
Inception is kind of like a two-hour brain teaser. It is a little bit overwhelming, but before it was even over I already wanted to see it again. The many layers of the story keep the movie interesting without feeling forced or like the audience is being played with for no reason. And while the end is a smidge confusing, a week later I haven’t thought of any holes in it yet.
This movie also has sort of a dream cast without it feeling like a summer blockbuster weighed down with giant stars. I think Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard are two of the most talented working actors today. Then, bringing in two of my favorite young actors, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, just makes the cast even better. Oh yeah, and there’s also a small dose of Michael Caine. Each actor shines, and the ensemble works beautifully together. I especially enjoyed the interactions between Page and Gordon-Levitt. Cotillard is sort of creepy in this role and she is brilliant at it. Strangely, DiCaprio’s character has some traits in common with his character in Shutter Island. Maybe because Inception is so much better, however, the performance here is also much better.
The special effects and onsite locations in Inception are really intense and beautiful. But, unlike another recent movie (Avatar, perhaps?), the cool special effects work for the story, not the other way around. The special effects enhance the settings within dreams without overshadowing the plot. And, refreshingly, this is an intense special effects movie that actually has a plot.
Now, there were a couple of things I didn’t love about Inception. At times, I found the soundtrack a bit much. While a lot of scenes are enriched by the pulsing score, sometimes the music is more distracting than anything. Also, the end of the very last scene (no spoilers) is kind of gimmicky. I’m on the fence about whether it is even necessary or not, but after such a good movie, it just feels cheap.
For great acting, a puzzling plot, and visually intriguing sets and effects to go along, I rate Inception 4.5/5 stars.
Inception was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, runs 148 minutes, and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.
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