McGinnis: ‘Inception’ cements Nolan’s reputationWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some films benefit from repeat viewings. “Inception” demands them. This is one of the most straightforwardly complicated films you will ever see — a movie that revels in telling a fairly simple story with remarkable intricacy, involving layer after layer of detail in level after level of narrative. Whatever you do, do not walk in late. You’ll never be able to follow it. Heck, you might not be able to follow it even if you see the whole thing.
It also cemented director Christopher Nolan’s legacy as one of the most remarkable talents of this generation. Since his triumphant burst onto the scene with 2000’s “Memento,” Nolan has continuously turned out some of the most exciting and challenging works of any mainstream director.
Many of Nolan’s best films deal in a very nonlinear form of storytelling, constructed in a unique way for dramatic effect. “Memento” was told in reverse, giving us the end of the tale first, so we could understand the real climax was at the beginning. “The Prestige” jumped back and forth in its tale about feuding magicians, illustrating in narrative form the secretive nature of the world it depicted.
And with “Inception,” he has woven a tale that seems like a combination of both of those films, one that deals in varying levels of the subconscious, each with its own sense of time, all happening simultaneously. This isn’t just about people operating in a dream world, it’s about dreams within dreams, and even dreams beyond that. Compared to this, “The Matrix” is child’s play.
This paragraph will be my only attempt to deal with the film’s plot — any more and it would be unfair to the experience of seeing it unfold, and besides, I’m not sure how much I’m going to get right anyway. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a specialist in “extraction,” a sort of mindcrime where a victim’s dreams are infiltrated to steal their prized secrets. A businessman played by Ken Watanabe approaches Cobb with a request to perform inception — the implanting of an idea into a subject’s mind. Everyone says it’s impossible, but, for reasons best left unsaid, Cobb is convinced to try.
The film takes the form of a heist caper, but one of the most involved you’ve ever seen. The movie’s first third or so takes a great deal of time establishing the rules and concepts behind mindcrime, and a protégé (played by the wonderful Ellen Page) is introduced as a focus for all the explanations. If there is a criticism to be leveled at the film, it is that much of its early dialogue feels more like exposition than actual conversation, but admittedly, without that the audience would be totally adrift.
Often one hears visuals described as “breathtaking,” but honestly, you’ve never seen anything like what “Inception” presents. The dream worlds the characters inhabit are easily influenced by suggestion and outside forces — when a dreamer is rocked in the real world, the dream world they’re in reflects the change.
This leads to remarkable scenes where gravity is constantly shifting, weather patterns change on a whim, and entire structures crumble without warning.
These are some of the most remarkable effects I’ve seen in years.
The cast must also be praised. This is one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performances. He continues his remarkable run as an actor who always seems to participate in fascinating material — though considering both Scorsese and Nolan want to work with him, that’s a natural by-product. His support staff not only includes Page but the excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt (recovering nicely from “G.I. Joe”) and Nolan regular Michael Caine in a small but pivotal role.
Their victim is played by the awesome Cillian Murphy (“28 Days Later” and “Batman Begins”). And Oscar winner Marion Cotillard’s natural luminance helps contribute to her effectiveness as … but no, I’m not giving that away, either.
“Inception” is like nothing you have ever seen or will ever see again. In a summer where so little has been great, and even less has been challenging, here stands Nolan delivering a remarkable story that insists its audience keep up with it. It may be difficult to follow at times but like a complicated puzzle, the rewards of finding its solution are great, indeed, and it still leaves us with questions to debate for years to come.
This is a film that every moviegoer needs to experience.
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.