Inception – **1/2
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine
Release date: July 16, 2010
A thief of dreams is one who drowns out the purities of cinema, cashing in on the big budget extravaganzas and deterring from the simplicity of storytelling in favor of an extremely intellectual web of narrative that proves to be in the long run too tedious, too sophisticated, and too savvy for its own good. Ideas are extrapolated from the likes of Freud and Jung, then are mixed with cinematic concepts spanning from 2001: A Space Odyssey, to BladeRunner and to The Matrix. All of this and more occurs in Inception, a refreshing film that seems to have forgotten how a great cinematic tale can be told with such simplicity.
What is meant to confound the mind in a stimulating and energetic manner turns into a rather laborious process that gives us a contemptuous attitude towards a film that dares the impossible: it perceives colossal dreams and attempts to make them possible (key word there being ‘attempt’). An exuberant imagination, even an overwhelming fury of inventive images, is displayed before us with hopes of redefining not only the sci-fi genre, but the entire panorama of cinema. The elaborate logistical demands of director and screenwriter Christopher Nolan’s film is a cause for celebration only because he is audacious enough to go dream them up and apply them to his film. He conjures up an inconceivable idea that obliterates the familiar landmarks of cinema and troubles the mind profoundly, but in a way that is detrimental to his film.
Imperturbable in his conception of such a fantastic idea, maybe the most ambitious since Mulholland Drive in 2001 but nowhere near that film’s extraordinary ability to exhilarate the mind via dreams, Nolan allows his new film Inception to methodically drift away from his audience instead of sweeping them up in a reverie. There is no denying the film’s inscrutable enormity that is both overwhelmingly formidable and incongruous. The immensity of his outspread vision reveals unsuspected depths which prove to be altogether unscalable.
Attempting a coherent structuring of the film’s narrative is near implausible because even Nolan can’t logically piece together the pieces that would prove to be enlightening and beneficial to viewers. On the mind of Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a multitude of things, mostly domestic issues regarding his wife (Marion Cotillard) and two children, but even above that is his job as a dream thief. Dom has the ability to examine one’s dreams when they are asleep and medicated. He enters into their subconscious to hijack top secret information. His craft is impeccable and can even be dangerous.
Dom is a lost soul who relies on his own pursuit towards illusions to obtain gratification because his reality is a depressing one. DiCaprio portrays Dom as an individual tormented by what is eating at his soul. He locks any indications of his past away and wants to live in the moment. While not facing it thoroughly it becomes more contaminated by fear and cowardice. Sound like familiar Nolan characters? Bale’s Batman? Pacino’s insomniac and guilt-ridden cop? Or how about Guy Pearce’s Leonard in Memento, a character completely out of it that he only lives for the moment only.
Currently Dom and his assistant Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are trying to swipe confidential files from the subconscious state of Saito (Ken Watanabe), a very rich man who will soon join Dom’s team in trying to introduce a radically new concept called ‘inception.’ This concept presents to an individual in their subconscious state an idea that is not their own. By implementing a new idea into a rival’s mind, in this case Saito’s rival billionaire, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), Dom’s team can capture the necessary information they need and control what information comes in and out of Fischer’s dreams. When Dom’s mentor, also his father-in-law, Miles (Michael Caine) introduces to him a gifted young student (Ellen Page) who specializes in creating the architecture of an individual’s dream, the planning of ‘inception’ seems to be apparent.
Aesthetically Inception is beautiful. Before being called a visionary, Nolan obtains strongly the title of an astute and well respected aesthete. His creation of a multi-layered dream world is breathtakingly immense, even usurping the immensity of The Dark Knight. The architecture of a particular dream world is bristling with fascinating detail that, in a cinematic way, proves to be indispensable. When we see Parisian buildings being folded on top of each other, trains traveling recklessly through congested streets, and men fist fighting in a hotel corridor where gravity is obsolete one realizes these miraculous violations of natural law and we dare not question them because we are embedded within a world of no limitations; a world of dreams. It is not impossible for us to revel in this surreal atmosphere. What attests to be impossible for us is to engage proficiently into the disjointed narrative. Maybe it is better for Mr. Nolan to keep his dreams to himself.