Trying to adequately describe what’s happening in the movie Inception and why it’s so amazing is definitely not easy with the printed word. So why don’t we go on a little dream trip together in my head and I will hopefully make more sense. “You’re on a bobsled. It’s snowing out. And it’s cold. GO!”
Layer 1 – Lake Placid
Actually a bobsled ride would be an apt description for what the experience of this film is like. It has many twists and turns, really moves fast at times, and just when you think you’ve got a good handle on things you’re thrown for a curve. To really enjoy the movie I think you have to just give yourself over to it – let those dreams wash over you so that they seem real. It’s fun but also a tremendous rush to look back at the end and see how far you’ve come.
To sum up the plot in a very hazy nutshell, we’re following a team of thieves that are hired to enter someone’s dreams to ferret out a piece of information that he has tucked away in his subconscious. This requires an “architect” to create the dreamscape and make it believable to the target, and others to go into the dream to find that locked up memory. The team soon undertakes “one last job” (so typical of heist movies, I know) with its greatest challenge – to instead plant an idea that the target (Cillian Murphy) will wake up to feel he thought of himself – a process called inception. Easier said than done, of course – what follows is a mad ride through many levels of a man’s psyche.
But that’s just a surface level examination – let’s talk more about what you’re seeing. To do that I think we need to go deeper. “I can’t help falling in love, I fall deeper and deeper the further I go…” That’s right, we’re headed to the discotheque…
Layer 2 – Studio 54
Looking at that mirror ball above our heads makes me think about the special effects and the cinematography in this movie, which are really amazing. What makes it so amazing is when you hear how little of the film was done with CGI animation – instead they shot entire sequences (like the memorable spinning hotel hallway) using old-fashioned methods of rotating the room itself while the actors moved through the space. Yet it comes across on film as a fluid ballet of movement that’s positively intoxicating. In a way, the entire movie is about conceit and that’s why I love all the visual trickery. I especially loved the floating bodies in free-fall that carry us through the latter portion of the film – pure elegance.
And while talking about the overall look and feel it’s worth mentioning the clever touch that director Christopher Nolan added by having the key piece of music be Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” – the signature song performed in Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-wining performance in La Vie En Rose. Love it! Actually there’s perhaps even more going on regarding that song, but I’ll talk to you about it after you’ve seen the movie.
Speaking of performances, I’d like to delve into the acting portion, so let’s go down even further. “Under the boardwalk, down by the sea…”
Layer 3 – Atlantic City
Huddled here under the boardwalk, we’ve got a chance to feel the quiet, look out at that ocean and just admire it. Which is what I was full of watching the performances in Inception – plenty of admiration. I admired Ellen Page’s mix of both curiosity and compulsion in her role as “the architect.” I admired the cheek, the swagger and the smoldering looks of Tom Hardy as “the forger.” And I was both surprised and full of admiration for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s high-wire act as “the point man” – could he be Hollywood’s next great action hero? (At the very least I’d like a boost in my clothing budget so I can start dressing like him.)
Cotillard has the disturbing role of playing the estranged (sort of) wife, and she is utterly convincing. Perhaps so convincing that I soon started to forget that I don’t like Leonardo DiCaprio. I won’t go so far as to say I love him now, but I’ll at least say I dislike him considerably less.
Let’s cap this review off with an overall impression and thoughts on what the movie means. But that means…one more layer. “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows…” Shakespeare’s words are leading us into the forest now…
Layer 4 – Shenandoah
As I stare out at this beautiful vista, I’m reminded just how powerful Inception was to me. I left the theater only able to exclaim things like “Holy crap! What the…? WOW.” It’s been a long time since I wanted to go back to see a movie again so quickly, but that’s the case here – there’s just so much to take in but you don’t want to miss a detail.
This was easily the best movie I’ve seen all year, and maybe the best in a number of years. I wasn’t sure that Christopher Nolan could top himself after The Dark Knight, but I think he’s done it. (Then again, I didn’t think he could top Memento, but there you go.)
One odd criticism I’ve heard of this film is the ambiguous ending. I say, “Puh-leeze!” That ending is no more than a wink to the audience and I loved it. Beyond that it’s hard to find fault with this movie. I have to give it an A+. I had thought I might just go with an A, but the movie has stuck with me for days, which is a good sign of a film that will stand the test of time. And of course the other question is – Oscar? It certainly seems possible. At the very least we should be looking at a Best Picture nomination, and perhaps more.
Now it’s time to wake up. Ready? Just ride all the way back up.