Inception (2010): ***½
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Inception is an incredibly well-directed film that strikes absolutely
just the right pitch-perfect notes in its performances, music, camerawork,
cinematography, special effects, just about everything. It’s a heist
movie with a sci-fi premise, but don’t worry--it’s not a laser
gun and spaceship sci-fi movie. It’s a “one thing” sci-fi
story, where the world is exactly as it is today except for one thing,
and the film explores the ramifications of that one thing.
In Inception, that one thing is shared, directed dreaming. If
you (literally) plug a number of people into a strange little device and
induce sleep, each of the people will experience the same dream. It’s
a type of subconscious telepathy. So, of course people use this technology
to go data mining in other people’s brains for secrets. If you think
it’s just a dream, why wouldn’t you divulge your (or your
company’s) biggest secrets, especially if you didn’t know
you were in a shared dream?
It’s an intriguing set-up, and one thing I really appreciated about
Inception was how carefully Nolan sets up all of the rules for
this new sci-fi world. Ellen Page’s un-subtly named character Ariadne
(look it up) is the audience POV character; she doesn’t know the
way this world works, and so the film gets to explain it to us by having
the characters explain it to her. It’s then very fascinating to
watch as these characters figure out ways to use all of the rules to their
advantage to get what they want. And also how those same rules threaten
to bite them all in the ass if anything goes wrong.
Inception is a heady, powerful experience dropping through various
levels of reality and dreams. It is both intellectually stimulating as
any good heist movie must be, and also viscerally thrilling because of
the tense situations in which the heist takes place. It’s also at
times very meditative about the nature of what we carry in our subconscious
mind and how strongly that can affect our consciousness, and vise-versa.
In almost every way this should have been a four-star movie. So why didn’t
I give it four stars? Well, in the beginning of 2011 when I made a list
of all of the movies I’d seen in 2010 so I could write reviews for
them, I could not for the life of me remember that Inception
even existed, let alone that I’d actually seen it. And I really
have no desire to own it on DVD. It was a wonderful experience in the
theater, but ultimately did not stick with me at all afterwards.