An intelligent hybrid mix of psychology and commercial appeal, Christopher Nolan’s latest film is not unlike The Sixth Sense, with special effects, and to a certain extent, The Matrix, Alice in Wonderland, and Avatar, because each sought to transcend the static, one-world human condition to delve into another dimension by way of taking the blue pill or the red pill, falling down a rabbit hole, slipping into another creature’s skin, or by being dead. One may even recall the drug induced experiments of Altered States, perhaps preempting this era’s curiosity about the brain’s seemingly limitless potential.
Inception is the opposite of extraction in this case. It’s about planting an idea in someone’s psyche in the dream state so as to enable change in reality. An idea, like a virus, that “grows like cancer…”
Enter an environment of “pure creation,” where the blurred yet tangible space between reality and dream is a stressful place to be stuck in when things don’t go according to plan… Add to this a complicated relationship between a father and son, whose outcome is crucial to the balance of global economic power, and you have the architecture of a film that explores the affect of psychology on the highest spheres of human achievement.
The viewer is led three levels deep into an orchestrated dream where lies the turmoil of guilt, regret, ambition and bereavement of the 4 main characters. The emotions they tap into are at the same time key to the success of the covert operation, and more and more difficult to control as they dig deeper in order to change the course of history.
Consistent with its commercial format, Inception has all the necessary elements to keep your attention for a little over 2 hours: The protagonists are all on the same page intellectually, the timing of the chases in tiny Moroccan streets is perfect (thus unlikely), the bad guys contribute the necessary action figures, and Marion Cotillard offers the heart-wrenching emotion that defines Leonardo DiCaprio’s internal conflict and drives the storyline to its death-defying catharsis.
Not to mention a hair-raising soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, actors Cillian Murphy as the beleaguered son about to inherit his father’s empire, Ken Wantanabe as the secretive Japanese mogul, and Tom Hardy as the gritty transformer, all eye candy to this writer. Ellen Page appeared a bit stuffed into her 2 piece tailleur — the corporate look doesn’t seem to suit her — but she delivered well as scientist Michael Caine’s introspective protégé, whose feminine attributes are played down in order to deepen the contrast with Cotillard’s striking beauty.
The concept of the dream within a dream, pushing the psychological envelope to the tipping point between dream and reality, and between sanity and mental illness, will be fascinating to any and all who are interested in the inner workings of the mind. One should come out feeling that there is a reason for every behaviour.
A film to see again and again, once for each level…