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A Heist of Dreams

July 19, 2010 2 comments

Inception

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, and Pete Postlethwaite

Directed by: Christoper Nolan

Written by: Christopher Nolan

Every once in a while a movie comes along that helps redefine what we can expect at the cinema when we sit down and watch a film.  Last year that movie was Avatar, which helped change the way that we think of 3-D films and of course since then perhaps only one or two other movies have gotten what it was that made Avatar such a great 3-D movie.  This year the movie that will make you stop and realize just how great cinema is and how much it is an art-form is the unexpected hit from Christopher Nolan: Inception.   Inception is the classic heist film, but you wouldn’t know it is a heist movie going into it because well it’s not like anything you have ever imagined or seen before.  While watching it I couldn’t help but want to be in this world where entering others dreams was possible, where we could go in and change things and get things from within their reality for those that are seeking them.

Inception doesn’t just make you sit and think about what is going on while you’re watching it, but it also makes you forget that you’re even watching a movie in a theater surrounded by others because every second is captivating.   Even when nothing much is really happening Nolan manages to put interesting moments on the screen.   This is after all the man who made The Dark Knight and Momento.  Nolan knows how to make us think while watching his films but he also knows how to make it an enjoyable ride from beginning to end.   That is what he achieves the most with Inception is it a perfect ride from beginning to end? No, but it is so close that you won’t even notice the small subtle flaws while watching the movie.  The real thing about this movie is it makes you think after the credits start rolling, it makes you wonder….that is what the best movies always do.

Our dreams are powerful, in them we become who we want to be, and do things that are never possible.   There are moments in Inception that truly do feel like  a dream, there are sequences in the film that make you wonder why do we dream and what do our dreams mean.  On top of that there are some excellent action pieces in the movie, some amazing special effects that help pull you into this world that Nolan created.  There is even a sequence in the film with slow motion movement and battles that bests the sequences in The Matrix, not a sequence, EVERY sequence, its something that the Wachowski brothers would never have thought of doing in a million years and it just makes you want to see the movie again and again.

More after the trailer…but be warned spoilers follow heavily if you don’t want to know what Inception is about or what happens in it do not read.

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Inception begins in the dream, some would argue that this is where the movie is the entire time from beginning to end, some argue that this is just a bookend to help draw us into the movie.   Neither is wrong, and on that note neither is right.    Nolan stated many times that he left the movie open to interpretation on purpose, he wants us to think while sitting there watching the movie.   The opening sequences make you wonder what is going on, it’s not that its hard to follow its just that you don’t know the rules of this world that Nolan has created yet.  Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) helps us by sort of explaining things quickly while in the room, but basically at first we are left to wonder what is going on.   There is  a sequence here in the beginning with Cobb and Saito  that makes us realize that we’re not really in reality but in a dream within a dream and then finally we get to witness reality.

Nolan doesn’t shove a lot of things in our faces, he doesn’t make us wonder how is this possible or how does it work.  Instead he just sets the rules quickly of how it works.  Someone somewhere discovered shared dreaming and now it’s started to spread and has become a way for men like Cobb and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to make a living by slipping others into their dream reality and using it to twist them and get them to reveal their secrets.   The dream world is created by the architect and only they have control of it yet the dreamer is the one that they are seeking to draw information out of so the architect has to be careful not to make the world unreal.    All of this is explained to us but it’s never forced down our throats in a way that we cannot digest.  That is the pure genius of the movie, it works on this level because it doesn’t say: this is possible and this is how its possible.  It just assumes that we understand the first rule and leaves the second part up in the air.  You see its not importnat how it is possible….its just important that we believe it is possible.

We quickly learn that Saito (Ken Watanabe) wants to use Cobb and Arthur to help him, not steal a secret but implant a thought instead.  This is what the movie is about: Inception or the creation of a thought that was not in someone’s head before but now needs to be.   They say that Inception is impossible but Cobb of course believes that it is possible, we begin to learn quickly that Cobb is perhaps not the most stable of men.    He agrees to help Saito and that is when things really start to get twisted because they need to hire a team, a team of experts.  They get a group of men that they have used before and then there is the new one, the start-up the young protegé: Ariadne (Ellen Page) who becomes the new Architect.

There is a sequence in the movie when Ariadne is just learning how to use her ability in the dream world that is truly amazing, it’s when she knows that she’s dreaming and she starts to mess with the world in such a way that everyone in Cobb’s subconscious starts to question her being there and think of her as threatening.   That is the most important rule that you learn: every living person in the dream is in fact a part of the subconscious of the dreamer, not the architect but the one that is dreaming the dream that the architect designed for them.  This rule becomes important once the heist starts because it’s the only way that they manage to actually succeed in what they are trying to do.

Cobb has a twisted and deep story, he’s a tortured father who lost his wife we learn quickly that they dreamed together, a dream so deep that they spent an entire life together within the dream.   In the world of dreams things happen much faster than in real life, if you sleep for an hour you can dream weeks and days even depending on how deep you are in the dream.   In one such place Cobb and his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) spent and entire lifetime together, but when they awoke she was not the same even though he tried to bring her back she was different and Cobb forever blamed himself for what happened to her.   Because of this Mal appears in Cobb’s dreams even when he’s not the dreamer.   She’s a powerful influence on him and its slowly driving Cobb towards the edge in his conscious mind.   Ariadne is the only one who is aware of how deeply Mal has effected Cobb and that’s because she sneaks into his dream one night and learns just how deep his obsession with his wife has gone.

We don’t learn much about the others, it’s mainly the story of Cobb, Ariadne, Mal, Saito, and Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy).   These are the characters that we learn the most about, and there is nothing really wrong with that for they drive the story the most.   Murphy is really good in this movie as Robert Fischer, in fact I think this is probably his best performance ever even better than what he did in 28 Days Later.   People over look Cillian Murphy a lot I wish that he wasn’t over looked because he is a very good young actor.  Fischer is interesting because he’s not some weak spoiled child that doesn’t like his father, in fact he is the exact opposite a child who loves his father but his father never really loved him.

In Fischer’s first dream level we learn that there is such thing as security, rich people like Fischer are aware of what can happen to them in the world of Inception and thus are trained to make their subconscious mind realize when it’s dreaming and thus defend against those that have invaded the dream.    This becomes very important as we get deeper into the dream, but it is one of the things that doesn’t live up the potential in all of the way.    In this part of the dream though we learn that you can also change how you look if you’re good enough at disguises such as Eames (Tom Hardy).   Here he disguises himself as Browning (Tom Berenger) who is Fischer’s father’s best friend and also most loyal employee.   Things get crazy from here on out, if it wasn’t already insane enough with them in one dream they work it so that they slip into a second dream.

In this dream Cobb convinces Fischer that he is in fact the head of his in the head security and is working with him to stop those that have invaded his head, this works to their advantage as they slip into the third level of the dream.   It’s the fact that things in the real world or higher dream worlds actually do effect the dream world as well, the shifting of the van that Yusuf (Dileep Rao) is driving actually affects the deeper dream world in the hotel.  The numbers that Fischer picks in the higher dream actually effect the lower two levels of his subconscious mind to the point that they are used over and over again.   It is here in the hotel that Arthur has three really cool sequences dealing with gravity and the loss of such a thing when the van first flips over while he is fighting a group of men and then the second time when gravity is lost as the van heads towards the lake below the bridge.

I cannot describe these sequences they have to be seen, but both of them are so well done that it makes you want to see them again.   At the same time in the deeper dream Fischer gets shot and actually “dies” though you don’t really die in the dream, you just slip further into your subconscious (when sedated when not you just wake up) into a place known as limbo.   It is here that we go in the last few minutes of the movie, here in limbo we see the world that Cobb and Mal created and everything comes head long into a conclusion that you won’t believe until you actually see it.    At the end once everyone has been pulled from the dream and Cobb is heading home it all seems to real to be true, the one phone call to make the things that were keeping him from going home, the arrival at his parents house to see his two kids who look just as they did in his dream.

It all seems too much like a dream, but is it a dream?  Does Cobb never wake up from his dream?  Was he dreaming all along throughout the entire movie?   Or did he wake up and he’s now back in the real world and the spinning top is actually going to topple just after the credits roll?   I can’t tell you what to think, I can only tell you that I believe he woke and is back in the real world, I believe that they pulled off Inception and that Cobb finally has his life back, why do I believe this? Because I like to believe that he made it back and in the end that’s what I believe, it might not be what you believe and that is the genius of Inception it’s all about our perceptions on what happens, it never forces its own perception on us, but instead lets us decide for ourselves…..

What they Did right: The dream sequences are amazing, the special effects are real and never invading.  The plot is pure and simple a heist movie within a dream movie that is also science fiction but you’d never really guess it was while watching it.  The characters are believable and the action is tight and deeply thought out as you would expect from the man who brought us Dark Knight.

What they did wrong: The only real fault I had with the film was that the whole three layers of the dream were not long enough or complex enough for all of the work that went into setting it up.   It is true that they went in thinking that they were just cracking his mind and implanting but not expecting security, still I would have loved to have seen more of those dreams than what was there…..maybe I’m just being selfish wanting a 3 hour movie?

Overall: 99/100

A must see, one of the best movies ever made plain and simple.  This one has become one of my top favorites of all time a film that I could watch over and over again and not only never get bored but always see something new as well each time I watch it….