There’s a film that comes along every once in a while that makes you marvel with bewilderment and grabs you along into its own inventive and ingenious adventure. Inception is one such film. It’s mesmeric time-dilating mechanisms slow down everything; Characters move through dreams within dreams to conduct a heist within the mind, to extract, to sieve, to create and to implant an idea so deep into the subconscious, all the while knowing that they could very well get trapped in it’s mind-warping effects. I love this film not just because I could sit through the whole thing and not get bored at any second of it, but because this is as audacious as movie-making gets. Christopher Nolan defies what we know for a fact but let’s get real here, to use Cobb’s train analogy, ‘you know where this train will take you, but you never know for sure.’ Inception is one smashing film that quite honestly carries a grandeur of a sui generis thriller, it’s lucidity and ambiguity run parallel into the foray of your mind. This is the fourth addition to my favourite movies ever series.
I’ve watched this over 7 times and I never ever got bored of it. Christopher Nolan sure knows how to work up a real treat. I’m sure most of you have seen this before, so let’s delve into it. We first get a scene of Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) washed up on a beach where he’s being dragged into this ornate oriental styled room lit in yellowish hues just to tease your senses. But the most striking potrait is that of an old man seated across Cobb…and the scene cuts to present moment. Immediately, we get another scene just like the previous one and yet this time, it’s at a crucial moment where it’s at the precipice of boiling over. Tensions rise as Cobb and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) face off with Saito (Ken Watanabe) and a certain recurrent projection in the form of Mal (Marion Cotillard) appears to complicate things. As you can see, it’s not just the star-studded cast that’s on full display. Nolan creates a visual spectacle with subtle beats and shadows that makes us ask “What’s going to happen next?”
Saito: If you can steal an idea, why can’t you plant one there instead?
Arthur: Okay, this is me, planting an idea in your mind. I say: don’t think about elephants. What are you thinking about?
Arthur: Right, but it’s not your idea. The dreamer can always remember the genesis of the idea. True inspiration is impossible to fake.
It’s no surprise that Nolan has reportedly spent over 10 years writing the script for Inception. This mind-boggling brainchild of his is so detailed and filled with its own internal logic. If you were picky though, you’d probably find some small loopholes. But that doesn’t even come close to the expansive and intricate universe of time and dreams. Dominic Cobb, by trade, is a thief of the mind. Almost as futuristic as one can get, his daily business involves him extracting information from his target’s dreams for whoever employs him. Think bank robber but in dream-state. Of course, he doesn’t do this alone because after all its so complex. There’s a maze designer and a researcher, an impersonator and a chemist – All of whom play a part in an elaborate scheme. Of course, the main act of the film involves a reverse of Cobb’s job, which is to implant rather than extract, and serves up one long rippling thriller that will unnerve your senses.
Inception is not all intellectual without emotion. Within its infinitesmal timelines and dream distortions, a haunting guilt constantly surfaces to impede Cobb. We’re learn of the film’s femme fatale Mal and her inextricable connection to him. What it says about him and about her brings depth and complexity to the idea of an illusion that can be so addictive. Cobb’s struggle to distinguish reality from dreams can be seen when he so desperately spins his totem. While we’re waiting for the totem to stop spinning, Leo brilliantly portrays a man whose past constantly reminds him of his guilt. An idea can be so deadly because it festers like poison; Inception aptly ties reality and its entrancing projection as two separate and yet dangerously close reflections of each other.
“Well dreams, they feel real while we’re in them, right? It’s only when we wake up that we realize how things are actually strange. Let me ask you a question, you, you never really remember the beginning of a dream do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on.”
The film never feels forced. The film constantly stimulates the audience with relatable images like how time feels slower in dreams or the penrose stairs illusion as a means of creating a believable dream environment. One interesting sequence in particular, encapsulates why Inception is like no other film. The ingenious idea to link movement between one stage of a dream and another causes the drifting of the vehicle in stage 1 to the dizzying rotation scene in the hotel at stage 2. Now I’m no expert at cinematography, but that has to be one of the most inventive scenes ever. Arthur’s tussle with one of Mr. Fisher’s projection has the two men struggling in a sort of contortion spiral defying all odds of gravity and weight. It is one dazzling daring spectacle of a scene that shows it’s got game when keeping tension and awe at an all time high. Nerve-wrecking stuff.
If you’re looking to rank sci-fi films, Inception holds its own. From exploding still life to tearing the fabric of reality, from distorting an entire city to distorting your mind, this film is an epic. It’s a genre defying piece of art with powerful performances especially from Leo and Cotillard, whose tragic story acts makes us ache with nostalgia – It provides a human connection for our protagonist,and yet, is a momentary touch that is fallacious. What is real and what’s not? Can we ever escape once we’ve invested so much time in both? Does reality lose it’s grip to the mythical imaginary reveries that the characters have created for themselves? Whereas time transcends, our existence does not. Reality is only as real as we are. Watch it again and fall deep into the very essence of time and how every second is so grand with all its impetus, so momentous and yet so subtle. Soak up in the deep reverberative and sonorous tunes, coupled with the brilliance on screen,it should serve to give you that cinematic ‘kick’.
Poster credits to one immensely talented Grzegorz Domaradski aka Gabz, checkout his artwork at http://www.iamgabz.com/
Photo credits to Legendary Pictures, SynCopy, Warner Bros. Pictures
“Non je ne regrette rien” – Edith Piaf, French singer
Translation: “No, I do not regret anything”
Listen to this one as well, my personal favourite. Is Hans Zimmer an angel? This guy is SO DAMN GOOD at capturing the spirit of a film in music.
For those who haven’t watched it (WHY?! 😦 ) But it’s never too late! Here’s the trailer