It's like that movie you wrote in high school only, you know, good.
Let's face it. On college campuses around the world, hundreds on drunk, aspiring writers have pitched their crazy idea about the heist movie set in people's dreams. The other simple truth is that movie idea was a bad one. Christopher Nolan has, somehow, made that really bad movie that your friend came up with into a insanely exciting and compelling thriller. Inception is exactly what it advertises; an impeccably made psychological thriller.
At some point in the not so distant future, technology is created so that people can craft and enter a state of lucid dreaming. Like all awesome technology, it's only real use is for crime. A team of crooks breaks into your dreams and steals your secrets. When a job goes wrong, their only hope is to do something that most have deemed impossible. They have to give a person idea by planting it deep in their subconscious. In typical Christopher Nolan fashion, Inception fields a ridiculously all-star cast, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gorden-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and a bunch of others, and it enough mind-bending ideas and visuals to make your mind hurt. Nolan is slowly, but surely, become one of the defining directors, stylistically, of the 21st century and Inception may very well be the most talked about, and most successful, movie of 2010.
It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes Inception work so well. It could be the cast, which is so full of Academy Award winners and nominees that it makes me dizzy, the tight, intelligent script or the absolutely stunning visuals, but in the long run it doesn't really matter. Inception is a landmark film for intelligent science fiction and mature film-making. Nolan's script doesn't hold you hand, but it doesn't leave you adrift in a sea of symbolism and meaningless techno-babble either. It provides just enough information about what is happening for everything to make sense and it manages to blend the science fiction with personal drama in a way that keeps things grounded in reality. It's important that the cast gets credit too since their excellent performances keep everyone's feet on the ground even when what we are watching is insane. What is most pleasing about Inception is that it asks you, as an audience member, to think about what you are seeing, but it doesn't feel like too much work. Often times, a movie like Inception will demand multiple viewings for even a cursory understanding of it, but Inception plays just fine on one viewing. What's impressive is how much I desire a second viewing so that I can dive deeper into the finely crafted world of the film. I won't say much about the ending in this review, but I will say something. I consider myself kind of an ending whore, I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a good ending and what makes a bad one, and Inception's ending hits it out of the park. It's not as much of a cliffhanger as people think, but it is still masterful.
It's not all sunshine and clear skies for Inception though. There are a few issues with the movie that have plagued me since my viewing. The first is the concept of "Limbo". All analysis of the movie seems to be stuck on the simple fact that "Limbo" was poorly explained. I get the raw idea of what it is, but the rules of it, yes I know it's a dream but there must be some sort of binding laws about it, are totally unclear. This is one instance where Nolan could have spent a little more time explaining how it works and why certain things happen the way they do. The other minor issue I have is with the beginning of the movie. I don't quite understand why the beginning sequence was Cobb finding Saito in Limbo. It didn't make sense and when the movie was over, I couldn't quite piece together the significance of that choice. Maybe I missed the point, but it ended up confusing me more than anything else.
When all is said and done, Inception is a breath of fresh air for Hollywood. Part of me drew comparisons to the first time I sat down and saw The Matrix in theaters. Christopher Nolan status as a Hollywood icon might now be set in stone and I can only hope he keeps making knock-out psychological thrillers. I'm not sure if Inception is as good as Memento, but it's certainly exciting and worth seeing.