In 2008, there was outrage that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight didn’t win any major Oscars. The film had some excellent acting, an original, brain-teasing plot and some fantastic action sequences. People overlooked the fact that it was recycled characters and how long it was because it kick started Nolan’s career as a well-known writer, producer and director. And while it didn’t win any Academy Awards (except Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger), it was critically acclaimed as a brilliant film. Because of this, Warner Bros. gave Nolan full reign to do whatever he wanted. Which brings us to Inception.
When you look up Inception, you’ll find out that it’s a film about dreams. But it’s not limited to that. It’s also a film about architecture, reality, family ties, the consequences of your actions, emotions, theft and corruption. The film follows Dom Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio), an expert in extracting, where you enter the subconscious of a person who you want extract information from, via their dreams. He’s offered a way to get back home to see his children when he’s asked if he can do the opposite of what he’s been doing for years – instead of taking information and ideas, he has to plant an idea, a.k.a., inception. Cobb builds up his team to help him with the difficult task of inception and this is where we see an all star cast of Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe and Dileep Rao. Also featured are Michael Cain and Cillian Murphy, who worked with Nolan for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
But don’t confuse this film with The Dark Knight. Yes, it has a few of the same actors and yes, it has an original and complex storyline, just like the Batman movie. However it’s completely different and when watching it, I advise you don’t compare them. Inception’s plot is deliciously complicated, intertwined with the emotions and relationships of Cobb. It’s just the right level intricacy for you to enjoy the film and just about get what’s actually going on. I’m quite proud to say I understood the narrative and that’s because it’s one of those rare films that gives you a sense of accomplishment after working it out. And even though I did understand it, I would see it again, over and over. Commentators have said that the second time they watched it, they saw little bits they ignored the first time and that’s what really separates it from The Dark Knight, possibly even Memento, Nolan’s 2000 thriller. This is so much more than a must-see film. It’s a must-see-twice film.
Unfortunately, there are criticisms. For a film where the main character’s emotions play such a large part in the mission, even so much to make it fail, we only see glimpses of his feelings, now and then. The film has tried to add too much to a film about mazes and labyrinths – there’s breathtaking action scenes, armchair-gripping emotional scenes and eye-popping visual effects. But there’s not enough of each throughout the film, making too many things happening at once. This is what’s most likely confusing audiences. The storyline is manageable. But chuck in tons of other stuff which rarely relate to each other and you forget what the main story is and what to focus on.
Average moviegoers have enjoyed the film to a degree, but many felt that too many things were happening and that it tries too hard, making it hard for audiences to relate. However, I think this is still a film to be remembered. Possibly part of the canon, it does stand out from other mediocre summer blockbusters. But, because it is merely a summer blockbuster, it seems unlikely to be remembered as a canonical film and it’s hard to know if it will do well in next year’s Oscars.
Ultimately, this film is worthy of 4 and a half stars. Yes, it has many aspects trying to outshine each other, making it hard to follow. But they are still great. The visual effects aren’t just random, they serve a beautiful purpose. The aesthetics of the film really do blow your mind. And there’s so much energy in the film. The chemistry between characters is played out brilliantly and it’s full of so much action that it makes it hard to sit still. Nolan has created some fantastic scenarios, inside the boundless world of dreams. It’s not just the idea that’s ingenious. It’s what happens in the film, how Nolan plays out the narrative that’s ingenious. With a witty ending and a clearly well-thought out beginning, this is some of Nolan’s best pieces. It’s a shame that it’s been released so close to Toy Story 3 in Britain because you need to see it just as much. For fans of Nolan’s previous work, especially Memento, it’s a superb film and undoubtedly one to be remembered.