Saturday, July 22, 2017

Movie Review: Inception

Christopher Nolan headed to the dream world for his next project after the box office smash success of The Dark Knight. Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) is a thief of ideas using an advanced technology to journey into the minds of wealthy individuals while they dream. With his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), they try to steal business secrets from Saito (Ken Watanabe), but another thief gives them up. Cobb has trouble building dream worlds because the memory of his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) still haunts him. Saito offers him a chance to return to the United States if he pulls off a complicated job called inception, planting an idea in someone's mind. He heads to Paris where his father Miles (Michael Caine) helps him recruit a new student Ariadne (Ellen Page) to help him build dreams. In a spectacular sequence, Ariadne explores the physics of the dream world but is attacked by Mal as a part of Cobb's self-conscious. The dream explorers need a totem, an object that only they know so that they can assure themselves that they are in reality and not in someone else's dream.

Cobb recruits Eames (Tom Hardy) to help him forge identities. Cobb is pursued by another corporation known as Cobol that nearly captures him until Saito helps him escape. Eames introduces Cobb and Saito to Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist who has mixed a powerful sedative that can keep people in dreaming sleep for extended periods of time. The job requires Cobb and his group to trick Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to break up his company and prevent it from being a competitor to Saito. They develop the plan like a heist explaining how they'll drop down into three levels of dreams causing a massive difference in time and moving into the depths of the subconscious. Saito buys the airline the Robert will take and the plan is set though Ariadne worries about Cobb's ability to keep it together in the dream world. 

In the dream, the group captures Robert but Cobb's memories cause a train to smash through a busy street of traffic and Robert's conscious is militarized to attack intruders. Saito is shot but if he dies in the dream world, they'll fall into Limbo, a place where they'll lose their minds in infinity. Eames disguises himself as Robert's employee Browning (Tom Berenger) to figure out a special combination. Cobb reveals his past with Mal to Ariadne while explaining how people can survive in Limbo. The subconscious attacks again and during a car chase, the group drops down to the next level leaving Yusuf to drive. In the second layer, Cobb approaches Fischer in an attempt to turn him against his own subconscious and Browning. Gravity shifts during the car chase as the van flips making for a cool action scene in the hotel as the subconscious agents attack Arthur and he fights them across the floor, walls, and ceiling.  

The third layer is a snowy mountain top complex protected by subconscious agents on snowmobiles. Saito and Fischer make their way to a safe but Saito is still injured from his bullet wound from two layers ago. Mal intervenes and shoots Fischer, sending him down into Limbo. Eames and Cobb about to give up when Ariadne claims they can go down and save him. They need a kick, a sense of falling, to wake them and each layer is prepared. As the van falls in the first layer, Arthur prepares a kick with an elevator in the second and Eames holds off the white clad subconscious soldiers in the third. Ariadne and Cobb venture into Cobb's old world full of crumbling buildings. Mal tries to convince Cobb to stay as he confesses to Ariadne how he planted the idea in Mal's mind that her world wasn't real, his first experience with inception. As the team rides the kick back up the layers, Cobb stays behind to find Saito who is an old man. Encountering Cobb causes Saito to remember and they all wake up. Saito makes a call allowing Cobb to enter the United States. He is reunited with his family and the final shot shows the top still spinning.

Inception is a wild movie, one that is not easily understood on the first viewing. It has a lot of exposition that slows down the pace somewhat but is mixed in with several creative action scenes. Christopher Nolan does not always film the action in the most comprehensible manner but the benefits of a crazy story propel the movie forward. A mix of solid blockbuster acting combines with stunning set pieces to engage viewers in the dream world and all the potential of this advanced technology. It was one of my favorite films at the time and is still very fun to revisit on occasion.  

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