I am still a little shaky this morning – for last night I witnessed true greatness.
Christopher Nolan is not known for making wishy-washy films (Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight etc.) Filled with layers of darkness and distress, but with a breath of hope, his films stand out as some of the more poignant of my cinematic education. For this, and the incredible casting, I knew I had to watch Inception. I expected to watch a ‘good’ film. I didn’t expect to watch a film of a generation.
Inception I believe will be immortal. In fifty years time we will be bragging to young-whipper-snappers that We, our generation, were the ones who got to watch this pure work of genius on the big screen. It will be one of those films that you will always remember ‘where you were’ the night you watched for the first time (Showcase Cinema, Erdington. Classy). I can be very picky about what I spend my money on, and will usually find something to disappoint, but with Inception, I just couldn’t. I had to fall back instead to moan about how the man in front was sitting in his chair!
For anyone who has not seen the film, you may want to look away now as I ‘attempt’ to unravel the plot – just go and see it, avoid reviews and share in the delight of watching it unfold.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a man with a tragic story and an unusual talent. Along with Arthur (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt; Good job growing up by the way! Not too shabby for the former Third Rock From the Sun actor) they are able to construct dreams into which they can enter in order to probe their ‘victims’ for information. The theory goes that once inside, surrounded by their target’s subconscious, said target will unwittingly surrender information that is key to these seekers (Cobb etal). This is what is known as Extraction. Inception works in the reverse in which a seed of an idea is planted into the subconscious. However, in order to reach the deepest corners of a persons subconscious, Cobb and Arthur are able to induce further dream states until they are in a dream, within a dream, within a dream.
Now, I was in full anticipation of my brains spilling through my ears in confusion – everything ‘press’ based had led me to this conclusion (along with some verbal accounts also). But that was not the case. Steve believes that only stupid people could get confused! I think it is less insulting than that – I think those that try to find confusion will undoubtedly fall into it.
At one point in the film, Arthur is educating Aridane (My new favourite, Ellen Page – see Juno review) as to constructing a suitable dream maze. He likens stairwells to that of images by Escher. The perpetual loop. And although the story is not in a loop, rather layers of layers (or as I just tried to explain to my Mum, like a Russian doll), this resemblance to Escher’s drawings was uncanny. And similarly, if you stare too long at either and think too much about all these layers, you will loose yourself and possibly your mind. And thus the terrifying premise of the film is born.
‘Inception’ itself has only been attempted once before – to a devastating effect, but Cobb is willing to do anything to clear his name and return home to his children. This concept was dealt with tastefully and refused to fall into the trap of sentimentality. You felt for him and his cause yet it was not over laboured, it did not overshadow the immense detail of the rest of the film. Like the layers, it sat there snugly as the purpose underneath everything you were watching.
The plan is laid to collapse a business empire of a young heir, Robert Fischer, played by the unnervingly beautiful Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight‘s ‘Scarecrow). Cobb, enlists a team including an architect to build the dream’s levels (Ariadne / Ellen Page) and a forger to take on roles of those close to Fischer (Eames, played by the fabulous Tom Hardy; also known as ITV’s Heathcliff *swoons*). Together, unknowing of the true risks involved in such a feat, they enter into Robert Fischer’s subconscious and delve each dark and sinister layer.
But this ‘simple’ plan was clearly not enough for Nolan’s unchallengeable writing talents. Fisher’s brain has been trained to resist such attacks and his subconscious manifests into armed guards and soldiers that hunt down our heroes at every turn. Thus ensuing lots of wonderful action sequences. Whatever experiences the sleeping bodies encounter, directly affects the landscape and situations of the dream state they are in. For example, my favourite scene is when Arthur is fighting armed hotel staff in dream layer number two. However, in dream layer number one, he is sleeping within a mini-bus that is rolling down a hill. The affect on his fight sequence in dream two is that the hall way of the hotel is rotating – as if it is the falling bus.
I know I am not doing the best job of explaining this to you (How Nolan was able to actually write this concept down is beyond me!) but you will have to take my word for it, this tumbling fight sequence is probably one of the best I have ever seen. The pair free fall with each lurch of the bus and are propelled onto walls and ceilings whilst still trying to kill one another. It is almost dance like in its beauty, choreographed so perfectly as to have the viewer literally hanging from the edge of their seat. A stunning sequence.
But, there is even more. Cobb has issues within his own subconscious that he refuses to deal with, refuses to let go. Mainly the death of his wife for which he blames himself. In each world, this guilt manifests as Mal (Marion Cotillard), Cobb’s wife. But she is but a terrifying shell of a woman, filled with hate and spite and a determination to sabotage the mission. Her aim, or in actual fact the aim of Cobb’s subconscious (see what I mean about thinking too hard?!) is to destroy enough of Cobb so as to keep him trapped in limbo, trapped in his own subconscious, forever with her.
To try and really think about all these possibilities and truly understand them, hurts my brain. But, to get over this I have a very handy tip. Acceptance. Just accept what is happening, just flow with the story, don’t delve into what ‘hidden meanings’ there might be there about self and humanity and religion (I abhor people who ruin good films and books by doing this). Just watch it and enjoy. Then try to retell it and feel ashamed at doing such a shoddy job!
It is not a film I can write justly about, there is just way too much information and detail to comprehend. I can only imagine with every re-watch, more and more of this lustrous world will be noticed and a little more understood. It is a film that can only grow greater with each re-watch, and it is a film that can only really be appreciated and understood with seeing for yourself. No amount of review reading can ever prepare you for this event. Inception is an experience of a lifetime.
I just feel sorry for all other films to ever come. They just simply can’t compete.