I haven’t seen a movie like this in a long time. Mostly because there was a stretch of time I would only see chick flicks and comedies (Date Night, Get Him to the Greek) so I didn’t have to think too hard. But also because I’ve been disillusioned by Hollywood lately, and its inability to make a movie that doesn’t completely suck. But we’ve been on an up-trend recently at the theaters (Salt, The Kids Are Alright) and Inception is, without a doubt, the front-runner.
The film begins ominously, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s body washed ashore on some beach, most likely in Asia. He’s brought to see a very old man (hopefully they’re not in Japan, otherwise he would be missing), and the old man asks if Leo, all sunburnt and bleary-eyed, is there to kill him.
We’re then, without knowing it, whisked into a dream within a dream (within a dream…within a dream??) where Leo and Co. are trying to extract subconscious information from Ken Watanabe’s mind. I pause here to say I love Joseph Gordon Levitt. Who can go from 3rd Rock from the Sun to 10 Things I Hate About You to seriously awesome actor? He can.
Foiling their plan, Wantanabe surprisingly admits he likes Leo’s dream-thieving style, and hires the dream interlopers to plant an idea in a rival’s mind – a task we learn is called “inception.” Everyone thinks inception is impossible, except Leo, who somehow, no matter what character he plays, is still Leo DiCaprio first and foremost, which may be why he has never won an Oscar. I’m not saying he’s not a good actor, just the opposite in fact. But you have to notice the subtleties he brings to each role to really tell that he’s playing someone other than Jack from Titanic (he did this best in The Departed).
Next follows an Ocean’s 11-like portion of the film where Leo assembles a team of – Dreamers? – to help him with the task at hand, and then we’re thrust into a reality vs. perception struggle that seriously, SERIOUSLY could have put me in a straitjacket. Had the theater not been completely full, I could have vomited, and for a good 30 minutes I just sat there thinking “am I here? Is this my real hand? IS THIS MY REAL HAND??!!” This part of the movie is not for anyone on the precipice of a psychotic break. Trust.
Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight), and Nolan’s set director/art department/special effects people need to be applauded for their work in the second half of this movie. Charged with the task of creating the scenery of dreams, which we all know has no boundaries or limits (dreams make complete sense and no sense, all at the same time, don’t they?), the team for Inception toed the line between fantastical subconscious and those dream settings that actually seem plausible. Houses in the middle of the water in the middle of a city? Check. Crumbling mountain cliffs that are actually buildings? Check, check.
But the best scene of the film, by far, is Levitt’s anti-gravity fight scene, which looked as excruciating to execute as it did believable. Good job JGL! To top it off, Inception’s script is pretty damn good too – funny at times, and explanatory without doing the dreaded voice-over (that one’s for you Professor Yanno). I would have liked the script to touch a little bit more on the moral and ethical dilemma of planting ideas in people’s minds while they’re sleeping, but we only had 140 minutes.
Inception will make you soul search. It will make you question everything you see and think. And it will make you ask yourself – What’s real? What’s fake? And does it really matter? Whether you love Inception, hate it, or are even lukewarm to the film (I’m calling you out Ryan Harold and Katie Poff, who said the explanations were “kinda silly”), you will still be on the edge of your seat in the last scene, and, not to give anything way, will join in the collective gasp of every theater-goer, just like I did.
Ladies and gentlemen, go get your totems!