Running time: 148 minutes
Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite
|Time to wake up.|
In a way Inception is a heist movie. Saito (Ken Watanabe) wants Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) to pull a job that will lead to a competitor dismantling his company. Cobb is a thief, albeit an unusual one. He specialises in stealing ideas from the subconscious mind while his marks are dreaming. He is also a fugitive, desperately trying to find a way to get home to see his children without getting arrested the moment he sets foot on home soil. Saito offers him everything he wants if only he can pull off what is generally thought to be impossible. Instead of stealing an idea, the job is to plant one, known as inception. Cobb thinks he can pull it off, because he's convinced he's done it in the past.
Like any heist movie worth its salt, once he accepts the job, the crew needs to be assembled. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames (Tom Hardy), and Yusuf (Dillep Rao) are soon on board and are joined by newcomer Ariadne (Ellen Page). This a useful and well-used story conceit as we can piggy-back Ariadne's introduction to the world and have it explained to us as it's being explained to her. Each member of the crew has a fairly specific function, and Ariadne's is to design the dreams they will be using to carry out the job; something Cobb could do if it wasn't for the presence of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), consistently manifesting in Cobb's dreams and ruining his plans. In the real world she has died, but in the dreams she is a constant menace, always threatening to derail everything.
|A tumbling car in the dream above causes corridors to flip in the dream below.|
The job is intricate, detailed and involves multiple layers of dreams within dreams, and thanks to Cobb's wild card Mal, begins to go wrong as soon as they begin. If you're not paying attention it is easy to get lost, but if you allow yourself to be absorbed it's gripping. Skipping between different layers of dream with multiple action sequences taking place simultaneously, where time moves at different speeds and what happens in one dream can drastically affect the physical environment in another is such an effective way to inject tension, and time moving at different speeds to generate narrative tension is something Nolan would use again in the also-wonderful Interstellar.
Like The Prestige, the ending is something that leaves the viewer to decide the truth for themselves: has Cobb made it back, or is he still dreaming? There are convincing arguments for both possibilities and that is what makes the narrative compelling; the attention with which it has been assembled, allowing for multiple interpretations, which are set out in this article on the No Film School website.
Original, complex and stunning.
Inception is pretty well-loved out there - see Roger Ebert's review, but this review from Kirk at The Hollywood Reporter is (slightly) less emphatic in its praise.