Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the absolute best in the dangerous art of extracting valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in the treacherous world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible - inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse; their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.
Review by Louise Keller:
A scintillating exploration of dreams, reality and the fine line that divides them, Inception toys with our minds on a massive scale, sending us on a dizzying trip which makes all our preconceptions spin relentlessly, like a twirling top - an object with great relevance, if you see the film. It's a bit like a heist movie in which the golden jackpot comprises planting the seed of an idea into the mind and navigating it through a labyrinthine of the subconscious. Writer director Christopher Nolan is no stranger to the bizarre; his 2000 film Memento introduced us to interesting concepts relating to memory and perception. Inception takes an even bolder stance as we become immersed in a world of schemes, dreams and dreams within dreams, where the power of suggestion can define or destroy. Action packed, visually astonishing with a masterful, intense performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, this high concept thriller is an unforgettable adrenalin rush that despite chaos and confusion, works on multiple levels.
Just like the crashing waves that wash over DiCaprio's Cobb in the film's opening scenes, to best enjoy the ride, we need to let ideas and concepts wash over us. There is much to absorb and at times there is much that is too much. The all-important establishment of the film's premise is made meticulously and at great length. As Cobb recruits his highly skilled team members for the challenge given to him by Ken Watanabe's Saito, to make heir apparent (Cillian Murphy) want to dissolve his father's corporation, we are shown the spectacular and the impossible as we morph into a reality where time, perspectives and perceptions are awry. Cars drive up walls, mirrors form corridors, gravity disappears and real time becomes slow-motion when entering a dream. Relinquishing the dream is a more complicated affair. Piaf's No Regrets is the music trigger and there is also the kick, that awakening jolt we often experience when dreaming. Take a leap of faith, we are told, or become old and filled with regret, waiting to die alone.
DiCaprio is at his best, capturing the intensity and angst of the skilled mind architect, addicted to his life and prepared to risk everything. The casting is as diverse as it is interesting. Marion Cotillard is heartbreaking as Cobb's wife and Achilles heel, while Juno's Ellen Page is disconcertingly good as Ariadne, the young gee-whizz architect commissioned to design the purpose-built maze using imagination coupled with reality. Cillian Murphy is a wonderful casting surprise, as is Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Caine in small but critically important roles. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also good, as is Watanabe, whose role is pivotal to the plot, but whose English delivery is at times hard to understand.
Ultimately, it is about the experience of the film - an extraordinary mix of complex ideas and visuals, married together in an explosion of Hans Zimmer's rousing music score. It's long and often confusing, but Inception is a unique and stunning entertainment that is as enjoyable as it is ambitious.
DVD special features include 4 Focus Points: The Inception of Inception - Christopher Nolan shapes his unusual concepts for "Inception"; The Japanese Castle: The Dream is Collapsing - Creating and destroying the castle set; Constructing Paradoxical Architecture - Designing the staircase to nowhere; The Freight Train - Constructing the street-faring freight train. Also available on Blu-ray.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Devilishly clever and astonishingly realised, Inception is perhaps Christopher Nolan's surreal David Lynch moment. It's more a concept than a movie, a thought tunnel about dreams as alternative realities or places in which the well trained player can command the ship of their fate. Nolan's notion is irresistible for actors, needless to say, because they get to stretch and play at the very edge of reality, where surreality takes over. Energising stuff, at least for them, although not quite as consistently energising for audiences.
Perhaps a tad too clever; Nolan builds a fragile and inaccessible premise on the basis of dreams seen as a multi storey car park, or department store, in which the basement is the furthest you can go. Deep down there are the memories that melt into dreams and vice versa. That's the bottom line (pardon the pun) in the love story that teases us all the way through the first two acts. Only in the third and final act does this love story grow into something tangible, something with which we can identify as Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks desperately to cling to the memories of his loving and gorgeous wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) and their two gorgeous little children.
Clever, too, is the use of a key musical phrase from the song Je ne regrette rien, that was and is the signature tune for the late French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, Cotillard's Oscar winning role in the biopic, La vie en rose. Cotillard is warm and vulnerable as Mal, and DiCaprio is excellent in every level of dream and reality as Dom, as are all the cast, although the great Ken Watanabe still struggles to get the right inflections with his English lines. But then many of everyone's lines are simply garbled in the overzealous mix - a plague that has infected many big budget movies (and some not so big) lately.
Nolan's grand cinematic vision has stupendous energy and the effects are awe inspiring. But the great ideas seem to emphasise the more tired ones, like the central plot element which has a dying wealthy industrialist conflicting with his son and heir. The family business is energy, and Nolan builds the movie's scale by making the issue about global domination by controlling energy. Hmmm.
The big stunts and the climactic shootout seem somehow underwhelming in the context of the film's ambitions, and the big set piece around a mountain top fortress hospital is so incomprehensible it feels as though footage from a B action movie has found its way into Inception (which might explain its length and also why we hardly recognise any of the actors shooting and exploding).
Having scenes in as many as four simultaneous realities with the same characters can make the film hard to follow or engage with and we oscillate between admiration for the cleverness and frustration with the meaninglessness of much of it. So the film's promise is watered down in the execution by a sense of it being a novelty, a plaything for Nolan to bamboozle his audience with his clever mind tricks, which he honed in Memento.
Published December 8, 2010
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INCEPTION: DVD (M)
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas
PRODUCER: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
SCRIPT: Christopher Nolan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister
EDITOR: Lee Smith
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Guy Dyas
RUNNING TIME: 148 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 22, 2010
SPECIAL FEATURES: 4 Focus Points: The Inception of Inception - Christopher Nolan shapes his unusual concepts for "Inception"; The Japanese Castle: The Dream is Collapsing - Creating and destroying the castle set; Constructing Paradoxical Architecture - Designing the staircase to nowhere; The Freight Train - Constructing the street-faring freight train
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
DVD RELEASE: December 8, 2010