I don’t think I had ever been so excited to see a movie as I have been for Inception. For starters, it was directed by Christopher Nolan who has made three of the best movies I’ve ever seen: The Prestige, The Dark Knight and, my all time favorite, Memento. He is a master of his craft and all his movies, barring Insomnia, have not failed to entertain and make one think. Secondly, it has one of the best ensemble casts that I’ve seen in a long while — Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Berenger – and all bring significance to the film. Lastly, the trailer, it quite possibly may be the best trailer ever.
To set the stage, Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb. Cobb is a security man, who specializes in securing the subconscious. For a price, he’ll enter a mark’s mind via their dreams and steal their secrets. It’s a very complicated and arduous process, so he isn’t anything without his team: Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb’s partner for years; Eames (Tom Hardy), an excellent man in deception; Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a top notch chemist; and Aridane (Ellen Page), the new architect in the group (a.k.a., the dream designer).
But something is different this time. After scouring the mind of Saito (Ken Watanabe) in a test, Cobb and Arthur are offered a job that will grant them a new life. They have to perform inception — instead of taking secrets and/or thoughts from the subject’s mind, they need to implant one. Saito wants them to do this to rival business company heir, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). The implant, in theory, is supposed to make Fischer bring down his own company by his own volition. This, of course, is a terribly difficult feat to pull off and the acts that follow spell out why . . .
Inception is probably Nolan’s best job directing in nine years, which is a very bold statement considering the amazing magnitude of some of his previous films. Jumping from virtual reality to reality and shifting from full fledged action to psychological thriller one moment to the next — all while keeping taut the thread of the story — was no easy task. (I could only imagine Nolan trying to keep the story straight while writing the screenplay). There is never a point where he loses control — he always knows what he’s doing, what he’s going to do, and how he going to do it.
One of the best examples of Nolan’s directorial talent is seen in a fight scene between Arthur and a random baddie. It is so well done, that I turned next to my friend seated next to me and exclaimed, “Did you just see that!?” Anyways, the fight is more than just a fight; it is a fight in shifting gravity. Meaning that one moment the ground is down, the next moment the wall is, and then the ceiling. The center of gravity just keeps rotating. Nolan uses all the right techniques to capture the insanity of the scene, especially as they’re both trying to get to a gun that keeps sliding away. The best thing, though, is that the camera work doesn’t get all shaky like in the Bourne movies, where you couldn’t see a damn thing happening. Everything, while extremely chaotic, is crystal clear.
The story and direction is further aided by the extraordinary acting of the lead. Inception may be Leonardo’s crowning achievement to date (well, maybe after The Departed). As Cobb, he puts forth powerful emotions as a man fixated on the task at hand (and what a truly confusing and monumental task it is) who is deeply plagued by the presence of his dead wife. The breadth of what he does should surely earn him another nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
There are several other stand-out performances in the movie that warrant mention too. Marion Cotillard, as Cobb’s late wife Mal, scared the living hell out of me more times than I care to remember. As she deceives, kills, and just plain interferes in the mission (she lives in Cobb’s subconscious), she fleshes out the complicated back story of her ex-husband. Joseph Gordon-Levitt puts out a charming swagger to Arthur (and in doing so has fed my man-crush with him). Tom Hardy lightens the mood with his comedic anecdotes and actions — a welcome addition to what is otherwise is a very complex, dark film. Cillian Murphy, he brings a serene beauty to the man whose dreams are being augmented. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a Best Actor in a Supporting Role nod in the lot.
All in all, Inception is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen (and with only five months to go til the end of the year, I can practically guarantee it is the best of 2010). It offers something for everyone: Abstract science fiction, heart pounding action and deep psychological thrills. To not see a movie, that I believe will be talked about decades from now (like The Matrix), would be doing yourself a great disservice.