Monday, August 23, 2010


Warning: Some spoilers below. If you haven't seen this film, don't read on. Watch it instead. At least twice. Here's the trailer, if you're interested.

Inception, directed my Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy and Ellen Page, is the story of Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), an 'extractor', who can enter people's dreams and extract information from their minds – kind of psychological espionage. Cobb and his team, including Aridane (Page), are hired to perform 'inception' – the opposite of extraction – the planting of an idea in a target's (Murphy) mind without detection.
It's basically a crime/action thriller, with some psychological stuff thrown in. There is plenty of action and suspense, but with a very complex plot that makes the heist in Ocean's Eleven look painfully obvious. Added to these are brilliantly conceived ideas about how dreams work and a very personal story following DiCaprio's character.
The film was well received by critics and the public (87% on Rotten Tomatoes). In my opinion, it is about 50 times as good as Avatar and an early contender for film of the decade. It is genuinely one of the best films I have ever seen. That's one reason I saw it 3 times at the cinema (an honour only otherwise given to the three Lord of the Rings films). The other reason is that there's so much in the film that second and third viewings were necessary – the second to completely get to grips with the plot and themes, and the third to look out for hints about a theory a friend and I had about the film.

I will now attempt to explain exactly why the film is so good.
  1. The plot. The storyline is involved and gripping. It is complex but well-explained. It makes you concentrate but doesn't make concentration a chore. There is plenty of suspense, but it is genuine rather than forced and interspersed with humour.
  2. The concept. The idea of sharing dreams and extracting and planting information is interesting but fairly unremarkable, but the way Nolan incorporates so many features of dreams (e.g. they seem real while you're dreaming, they seem to last a lot longer than the 5-minutes or so of real time that you dream for, you start in the middle of a dream and can't remember how you got there) is very clever and makes the concept convincing. Combined with the complexity of the plot, this makes you think a lot and gives plenty to talk about.
  3. Ambiguity. The ending is ambiguous and open to interpretation, but not in intriguing rather than an annoying way. In fact, the whole film can be interpreted in various ways. This has given rise to multiple internet discussions and theories in a very similar way to The Matrix about 10 years ago. Again, this makes you think hard, which most people don't do enough.
  4. Cobb's story. Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) has a very personal motivation for taking the job offered to him, and his story (and backstory) gives the film a very personal angle as well as the standard heist/action stuff, and also adds a lot of suspense and tension, shown in the interactions between some of the team.
  5. Score. The music is by Hanz Zimmer, who I consider to be one of the top 3 composers in film. In many films the music is good but nothing to write home about, but Zimmer's score is excellent and really adds to the mood of the film.
  6. Effects. One effect in particular – a hotel corridor with gravity that keeps changing direction, filmed in a revolving set. This produces one of the coolest fight scenes ever.
Seriously, make sure you see this film – you won't regret it.

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