|In Short:||Two and a half hours fly by in a flurry of insane genius and badass mind crime.|
|EAMES:||You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.|
Genevieve Valentine entitled her June 25 blog post at Tor.com with the question: “Inception: Sci-Fi’s Last, Best Box-Office Hope?"
And this does seem to be the mantle that has been forced upon this once most enigmatic of movies. Director Christopher Nolan -- who showed an early way with the wacky with his topsy-turvy debut feature Memento and went on to display impressive franchise-building prowess with Batman Begins and the runaway success that was The Dark Knight -- had kept a tight lid on the story of his latest masterwork. Indeed, not much beyond its eminently desirable stars’ names were known for almost its entire production. Leo. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page. International darlings Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy. And in addition to all of that box-office pulling, Oscar-y power, elder statesmen Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite and Tom Berenger signed on. As did indie weirdness posterchild Lukas Haas, surely a sign that this was to be no ordinary piece of filmaking.
Later, there escaped this tidbit: it was to be “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.” Okay.
Now, I love it when I can go into a movie thoroughly unspoiled (unlike in my life, where I prefer to be as spoiled as possible), so I happily entered into Inception blissfully ignorant of story or content. My hopes were raised up high, yet there existed fear in my heart as well, because if this was indeed the last chance for the genre to get it right, to show the industry that it was still a force with which to be reckoned, then I could well be about to bear witness to the death knell of my very favorite mind-expanding, barrier-breaking, paradigm-shattering form of entertainment.
So, no pressure.
Fortunately for us all, Inception not only delivers on the promise suggested by its cast and the mastermind behind its gorgeous, glorious scenes, it surpasses all possible expectation. It’s like Episode I, in reverse.
Visually it is overwhelmingly, often ethereally, stunning, and the story itself immediately grabs a hold of the imagination and does not let go for a second. Leo is Dom Cobb, an “extractor” who performs thrilling feats of industrial espionage and sabotage by invading the dreams of corporate executives. He’s a sneakthief, and a good one, and he is played to conflicted and charming perfection by Di Caprio. He is offered the deal of a lifetime, basically The Big Score every anti-hero thief is offered in every crime caper ever (and Inception is definitely a crime caper): to infiltrate the mind of industrialist scion Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and convince him to make some very poor business decisions for the profit of the dastardly Saito (Ken Watanabe). If Cobb succeeds, the charges against him for his wife’s murder -- it’s okay, he probably didn’t do it -- will be dropped and he will see their kids again.
Who would turn down a deal like that?
He assembles his crack team -- Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Yusuf (Dileep Rao), Ariadne (Ellen Page) and the kick-ass Eames (Tom Hardy; who’d have thought the intense Picard-clone from Nemesis had this hilarious comic turn in him?) -- and together these renegade catburglars of the subconscious set about their disturbing restructuring of reality. It’s Sneakers meets Dreamscape, The Italian Job meets The Cell, Ocean’s 11 meets The Matrix, and it works so well it possibly out-cools all of them, combined. It’s the book William Gibson and Elmore Leonard never wrote together, and it is brought to breathtaking, gob-smacking life by Nolan and his eminently appealing and dynamic cast.
It’s a delightfully jumbled and jumpy -- indeed, dreamlike -- experience, where thoughts go unfinished and scenes meld into each other without linear progression or sensible, predictable order. For all that it hearkens back to many a well-known sci-fi trope, this is no by-the-numbers movie. That is, unless that number system goes: 1, 7, 3, 16, 24, 5, 19, 62…
There are a lot of words that could be used to describe Inception: Confounding. Perplexing. Impenetrable. Hell, the word surreal could have been coined with this film in mind. But more than anything, Inception is the realization of a spectacular vision, one in which questions are raised about the nature of truth and fantasy and all that brain-bending if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest philosophy stuff, and are then ultimately left wide open to debate and conjecture.
Inception embodies a dream. A dream of a world in which clever, thought-provoking, evocative and ingenious genre movies can still have a place in mainstream cinema (and no, for all its awesomeness, Avatar does not count). A world where to attract a blockbuster budget and cast, a movie doesn’t have to be a remake or based on a comic book or toy line. A dream of a world in which the audience is given credit for even a modicum of intelligence.
And if Inception embodies that dream, it is also a dream of a movie in itself: a dream from which I was sad to awaken, and cannot wait to have again.
-- Rachel Hyland