Rates: * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Recently bought on blu ray.
A crack tream of mercenary thieves ply their trade using an unusual method; they infiltrate their target’s dreams, and trick their subconscious into revealing information. Now a wealthy industrialist has an even tougher task for them: can they plant an idea in a subject’s mind, without that person realising that it is not their own. Can inspiration, be faked?
Christopher Nolan’s high concept blockbuster is one of the best popcorn movies of its decade, and my personal favourite of his films. Nolan’s strongest suit as a director is his flair for creative visuals, and determination to deliver as much of them as possible without CGI. And this film is a great showcase for his talents; the city folding on top of itself, the building’s crumbling into the ocean, the old fashioned elevator trip through the subconscious. The film has countless indelible moments, brilliantly rendered by DP Wally Pfister.
The virtuoso visuals climax during an incredible fight scene in a hotel corridor. As the action is actually taking place inside one of the character’s heads, and this person is tumbling over and over during a car crash, the corridor tumbles around also; so the protagonists jump from the floor, to the walls, and then the ceiling. The shot was made utilising the same FX technique as a key scene in ‘2001’; the set was mounted on a frame that could rotate, and remains jaw droppingly thrilling.
Leonardo Dicaprio brings his trademark intensity to the role of Cobb, the dream thieves leader. This is a character who inadvertantly caused his wife’s suicide, and is now forcably separated from his children; he is tormented by both events, which grounds the sci-fi shenanigans in something more relatably human. Dicaprio is backed by a strong cast, notably; Tom Hardy in a star making role as a hich tech ‘forger’, Ellen Page as the group’s neophyte, and Ken Watanabe as a ruthless individual with far reaching influence.
No discussion of ‘Inception’ would be complete without touching on Hans Zimmer’s iconic score, which cast a long shadow over the music of subsequent blockbusters (for good and ill). Zimmer re-worked an Edith Piaf recording of the French classic ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’, breaking the song down and contorting it inventively; the end result an exciting collection of electronic tracks that add considerably to the film’s momentum. One of Zimmer’s creations was the ‘Braaaaam’ sound, that is used – at maximum volume – to hammer home the movie’s key moments. And it is this move that was then copied by an endless series of imitators, to the chagrin of some film pundits.
The logic of the film does not really hold up under scrutiny. The rules regarding ‘limbo’, especially, don’t make a lot of sense (how can the characters find what different characters built down there?), and the rules around what the characters can and can’t do while in someone else’s dream come and go. But to focus on this stuff is to miss the point; a bit like watching a Star Wars movie and saying the physics of the spacecraft are inaccurate.
This is a thrill ride, and works perfectly on that level. A fast paced, fun and exciting time, and a unique visual experience; a reminder of why we go and see movies on the big screen.
Footnote on the ending: Cobb’s children have not aged at all. So I think, forget the spinning top, that says it all.