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All That We See or Seem According to Christopher Nolan [spoilers]

by on July 21, 2010

Inception:

noun

1. beginning; start; commencement.
2. film that will blow your mind, directed by Christopher Nolan

I’m not going to bury the lead on this story. I LOVED Inception. Inception was everything I want out of a film. It had good acting, good effects and was cerebral enough to keep you thinking about some aspect of the plot long after it was over. [SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan – Memento, Batman Begins and The Dark KnightInception is a sci-fi, action-thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine. It takes place in a world where technology allows a shared dream state that people have learned to exploit.

After an action packed “interview”, Saito – Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins and Letters from Iwo Jima) hires Cobb – DiCaprio, and Arthur – Jo Go-Lev, as the kids call him, (Miracle at St. Anna, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra), not to steal information, which is their normal modus operandi, but rather to leave information. They are hired to perform opposite of extraction: inception.

Saito needs Robert Fischer Jr. – Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later and Sunshine) to dissolve his father’s corporation, so that Saito can purchase the energy division, thereby giving him a monopoly.

Everyone believes inception to be impossible, but Cobb is convinced that if one is taken deep enough into the dream, information can be given directly to the sub-conscious, but it must be done in the simplest form. The most concise version of the idea must be planted, and then it can be altered. The problem is that once an idea is planted, no one knows what the mind will do with it. The idea becomes something else based on the subject’s relationships and beliefs, an entity of its own.

We find out that Cobb is on the run from the authorities. Saito promises that if they succeed in planting the idea in Fischer Jr.’s mind, he will clear Cobb’s name. Cobb, driven by the desire to see his children, assembles the best team possible for the job.

Cobb seeks help from his father, Miles – Michael Caine, who appears to be well versed in the idea of dream sharing. Cobb asks Miles about any up-and-coming architects, or designers and builders of the dream world. Miles mentions that he has someone in mind and introduces Cobb to Ariadne – Ellen Page (Juno and Hard Candy). Many of the astonishing sequences from the trailer come from Cobb explaining the shared dream state to Ariadne.

You still with me?

We then get a bit of a cliché sequence shortly after that, but it is one of my favorite movie clichés when it is done well. I don’t know how you would refer to it, but I’ll call it the “assembling the team” sequence, think Ocean’s Eleven, but cooler.

The first addition to the team is Eames played by Layer Cake and RocknRolla’s Tom Hardy. Eames is a forger, someone who can alter their looks in the dream state in attempts to fool one’s sub-conscious into believing that they are someone else. Apparently, Eames is the best. Also joining the team is the chemist, Yusuf, played by Drag Me to Hell’s Dileep Rao.

From this point, the team develops the plan and we get into crazy dream-within-a-dream territory, and I don’t mean Poe, although I would say that it is quite possible that Nolan was inspired by The Raven scribe. Don’t try to figure out how time passes in each layer. Trust me. I still don’t quite have it, just take it for what it is and try to keep track of the layer and the corresponding plan, with the understanding that dream time is longer than real time. Also remember that each level increases time exponentially.

DiCaprio plays a role built for him, the damaged hero who doesn’t like to consider his shortcomings. It is his past mistakes that drive the emotional plot points. Gordon-Levitt is cool and controlled even when the situations are crazy and indescribable. Ellen Page has matured and does well in a film this big. She may have understood that this was her chance to break out of the Juno role, and I think she succeeded. My only complaint was that Watanabe was difficult to understand in a few scenes and that took me out of the moment, trying to figure out what he had just said.

Hans Zimmer’s score is intense and helps to push the action scenes into your face. Interesting fact, Zimmer worked with guitarist Johnny Marr of The Smiths and Modest Mouse on the score, and there’s already best score nomination buzz, just a few days after wide release of the film.

Christopher Nolan may have snuck into my brain and deposited the idea that Nolan is an amazing filmmaker, but my sub-conscious took that thought and developed it into “Christopher Nolan is a genius of film.”

How much would I pay to see Inception again, out of $10? $10, and I think I will, only this time it will be in IMAX.

Jay (J.C.) Fralick is the host of The Drivecast
The co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie Podcast
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