Director Christopher Nolan is somewhat of a rarity nowadays – a director who can make films that appeal to both the average popcorn filmgoer and more serious buffs at the same time. You’d think this could be done more often – but sadly, we tend to have to choose between blockbusters that are huge and mindless (Transformers 2, anyone?) or thinking films made on a smaller budget. So you usually have to make a choice between spectacle and mental engagement.
Nolan is really a case of being a good steward in small things and you will be rewarded. When his film Memento was released 10 years ago, he showed us that with a very small budget and only three actors, it was possible to make a really taut, and clever thriller. When Nolan moved to bigger budget films, such as Batman Begins, you might have thought that he would have sold out to Hollywood and just pocketed the money – but no! His Batman Begins was a hugely exciting and fresh approach to the Batman franchise, but nothing could have prepared anyone for the riveting brilliance of The Dark Knight (especially when seen in its IMAX version). (And I won’t go into them, but Insomnia and The Prestige, his other two films between Memento and Inception are also brilliant as well.)
Inception is an original story by Nolan (as far as I can tell), and it is original in every sense of the word. While it is full of elements that are familiar from many other films of varying genres, like a masterchef, Nolan combines them into a story that’s quite different from anything else I’ve seen. All I’m going to tell you about the plot is that it concerns Leonardo diCaprio as Cobb, a master of extraction – the art of sneaking into someone’s dreams and stealing private information from them. (Like corporate information, etc.) His offsider in these enterprises is Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt – I’ve never heard of this actor before, but he looks freakily like Heath Ledger, so I can’t help wondering whether Ledger was originally in mind for this role.
After a semi-successful extraction at the beginning of the film, Cobb then gets offered the job of inception – instead of stealing an idea from the subconscious, can he plant an idea there? To say any more would be absolutely criminal, but from here, the film turns into a mixture of a heist film, a Bond action film, a Matrix-style action film – but all completely different from these other films. But if you want action, a unbelievably clever plot, and an emotional pay-off, this is the film for you.
The visuals (especially in the dream world) are all beautifully thought-out. Instead of trying to create huge new landscapes (this is not Avatar), instead we’re offered bizarre twists on things that are already familiar to us. In fact, a lot of the locations to the films look quite ordinary, so when something unusual appears on screen, the effect is striking and eye-popping. Combine that with the fluid camera-work (always gorgeous to look at), and on the IMAX screen, the effect is totally immersive. When you add in the editing and Hans Zimmer’s relentless “two chords with ostinato” score, then you’re not going to get bored at all.
And, yes, all those reports that you will want to see it more than once are true – anyone want to go again?
5 out of 5.