Twitter Plot Summary: Cobb has one last job to do before going home. That job is to infiltrate someone’s dreams and steal information. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Director: Christopher Nolan
Key Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy.
Five Point Summary:
1. Hang on, you’re all in the Batman trilogy!
2. Pete Postlethwaite!
3. Dreams are weird, more so if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio.
4. How long does it take the van to hit the water?
5. Sorry, how many levels down are we going?
The main review below was originally posted on www.randomstoat.com on 07 August 2010.
In this day and age I think it’s all too easy for the big studios to put out sequels, adaptations, reboots and re-imaginings rather than invest time and money in original ideas. It’s a rampant beast in the Hollywood system at the moment, which is why it’s always nice to see an original movie do well. And if there’s one thing you can easily say about Christopher Nolan, it’s that he makes some very good films.
Inception takes on the concept that it is possible to implant yourself into somebody else’s dreams and extract important information. Nolan doesn’t dwell for too long on the technology in question, preferring instead to discuss the mechanics of the system and how the entire process works. Suffice to say, and I’m summarising as succinctly as I can: for five minutes spent in the real world, you will spend an hour in the dream. This is later expanded when further dream layers are introduced (an hour in the first dream level is a week in the second, a week in the second is months in the third, and beyond that lies near-insanity!).
Right in the middle of all this is Cobb, who is an expert in entering dreams and stealing information. Unfortunately he suffers from a rather important sub-conscious flaw in that his dead wife follows him everywhere in the dreamworld. This plot develops throughout the film and would be unfair of me to spoil it any further.
There are some frankly excellent set pieces littered throughout the movie, from the initiation of Ellen Page’s character in the dream world to the weightlessness that the second dream level is subjected to, to the assault on the mountain base in the third layer, although they could have elaborated on some of these layers a bit more, but only really if they had an infinite running time. It would certainly make a good TV series. Just don’t let the BBC get their hands on it, most of their drama programmes are so similar they could be interchanged with one another.
One part of the film is unintentionally hilarious, but only if you’ve ever watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Throughout the final climax, where we have characters spread across three layers of dreams, in the first layer a van is reversed off a bridge to give all the characters a “kick” to wake them up. As time is slower in the second and third layers, the van seems to move in slow motion for what seems like (and probably is) half an hour. For us in the cinema, it was like the scene in Holy Grail where John Cleese runs up the hill several times towards the castle, with him being no closer after every cut. Admittedly he then just appears at the top of the hill and kills a guard, which doesn’t happen here, but it felt similar and most amusing at the same time. It was almost like a “meanwhile, in the slow moving van” moment.
I have to spend a bit of time praising the performances by everybody involved. Michael Caine is as good as he can be considering he’s in the film for all of five minutes. Same again for Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his apparently long suffering partner in crime, and who has come a long way since his time in 3rd Rock From The Sun (a shame he wasn’t in the final season as much as the show needed, it fell a little flat without him, but that’s for another discussion).
This is the first time I’ve seen Ken Watanabe in a proper role – I’m ashamed to say I’ve only ever seen him as the faux Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins. His character also goes through the ringer and whilst not doing a massive amount with the role, he does enough to get the character’s personality across, even if his motives aren’t always 100% clear.
Cillian Murphy, likewise, does a fantastic job as the son of Peter Postlethwaite (who has a great death scene face). He has quite a meaty and emotional role and his character has a satisfying and similarly emotional conclusion. Ellen Page did well with the role she was given, but I didn’t think the character was as fully developed as it could have been. A strong performance but the character was essentially a cypher to help progress a bit of the plot. And to mess with Leonardo DiCaprio’s dreams. If only it had been so in real life…
It was also fun to see Tom Hardy with hair. My only other experience of him as an actor was as a bald, young clone of Captain Picard in that mixed bag of a movie, Star Trek Nemesis. I couldn’t help thinking I’d seen him in something else, and spent a good 40 minutes certain he was Patrick Marber of Day Today/Alan Partridge fame. But alas it was not the case, and his occasionally fruity performance made him one of the standout characters.
The ending is appropriately vague so you can take your own meaning from it, which is a nice touch. Without giving too much away there are several points in the film where it is implied that literally everything we’ve seen is a dream (Cobb obsessing with “getting home”). There’s a sequence early on where Cobb is chased by a group of bad guys, in a similar way to how a person’s sub-conscious reacts when you do something out of the ordinary in someone else’s dream.
But… the ending does allow for both sides of this, so it depends on the individual watching the film rather than having it dictated to you in the script, which is a very good technique. Even better is the fact the movie has done some big business at the cinema, although a lot of this can probably be linked to the pre-release trailers advertising this as being from the director of The Dark Knight. With any luck this might inspire the studios to invest a little more in crafting original stories. I mean, it can’t just be Christopher Nolan doing stuff like this can it?
Favourite scene: In a film full of them? If I had to pick, it would be the hotel corridor fight scene. Logistically challenging yet expertly done.
Quote: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” (Pulls out a grenade launcher)
Silly Moment: The van falling off the bridge to elicit the wake up “kick”, and taking about 30 minutes of the film running time to do it.