Classic Review: Inception (2010)
“Inception” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. Released on July 16, 2010, the film is about a thief who steals information from people’s dreams.
The film was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed films such as “Memento”, “Insomnia”, “Batman Begins”, and “Interstellar”. If you have the power to infiltrate people’s dreams, what would you do with it? This was the question that master filmmaker Christopher Nolan answered in his most ingenious and trippy film of the 2010s. Nolan was originally planning on working on it after the completion of “Insomnia”, but he later shelved it in order to gain more confidence with a project this complex and grand and instead went on to work on the two “Batman” films and the 2006 thriller “The Prestige”. Fast forward to the summer of 2010, where the film became a critical and commercial success and won four out of eight Academy Awards, including Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. It also became a major influence in popular culture in terms of its memorable sequences and its trailers using the popular “braam” sounds. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the sci-fi action classic and with Nolan’s upcoming film “Tenet” heading to theaters soon (hopefully), I decided to revisit it and see if it really is a filmgoer’s dream come true or if it’s actually an absolute nightmare when it comes to the complexity of its plot and themes. For those who still haven’t watched it, I will do my best to share my thoughts on the film without giving away any major spoilers, so that you can experience it for yourself someday.
The story centers on Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) and his partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt). They’re a group of professional thieves known as “extractors” who use experimental technology to invade their targets’ subconscious and extract information through a shared dream world, hence the term “extractors”. Dom runs into Mr. Saito (Watanabe), a businessman who promises to erase his criminal record by completing this request: implanting an idea into the subconscious of Robert Fischer (Murphy), the heir to his father’s business empire. With a team by his side, Cobb works to complete this dangerous mission while also dealing with his own personal demons in the process. Now, you may think that this plot is as simple as telling time, but it’s actually a complex and modern heist film that does two things: expand on the concept of dream vs. reality through dialogue and deliver a heart-pounding and visually striking thrill ride that every summer blockbuster is known for. With a runtime of two hours and 28 minutes, the film does take a while to get to the actual heist, but with its interesting characters and Nolan’s execution on the “dream vs. reality” scenario, getting through the first act didn’t feel like an absolute chore. Instead, it sets up this idea in a way that Nolan is known for: mixing together character-driven moments with the genre elements while keeping the pace consistent. Once the heist kicks into high gear, that’s when things get even more exhilarating. From its thrilling action sequences to its mind-bending visuals, the film is a trippy and invigorating experience that’s more intelligent than brainless. In other words, it still holds up as one of Christopher Nolan’s best-looking and intense blockbusters of his career. The cast did such a fantastic job with their performances, especially Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, who serves as the focus of one of the film’s themes, which is dealing with guilt. Throughout the film, Cobb has been haunted by the events that led his wife Mal (who is played marvelously by Marion Cotillard) to commit suicide, and those thoughts are affecting his job, which helps make the film’s high stakes much more serious. The way they handled this character arc was undoubtedly riveting without feeling forced. This is one of those moments where storytelling and character depth are just as important as the action set pieces and the visual effects. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, and Ellen Page were also great in their roles as Arthur, Saito, and Ariadne respectively as they insert enough interest in these characters to prevent them from being one-dimensional. The scope of the set pieces and the film’s mixture of practical effects and CGI play a big part in portraying some of the most memorable sequences in film history, including the Paris-folding sequence and the zero-gravity fight scene that takes place in one of the dreams. These things alone looked incredible ten years ago, and they still look incredible now. The sequences that I mentioned successfully portrayed how the dreams are affected by the real world and the characters without taking some easy shortcuts that most of the action blockbusters are known for. Another thing I want to mention is Hans Zimmer’s score, which still sounds great in my opinion. Zimmer definitely knows how to create music that matches the intensity and the scope of a specific film without making things too overwhelming or too underwhelming, and “Inception” is a well-deserved example of that. Give it a hear if you get the chance.
Overall, “Inception” is the type of experience that remarkably blends intelligent thrills with awe-inspiring visuals. Ten years after its official release, the film still remains as one of the best examples of what Christopher Nolan can do with a higher budget and his intriguing concept. The cast was great, Cobb’s character arc was well-executed, the visuals and the action looked stunning, and the story was complex, yet interesting, thanks to Nolan’s direction and screenplay. It can be a bit confusing at first, but once you fully understand its substance, I can assure you that you will be in for one heck of a treat. Here’s hoping that Nolan’s latest film “Tenet” will deliver that same experience as this one.
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