Even the simplest idea can spin a complex web of possibilities. It grows in the mind, consuming our every thought and invading our hopes and dreams, explains Inception‘s troubled hero, Cobb (Leonard DiCaprio), when he’s not running from a dreamer’s subconscious security team, wrestling with his own projected mental demons, or diving deeper into the dream within a dream within a dream. Yes, Inception is a complex thriller, but it’s much more than an inventive crime caper, especially in a world where multiplexes are stuffed with rehashed sequels and movies that rely on new technology to create spectacle. Inception is a new cinematic idea and a fresh story that is executed with a precision and energy rarely dreamed of in Hollywood.
Before you can understand Inception, you have to understand extraction. It’s when one person enters another person’s mind through a dream and steals an idea or information. (Extraction is such a potent threat in big business espionage that high-level CEO-types train their subconscious to seek out and eliminate the threat of a foreign extractor.) Inception is the opposite of that – an outsider planting an idea and convincing the dreamer that he created it. It’s rare, if not completely unheard of, and that’s exactly what Cobb has to do if he wants to clear his name to return home.
If your head is already spinning with questions, you won’t have time to ask them before an entire city block twists and collapses on itself or the perspective shifts, altering your entire perception. Inception is more about the answers than the questions. Writer-director Christopher Nolan knows to illustrate his answers with actual situations in the film — so that our doubts and uncertainties are given visual proof.
The pace is rabid and the inception rules become more complex as Cobb and his dream team brave the recesses of energy-market monopoly heir Richard Fischer’s (Cillian Murphy) subconscious mind to plant the idea of breaking up his family’s business. To avoid being swallowed by theoretical questions, Nolan combines his clever Memento writing chops with his ability to direct thrilling action scenes (after cutting his teeth on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), creating a poetic montage of energy that never lets you question what’s happening, let alone take your next breath.
Make no mistake, the action scenes in Inception are unlike anything you’ve seen. Nolan juggles upwards of four story lines, while cinematographer Wally Pfister wows us with surreal slow-motion shots juxtaposed with frantic, perspective-shifting fight scenes, all of which are rooted in a reality we understand and the dream world rules we’ve come to believe in. These scenes will undoubtedly draw comparisons to The Matrix, but the tension and story weight in Inception‘s scenes make these moments more than a barrage of slow motion bullets.
Though Inception may leave a few lingering questions, it doesn’t leave behind any nagging plot holes or character inconsistencies. Its smart writing lets the imagination of the audience come up with the answers. And while we dream about the possibilities, we can only hope that its originality inspires a creative cinematic renaissance that seeks out new ideas instead of re-creating what we’ve already seen.