Inception is by far one of the most enjoyable science fiction movies in recent memory.
I went in cold, save for information gleaned from the trailers. I knew it was a heist movie where characters try to steal information from their marks via shared dreams. What I got was a story that was surprisingly not convoluted, where exposition – all the “if / then explanation” – was delivered in advance and easily understood.
What was explained was still pretty fantastic, and when the fantastic occurs onscreen it takes your breath away.
Spoilers to follow! SPOILERS!
Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, tells of a group of people that are paid big money to illegally infiltrate a target’s subconscious and coax (read: steal) information from them through their dreams. The opening scenes illustrated how it is done, what dangers are involved, and what happens if they fail – which they do. Immediately, the tables are turned on Cobb and Arthur (Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) by their would-be target, Saito (Ken Watanabe), offers them another job.
This job involves “Inception”, instead of the standard dream thievery. Inception is to plant an foreign idea into the subconscious of a target during a shared dream so the target believes that the idea is his or her own, which will cause them to act accordingly in the real world. In this case, Inception is required for a heir to a business empire, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to break up his father’s empire when he inherits it.
Cobb and Arthur venture forth to gather a new team, which would also consist of a Forger Aimes (Tom Hardy), a Chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and an Architect Ariadne (Ellen Page). Ariadne, being a newbie in the game, is the viewer’s proxy in the story. We learn more as she is taught about shared dreaming and Inception.
Apart from being able to create whole worlds for the dreamers to play in, she also realises that Cobb has a problem. Manifestations of his deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotilliard) pops up during Cobb’s dreams and wreak havoc upon him, jeopardising any mission. Cobb assures Ariadne that he has it under control, and Arthur is aware of the problem.
And all he wants is to go home to see his children which he will be able to after Saito’s job, which Saito has promised.
The movie is well made in terms of storytelling, where exposition is concisely told. We are quickly shown how shared dreaming works, what the rules are, what the danger are. The characters are then given a mission. We see them plan and train for the mission enough for us to be prepared for what is to come. We are also given bits of pieces of what the rules for shared dreaming are.
A host dreamer to provide the dreamspace. An Architech to build within the dream. The target’s subconscious to fill the dream with details for the team to exploit. Subconscious defence in the form of attacking people. Levels upon levels of dreams. The Kick to waken the dreamer. The Totem to be certain that they are still not in dreaming. Quicker dream time the further down you dream. Unaffected inner ear so inertia is felt in the dream – leading to such effects as when one physically falls when dreaming, the dream environment becomes zero gravity.
And of course, Limbo.
Another outstanding quality of Inception is its score, by Hans Zimmer. It not only has a ethereal feel to it, but it incorporates the best styles he’s developed over the years: a mix of his early work where he uses a lot of fast riffs and his beautiful symphonic score for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Nolan and Zimmer integrate the song “Non, je ne regrette rien”, a song recorded in 1960 by Edith Piaf into the story and score. How it’s integrated into the score is an ingenious piece of work.
Inception is a movie that presents fantastic ideas, such as the creation of entire realities within dreams. I was expecting more of a convoluted storyline, but it was quite a straightforward tale. You would have to use your brain a bit more to connect the dots in the story. And like the best of cyberpunk movies, it also makes the viewer ask themselves if any or all parts of the reality presented in the movie isn’t a lie itself. You’ll have endless debates about the movie long after you’ve seen it.