Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest directors of this generation. The man has made some of the true cinematic masterpieces of the last several years, “Memento” and “The Prestige”, not to mention his billion-grossing-juggernaut “The Dark Knight”. I can’t quite put into words what makes his films so compelling and so popular, but the fire-cracker intensity and brilliant scripts he brings to them are likely the main components (Nolan writes his own scripts). And his latest film, “Inception”, is the thematic culmination of all his work thus far. Take the action from his Batman films, the mind-bending narrative tricks of “Memento”, and the emotional intensity of “Insomnia”, with a dash of “Blade Runner” and “The Matrix”, and you get a slight approximation of just what “Inception” has to offer.
Leonardo DiCaprio has slowly, albeit surely, cemented himself as one of the finest American actors of this generation. Here, he plays Cobb, a man who possesses both the ability and the technology to break into people’s dreams and steal their secrets, a process called “extraction”. Cobb is on the run for an initially unknown crime, but receives an offer from wealthy businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe), who wishes to utilize Cobb’s skills to plant the idea in the mind of a rival businessman, Fischer, to dissolve his father’s empire, which gives the film its title, inception.
You see, inception is the process of planting an idea in someone’s head and making it seem as if they came up with it, something considering largely impossible. (After all, the mind always traces the root of an idea.) In order to pull off this reverse-heist of the mind, Cobb must rally together a team of specialists and plant the idea deep enough in Fischer’s mind that he takes the idea as his own. Cobb, however, is plagued by projections of his dead wife, Mal, and may or may not have had a hand in her death.
The film’s greatest strength is without a doubt it’s creativity and originality. In a time where the vast majority of films are remakes, sequels, reboots or whatever, it is an unbelievable breath of fresh air to get a film as inventive, as creative, as visionary, and as just plain good as “Inception” is. Christopher Nolan reportedly spent up to 10 years crafting the script to “Inception”, and the time he spent pays off in spades. Nolan doesn’t merely make a movie here, he creates his own universe, with new ideas and concepts unlike anything seen on film before. And the thing is, Nolan’s dialogue explains the ins, outs, and rules of the film’s universe, yet feels entirely natural. It feels as if it comes naturally out of its character’s mouths instead of a screenwriter over-eager to explain and spoon-feed the film’s ideas to the audience.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Leonardo DiCaprio leads the cast with his fantastic, borderline Oscar-worthy performance as Cobb. Marion Cotillard is stunning here is Cobb’s wife, Mal. She gives a truly great performance, and some of her more emotionally charged scenes are nothing short of haunting. Joseph-Gordon Levitt, star of “500 Days of Summer” and one of my very favorite actors, proves in addition to be a truly great dramatic actor, he can be a truly awesome action star. Ellen Page of “Juno” demonstrates more range and emotion here than any of her previous performances.
All of its heady concepts and great performances aside, “Inception” is also excellent in terms of being an action film. Let it be said that “Inception” simply put, sports some of the coolest action sequences I have ever seen in film. In every single action scene, I am not exaggerating when I say my jaw dropped. “Inception” uses special effects to more inventive, more creative, and just simply cooler effect than any film this side of “The Matrix”.
I could easily write a 4,000-word essay about this film, singing its praises, noting its highlights, and so on. I’ll spare you that unpleasantry for now. But allow me to make some declarations: Not only is “Inception” one of the greatest science fiction films of all time as well of the best films of the last decade, it just may be the masterpiece of one of today’s greatest filmmakers.