Inception is a splendid science fiction thriller that comes with polish and sophistication. It not only has the skillful and expert handling of special effects, nor does it rely on inventive action scenes. This one comes with a story that must have required unusually laborious thoughts of design in order to make its premise sensible, which it does amazingly.
In a way, the film is about a cursed protagonist named Cobb who has the unheard-of profession of breaking into people’s dreams during their sleep. After losing his family to a tragedy, he’s become a heist man who travels into a mind and steals valuable information. But after a botched attempt on a Japanese tycoon(Ken Watanabe), he is blackmailed into performing a reverse task; instead of stealing, Cobb is asked to implant an idea into the mind of a business heir named Fischer(Cillian Murphy) to break up his own enterprise. This gets Cobb to form a team that includes a forger (Tom Hardy), an architect(Ellen Page), his right hand man(Gordon Joseph-Levitt), and a sleep inducing expert.
What results is a mixture of genre elements, a Sci-fi thriller combined with Noir. When a character dies in a dream, so he does in reality. As science has declared, a body cannot function without a mind. So when Cobb and his team move around dream-space to strategically implant their stimulating idea, they are in serious danger when faced by a trained subconscious of armed security enforcers. It turns out that Fischer isn’t exactly unprepared for dream infiltrators. What makes matters worse are Cobb’s own subconscious memories, in the form of his late wife(Marion Cotillard) who appears and interferes in his operations. She is the Noir Femme Fatale constantly tugging at Cobbs emotions giving him inner conflict. This is a thriller that draws a surprising amount of sympathy and pity.
One challenge that the viewing experience presents are the dream levels. The team not only travel into one dream, but go further into another dream, hence a dream within a dream. They proceed even further into a third level. Cobb will push himself into a fourth. Not that the viewing experience is frustrating or even difficult, but closer attention will garner an appreciation for the importance in the timing of when Cobb and his team must accomplish their actions in each level. Plus a masterstroke of a challenge, in a final scene that throws an unanswered question of whether it is real or a dream, which can cause reflection on the events beforehand.
DiCaprio is a good choice for the part of Cobb. He is a talented emotionalist and can convey many feelings a character requires, including the complex ones. Cotillard is natural as a tragic figure. Tom Hardy doesn’t really require much effort in looking suitably cheeky as the forger. Joseph-Levitt makes a sturdy right hand man, practical and quick thinking. Michael Caine is there too as Cobb’s former professor. Ellen Page however is a curious choice for an architect. A fine actress she is and a screen presence she does have, but physically she looks too youthful for a complex character. Cinematography is thoroughly engaging by camera man Wally Pfister. Hans Zimmer’s sound is powerful although a little less of it could have been beneficial for exhausted listeners. But the genius behind all is writer and director Christopher Nolan. He’s constantly delivered quality to its boundaries from minimalist thrillers to grand scale pictures. With Inception, he demonstrates a splendid level of ability for filmmakers to aspire to.