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Rapid Review: Inception

July 21, 2010

Christopher Nolan may very well be the savior of the Summer 2010 Movie Season.  

Inception is the latest in a series of well-crafted, well-written and emotionally involving films in Nolan’s repertoire (Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight, The Prestige).  Nolan has a rare gift with action films.  He manages to make the viewer believe that the action is only a small part of the journey that his characters must take.  A novel idea in today’s CGI’d frenzyof forgettable films.

Inception takes place mostly in the realm of the human subconscious.  This is a more involving, more treacherous setting than Gotham City can ever claim to be.  At its center, Inception is a sly tale of corporate espionage shielded in a cloak of complicated sci-fi imagery, wrapped up in a morality tale and draped with psychological implications.   A tall order, but Nolan makes it come to life with ease on the screen.   Inception brings up vital and timely questions about invasion of privacy, technological subterfuge and the ticking time bomb that can be your own moral compass. 

In truth,where are people ultimately at their most vulnerable and open to suggestion?  Their dreams. It’s a mostly undiscovered and untapped realm of limitless emotional data. In a time when people are maddeningly worried about what information theives can purloin off the invisible map of the Worldwide Web, it’s not too difficult to find  terror in the idea that an entire company can be created whose sole purpose is to invade your dreams and sabotage your future from within.  In Inception, all it takes for one business empire to fall is the work of Dom Cobb and his band of tech-savvy co-workers. 

Cobb(Leonardo DiCaprio) and his cohorts are the men and women sent to do the dirty work for  corporate bosses.  They attack dreams from within, stealing your secrets.  To steal information is called “extraction”. This is the easier of the two jobs Dom and his crew can complete.  Inception, or planting an idea in someone’s brain, is much more difficult.  It takes much more skill to  plant the seeds of doubt and destruction in your late-night mind.   Of course, dreams are fragile stuff, and need special care and maintenance.  You need more than Mapquest to find your way around in a CEO’s noggin’.

There’s more to the basic plot than at first meets the eye.  There are mazes within mazes and complexities that give birth to more complexities.  It’s easy to design a plan.  The tough part lies in dealing with the eccentricities of human nature.  There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when dealing with memories and ideas. 

 Nolan has assembled a stunning cast.  Leo DiCaprio is a suitable and empathetic lead, whose weakness comes in the form of uncontrollable and distracting visions of his late wife, played with alacrity and world-weariness by Marion Cotillard.  

Juno’s Ellen Page at last has an  interesting adult role as the accurately and mytholocially named Ariadne, an architect that Cobb must train to construct and descontruct the “web” of the dream world.   Longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy also shines as the hapless target of the film’s primary “extraction”, and British actor Tom Hardy (who was a perfect Heathcliff in an ITV production of Wuthering Heights a few years back) is the masterful lynchpin and muscle on Cobb’s team as Eames, a shape-shifting “forger”.  He’s a great character actor in the making – here’s hoping we see more of him soon.

Joesph Gordon Levitt, who was so subtle and intriguing  in the overlooked Brick and charmingly oblivious in 500 Days of Summer, here plays Cobb’s stolid right hand man and has grown into a solid and consistent performer.

Inception is visually remarkable – even more so because the CGI is not in any way a distraction or an obvious showpiece.   It’s nice to see that painstaking location work has been done as often as is possible.  This detail alone makes Inception rise heads above other summer fare in terms of genuine artistry.

Inception is not for the faint of mind.  There are levels and stairways of mystery and it’s a tangled web that Nolan weaves, but much of the fun comes from trying to untangle the threads.  It’s the first movie of the summer that requires its viewer to think, ponder and morally calculate.  How nice to find a director, writer, cast, crew and studio willing to have that much faith in their audience.  It’s a brilliant concept.

Overall Grade: A +

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