- Released Internationally on 16/07/10
- Released in Malta by KRS on 21/07/10
Preview (first published 01/07/10 in VIDA magazine)
In a nutshell
Once in a while a film comes along that makes you want to rush to watch it without even knowing exactly what it's about. Sometimes it's hype, sometimes it's reputation, sometimes it's a brilliant marketing campaign of trailers and posters that look great without giving too much away. Sometimes it's all three.
Why we're hyped
Christopher Nolan (and DiCaprio).
Who's in it?
If the name Christopher Nolan doesn't ring any loud bells, it's probably because his Hollywood star is relatively young, and because his genius is behind the scenes. After exploding onto the scene in 2000 with one of the most original films of the decade, Memento, he proceeded to reinvent, reboot and revitalise the Batman franchise, collaborating with his screenwriter brother to bring us the excellent Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. This time around he's done the writing himself, and the film is being promoted as a psychological thriller, with mind-boggling trailers and taglines that tell us our 'mind is the scene of the crime', but little else. Which is fine by me - if there's a truly original story to be enjoyed, I'd rather not have it spoiled or spoon-fed beforehand. Based on his flawless reputation, Nolan has attracted a string of respected names to the project - Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer), Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), Ellen Page (Juno), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight) and Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins). The special effects look just as stellar, and in a summer congested with sequels, remakes and filler material, this stands out as something truly creative to look forward to. Let's hope it's even half as good as his previous films.
Whether Inception ends up being the best film of the year is hard to predict, but it's hard to imagine anything more original, inventive and complex coming along anytime soon. From the opening piecemeal scenes, the films quickly establishes itself as a story that will take some unravelling, and set in a world, or worlds, with a strong sense of style.
So what's it all about?
To try and summarise the plot would make this review into a minor thesis, and would be a disservice to the masterful way director Christopher Nolan feeds us the rules of the game as we delve deeper into his labyrinthine creation. Suffice to say that the film is about dreams, and the main characters are individuals trained in creating dreams for individuals to inhabit while they sleep, inside which these conmen can steal ideas from the person's mind. This process of navigating one's dreams to covet their inner thoughts is called ‘extraction’, and presents a useful but potentially dangerous possibility. Much harder to achieve, but much more devastating in its effect is 'inception' - the opposite of extraction - whereby an idea is planted like a seed inside a person's mind, there to take root and grow to affect his decisions and life. Cobb (DiCaprio) is the most skilled extractor around, and he is given the job of a lifetime when a powerful Japanese tycoon (Watanabe) offers him his former life back in return for an inception assignment. Cobb assembles a team of experts, and the game is on.
It is no mean feat keeping a sense of urgency going for nearly two and a half hours, but Nolan succeeds brilliantly, and this is one film where you will not want to take your eyes off the screen for fear of missing something crucial, or amazing. When Cobb's team start delving deeper and deeper into dreams within dreams, Nolan makes use of new team members who need some explaining and guidance, so as to help us, the audience, who desperately need both. But the script manages to finely balance the explanation and theory with extremely vivid action and practice, preventing the storyline from becoming too tedious, as had happened to the Matrix sequels, which you might be reminded of when Cobb and co. plug in and conk out.
Just like his previous films, this one looks and sounds great. Even if you're struggling with the finer plot details, it's hard not to sit back and awe at the sheer class of what you're enjoying on screen. The cast shines without exception, and lesser-known Tom Hardy deserves a special mention for managing to hold his own as the smooth-talking Eames, the forger of the team. When called for, the visual effects are top-notch, and include some dreamy sequences we're unlikely to see anywhere else. Frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer picks up where he left off with his Dark Knight musical score, and delivers a similarly harsh soundtrack which helps propel the action forward but delivers some melody and moments of respite when needed. Nolan has apparently been fine-tuning the script for roughly a decade, and apart from a few 'not again!' moments, it's slick, smart and as far as I can tell, watertight. But don't expect everything to be gift-wrapped and nicely resolved, because like many of the best thrillers this one leaves room for interpretation at a number of points.
In the end
A film to be marvelled at, seen more than once, reflected upon and discussed. If you want something refreshingly different this summer, take a leap of faith into the intricate imagination of the one of the best filmmakers in the business.