Next month on the 16th of July, Christopher Nolan’s Inception will complete its 10th anniversary. One of the most regarded films in cinema’s history, I decided to watch and review it today, while starting my Nolan movie marathon as Tenet‘s release date approaches near.
My fondness for Nolanism began upon seeing Inception. I had started 11th grade when the bulky word-of-mouth publicity at School piqued my interest. Before that, I hadn’t seen any of his movies. Not even The Dark Knight.
Considering how awful the preceding live-action versions were, I wasn’t interested. The animated versions of the caped-crusader were enough for me.
His other films, The Prestige, Insomnia, and Memento, were 18+ films that I wasn’t allowed (primarily inexperienced) to see. But, I watched Inception for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon. And boy, was I was floored. A dream within a dream? I did not anticipate anything like it.
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It was a severely confusing concept to crack at first, mainly for I was only 16, and it was probably the first time I had seen a story of this perplexity. Its idea was a fascinating hypothesis of lucid dreaming, and I was amazed by the writing. To the best of my belief, almost every mind contains wildly imaginative stories. However, only a few can harmonize those stories into structured, consummate narratives. Christopher Nolan did it with Inception.
Inception 10th Anniversary: Remains an Extraordinary, Inimitable Story
Inception tells the story of a thief, Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), who possesses a unique skill. Cobb extracts valuable secrets from a person’s subconscious (awesome, right?). It takes him a sedative (Somnacin) and an uncanny machine (PASIV) that allows the drug to pass through him and the mark (the target) for shared dreaming.
When the mark’s subconscious is at its most vulnerable, Cobb steals the needed information. And he is accompanied by his specialist team, who help him execute the sweeping job.
There is Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), who does the research, Eames (Tom Hardy), a forger, who impersonates people inside the dream world, Ariadne (Ellen Page), an architect, who constructs the various dreamscapes, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), an avant-garde pharmacologist. He makes the sedatives and allows people like Cobb to execute their work unsupervised.
However, once Cobb is inexplicably charged for murdering his wife and declared an international fugitive, his sole purpose is to find a return to his homeland and be with his children.
Enter Saito (Ken Watanabe), an immensely powerful and wealthy business magnate, who assigns Cobb an inverse task. Instead of stealing an idea, Saito tasks Cobb to plant one, in the mind of his arch business rival, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy).
Robert is the inheritor of the multi-billion dollar empire of his father, who lives his final days. Cobb is tasked to change his mind about continuing his father’s business, which otherwise can be a significant roadblock for Saito. Hence, Saito wants Fisher to dissolve his father’s empire.
Hesitant to do the job, Cobb agrees once Saito promises him freedom from all the charges if he performs inception successfully. What follows is a mind-bending action trip that unfolds in a dream within a dream within a dream setup.
An Epitome of Unconstrained Imagination
There is no way anyone can recapture the amazement of the first Star Wars, or Jaws, or The Godfather. Inception falls on the same radar. It is so damn perfect that it is impossible to imitate its thrills. Nolan’s dream world is an expansive one that filled with incredible ambition and detail.
Be it an exploding cafe, a bending city, or a hallway fight taking place in zero gravity – Nolan cushions his vision with an exigent execution. Knowing he pulled off most of the action scenes in-camera rather than using the green screen, the result is utterly original and astonishing.
Major credit goes to Wally Pfister, the ace cinematographer, for an excellent understanding of Nolan’s dream world and deploying the right tools to capture the spectacle. There are at least 5 scenes that incorporate sizeable practical effects. Pfister’s camerawork in those scenes is highly admirable. I strongly recommend you to see a behind-the-scenes featurette of the film.
Demands Your Attention to the Details
The least spoilery thing to say about Inception, despite its 10th anniversary, is its ending. Much of the popularity it garners comes from its ambiguous climax, which left the audience confounded. It pitted the general movie-goers against the intellectual ones through the quest to explain its ending.
As opposed to the general drift, the quest for understanding the film correctly led to repeat viewings. Call it Nolan’s ingenuity, even the most occasional moviegoers went to see the movie again. And as it turned out, the film worked even better the second time.
It isn’t easy to catch the plethora of minute details that are shrewdly laid out. The scenes and dialogues are written in a way to make you doubtful about everything you see and hear. Hence, a second viewing becomes necessary. And at the center of this bewilderment is Cobb’s visceral relationship with his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard).
Their arc gently unfolds in the film, with a few hints dropped at every interval, mostly relating to whether Cobb killed Mal or not? Though the culprit is revealed in the second act, the major twist comes in the climax, and it is tremendously contemplative.
Firmly Anchored By its Cast and Hans Zimmer
Like how there can be no rose without a thorn, Inception has its good bits attached with a spike. And that spike is character development. Excluding Cobb (and partially Fischer), none of the characters get any backstory. There is plenty of subtexts, which is excellent, with every A-lister getting one or two pivotal moments to chew. Yet, by the end, it is unignorable that Nolan dished out all the meat for just one character.
This is not to say the decision is entirely kaput. Besides Cobb, making everyone else secondary allows for a fulfilling finale, for the story remains focused on Cobb’s dilemma from the beginning till the end.
Additionally, the shallowness in characterization is satiated by the incredibly talented actors who play their parts superbly. Each of them leaves a substantial impact, despite never having anything from the script to help with.
Arthur, Eames enjoy the most convivial arcs, for they share involvement with multiple characters. And they are great fun. Ariadne, on the other hand, gets to be with the Protagonist, and hence, gets added screen time. Her character is pivotal for Cobb, as she anchors him to do certain things. It is a reliable supporting role performance, apparently one of the most memorable ones of her career.
Hans Zimmer’s score also becomes the central character of the plot. Equivalent to the film, it is a very unconventional score, mostly a piano and guitar compound that ignites the story’s colossal imagination and variability.
Zimmer’s compositions seamlessly assimilate with the visuals, perhaps supersedes them at certain times. Some of the tracks (528491, Mombasa, Time) even register their influence outside of the story. It is very improbable for a film enthusiast or a melophile to not laud the album.
Ultimately, Inception is a Phenomenal Artistic Feat
Inception, approaching its 10th anniversary, remains an extraordinary conceptual and artistic achievement. It is the brainchild of Christopher Nolan, who smartly married intellectual cinema with Hollywood conventions. It’s innovative, it’s insightful, and it’s thrilling. It is a by-product of a decade long concentrated writing, and later on, a commanding direction that made Nolan who he is, and gave him the liberty to make films openly his own way.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
You can stream this masterpiece on Prime Video, or buy it on the iTunes store. Watch the trailer below.
What do you think of Inception? Do you plan on celebrating its 10th anniversary next month? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.