- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
t is officially time to stop the conversation about Christopher Nolan, one of the greatest filmmakers of the last ten years, and begin discussing Christopher Nolan, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. The weakest film he’s made since his backwards-spooling 2000 breakthrough “Memento” is his 2002 remake of the Norwegian thriller “Insomnia,” and that movie is still very good. His latest movie, “Inception,” is a veritable embarrassment of riches. The visuals are stunning, the performances are refreshingly low-key, and the story is one of the most enjoyable mind trips you’ll ever take. You have to love a movie that dares people to think big.
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a master at a unique form of corporate espionage, stealing secrets from people through their dreams. When his group fails to extract information from wealthy Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe), Saito makes Cobb an offer he can’t refuse: if Cobb can plant an idea into the mind of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), who’s about to inherit the reins at Saito’s main competitor, Saito will forgive Cobb’s trespass. Everyone on Cobb’s team insists that planting an idea, or inception, is impossible, but Cobb believes he can do it. The problem is that Cobb’s late wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) keeps popping up whenever he’s in someone’s mind. Worse, she’s sabotaging his efforts at every turn.
Nolan’s story is admittedly chatty – much exposition is required, but he frames it in a way that works as realistic dialogue – but the core idea is rather simple, and its simplicity allows Nolan to add layers without the proceedings getting overly complicated. Basing the movie almost entirely in the dream world also gives Nolan the freedom to take some liberties with time and space, folding cities on top of themselves and setting three separate set pieces at different speeds. And yet, some of the movie’s most striking images are the rawest ones, such as the train barreling through a city street.
Nolan’s movies post-“Memento” have been all-star affairs, but this is his best ensemble cast yet. DiCaprio’s character may be the only one who receives any emotional depth, but that’s by design, as Cobb discourages his team, particularly his architect Ariadne (a wonderfully subdued Ellen Page), from using personal experience to influence their work. Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt provide rock-solid support to the unraveling DiCaprio, while Tom Hardy gets the best lines as the master of disguise. Cotillard has the trickiest part here; her Mal (there is a reason her name is spelled that way) is menacing but wounded. It’s easy to see why Cobb has such trouble dealing with her. The movie’s unspoken star, though, is the Stravinsky-esque score by Hans Zimmer, who wrings unspeakable anguish out of a couple of cellos.
To call “Inception” the best movie of 2010 so far is to damn it with faint praise, as this has been the most creatively bankrupt year for movies in many a moon. Still, healthy competition or not, “Inception” is a brilliant work from a man who’s only getting better with age. And to think, he’s only 39. Hallelujah.
Three-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
As the DVD sales market continues to drop, look for this one to stem the tide a bit, as Nolanites are bound to snap up the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of "Inception" by the truckload. The in-movie mode is called Extraction Mode, and features background on the movie's design. There is a featurette on the science of dreams hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a comic prologue to the movie that explains how the movie's main characters were recruited to extract information from Saito. Hans Zimmer's Oscar-worthy score receives some love, and those into BD-Live can uncover "files" that detail dream-share technology. Fun extras for the dozen or so people in your life who are dying to own this movie.