After the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” back in 2010, I wrote a review on my earlier blog site praising the film. After several more viewings, I would continue to applaud this production and it was easily my favorite film of that year. But as excited as I was over “Inception”, I still don’t think my previous review did justice to what has become one of my favorite movies of all time. Yes, I said of all time! I still find “Inception” to be one of the most original and most ambitious movies I’ve ever seen. But ambition doesn’t always equal a great movie. “Inception” not only aims high but it succeeds in creating a brilliant and unique picture that’s unlike anything I’ve seen.
It’s hard to pigeonhole “Inception”. It’s a heist film, a tragic romance, science-fiction, and an action film. But the best thing is it uses all of these ingredients flawlessly. The bulk of its success can be traced right back to Nolan. For my money Christopher Nolan is one of our greatest working directors. He wrote , co-produced, and directed this film and I truly believe he’s one of the only visionary filmmakers who could have pulled this off. It took him almost ten years to write and rewrite the script and it took the huge success of “The Dark Knight” to secure the big budget needed to make “Inception”. But you sure can’t argue with the results of the finished product. “Inception” ended its box office run making over $825 million worldwide.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor Nolan had wanted to work with for some time. He plays “Dom” Cobb, a dream thief for lack of a better title. He, along with his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), are paid to infiltrate the subconsciouses of their targets via their dreams and steal information. When the dream extraction from a wealthy Japanese businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe) goes wrong, Cobb and Arthur find out they were being tested. Instead of extracting information, Saito wants the them to attempt inception on a business rival of his. The idea of inception is that instead of stealing information you plant it in the target’s subconscious while they’re dreaming. There are questions as to whether inception is even possible but Cobb is enticed to take the job when Saito promises to use his influence to clear Cobb’s name of a mysterious murder charge that has kept him out of the United States and separated from his two children.
To do the job Cobb needs a top-notch team of experts. Eames (Tom Hardy) is basically a forger or probably better described as an impersonator. Once inside a dream he has the ability to take on the identity of anyone. Ariadne (Ellen Page) is the architect. She is able to construct mental labyrinths inside the dreamers subconscious. This is essential if the team is going to know their way around the dream. Yusuf (Dileep Rao) is basically the team’s pharmacist. He’s the one who controls the sleep via his numerous concoctions. Saito also insists on going and keeping an eye on his “investment”. Nolan takes us through the formation of the team, bits of their training, and of course their attempt at inception. As the story moves forward Nolan plays with our minds as he begins placing dreams within dreams and he causes his audience to pay close attention as their well planned heist encounters more and more complications.
One thing I’ve always loved about a Christopher Nolan film is his ability to put to gather the perfect cast. This may be his best yet. DiCaprio has been a critic’s darling with several of his performances, but I think this is one of his very best. Cobb knows his business but he’s a tortured man with loads of emotional baggage. Leo handles all of this perfectly. I also loved Tom Hardy here and he steals nearly every scene he’s in. Eames is a confident wisecracker and some of his best scenes are when he’s giving Arthur a hard time. Speaking of Arthur, Gordon-Levitt gives another strong performance and he has one particular action sequence that’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. And then there’s Ellen Page who I liked as Ariadne. Her character is new to the dream scene and she brings a needed sense of caution and reality to the mission.
But there are some other great performances that are important to the story and worth mentioned. One of my favorites was Marion Cotillard as Mal. She has a special bond with Cobb and repeatedly appears within the dreams potentially compromising the mission. Cotillard’s performance is multi-layered and fascinating. Michael Caine, a Nolan favorite, is very good as Cobb’s father-in-law and caregiver of his children. Cillian Murphy plays the team’s central target for inception and he too is a great fit for his role. It was also great to see Tom Berenger given a nice role to work with and the great Peter Postlethwaite in what would be his last performance before his death due to pancreatic cancer. All of these performers are sharply in tune with the material and the cast serves as just one of the movie’s many high points.
Nolan is also a visual filmmaker and there is some incredibly eye candy in “Inception”. The movie was filmed in locations all over the world including Tokyo, Morocco, Paris, and Alberta. Each of these places have their own separate and distinct look and feel to them within the movie whether they take place in reality or in a dream. This was an intentional move by Nolan who wanted to place his film in the contemporary world while also playing with our perceptions of what is real and what’s not. And of course since we’re talking about dreams, Nolan has a spectacular and diverse visual sandbox to play in. He wows us with several amazing special effects sequences that include rotating hotel rooms, trains barreling down big city boulevards, and a shootout at a fortified arctic base. “Inception” hits you with one spectacular set piece after another and all of this gels nicely with the movie’s deep and layered story.
“Inception”isn’t a movie with a straightforward by-the-books narrative. It’s a film that requires you to pay attention and I like that. I’ve talked with people who didn’t care for the movie because of its complexities and I can’t help but be puzzled. So many movies are simple and formulaic genre films that never challenge their audiences in any way. For me it’s refreshing to have something completely original and fresh and I appreciate how the film doesn’t dumb things down for the audience. I’m also amazed at just how well this complex story unwraps. Nolan constantly throws new kinks into his story to the point where I questioned whether he could bring it all together. But like a skilled and crafty pro he pulls everything in during the last 20 minutes, right up to the beautiful final shot. And that final scene, well it gets a little misty for me every single time.
For me everything in “Inception” works. The special effects, the action sequences, Nolan’s phenomenal script, the incredible cast, Hans Zimmer’s pulse pounding score. This is why I go to the movies. There’s nothing conventional about “Inception” and there’s no way to watch it and not appreciate its craftsmanship. That said be prepared to think. The story is a bit of a challenge but that’s just another joy I get from watching it. I understand it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it gives me everything I want in a motion picture experience. For me this is a modern cinematic masterpiece.
VERDICT – 5 STARS
Ooooh, I loved this movie. Inception was brilliantly put together and phenomenally executed. Christopher Nolan really is a genius!
It’s one of the few movies that left me frozen in my theater chair after my first viewing when it was released. It’s such an intelligent and visual treat. Love it!
Thanks for commenting!
The best movies are the ones that are enjoyable and unique each and every time you watch. I think I saw this around 6 times within the 1st year of its release. And every time I was like ‘oh shit!’ at some symbolism, foreshadowing, or something that I didn’t notice the previous times.
Awesome Review dude!
Thanks man. I’m with ya 100%. I still remember the end credits starting after my first viewing and I was just stuck in my theater chair. I sat there blown away – my mind going in several different directions. I still have that feeling every time I see it.
Nice review. I love Inception as well. This is my favorite movie by Nolan and remains one of the best films of the past few years.
Can’t argue with you one bit. So much originality and vision tied into this film. It’s brilliant.
Great review of a thoroughly great film Keith. This was my favourite from that year as well and I also gave it top marks. It deserves them. Still doesn’t beat Nolan’s Memento for me, though.
Awesome! I think what blew me away was that I had never seen anything like it before. Totally original in brilliantly crafted. I still love it.
WooHoo!! Favourite Movie of All Time!! Not one of the favourite, The Favourite. Glad to find someone else who loves it as much as I do. 🙂
Wow, that’s high praise. But honestly I don’t condemn you for it at all. It’s a phenomenal movie and I’m enthusiastic anytime I talk about it. Glad to see you appreciate it as well. Thanks for the comments!
Still works for me all of these years later, too! Great review my man.
Thanks bro! What a flick, right?
One of the best films in the last 20 years! GREAT review buddy!
Thanks dude. Obviously I agree!!!!
I don’t know if I’d give this film 5 stars, I’m quite stingy with that rating but that said, it’s a stellar film and I actually enjoyed it on second and third viewing. I LOVE Eames and his “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” quote. Hardy’s got a hundred time the charisma than Leo, it’s so obvious when the two were talking. Great review anyway, Keith!
I’m with ya. I don’t give many 5 stars either (I think I give it to two movies last year). But for me this movie is near perfection. I can’t find a weak spot in it. I love the performances. I love the direction. I love the effects. I love the action. I love the story. Nolan brings it all together in a way that only he can. It pumps me up and it gets to me emotionally especially at the very end. In other words I love this movie. 🙂
Terrific movie, Nolan is a champ. By the way…Tag!
It’s so good isn’t it. I’ll be honest it’s hard for me to find a fault with it. It’s great cinema! And thanks for the tag! 🙂
Yeah, there isn’t anything really wrong with Inception. Have you seen his first feature Following?
Great review. I consider it a modern masterpiece myself. It is very thought-provoking. I lucid dream since childhood and some things in this film really amazed me. One thing which puzzles me in this film, though, is that Leo’s character here is very similar to his character in ‘Shutter Island’, e.g. his relationship with his wife in both films, personal trauma regarding kids, etc. I really wish it wasn’t that obvious.
You’re exactly right. My wife and I made that same connection. But he really didn’t bother me mainly because I was really responded to Shutter Island too. That tragic element really worked for me.
Great review 🙂
I’m yet to watch this one …
Oooooh this is a great one. Just make sure to watch it with your thinking cap on. Nolan challenges the audience to pay attention and try to keep up. I love that.
Great write up Keith. I love this film too, although it took a couple of watches for me to fully appreciate it. It confused me a little the first time round and there are a couple of things I can’t rationalise, but it’s a brilliantly made film and one of my favourites of recent years.
I remember that as the credits rolled after my first time seeing the movie, I sat there in the theater chair pretty much overwhelmed. But I was overwhelmed in a good way. Like you I didn’t fully grasp everything and the second viewing really open some things up for me. But that’s what gives the movie so much more weight. I love it.
Completely agree! I LOVE Inception and gave it a perfect score back then and would still do so again! http://thefocusedfilmographer.com/2010/07/16/to-dream-the-impossible-dream-inception/
and Nolan’s casting, you’re right…he is often so perfect in his choices. (all except for Katie Holmes in Batman Begins. IMO)
I am with you on Katie Holmes. Didn’t work at all. Awesome to hear we shared the same score for this one. I remember in the first review I wrote giving it a perfect score but I never went into why I like the movie. It’s so good it deserved the bigger write up.
Love Inception, even though I think the action at the arctic base is a bit weak. Have you seen the anime movie, Paprika? Nolan’s been accused of ripping it off. Personally, I don’t think that’s true, despite there being some similarities. But if you liked Inception, you’d like Paprika.
Interesting. Honestly I’m not crazy about anime so I’m not familiar with Paprika. Sounds pretty intriguing though.
It’s not just any anime though. It’s by the late, great Satoshi Kon. He did Perfect Blue as well, a film that’s also meant to be an influence on Black Swan. He died tragically young though, at 46. He probably had a few more good films in him, so it’s a shame.
Wow that’s interesting. See there’s a whole history there I’m unfamiliar with. Sounds like he put out some pretty influential material.
Excellent write up! I’m completely with you on this one buddy – a truly fantastic film 😀
Thanks man appreciate it. I love this picture. It’s one of the most original films I’ve ever seen and the fact that Nolan pulls it off amazes me!
Yes! Thanks for giving us some specificity on what makes this movie so good 🙂 I feel like watching this right now… So many things went right here and I must particularly agree on with you on Cotillard’s performance – she’s both beautiful and scary, giving this visually spectacular movie that dark edge… the whole cast enjoyed their work I think! Great review!
Thanks a lot. I appreciate you checking out my thoughts on it. I just love Inception from start to finish. Perhaps my favorite thing about it is how its unlike anything I had seen before. And yes, Cotillard is fantastic. But I’m a little partial to her if I must say so! 😉
you wouldn’t be alone in rating this so highly, but that is a pretty obvious statement. “Inception”isn’t a movie with a straightforward by-the-books narrative. It’s a film that requires you to pay attention and I like that! – sums it up really. you could give it the same attention how many times you watched and still get something new out of it. Nice review!
Great points and they all contribute to my absolute love for this picture! Well said!
Indeed, it is a great flick. The bigget knock on it that I’ve encountered though (and one that I share a bit, myself) isn’t the complexities… it’s all the exposition it takes to set up the actual process. There’s a lot of rules and talk, etc etc.
Its still a great movie, that’s just the two cents I have to add 😉
Oh no worries. I understand the gripe. In fact that is what my wife has said. Personally I found all of that fascinating. I was chewing up every layer that Nolan was throwing at me.
Great review, Keith – one of my favorites too (although, prolly not “all time”, just a casual fave). The weakest part of this film for me was Marion Cotillards role as Dom’s wife. This aspect of the story didn’t connect with me like it was probably supposed to (which says more about me than it does the movie) and I felt it undid a lot of the great work the rest of the cast did in getting this film going. DiCaprio is solid, Berenger surprisingly good, and Jo-Go is terrific.
The really great thing about Inception is the layers – both literally and figuratively – contained within it. Like The Prestige, Inception is a film you can watch multiple times and still find something new to surprise you each time.
Great review, man.
Thanks man I really appreciate it. Glad to see so many people share my love for the film. If I were to list my top 10 of all-time I think it would be there. And you nailed it about the layers. Thanks again for the comments.
Inception is now definitely among my all-time favourite movies – and Nolan among my all-time favourite directors!
YES!!! Great to hear. It’s phenomenal. It blows my mind every time. And the emotional kick at the end….sooo good!