Watching Inception is like striking a match and setting your brain on fire. The movieís tagline, your mind is the scene of the crime, is so much more than a reference to what happens in the film. Sure the plot involves a group of dream-invading thieves, but in the process of telling that story, something much bigger happens inside your own head. Itís as if writer/director Chris Nolan has invaded your brain as well. As he attempts to unlock the secrets of the human psyche, his movie implants its own ideas in your subconscious. Youíll walk out of Inception questioning your own reality. Itís a feeling I havenít had since the first time I saw The Matrix, only, Inception pulls it off without fetish leather and kung fu.
Inception spends almost all of its running time risking collapse as the plot becomes more and more complicated. It never holds back. It dares to challenge its characters and its audience. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb as a desperate man teetering on the edge. We learn he has the technology to invade peopleís dreams and he uses it to get inside their head and steal secrets. Where this technology came from or exactly how it works is never discussed, itís accepted by everyone as a matter of course. Is Inception set in a near future? An alternate universe? We donít know itís just one of the many layers hidden inside Nolanís film left for you to either unravel or accept as the rules of this world. And as Cobbís story unfolds, itís riddled with more unexplained complexity. We learn that heís unable to return to America to see his kids, but donít know why. Are we even sure his kids exist? Is Cobb mad? At some point youíll have to decide, but Inception wonít give you all the answers.
Cobb assembles a team and starts diving deeper and deeper into the dreams of their target. His dream-thieves are like psychology superheroes and their discussions of how to invade and alter the human consciousness from the inside out are as fascinating as any fight scene. But just in case you were wondering, Inception has a few of those as well. Joseph-Gordon Levitt ends up with the movieís most physically demanding role as Cobbís assistant Arthur and the zero gravity combat sequence he pulls off towards the end of the film may be one of the coolest things youíll ever see on screen.
Cobb isnít interested in the gritty details of how theyíll get their mission done, though. Heís too wrapped up in himself, his private hell, his all-consuming need to get home. He hopes that if he goes deep enough, dreaming dreams within dreams, within dreams, within dreams, heíll be able to plant an idea in the mind of the dreamer and in the process, earn himself a ticket back to his kids. But as the dreams pile on top of each other, as Cobb throws himself in deeper, he risks losing himself and in trying to unravel it, you may lose yourself along with him.
Inception captures the inner workings of dreams in a way no other movie has before: Realistically. How do you know when youíre dreaming? You donít, at least not until you wake up. The world of Nolanís dreams is almost real and youíll have to look closely around the edges for discontinuity, for the little places where things donít quite fit together. Itís all there in the way the movieís filmed and as Hans Zimmerís brilliant, throbbing score swells around you in the theater and Nolanís carefully chosen images shine out from the screen you may even find yourself wondering not if youíre watching a dream, but if youíre actually in one.
As the dreams go deeper the complexity of whatís happening skews dangerously close to becoming overwhelming and there are a million moments in the film when it could have and maybe it all should have collapsed under its own weight, buried beneath Nolanís psychological hubris. At times understanding it is almost like trying to hold four or five different movies in your head all at once. Yet it never collapses. Inception runs along a razorís edge, layering worlds on top of each other and pushing the audienceís ability to keep up right to the breaking point, but never passing it. It holds together because even if youíre baffled by the details, Inception isnít actually a movie about the riddles of dreams. Though the plotís ever deepening layers play out with impossibly perfect precision, at its root this is the ultimate heist film, what matters are ideas and Inception has big ones. Itís not the idea Cobb is trying to implant in his subject that matters, itís the ideas that Nolanís movie quietly plants inside you.
Inception is about ideas; contagious, powerful, unstoppable ideas and how they shape the way we live, breathe, and think. It wonders how you became the person are and explores how the things youíve experienced have affected the decisions youíve made and will make. Itís a blisteringly original and breathtakingly smart, a movie willing to take every risk imaginable to create a significant work of art using the power of cinema. That it does that while also entertaining the hell out of everyone who buys a ticket to see it, is an achievement beyond measure. You wonít just like Inception, youíll be a better person for having seen it.
Reviewed By: Josh Tyler