Sooo, that pretty much sums up Inception. Not quite sure what happened? Me either—I just felt like some lyric poetry might help obfuscate the plot in the same way the movie does. But don’t get me wrong, I love lyric poetry. It sounds amazing and looks cool, and when I understand it–which, thanks to being an English major, I often do (brushes off shoulder)–I feel like I’ve gotten even more out of it because it was a bit of a mind fuck. All that is to say: Inception is confusing, but in all the best ways. At the end, you’re left with an image that leaves everything up for debate, and if you have a fun group of friends, debate it you will.
Christopher Nolan manages to do something very impressive with this movie. Somehow, he is able to simultaneously achieve greatness in multiple genres. It’s right up there at the top of the twisty, psychological genre with Memento (one of Nolan’s other great films), Mulholland Drive, American Psycho and the like. It doesn’t tie up nearly as neatly as something like The Usual Suspects, but somehow it’s also very easy to follow, for Nolan works in plenty of explanation of his world in a way that doesn’t feel pedantic. By having Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team explain everything to the team’s dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), we’re allowed to learn the mechanics of shared dreaming right along with her. There may be some unexplained bits, but I didn’t catch most of those until a second viewing, giving this movie a great deal of both initial enjoyment and rewatchability.
Besides just messing with your brain, Inception is a great action flick. One of the fight scenes takes place in zero gravity and is absolutely mind-blowing. I couldn’t keep myself from gasping, whispering “whoa,” and generally annoying the people around me—it was so cool. Amazing that Nolan can invent new ways to astonish despite all the movies that have come before. The action, for the most part, is handled very well. The effects are stunning and made even more impressive because the reason for their existence is so well-explained. Sometimes, the film drags because so many different things are happening at once, but it’s well worth it, for at the cost of rapid-fire action, we gain a very interesting character arc. To tie down the story with something relatable, we get Dom Cobb’s relationship with his wife. His guilt surrounding her death haunts him, and his subconscious version of her constantly works to subvert his goals, at times almost costing the characters their lives. Action, an interesting character-based story, and mind-blowing psychological experiences all in one! Definitely worth ten bucks.
But that’s not all! One of my favorite things about Inception is its commentary on movies. Everything about this film is meta. There are dreams within dreams within dreams, and much of the film is actually talking about itself. At one point, Cobb explains to Ariadne that in order to tell if you’re in a dream, you simply need to try to remember how you got to where you are. In dreams, we apparently start in the middle and never know what came just before. This is also true of movies. We cut from scene to scene, leaving out much of the travel. In fact, the very scene I’m talking about starts with the two characters in a café, and the audience is not in the slightest bit disturbed by how they might have gotten there. Also, through the power of dreams, the film is able to have action scenes in whatever settings they want. Basically, each dream is a movie. Cobb tells Ariadne that dream architecture is incredible because you can build cities that have never existed. Her job is virtually that of a director, screenwriter, and CGI artist in one. Creating movies is creating a dreamworld, but instead of making a world for one dreamer, Hollywood makes worlds for a worldwide audience. In fact, to watch Inception is to experience inception, for everyone who has seen the movie has had the idea of implanting ideas in people implanted in them. Trippy, right?
This movie is well acted, well written, and well directed. Rarely am I so far out on the edge of my seat, and rarely does my brain work so furiously. Go see it. Go see it soon. And then go see it again.