Film Review: Inception

17/07/10 | Posted by MattPage

British director Christopher Nolan seems to have combined the best of his talents for making big blockbusters (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) and quirky, thought provoking films (Memento) in making his latest film Inception. It’s the cleverest summer movie for quite some time: a fast paced thriller that leaves its audience trying to work everything out long after the credits have rolled.

 Leonardo DiCaprio stars alongside Ellen Page in Inception

Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has discovered the technology to infiltrate people’s dreams and influence their subconscious, and has been offered a major deal from a big energy corporation. The scale of the operation is such that he has to take several others with him through several layers of their target’s subconscious. Of course, things get even more complicated than that when it transpires that spending so long flitting between real and imagined worlds has taken its toll on his own mind.

Most impressive of all is the film’s visuals. Whilst the dreams in this film don’t really feel like our dreams – which is actually a deliberate ploy – there’s enough space in the plot for Nolan’s team to introduce some (literally) ground-breaking images. At the same time some of the best looking shots are those mimicking the real world rather than an imagined one.

With mainstream movies increasingly relying on sequels, adaptations and remakes it’s refreshing to see something original being given the big budget treatment. Whilst Inception is undoubtedly rooted in a growing body of work exploring the workings of our subconscious - it shares common ground with Vertigo, Memento, Waking Life, Being John Malkovich, Solaris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and of course The Matrix - it’s also substantially different from everything that has gone before it.

Having kicked the film’s various puzzles around in my head for some time, my mind eventually drifted on to thinking about Jesus. From the very earliest days, his followers have seen him not just as a good teacher, but also as God. Which means that there was a point where he too was sucked from one ‘reality’ to another.

Of course, in contrast to Inception, both Jesus’ time in Heaven and his journey to Earth are considered equally ‘real’. Nevertheless his switch from one ‘state’ to another has caused centuries of debate. Early painters depicted baby Jesus with the secrets of the universe already whizzing round his mind. Yet Paul the apostle talks about Jesus “emptying himself” in order to put aside his divine nature to become human, perhaps suggesting that Jesus had to learn everything from scratch just as we do.

The worlds of Inception are only distantly related to those ideas, but nevertheless, it’s nice to see intelligent films being made for grown-ups that still manage to be hugely entertaining. At two hours and forty minutes it’s perhaps a little longer than it needs to be but I’d be surprised if, come next February, Inception isn’t in the running for a number of OscarsTM.

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