As a longtime fan of the science-fiction genre, I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Inception come July 2010. It had all the right players in place – with director Chris Nolan hot off the unbelievable success of The Dark Knight, and four of the lead actors cooperating for the first time, after turning in spectacular performances in their previous films: Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island), Ellen Page (Juno), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Day of Summer) and Marilon Cotilard (Nine). In addition, the trailers demonstrated some awesome money shots – mostly the one showing a city folding into itself – with the plot resembling a fantasy world operating within its own set of rules and logic, reminiscent of The Matrix films.
However, at the end of the day what I found was a film with an overlong prologue, characters which behaved more like plot devices than as fleshed out personalities, and a lack of true emotion. To top that off – DiCaprio's characters, Dom Cobb, went through a very similar journey to the one his previous character, Teddy Daniels, went through earlier this year, in Shutter Island, with the exception being that I found that film to be more emotionally satisfying.
But first let me start with the pros, before diving deeper into the cons. First and foremost, Inception is indeed a visually stunning film; with some strong scenes I could easily watch becoming classics (the floating hallway sequence, Cobb and Ariadne's first foray into the dream world). The editing was top-notch too – with the plot altering between four different dream sequences, each existing within a completely different time frame – without alienating the audience in the process. In addition, the basic premise had a lot of potential, even though I found references to previous cinematic material of its nature.
In short, the plot follows Cobb, a person who masters a technology that allows him to penetrate other people's dreams, where he can steal their secrets and use them against them in real-life. Saito, an Asian millionaire (Ken Watanbe), approaches Cobb with an interesting business proposal: he wants him to use these abilities of his, in order to plant a destructive idea inside the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the son of a dying businessman that poses a threat to Saito's business. This procedure is called Inception, hence the title of the film. Since Cobb has some serious sub-conscious problems with his deceased wife, who appears again and again in all the dreams he penetrates, he needs to assemble a large team to help him carry on this mission. Complications ensue, and the team finds itself diving from one dream into another.
Now, since the plot is relatively complicated and isn't always easy to follow, a large portion of the first half of the film works as a long and elaborated prologue. In fact, Ellen Page's character is bought in to do just that: she's a newbie in this business, so Cobb has to show her the ropes, introducing it to the audience as well. Whenever this internal logic is explained via visual effects, all is good in Inception-land, but at times, it seemed as if there was too much talk and not enough character development. The lack of understandable action continues long after the prologue ends, however, given the fact that there is no apparent "bad guy" in the film. The team fights off foes that are merely reflections of their own sub-conscious, and while this may offer a visual treat at times, it lacks internal conflict and drama that usually drive films of this nature forward. In the end, after creating one of the strongest villains of all time (The Dark Knight's Joker), Chris Nolan created a film with no bad guys at all. In the absence, one would think he would give the audience a good explanation about the need to plant this idea inside Fischer's mind – which, after all, is the driving force behind the whole film – but no coherent explanation is offered. Was Fischer a bad guy who deserved the complicated turmoil Cobb and his gang put him through? Was Saito wrong in his path to remove his potential business rival? With no straight answers, it seems the team was operating in a permanent state of gray, which raised quite a few moral issues that weren't entirely treated.
Instead of addressing these issues, Inception mostly tries to go into Cobb's own dark and mysterious history, by introducing us his sub-conscious reflection of his dead wife, Mal (Cotilard). The problem is that at this point, it just reminded me of Shutter Island too much. In both films, DiCaprio portrays a young man, haunted by his guilty conscience, feeling responsible for his unstable wife's tragic and untimely death, up to the point he finds it hard to distinguish what is real and what is not. Thing is, I actually found Shutter Island better, because his character there emphasizes DiCaprio's wide range of emotion as an actor better. Personally, I thought his performance in Inception as a whole lacked an emotional pull similar to the one he demonstrated in the aforementioned film, which prevented me from connecting with him on that same raw level.
At the end, this feeling of plot-recycling (and I'm sure this wasn't Nolan's fault), lack of depth or emotion in certain characters, and indecisive motives for the actions of others – all made me feel like the true brilliance and vision of Nolan's Inception didn't live up to its potential. I gave it 7 stars out of 10.
3 out of 13 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.