Dom Cobb is a master of 'Extraction', the illegal art of stealing ideas from people's dreams via shared dreaming but he finds himself on the run from the law for a crime he didn't commit. However, he is given the opportunity to be pardoned of his crime and the chance to see his children again if he can perform 'Inception', the planting of an idea in someone else's head. So, he, along with his team of an 'architect', a point man, a 'forger', a chemist and a 'tourist', enters the dreams of a young businessman to try and plant in his head an idea which could change him forever. But can they pull it off, with the businessman's subconscious acting against them, as well as something deeply manifested in Cobb's subconscious acting independently...
It takes a hell of an imagination to ever conceive a film like this, let alone actually create it. Therefore, this success of this film rests squarely on the shoulders of two people. One of those people is Christopher Nolan, but this time it's not Nolan the director, it's Nolan the writer. True, Nolan directs the piece well and keeps everything together, but it's the intricacy of the plot and the various elements which keep everything so closely bound together which shine through here. The film is so well written, and to be completely honest it had to be, or else the whole thing would have fallen apart. The second person is Wally Pfister, Director of Photography. The visuals in this film are nothing short of stunning and, although it's true CGI comes into play an awful lot in this film, the film is still visually engaging and beautifully shot throughout.
Leonardo DiCaprio. There's not a lot to say about him anymore, he finally came of age in The Departed and excelled himself in Shutter Island earlier this year and yet in this, he's delivered his most competent and certainly his most consistent performance to date. He carries the film from start to finish, along with a good Juno-esque performance from Ellen Page. Marion Cotillard almost steals the show as Cobb's deceased wife Mal as she manifests herself in Cobb's dreams without his control. When Mal is evil and takes over Cobb's dreams, Cotillard carries it off brilliantly. When Mal is fondly remembered and embraced in Cobb's dreams, Cotillard barely pulls through. A good ensemble throughout the rest of the film, with Tom Hardy adding the comic relief in places and Cillian Murphy the victim of the 'Inception'; here's two young actors who are rapidly building on two already impressive acting resumes.
The two and a half hours the film takes is absolutely justified when, in all honestly, this film could have taken at least another two and a half. It's one of the few times I can remember in a film when the exposition was both carefully selective and necessary. It doesn't fully explain everything, but just enough for you to understand the concept of shared dreaming and 'Inception'/'Extraction'. It certainly makes the most of the two and a half hours it has though, as there is something happening all the time. There's most definitely no fat to be trimmed from that lengthy amount of time; miss a single moment, you'll lose something vital in plot or character. It keeps you gripped though, no worries there. Whether it's plot, character, dialogue or visual, there's always something on screen which will justify its inclusion in that two and a half hours and will keep you entertained. It certainly doesn't feel like two and a half hours, and by the end, wherein you're given an apt ending which you can see coming half way through the film, you'll wonder where the time went.
Overall, this film is a masterpiece, and I'm not afraid to use that word. It's visually stunning, complex yet simple, self explanatory, engaging and thrilling. It's a thriller, mystery, action, comedy, sci-fi and romance flick all rolled into one. Honestly, we should have known something like this was coming years ago when Nolan made Memento nearly 10 years ago. Nolan is continuously toying with the concept of time and reality through his films, and here he does it with great aplomb. When a film has so much going on, you could so easily get lost at any point. You never do. And if by chance you do get lost, then that only serves to give you an excuse to watch this excellent film again and again and again. Believe me, you'll want to.
This review was included as part of UU Blog's Film Club, go check it out!