When I first saw previews for Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight (2008), I knew I was in for some sort of visual stunnery. With a cast that included Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine and Ken Watanabe, I was ready to be impressed.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see Inception in theaters. But, after hearing comments like “trippy” and “mind-bending” from people who had seen it, I knew I wasn’t going to pass up seeing this one on DVD. This past week, NetFlix® finally delivered it to my door, and I couldn’t wait to sit down and check it out.
It seems Leonardo DiCaprio has grown as an actor. After his phenomenal success with lackluster performances in films like Titanic (1997), he faded away for a few years. Now, he’s grown up and with films like Body of Lies (2008), he’s shown he can actually act these days. In Inception, he’s again pretty good at pulling the viewer into the film, even though his performance may remind viewers of his “normal” devasting-loss role he plays these days. There’s nothing to really differentiate this performance.
Thankfully, there are a lot of secondary characters to help make the film more intriguing for the viewers, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page. While Gordon-Levitt is merely background for most of his sequences, he still manages to get in a solid line or two that viewers will take away with them. His lines include the scant seconds of humor in this rather dour film. His performances may not be flashy, but with films like Brick and The Lookout (2007), the quality sort of sneaks up on the viewer.
Ellen Page, still renowned for playing a pregnant teen in Juno, aims for a huge change of pace with Inception. While viewers won’t ever peg her as an action heroine, she does a solid job playing the voice of reason. While this clashes with her supposed “newbie” status amongst the team members, she’s a much-needed calm spot within the organized chaos around her.
The concept of implanting an idea inside someone’s mind is, well, mind-boggling. Director Christopher Nolan, however, manages to take that zany idea and, much as he did with the rather larger-than-life characters of the Batman and the Joker, turn it into an accepted reality for the viewer. He sets the concept firmly in place within moments after the film begins. And he uses that to lead the viewer down a twisting path through this complicated job. All the while, he reveals more and more secrets about the characters involved as the layers are peeled away.
Unfortunately, many viewers seem to have gotten stuck on the mind-boggling notion of implanting a memory – or stealing one – while a person is in a dream state. They have let that impressive story idea whisk them away into their own imaginations, rather than the story unfolding on the screen. If the viewer pays close attention, the film unfolds in a rather straight-forward way, and is quite easy to follow.
The special effects are outstanding right from the start. With the creative use of technology available today, the filmmakers have brought the dream world to a vivid life. It’s even to the point where the dreamer is able to warp the very fabric of reality and create something truly bizarre, whether that be a city folded into a square or a hallway that mimics the twisted perspective of a passenger inside an out of control van. With this stunning imagery, the filmmakers are able to further envelop the viewer in the “dream” world they’ve created, never once letting on that this is just special effects wizardry.
With an inventive storyline and some stunning visual imagery, most filmmakers would have been content to sit back and let the film play out. But Nolan goes the extra step with his movies, turning his special-effects laden pics into true artwork. He weaves the pieces together to create something that, while the viewer may or may not enjoy the final product, they can’t help but comment on the artistic talent that went into creating the film.
That’s a large reason why The Dark Knight (2008) was such a huge success. Nolan is able to craft an entire world for his characters that feels as real to the viewer as the world around them. Even characters viewers have seen before (Batman, DiCaprio’s character in Inception) take on a whole new life in this artistic vision that Nolan creates to immerse them in. The viewer will be left feeling impressed by the cohesion with which this world comes together – whether they liked the film or not.
With Inception, Nolan was given a very clever idea, and managed to bring it to breath-taking life. In fact, with the complexity of the world he creates, it would seem as if any actor would work easily within that world. But the cast of old and new he’s pulled together for Inception seem to work well together, and bring the viewer into a fantastic vision.
Backed by a solid storyline and some truly impressive special effects, Nolan’s vision of Inception easily ranks amongst the more memorable of the alternate reality films like The Matrix (1999). We can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve for us next.