Synopsis: A team is assembled to pull off a trippy piece of corporate espionage.
You know when you wake up with a start from a bad dream, and after catching your breath, you reassure yourself “It’s only a dream” ? Doesn’t it instantly make you feel better? Like, Thank God I’m not actually back in high school…and it was so bizarre when the frog hopped into the classroom and everyone blessed her. But you’re awake now and you can make sense of the world. Well, get ready to get confused outside of your dreams with Inception.
Remember this before plunging into the film: There is a real world (probably), and a dream within a dream, within…that’s right, a DREAM. Mind blown. Beware, our movie- going minds start to unravel by the the time we travel to the third dream level, but that is where screenwriter-director Christopher Nolan takes us. And where star Leonardo DiCaprio goes, Movie Loon will follow…
Inception kicks off in a very near future where the styles are present-day, but technology has skipped ahead a few beats from today. Leo DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a brilliant (and shifty) American “architect” who makes a career of corporate espionage. Technology exists that allows people who are sedated to enter each other’s subconscious as they dream. The architect’s job is to put together a dream world where s/he can move around in the subconscious of, say, a CEO who has had a sedative slipped into their drink. The architect and whomever is working with them then get to a secure location with the knocked out CEO and they “dream” together. The crew can then manipulate the target’s dream to rummage around in their subconscious and steal corporate secrets. Supposedly these corporate secrets will be in a very secure location of the person’s brain. More likely “corporate secrets” will be in the subconscious part labeled “Dull stuff that my underlings know the details of” while “Time I Threw Up in Public” will be in the “secure” subconscious location. Confused yet?
Well, this is the way things work according to Christopher Nolan who reports he spent about eight years toiling away on the screenplay. Inception includes proof of Nolan’s brain gymnastics throughout. Leo’s character is an old hand at all of this, always a step ahead of the competition and the occasional hitman, so don’t expect him to tell us what’s going
on because he already knows; or thinks he does. (More on that later.) Fortunately, Leo has a new hiree, Ariadne (the excellent Ellen Page, always Juno to me) and he has to explain everything to her, so we get to listen in. We can practically hear Leo thinking, Just one last job. (If only he didn’t actually do that before he took 2013’s Wolf of Wall Street, blech!)
Leo has a complicated backstory… he was once a happy family man with a thriving career. His wife, Mal (no one’s real name) is a sultry Frenchwoman who, sadly, went mad at some point. Mal is played by Marion Cotillard, whose ouevre typically requires that her eyes frequently brim with tears whenever she is not busy whispering flirtatiously to her man. Leo’s wife also has something to do with him being wanted by the police, so he’s been on the run.
One day he’s approached by a business magnate, Saito (Ken Watanabe) with a high stakes offer, something that may get Leo off the hook with the authorities. It would allow Leo to return to his two young children who are being cared for by their grandmere and granddad, Michael Caine (character’s name is unimportant). Sir Michael is Mal’s dad and a professor in England who maybe taught Leo. He is definitely Ariadne’s professor, but she seems to drop working on her dissertation when she goes work for Leo. Who can blame her? Her stipend was probably shite.
As per usual, Leo does some great acting. Leo would rather the public not keep track of his private life. You know, his string of twenty-year-old Victoria Secret model girlfriends and his yacht parties with the likes of Jonah Hill and Tobey Maguire. But we do know, Leo.
Do you remember the photos of Leo with the Pope? He was showing the Holy Father a book…I couldn’t see what it was…maybe something about the environment, or possibly paging through pix of his girlfriends. “But Señor Leo, is this your daughter? Girlfriend?! But you are twice her age– when you were in Titanic, okay. If you look in your heart, you know you must grow up. Kate Winslet, your Rose, has told you this, si?” So, yes, I can’t help but reflect at how someone who was inevitably warped by his early Hollywood experiences on Family Ties could go on to create such sympathetic performances. Except when he was Calvin Candy in Django.
Back to Inception…so Leo takes the job and puts together a team with Ariadne as the architect. Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears as Arthur, Tom Hardy as Eames the “forger/impersonator” and Dileep Rao as Yusef the “chemist” aka the person who keeps them all sedated. Safely, we hope. JGL seems like the jack-of-all-trades producer, even using acrobatics to keep their heist on track. Btw, JGL also informed Ariadne that five minutes in the real world = one hour in the dream world.
What ensues is time and mind bending action with a dose of Leo’s tragic heartbreak. Can our flawed hero make his way back home with his most challenging job ever? The beginning of the team’s job goes smoothly enough, as they manage to set up a real life scenario where they can privately get their target, heir to a corporate empire, quickly sedated. The heir is played by Cillian Murphy, who scares me a bit whenever he shows up in a movie because he will always be Batman’s evil scarecrow to me.
Pay close attention to the character within a dream, Mr. Charles, enacted by Leo. Mr Charles is also a gambit, a last ditch effort to save a faltering operation. Thankfully this is all explained by JGL to Ariadne. And while all this is going on in dreams, poor Yusef has to drive the team round & round in a clunky van while being shot at, and keep track of when to blast Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” because that’s the song that will penetrate their subconscious and let them know to finish their workday. Of course! It all makes perfect nonsense.
Soon, the plan starts to unravel and Leo has to try and salvage the operation –and their lives– by skipping from one dream level to another. In some levels: his wife appears as a double crossing femme fatale, Saito is a hundred-year-old man, there is a James Bondesque ski & snowmobile chase, a gravity-free fight at a hotel, along with multiple car chases and firefights.
Christopher Nolan has affirmed that he and his production partner, Emma Thomas, never considered anyone else but Leo for the lead role. Smart choice. He enlivens every scene, registering heartache, guilt and quick-thinking with a single look.
So even if Leo comes off as a ridiculous Hollywood Peter Pan man, except for his commendable environmental work, in the real world, in the dream world of cinema, he’s a towering figure. O, but not as Jay Gatsby, lol.
P.S. at the 2011 Oscars, Inception won awards for Best Cinematography, Wally Pfister; Sound Editing, Richard King; Sound Mixing, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo & Ed Novick; and Visual Effects, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley & Peter Bebb.
It was nominated for Best Picture, Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas; Best Director, Christopher Nolan; Best Original Screenplay, Christopher Nolan; Best Original Score, Hans Zimmer and Best Art Direction, Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias & Doug Mowat.