Christopher Nolan started work on Inception a decade ago. Allegedly, after his initial pitch, Nolan decided he had to do some other big pictures first. So he took a few warm up rounds. That resulted in Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. Not too shabby. Content with being the money-making king of the post-Titanic, pre-Avatar world, the director finished his script and started putting Inception together. Should he have abandoned his original concept and just started work on Batman 3? Or is Inception actually a worthy release from one of this generation’s most prolific directors?
I don’t remember The Matrix‘s advertising campaign that well. Lots of “what is the Matrix” ads without much real insight into what that movie actually was about. Then I saw the damn thing and they told me exactly what the Matrix was in the first 20 minutes. Actually, that was pretty ingenious of those guys. My approach to Inception was pretty similar. I saw the teaser. I knew it had something to do with entering people’s minds. I knew Leo and Juno were in it. That’s about it. So it was quite an experience getting brought into the interesting world of Inception, a world that is well thought-out and continuously a pleasure to watch.
The first half of the movie is dedicated to some (literal) world building, while the second half is basically a thrilling ride with as many twists and turns as the world’s greatest roller coasters. What starts as a heist movie also delves deep into other kinds of action and drama. The film definitely feels like Christopher Nolan made it, with his distinct vibe and sense of style, as well as another great driving Hans Zimmer score. He still has the problem of relying a little to heavily on exposition, but he does a wonderful job keeping every character interesting and every moment tense. Knowing what Wikipedia told me, I have to wonder how much of Nolan’s past three films actually were just practice for this movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio is in top form as Cobb, the “one last job” hero of the film. Everyone’s favorite up-and-comer Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really good, as are the rest of the supporting cast including Nolan regulars Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and, of course, Michael Caine. Tom Hardy almost stole this show as the lovable rogue, but it’s hard to deny Marion Cotillard when she in her crying, sinister-yet-heart-breaking mode. Of course I couldn’t talk about the cast without mentioning John’s favorite Dileep Rao, who does indeed seem to have a knack for picking good projects.
I’ve been deliberately trying not to write about much of the plot of Inception because this is one of those movies that is better the less you know going in. And it seems the advertisers have made a genuine effort to keep most of the story secret, so who am I to ruin their plans? This is a movie full of style, but there’s even more substance. Inception asks you to keep thinking throughout, and ends on a note that will haunt you and perhaps spark glorious arguments around the world’s nerdiest water cooler. If you find yourself absolutely opposed to the kind of films Christopher Nolan makes, this isn’t for you. But if you’ve liked what he’s done in the past, Inception is certainly worth the price of admission.