New for me
Much like Christopher Nolan's other non-Batman films, Inception proves to be a fine thriller, one that breathes both science fiction and caper film. It does feel almost so stuffed with ideas at times that the film seems like it's speeding past its drama, but at almost two and a half hours, that can be excused, especially with how tight the thrills are packed into it.
The story is about Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a "extraction" expert, who, with his partner, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), enters people's dreams and steal information locked in their heads. Cobb, however, is haunted in these dreams by his once-wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) and desperately wants to return back to the US where his children live and where he is a wanted man. So when his most recent extraction fails, his target, multi-billion dollar Japanese conglomerate head Saito (Ken Watanabe) gives him a tempting offer: inception. If Cobb and whatever team he puts together can, instead of stealing ideas, plant an idea in the head of one of Saito's rivals, something that is said cannot be done, Saito will make all of Cobb's problems go away and make his team rich. Cobb, of course, takes the job and assembles a dream team of dream manipulators to complete the task, which requires an elaborate multi-dream deception at great risk, but Cobb himself with Mal, might prove to be their downfall.
The complex dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream concoction for the "heist" is richly layered, detailed and plotted and it all might be confusing, except that the story takes pains to make clear what is going on and why. The concept itself is fascinating and allows for some interesting manifestation of Cobb's personal issues. That said, there's a lot going on and sometimes I felt that the story was a little too split between Cobb's personal drama and the thrills of getting the job done with the former feeling just a touch scant, so making the "glitch in the system" feel a bit forced. Also, for a story that toys with reality and dreams, I felt like it stopped short of really working with the idea and forcing into a crime caper, but I think that's a small complaint for an otherwise fun film.
Nolan continues directing with aplomb and I have to give him a lot of credit for using a lot of practical effects, including a great battle in a gravity defying hallway, as well a half a dozen gorgeous locations and a bunch of visually wonderful CGI helped impossible dream moments. And while the film is long, the pacing is pretty tight in it and so it never really feels as long as it is, because the thrills are always keeping you on edge. The cast performs pretty well overall, with many of the actors being former Nolan cohorts and new ones, although I do wonder if DiCaprio is becoming a go-to guy for this kind of film, given Shutter Island of the same year.
I'm not going to say that I found Inception mind-blowing. At its heart is a caper film with perhaps a dash of noir and the dream structure is but a science fiction version of a clever heist. This is all given a slight dramatic boost from the Mal storyline, which adds further tension as she creates complications for the team. But as a thriller, the film succeeds as well as Nolan's other thrillers, which is a good thing. Add in some eye-popping dream visuals and some fun with the multi-dream scenario and you could imagine people wanting more. But I think as it is, Inception is an entertaining time at the movies. 8/10.