Today, I’ll be doing another film from 2010. No spoiler warnings though, because it’s a film that, even if you haven’t seen it (which puts you in a small minority), you still know about it. In the first half of the year, it took hold of the internet’s collective psyche and gave it a shake – then, to use the language of the internet, it went viral. And very soon was part of the collective mainstream pop-culture cache. If it wasn’t being referenced in South Park, it was soon enough topping EVERYBODY’s top films lists. And that film is Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Now, before we get too much further, let me just say that this will be a pretty hard review for me to write. Simply because the film is so fresh in everyone’s memory, and that everyone has talked at length about it. I don’t know what to say about it that hasn’t already been said. That being said, it wasn’t my favourite film of the year, but it was in the lower reaches of my Top Ten. Because, yes, it is an awesome film; well acted, looks brilliant, great story – but there were better films, IMO. But, to quote Daniel over there at The World of Disgruntled Monkey; “If, 10 years ago, you had have told me that I would have a Leonardo DeCaprio vehicle in my top 10, I would have punched you.” It’s not like the kid is a bad actor, mind – rather, until recently, with very few exceptions, he’s not exactly been high on the “Shane wants to see a film starring him” list.
I won’t go too far into the plot, as it’s been talked about and talked about from just about every angle. Suffice it to say, the story is a variant of one of my favourite storytelling tropes – the nested story.
And now that that is out of the way, we can move on. Note, the above image is not my work.
There is something about Christopher Nolan that puts him above a lot of his contemporaries. No matter the film, no matter the actor, no matter the role – I’ve never seen a bad performance from anyone, even actors who are not known for being the best (*cough*Katie Holmes*cough*). I don’t know why this is, but it is what it is. I have never counted the man as a so-called “important director”, even though he’s now seemingly a darling of the Academy, but he manages to get the best out of everyone. And, as you would guess, his films are so much better for it, not that they need it, because his stories are good enough to stand on their own. The above being said, there was nothing at all to worry about when it came to the cast; in addition to DiCaprio, the film also has the always brilliant Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe and Ellen Page as core characters as well as support from such great people as Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Pete Postlethwaite, Tom Beringer and Tom Hardy.
Much like Waking Life, Inception deals with dreams, and several sequences in the film really explore the nature of them, especially any directly involving Cobb’s dream interacting with those of the other main characters. The story, however, takes us on a merry path, especially if you are of the party that the whole film is, in fact all just Cobb’s dream. Does that mean that the whole “implant thoughts into someone else’s dream” is, in fact, just a dream itself? Or is that really what happened in the ‘real world’ of the films universe? Given the nature of Cobb’s line of work (performing Inceptions; that is, basically performing dream espionage), coupled with the pseudo-realism of the world – one could definitely argue that it is one giant dream. I know I fall on that side of things – one scene in particular (no not the obvious one at the end), set in Morroco, leads me to this conclusion. A single line – “No. They come to wake up.”
One of the things that I like the best about this story, is that each individual character that dreams has their own individual dream style that are recognisable as dreams. Even in the higher levels, which one would expect to be most like the real world and be fairly indistinguishable from it, the dreams are just off enough from the waking world to be dreams, yet still remain influenced enough by their individual dreamers to be their own separate worlds.
You can’t talk about Inception, the film, without mentioning the soundtrack, which is one of the best composed soundtracks of the year, if not the decade, IMO. Composed by Hans Zimmer, the soundtrack starts off with as much bombast and import as the film itself and continues that way throughout. Even in its more subdued moments (both film and soundtrack), it pulses and drives with as much momentum as any story. And, in the sign of a good soundtrack - while you know it’s there, to the point where you could call it its own character, it is in no danger of overpowering the film. Even when Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien is introduced as an integral part of the story particularly in the multi dream finale, it works with what is being shown on screen rather than over the top of the action.
Is Inception one of the best films ever? No, but it is a treat for both the eyes and the brain, and is justifiably placed at the top of many Best of 2010 lists.