Inception (2010) Director: Christopher Nolan
Inception is an unforgettably mind-bending thriller. It is an extremely disorienting film. Nolan recreates the tropes of classic action movies, and reformulates them in a warped dreamworld. Nolan originally brought a rudimentary of the idea for a film in which dreams can be stolen and erased to Warner Bros., but he ultimately decided he needed to cut his bona fides on other films first, so he completed his amazing Batman trilogy before returning to the project. He was influenced by movies like The Matrix.
The film has an all-star cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Mr. Cobb, an illegal corporate raider, a dream builder and stealer. He steals other people’s dreams and secrets for a profit using secret military technology. He is hired by a Japanese billionaire to dig deep into another man’s subconscious not to steal, but rather to introduce a new idea so well that he believes it is his own. The man is the son of a corporate rival. The offer is appealing to Cobb as he is in forced exile from his wife and children. He assembles an all-star team to dig into the rival’s subconscious. One is Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) another is a young architectural genius, Ariadne (played by Ellen Page, so named for the legendary Greek woman who helped Theseus escape from the Minotaur). Cobb teaches Ariadne (and also the audience) about the dreamworld. One scene of particular note is when Paris is bent upwards, and folds in on itself. They capture the Japanese businessman target and enter several layers deep into his subconscious, rather dangerously as one can easily become lost in the dream-world of limbo, never returning to reality. Indeed, this what happened to Cobb’s wife (a fact we learn that is buried in his subconscious). She never wanted to return to reality, but Cobb forced her to, and she then killed herself for which Cobb feels great guilt. In the end we are unsure if Cobb stays in limbo or has returned to his family. The film ends with Cobb’s totem spinning top left spinning on the table (if it stops he is in reality, if it continues spinning indefinitely he remains in a dream).
The score was written by Hans Zimmer, with echoes of Ennio Morricone as Johnny Mar (guitarist for The Smiths) plays the lead tune. It was a massive budget film, that was also a huge success. One of the better movies of 2010.
The film plays on modern views of the conscious and subconscious, or unconscious (a la Freud and Jung and others). Reality is never certain. The cinematography of the film is utterly astounding, borrowing techniques from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film explores the human exploration of the mind -how could it be used or abused? Dreams and dream-making are used as metaphors for the experience of the work of art, the film medium. You never remember how a dream started, and hours can pass in the space of minutes.