One Liner Review:
It’s The Matrix meets Minority Report when a futuristic system for corporate takeover gets out of control, leaving characters in some crazy and wildly innovative situations.
Inception is a deep and twisty movie that is simultaneously both a heist film and an other-worldly fantasy. Aside from all that, it’s also quite the mystery for the viewer, trying to solve the puzzle, putting all the pieces together in a way that makes sense. It crosses over all sorts of genres, trying to seem realistic while at the same time putting itself into a world that doesn’t really exist at all, where simple laws of physics don’t even apply. In many ways, on just the surface level, it seems a lot like The Matrix. There’s the new world, the cool effects, the great action, and the character who’s trying to do what he is told is impossible.
But the comparisons stop there. Once you get into the story of Inception, it’s clear that this is an entirely unique and creative film. There’s a mission to be certain, and a back story, and Ellen Paige as the new kid in town, fish out of water, character who comes into the world. She represents the audience as she is taught all of the rules of the new world and we are introduced to how everything works, right alongside her. When Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Levitt teach her the rules, they are really teaching them to us.
Some movies have the main character be the fish out of water character, new to the world. It’s not an easy task and few movies can pull it off (Goodfellas is one of the few that does it successfully, because it uses voice over). But Inception doesn’t try that. Instead, the movie cleverly goes the Minority Report route and has the main character be the teacher and a side character represent the audience. And Leonardo Dicaprio’s Dom Cobb is quite the twisted little character, filled with secrets himself. He’s had it rough. Almost as bad as the character DiCaprio played in Shutter Island, who had similar issues with his wife.
But all of these comparisons to other movies, the Matrix, Minority Report, and Shutter Island, are only because those three movies were all so great. Inception is in good company. And it takes these somewhat familiar story elements and spins them on their edge. Sometimes literally. The movie is about a team of extractors or dream thieves who go into your mind while you’re sleeping and try to steal your secrets. How its done and what obstacles they face become very creative and challenging, but these guys are professionals who know every trick in the game.
The movie gets deep. It goes into different levels and different dreams tying them all together at once. The different dreams are like boards of a video game, and each one completely has its own feel, color, and style. Only in most video games, once you beat a board, there’s no going back. In Inception, there is constant going back and forth between dreams because certain characters stay behind in each dream and have to continually fight against whatever enemies are left there.
For me, there are two things that make this movie great. One is the dream within a dream stuff. The multiple levels and worlds that are all connected to each other. It comes into play in the beginning when we meet Cobb, at the end with the mission dreams, and then also as an elevator with all different levels of memories with his wife, in DiCaprio’s own dream.
The other thing that’s so terrific about this movie is that way the character are on a team and spend time standing around, forming a circle, discussing ideas. They have a problem to solve and they go over every possible approach together, often taking walk throughs while discussing their plans and bouncing ideas off each other. There are at least three sequences like this, one standing on the street, another standing on an indoor staircase, and at least one more sitting around in chairs. It really helps the viewer understand what’s happening to listen to how these characters come up with a plan and what they’re telling each other about why they have to do certain things.
I’d like to say that it sounds more complicated than it really is, but I can’t. It’s a tricky, complex movie. It’s a thinking person’s movie. That’s not always a good thing, especially if you’re just looking to relax, but the good news is, approaching it is like approaching a mystery, taking one part at a time and trying to understand and interpret it. And there’s a lot there to work with. The movie takes commitment and more than one viewing to be appreciated, but how much better is that than a mystery where after you see it once, it will never be as good again, as when you didn’t know the ending? Inception is the rare movie that gets better and better each time you see it, because you’re seeing and realizing new and fantastically interesting things.