Monday, August 2, 2010

"The Power Of An Idea" a review of Christopher Nolan's "Inception"

Dreams are very illusive and confusing for me. I rarely have dreams, and whenever I do it's always something warped and wrong (never helpful or inspirational like James Cameron's dreams or his mother's...). In fact, if dreams could be interpreted, most would interpret my dreams as my subconscious hates me. There are only a handful of dreams I actually remember. The first when I was about eight years old where I dreamt that Spider-Man (dressed in yellow armor that made him look like a robot ninja), the mad hatter and his rabbit friend (like in the Disney cartoon?), and a guy resembling Solid Snake fight off a Predator. The Mad Hatter and his friend freeze to death, Solid Snake and Spider-Man fight the Predator, and I wake up very confused.

The second dream holds stronger evidence that my subconscious hates me. The second dream was about an orgy in a pool, and no one would go within fifty feet of me... (...I've gotta go cry for a minute...)

The Third dream is the most recent (in fact the night after I saw Inception). Where I dreamt that me and some buddies were at some pool/beach and a shark (which I think I conjured into existence) ate a kid. And I haven't seen shark week.

Never-the-less, these are the only truly memorable dreams I've ever had. However, my near complete lack of dreams has sparked an interest in "dream planting" and "lucid dreaming." I figure if my subconscious couldn't give me a decent dream I might as well make one myself (it is the only way you can get a job done right, right?). So when I learned about Inception's premise I was quite intrigued.

Inception is one of the most thought provoking films I've ever seen. Sure, Avatar made me think... about what James Cameron was smoking when he came up and filmed the movie! But Inception kept me engaged with a good story with entertaining characters and a brilliant cast to portray said characters. Christopher Nolan once again proves he can make a totally awesome movie and it doesn't have to have 3-D or a target demographic to provide it with life. Instead he uses the most powerful and virulent thing out there... an idea... and a great one at that.

Apparently, Nolan has been working on this idea since he was a teenager, and the final result shows the hard work and though put into every scene. The idea seems simple. A heist film but instead of a bank vault full of cash, it's the human mind and ideas. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, an "extractor" who goes into people's minds and literally steals secret information that would otherwise be unreachable. The movie barely touches on the science behind the sharing of dreams, going for a simple explanation that "the military was working on it back in the Cold War" and that "now it's only practical use is theft of information." I would've liked to see a more solid explanation as to how these people go into other people's dreams, but by the time the basic idea that these guys can go into dreams is established in the beginning an explanation isn't actually needed. You get it right away, these dudes do it and there's no point fussing over the technobable.
However, "extraction" (the theft of information and ideas stored in the mind) isn't a one man job. Leo isn't alone. He works with a team who all have their part. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tommy from 3rd Rock From The Sun) plays Arthur, Leo's partner and point-man who gathers information for "architects" to use in the creation of the dream world. Architects make the dream world, they build it, every building, every carpet, that the victims fill their subconscious with. Juno's Ellen Page plays the newly recruited architect to the team, who begins to delve into Leo's dark past.
You see there's this woman that seems to follow Leo everywhere he goes in the dream world. Her name is Mal (Public Enemies' Marion Cotillard), and she's always willing to throw a monkey wrench into the team's plans. The twist here is that she's Leo's dead wife. She's a subconscious representation of guilt that affects their missions. However, Leo refuses to stay out of the missions even though she could ruin everything, which I find very silly. Sure he's the go-to guy for this line of work, but when an evil manifestation of your guilt in the form of your wife intends on potentially ruining a very dangerous mission I'd honestly stay out no matter how badly I want to see my kids. Let the mentally balanced people do the dangerous work, you know?
Anyways the story is about these characters doing something that's very different from their regular line of work. It's called "inception." Instead of stealing an idea, they need to plant an idea. Their client is a rich businessman who wants the son of a rival to dissolve the rival company, the problem is that inception hasn't been successfully done before (except Leo claims to have done it before, more on that later). The idea can't be planted unless the mind thinks it came from its own inspiration, but that's when things start to get tricky.

Leo's team is tasked with planting the idea, and in return the boss will ensure Leo can go back to America to be with his family again. With his very freedom on the line, Leo and co. board the plane that the son is flying on in order to dose him up with powerful sedatives and plant the idea in ten hours. But there's a catch... well a lot of catches actually.
Due to the use of powerful sedatives, death in the dream (which normally wakes people up) results in being sent into "limbo" where the mind can experience years. You see dreams have a longer time than in reality (basically sixty seconds real time is an hour in dream time). And the fact that they are going into three different "levels" of dreaming (a dream within a dream within a dream basically) they could experience a year in just a few minutes.
Then there's the fact that their employer (the only dude who can wipe Leo's criminal record clean) wants to make sure they succeed and goes in with him, which means he could be lost in limbo forever.
Then there's Leo's inner demons, Mal will try to foil their plans and Leo can't stop her. She friggin conjures a freight train in the middle of a busy intersection for f*cks sake! You see, Leo managed to perform a successful inception, on his wife, and it turned her in a suicidal crazy she-bitch who couldn't distinguish dreams from reality. Leo's guilty because of this but knows it's possible.
There's also a time limit. In order to wake from all three dreams timed "kicks" have been set up so that everyone wakes from the dream.
Then there's the fact that the idea has to stick. The son (Cillian Murphy) has to basically convince himself that dissolving his father's empire was his idea.
Of course, like in any film, everything doesn't go according to plan, but they manage to get everything in order before time is up.

This movie is excellent. I loved everything about it, even Ellen Page who I never liked until now. It was about the story, not about the technology or the cgi (like SOME films). I never felt lost in the whole dream thing, until the end. The end will have you spinning like Leo's totem. All in all, I loved this movie, and I really really really want to go see it in IMAX... maybe it's time I took a road trip to Portland again...

I give Inception five plot twists out of five. (I think there are more plot twists in this movie, if you count the whole dream within a dream thing at the beginning a plot twist, than in an M. Night Shyamalan film that doesn't suck.)

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