Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriters: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Running Time: 148 mins
Christopher Nolan’s rise from the no-budget Following to top of the Hollywood list has been surprisingly fast, seven films to be exact, his reboot of the Caped Crusader becoming a template of how to reinvigorate a franchise from prior empty excesses. Just as impressive, though, has been the fact that he has achieved this without suffering a flop along the way. So with Inception, to which he is sole screenwriter as well as director, and with a $200 million budget birthed by The Dark Knight’s block-busting, the stakes are high. Would it be his King Kong, overstuffed and indulgent? Quite the opposite, in fact it is his very finest film to date.
A sci-fi thriller set within ‘the architecture of the mind,’ was the pre-release tag, but it goes only halfway to describing Inception’s ambition and invention. Leonardo DiCaprio, making his Nolan debut, plays ‘extractor’ Dom Cobb, a professional whose expertise lies in invading other people’s subconscious to steal secrets they have locked away. But he and his team are tasked with not stealing but planting an idea in the mind of Cillian Murphy’s capitalist suit by Ken Watanabe’s corporate competition, the reward being the expunging of Cobb’s murky past. What follows from this set up, a Matrix in reverse if you will, is a globe-spanning (Paris, Tokyo, Mumbasa…) heist flick with dreams within dreams (and then some). City streets twist and turn and fold up upon themselves and a Michael Mann-infused car chase, a zero-gravity fist fight, and an arctic station assault all occur concurrently as time draws out the further down the rabbit hole Cobb, and the audience, go.
Lost yet? You won’t be. Inception, which has percolated in Nolan’s mind for a decade, is complex without being confusing, challenging but also rewarding. Photographed by Knight’s DOP Wally Pfister (a long term Nolan collaborator), it is a beautifully crafted film too, each ‘level’ (you’ll see) possessing a unique design, where the terrace-rousing set pieces are matched by the superb ensemble performances. DiCaprio is solid as the film’s centre and the roguish Tom Hardy’s bantering with Gordon-Levitt’s point man provides respite from the head-scrambling. The real star, though, is Nolan, who ensures the style has content to match, his philosophical puzzler questioning the nature of reality as well as grief, love and guilt. Is it too early to call it a classic?
Nolan combines artistic direction with a confident grasp of the material to create something that will be talked about years from now.