Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Film Review: Inception

A few months ago, I made a joke on Facebook that I was thinking about watching Inception but that the start didn't look very good (get it?).  However, Mr Lovefilm chose to send us Inception as our latest rental, and I sat down to watch it, although I couldn't recall when I actually added it to my selection.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this film, but I am pleased to say I was very pleasantly surprised by it, from its high-paced start, through its plot development, outline of the 'rules' of the story through to the execution of the final mission.  The plot, in a nutshell, is that our main character, Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) must recruit a team and work with them to plant an idea in the subconscious of a highly powerful businessman (Cillian Murphy, from Batman Begins) while he's asleep.  There's some clever exposition which is subtle but clear, about how the team can break into a person's subconscious and steer his thoughts through a dream.  There are some extremely impressive visual effects - the sight of the whole landscape being folded over in a dream, and watching the characters walk across a horizontal and then vertical surface was especially eye-catching.

I also enjoyed some of the later fight scenes; in particular, those that Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb's right-hand-man had in the hotel sequence.  As the story develops, his world becomes one with zero gravity, and he has to fight one of the story's security guards in zero g.  The plot works well on a number of levels, cleverly identifying some of the strange effects we experience in our dreams - the sensation of falling, which wakes us up; the uncertainty of being in a dream or not; the difference in how quickly time passes in a dream, and being in a dream within a dream (waking up but still being in a dream).  It is these last two effects which provides the main structure for the story, as Cobb and his team sedate their victim and then get him to experience a dream within a dream, and then, within a dream again.  The story, script and visuals all help to make this complicated concept hold together extremely well, and even as the story becomes more complex (and the speed of the passage of time changes from level to level), I had no problem in keeping up with exactly what was going on.  The locations and scenes were all unmistakably different from each other, as the locations were lit and filmed in clear, distinct ways, each with their own sub-storylines.  The director deserves special credit for shooting the story in this way - it was consistent, logical and sensible.

The main plot - capture the businessman, infiltrate his dreams and plant an idea - is accompanied by a second plot, which is one of Cobb's own subconscious, as we discover that his wife has died, but that she's very much a part of his subconscious.  Through his guilt over her death, and her recurring presence in her dreams she becomes a real threat to their virtual plan. Cobb is called on this by Ariadne (Ellen Page, AKA Juno), the member of his team recruited to construct the dream landscapes that they use.  As the story develops, and Ariadne uncovers more and more of the truth behind the death of Cobb's wife, and how his memory's of her are affecting his subconscious, and, in turn, jeopardising the safety of the team.  The sight of a freight train ploughing through the middle of a busy city street is memorable, especially when it transpires that this isn't part of the 'victim's' mental defences.

The film, for me, was thoroughly enjoyable and highly engrossing.  There are strong Mission Impossible overtones throughout, and especially in the first half, as an action film.  It's got a strong psychological story (touching on the peculiar nature of dreams), and a character story (the development of Cobb and his layered character, and his inner troubles is well done without drowning the main story).  All-in-all, I would strongly recommend this film, although it will require (and reward) close concentration to fully grasp the story - I should know, I had to watch the first 15 minutes three times until I could see it uninterrupted, and it was worth it.

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