Film – Inception
Director – Christopher Nolan
Writer – (Original Story/Screenplay) – Christopher Nolan
Stars – Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, and Michael Caine
Category – Sci-Fi
Year – 2010
Budget: $160,000,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend USA: $62,785,337, 18 July 2010
Gross USA: $292,576,195
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $836,836,967
There have been two times when I have walked out of the theatre and I knew that I had just watched something great. The first was my previous film – The Shawshank Redemption, the second one is this film. I must admit that I do not want to fanboy out here, but I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan. His stories (usually in collaboration with his brother Jonathan Nolan), his filmmaking (usually cinematographers Wally Pfister, or Hoyte Van Hoytema) and of course the musical score (usually Hans Zimmer) create magic.
I have seen all eleven of the Nolan films, and I cannot say that I dislike any of them. Nolan has several trademarks that make his films appealing. One is that he shoots everything on film. I am not a well versed enough to argue the mechanics of film versus digital, but I have seen several movies in IMAX that are digital versus what is shot on film and there is a difference. Imax creates images that are almost beyond real and this dovetails with Nolan’s desire to create more believable settings; the scenery in his films play a big role with its spectacular visual design, with “true” Imax images filling the entirety of the screen with an aspect ratio of close to 4:3 rather than the cropped 2:35:1 “widescreen” images. Most people miss the scenery playing a big role in the films, instead focusing only on the actors and dialog.
Seeing a 70mm print of a Nolan film in the IMAX format is spectacular. (I am hopeful to see Tenet in IMAX one day). Some can argue that Nolan basically saved the IMAX industry. Nolan typically does not use a second unit. He prefers only one production and film team to get everything right. The other thing that Nolan is getting known for is damaging or destroying IMAX cameras. These things cost about $500k, and one was destroyed in ‘The Dark Knight”, I think another was damaged in “Interstellar”, and one sank into the ocean during the filming of “Dunkirk”.
Inception is a film that is open for interpretation on many issues. The synapsis of this story is that Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, called an extractor, of other people’s thoughts and ideas in the subconscious of a dream state. This skill has made Cobb a valuable commodity in the world of corporate espionage, but it has come at a huge cost – it has made him a fugitive and separated him from his family. A client, Saito (Watanabe) has offered Cobb a chance at redemption, by completing one last job. The idea being that if you can extract or steal an idea, could you not also plant an idea – Inception.
Cobb assembles a team to help him accomplish this task: Arthur the Researcher (Gordon-Leavitt), Eames the Forger (Hardy), Ariadne the Dreamer/Architect (Page). They are trying to incept the idea into Fischer (Murphy). Mal Cobb (Cotillard) and Miles (Caine) play important roles as well, but no spoilers here.
The Édith Piaf song “Non, je ne regrette rien” is used as a plot device. Marion Cotillard played Piaf in La Vie En Rose (2007). Christopher Nolan has stated that this is “pure coincidence”. After Cotillard was cast, Nolan intended to change the song to eliminate speculation on the subject, but composer Hans Zimmer persuaded him to keep it. The dream sequences are tied to this song throughout the film.
Inception is a very ambiguous film, which is by design. Nolan has never given a straight answer on is the film set in reality or in the dream world. Although he has stated that the film is set up like a film production itself. Cobb is the director, Arthur is the producer, Ariadne is the production designer, Eames is the actor, Saito is the studio, and Fischer is the audience.
*Spoilers ahead* The film opens with Cobb face down on the beach. He is captured by security forces and taken to dining room where he has a conversation with an old man. Cobb is dressed to attend a social event and is there with Arthur. Cobb sneaks into a building and is reading papers he discovered in a safe when he is caught by Saito and Mal. Saito reveals that they are in a dream. Mal points a pistol and threatens to shoot Arthur, when Cobb reminds her that threatening him in a dream is no use. To which Mal replies very coldly “It depends on what you’re threatening. Killing him will just wake him up. But pain…. (she shoots Arthur in the knee) …. pain is in the mind, and judging by the décor, we are in your mind, aren’t we, Arthur?”
Cobb manages to kill Arthur to wake him up and run from Mal, Saito, and Saito’s men. Arthur meanwhile wakes up and starts working on something else in a different location. Cobb and Saito wake up and are fighting in an apartment. Arthur, Cobb, and Nash (Lukas Haas) manage to subdue Saito when Saito reveals that he knows now that they are still dreaming.
Cobb has failed in the mission to extract what he needed from Saito and is going to be on the run for failing the mission. Saito catches up with him and asks him for Inception of an idea into his competitor. Cobb does not like the idea, but the floor beneath him is getting smaller and smaller. Saito offers him the chance to reset his life if he can deliver inception.
The team is assembled, and the story takes place in a sequence of dreams. The first dream is scheduled to last 10 hours, but the further one goes, dreaming within a dream, time slows. While the first dream is 10 hours, the second dream is six months, and the third dream is 10 years.
As the line gets blurred between reality and the dream world, each character needs to have a totem, something that only they are familiar with so that they can judge if they the are dreaming or awake. The characters also require a ‘kick’ that can awaken them in one dream to move them to the other dream.
This is a film that you must pay attention. When watching in your own home I recommend turning on the subtitles because some of the characters speak very softly, but if you turn up the volume there is a good chance you will be overpowered by the Zimmer score.
There are many arguments about this film: is it all a dream, is it some reality mixed with a dream? What really is Cobb’s totem? Is it the spinning top, or is it his wedding ring? Nolan leaves everything up to the viewer to make up their own mind.
Some bits of Trivia for this film – Cable listings for this movie show the run time as 2 days 9 hours and 14 mins. The length of time it would take if watched in the dream world.
Is inception possible? I do not know, but do not think about Inception. Now what is the first thing you are thinking about? Inception.