Inception IMAX review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
Christopher Nolan blows our minds in a way that makes Memento look like a straight thriller...
And so it is upon us: Warner Brothers’ gamble on Chris Nolan’s metaphysical heist movie about a dream within a dream within a dream. With an all-star cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception looks set to become the movie event of the summer and one which risks everything on the premise of nothing more than an idea, albeit a highly complex one. The question is: is it a gamble that pays off?
Written over a 10-year period, Inception is Nolan’s labour of love and, it’s fair to say, his moment of genius. Set in a world where dreams can be shared and manipulated, the subconscious abused, secrets revealed and secrets stolen, it has to be said that Inception is a breathtaking piece of work.
Making use of one of the best casts in recent memory, and one of the most ambitious scripts in movie history, Nolan has bet his reputation, his career and his credibility on a film many saw as a confusing and incoherent mess that just couldn’t work. Hardly one to sell to the studios. Thankfully, but not surprisingly, it’s a bet Nolan has won.
So what’s it all about? Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is what can only be described as a thought thief, a man who can enter a person’s mind, their dreams, and steal their deepest, darkest secrets. Leading a crack team, Cobb constructs beautiful and stunningly real dreamscapes, which he can manipulate and control to serve his will – specifically a person’s compliance in surrendering a closely guarded secret.
But not all is as it seems, Cobb is struggling. Haunted by the death of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), Cobb not only struggles with the minds of others, but with his own subconscious and its intrusion upon the dreams he is trying to navigate.
It’s here where reality really begins to unravel. Once a master of dreams and their design, Cobb’s subconscious, combined with his guilt, begins to threaten him and his team. A frightening prospect, and one which manifests itself in the form of his deceased wife. Cotillard is particularly disturbing as the psychotic memory Cobb can’t control.
"The Memento and Dark Knight director has outdone himself this time round, creating some of the most original and awe-inspiring scenes ever committed to film"
Back in the real world, Cobb is a man on the run, supposedly framed for his wife’s death and unable to see his children. Desperate to clear his name and get back home, Cobb has no choice but to accept an offer that will see him do just that. The offer? Plant an idea in someone’s subconscious, rather than extract it.
Confused? You don’t know the half of it.
What ensues is a staggering and breathtaking foray into brilliant direction by Nolan. The Memento and Dark Knight director has outdone himself this time round, creating some of the most original and awe-inspiring scenes ever committed to film. Leading us through Cobb’s dreamscapes, Nolan is showing us a master at work, bending and manipulating shots and sequences in the same way Cobb does his dreams. Those with a keen eye will notice Nolan’s subtle nods to that other master of all things film, Kubrick. One scene in particular gives a knowing wink to 2001: A Space Odyssey. And like 2001, this film, and its dream sequences in particular, are truly something to behold, the visuals proving to be some of the most stunning ever conceived. As the tagline reads, the dream is real.
So, what about the cast? It’s a good question, because while DiCaprio is very much the lead, this is clearly an ensemble piece. Each actor is essential and proves pivotal in making the film what it is.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur is perfectly cast as Cobb’s point man and friend, watching out for his boss and reminding him of when he’s getting in over his head. Like the audience he is sympathetic to Cobb’s needs and his failings, but only to a point. Loyal and obedient, he has no problem questioning Cobb and his methods.
The same holds true of Ellen Page as Ariadne. The architect to Cobb’s dreamscapes, she too acts as a reference point of sanity for him, keeping him in check and helping him come to terms with his guilt-ridden past. It’s through her which we see the film too, her wonder and bewilderment at the dreams becoming ours, her awe and amazement informing our own.
Theirs are not the only performances though, with the remainder of the cast proving pivotal to the film’s genius. Tom Hardy as Eames continues to be a revelation with each film he makes, and it’s his relationship with Arthur that provides the film’s moments of humour and wit. Moreover, Hardy proves his worth as something of an action hero too, something that will serve him well in his new role as Mad Max.
Smaller, but equally important roles are filled by acting greats Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite, while Tom ‘where has he been?’ Berenger also brings his money to the table with a fantastic performance that proves central to Inception’s plot.
Similar contributions are made from Ken Watanabe as Saito, and Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer Jr. Murphy, like Watanabe, is clearly a Nolan favourite, with both actors appearing as villains in Batman Begins (2005). And it’s these two characters on which the central plot hangs.
Saito’s company is the last to stand in the way of Fischer’s inherited empire becoming a monopoly and corporate super power. Determined to stop this, Saito sees inception, the planting of an idea into another’s subconscious, as his only remedy. Which is where Cobb comes in. Saito offers Cobb the chance to clear his name and return to his children if, and only if, he can successfully implant the idea in Fischer to dismantle his empire and sell off his businesses.
While the majority of his team believe it can’t be done, Cobb is adamant that it can. It’s his certainty that it can be done that offers clues to his past, and what allows the plot to go in the direction that it does – an uncontrollable rollercoaster of mind-boggling camera work and beautifully executed direction.
That being said, eye-popping visuals are not the be all and end all of this movie, far from it. Inception is a complex piece of film, intricate and thoughtful, and with a heart at its very core.
"Moving at a relentless and constant speed, the fast-paced movie jumps from dream to dream, reality to reality, leaving the audience with an almost overwhelming head spin"
Yes, it’s true that Inception is a movie about dreams. It’s also true that it’s a film about reality and its intricacies, the various forms it can take and the many ways it can me interpreted and communicated. And yes, it’s also a heist movie – a film where ideas are stolen and ideas planted, where thievery of the mind is commonplace and where business execs have to militarise their minds to protect their corporate secrets. However, Inception, like many of the dreams contained within, is multi-layered, splintered and numerous other things at once. A heist movie, yes, but it’s also an action movie, a mystery, and, at its heart, a love story. All of it is open to interpretation, much like our dreams – and that is, one assumes, how Nolan intended it.
In the same way our dreams can become mutable and ever changing, so it is with Inception. Ambitious and unafraid, the film is a mind-bending odyssey that will leave you wondering what’s real and what’s not. Moving at a relentless and constant speed, the fast-paced movie jumps from dream to dream, reality to reality, leaving the audience with an almost overwhelming head spin.
And this is where the film asks so much of the viewer. Inception is a film where you really have to keep up and learn to roll with each scene as it unfolds. Lose your way in here and it’s unlikely you’ll find the road back. It’s a telling sign of Nolan’s brilliance as a storyteller – he demands your constant attention and it’s a demand that’s warranted. Nolan insists that the audience use their imagination and actually think for once when watching a movie – don’t and you’ll get left behind.
It’s also a question of how far down the rabbit hole you want to go? For as much as this is a film about dreams, it is also a film about memories – their stability within the recesses of our own mind, the extent to which they can be manipulated, and the lengths we will go to preserve and hold onto them.
And it is Cobb’s memories that are at the heart of the film, fuelling his motives while also allowing for his own demise. Much like his role in Shutter Island, DiCaprio’s Cobb is a man haunted by his own past – the death of his wife. It’s worth asking why these tragic and doomed affairs of the heart play such pivotal roles in Nolan’s films? Whether it be Memento or a Dark Knight, unobtainable or irretrievable love always features heavily in his movies, and Cobb’s character is no exception. Again like Shutter Island, Cobb is a man either not ready or not willing to accept the reality of what happened to his wife, nor his role in her undoing. Reality plays a similar role, with the viewer asked to discern what is real and what is fantasy, when are we in the mind and when are we not? It’s not the easiest thing to keep up with, but it can be done if you hold on tight and follow Cobb’s lead. He is our instructor and guide during the film, and it’s a testament to DiCaprio’s talents that he is able to lead us so well.
"A master or subtlety and directing gentler moments, Nolan knows his way around an explosion or two and knows what it means to say ‘Action!’"
It’s hard to talk about Inception without giving away too much of the plot or the incredible scenes in store. And while the dream sequences are fantastic in their own right, the action scenes within them are equally impressive. One scene in particular, Nolan’s Bond scene, takes place on snowy-capped mountains, with Cobb and his team leading an assault on a stronghold of Fischer’s mind. It has to be one of the finest action sequences ever filmed, and tells you exactly why Nolan should direct the next Bond film. A master or subtlety and directing gentler moments, Nolan knows his way around an explosion or two and knows what it means to say ‘Action!’
Which brings us to the IMAX. No matter where you see Inception, it is sure to blow your mind one way or another. However, if you’re one of those who like to risk losing their mind completely, then the IMAX is the place for you. This really is the screen on which Inception was meant to be seen.
As Nolan says, ‘The scope and scale of IMAX is perfect for depicting the world of dreams, which is as vast as the imagination. By enlarging the canvas of the film, it plunges the audience right into the action, which is something every filmmaker wants.’
"Inception is the must-see movie of the year and one that will go down in movie history as a work of genius by Nolan"
Upon leaving, you will no doubt have a million and one questions, and that’s OK, Nolan wants you to think about his movie. He wants you to come away and consider what just happened, what did you witness and what does it all mean? Those, and other, questions will be asked for years to come, including: will a second watch be necessary? Yes – as will a third, a fourth, and probably a fifth before Inception can be digested properly and coherently – but this is where the fun lies. Nolan has taken a chance and dared to challenge the audience. Luckily for him, the audience is game and wants to meet that challenge.
There is so much more to be said about this film than space allows for here. A spectacle in every sense, Inception is the must-see movie of the year and one that will go down in movie history as a work of genius by Nolan. A cinematic masterpiece from start to finish, this is his baby and now he has sent it out into the world to fend for itself. Something tells us Inception will do just fine.
Inception opens 16th July at BFI IMAX in London
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