In an Oriental compound, a young man, Dom Cobb, is interrogated by a sinister figure, the imposing Saito, before breaking out and being assisted by his sidekick, Arthur, taking on Saith’s henchman, and seeing he has been joined by a mysterious French woman, as the building collapses around them. Brought out of their dream state, the escapade has proved to be Cobb’s demonstration of he and his team’s powers of Inception, the ability to enter the mind of another and literally steal thoughts or ideas, Saito being a hugely powerful Japanese business magnate who wants to use Cobb’s special abilities, and wanted a demonstration, he now being convinced of Cobb’s remarkable powers. He offers Cobb and Arthur a mission, to enter the mind of Robert Fischer Jr, the heir to the largest energy suppliers on the planet, whose father is on his deathbed, Saito telling Cobb that he wants his powers to be used for a different purpose; instead of removing an idea their purpose would be to plant one, to enter the man’s subconscious and implant the notion that the multinational conglomerate should be broken up, Saito fearing that the Fischer company could hold a monopoly on global energy supply. Cobb tells him that the mission is too complex, but Saito offers him the chance to return to his own country and see his young children again, knowing that Cobb is unable to do so, for reasons he does not reveal, but Saito promises him that his ‘problem’ could be eradicated with one phone call should the mission be successful. Needing to put together a team, he visits his old tutor, Miles, in Paris, wanting to take one of his architecture pupils in order to be his ‘architect’, one who plans and designs the levels the subconscious mind of the victim is taken through in the inception mission, Miles recommending Ariadne, a young student who is sceptical until Cobb gives her a practical demonstration of the dream process and how it can be manipulated by those with the necessary abilities. Travelling to Tangier in order to secure the services of Eames, a talented ‘forger’, meaning he can enter the dreams of others and play the roles of others, friends or colleagues who they believe they should be talking to, Dom has to escape a gang of assassins, realising that someone is onto them, having leaked the details of the mission. Needing to take Robert Fischer Jr into a deeper dream state than normal, in order to carry out the hugely complex venture, they realise they will have to take him through three states of his subconscious, necessitating the services of a chemist, Yusuf, who tells them he can produce a sedative which will keep Fischer unconscious for ten hours or more and receptive to his subconscious being probed. Knowing Fischer flies across the Atlantic every fortnight, which would give them the necessary ten hours in order to do their tasks, Saito ensures they will have privacy in the first class compartment by buying the airline he travels on. Yusuf warns them that under such sedation, the time they spend in the dream realm will be expanded, an hour lasting more than a week, and should they be killed then they could die in reality. Having seen a mysterious French woman in the dream into which Cobb led her, Ariadne finally gets him to admit it is his ex-wife, Mal, who died after an inception excursion, creating their own dream world, which after they returned to reality Mal found she could not live without. Cobb was blamed for her death, which means he has not been able to see his children since. Having expertly rehearsed their roles, they board the flight, the team occupying the first class compartment, and once having induced sleep enter the first level of Fischer’s subconscious, a busy city, but they are attacked by a team of heavily armed mercenaries, meaning that Fischer has undergone training for such an attack on his psyche, meaning that the team are facing more challenges than they have ever faced before, with the possibility of death in the labyrinth of the dream world coming ever closer.
Even in an age in Hollywood where scripts and production details are often kept under the tightest security, the measures taken on Christopher Nolan’s Inception
were extreme, with an actual bare synopsis of the film only being released six weeks before release and several actors only being given the pages of the script pertaining to their particular character, Michael Caine complaining that this was the case with his role, even though this is his fourth film with Nolan. Such measures are understandable, but as the synopsis shows, Inception
is almost impossible to accurately encapsulate except in the broadest strokes, or one finds oneself involved in such a complex plot that it would literally take two or three thousand words to get in the wealth of details and layers of drama Nolan and his screenplay provides, and it is to this remarkable director’s credit that although the film takes a considerable amount of concentration, one always knows where one is within the complex landscape of reality, dreams, and dreams within dreams, even if Nolan adds signposts by having one character actually ask whose subconscious they will not be venturing into, just in case anybody in the audience had got lost. What is so ambitious is not only that the film is a brilliantly crafted drama / thriller, but that it takes the idea of ‘inception’ the extraction of ideas from someone’s mind, and whereas another director or writer would have been content with this, having as the plot, giving his characters a mission to enter a mind and withdraw a vital piece of information, Nolan makes things much harder by turning the idea on it’s head, and instead having the task being to enter and plant an idea, and even then it is not for the usual goals, such as power, but rather to keep a balance of power and prevent an energy supplier becoming totally dominant around the globe, again not the usual plot direction one would expect. As seen in the jaw-dropping trailers, Nolan’s visual eye, which provides such excellent returns in his brace of Batman films, is very much to the fore here, with the extraordinary shot of the ‘folding city’ of Paris, and the zero-gravity, corridor fights actually making narrative sense rather than just being eye-catching set-pieces. With such a bravura approach to effects and settings, it would be very easy for any cast members to get lost within the altering perspectives and high-speed chases and shoot-’em-ups, Nolan managing to also keep the pace of his 147 minute film blistering throughout, and his casting is exemplary, with Leonardo Di Caprio as Dom Cobb establishing himself as one of the most interesting and talented leading men of his generation, equally convincing as the Bond-style action-man of the action scenes and the tormented genius with a gift he would rather not have, while the very impressive supporting cast provide excellent work throughout, a very talented roster including Ellen Page (Juno
), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai
) whose English is slightly indistinct in some scenes, Joseph Gordon Levitt, rather more serious than in the comedy (500) Days Of Summer
, the excellent Tom Hardy (Bronson
), Tom Berenger (the Sniper
series), Cillian Murphy, Scarecrow in Batman Begins
, and Marion Cotillard (La Vie Un Rose
), as Cobb’s ex-wife, who is still very much a part of his life to the point of almost sabotaging every mission he embarks upon. The excellent Pete Postlethwaite appears literally for a one-word cameo. Some critics have claimed that this is actually the most cerebral Bond movie ever made, and Nolan has admitted that a major climatic set-piece set high in the Alps is inspired by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
, with some saying Inception is his calling card into the roster of 007 directors. Once more uniting with his regular collaborators, director of photography serves up some remarkable compositions, the CGI effortlessly blending with the live-action, although many of the more elaborate set-pieces and stunts were ‘practical’, or created in the studio, editor Lee Smith does very good work in keeping the multitude of plot strands running linear, while there is a superb, dramatic and brass-heavy score from Hans Zimmer, as good as anything the Oscar-winning composer has previously done. An entrancing, captivating, emotional and mesmerising piece of work, which refuses to conform to the audience expectations, but rewards the effort and concentration involved many fold.