Great Movies: Inception

By Christian DiMartino

It’s really been 10 years since the release of Inception?

Who would’ve thought that 10 years later, Christopher Nolan would be leading the charge in terms of trying to rescue cinematic humanity as we know it? I did, because I have long been a believer. Yes, we are amidst a pandemic still, and if any huge name can draw audiences back to the theatre right now, it would be Nolan, and his $300 million opus, Tenet… that is, whenever we get to see it. Yet there’s a reason why so many of us have faith in the man, and it’s because he has released, as I see it, great film after great film. Just look at his filmography: MementoThe Dark Knight trilogy, The PrestigeInterstellar, Dunkirk. Yet perhaps the best (my favorite would probably be The Dark Knight) is Inception, which turns 10 years old today.

I remember the first time I saw this film. I was 14, and it was at a local drive-in. Naturally, it rained, because usually if I really look forward to something, it cannot go as planned. Yet even in the rain, I knew that the film I was witnessing was utterly glorious. It was during my second viewing though, at an IMAX theatre in California, that my feelings were completely solidified.

When I released my list of the best films of the past decade at the end of last year, while I did not numerically rank them, I did mention that Inception would be at the very top. Most lists you came across featured The Social Network and Mad Max: Fury Road, both films that I love, but are nonetheless absent. Seven months later, I still stand my ground, because Inception, as I see it, is a film that has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so. To quote the Edith Piaf song that plays a key role throughout the film, “Non, je ne rigrette rien.”

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know the premise. Yet if you do live under said rock, I shall fill you in. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a man who specializes in infiltrating people’s dreams and stealing their secrets. Cobb and his team are typically hired by corporate companies in search of gaining the upper hand. When one of the infiltrated, named Saito (Ken Watanabe) catches them, he basically forces them into a new job, and provides a potential opportunity.

The job? Performing the act of “Inception,” which, rather than extracting an idea, they plant an idea into the subconscious of the dreamer. This task is at first deemed impossible, though Cobb knows that it is not, from past experience. It just happens to be a complex and intricate process (it involves going into dreams, within dreams, within dreams, thus building multiple landscapes, multiple disguises, and… yeah just see it), but one that Cobb knows he can pull off. Pulling it off successfully is also of particular interest to Cobb because he is considered a fugitive in the United States, and by finishing the job, Saito will gather a waiver to which Cobb will be able to return to America and see his children once again.

Marion Cotillard gives an pretty underrated performance here as Cobb’s wife, whose suicide is the reason why Cobb is a fugitive. The rest of the cast includes Ellen Page, who serves as kind of a conduit to help guide us along with all of the nutty details, Joseph Gordon Levitt as Cobb’s right hand man, and Tom Hardy, who pretty much broke out after this film, and hallelujah. Yet this isn’t so much an actor’s movie as much as it is a director’s, and this filmmaker in particular is always focused on giving us a show. Boy, what a show Inception is.

Where, say, Michael Bay, will simply throw a bunch of large, explosive set pieces at us for the sake of noise, Nolan actually puts thought into his action. Every action sequence here is done carefully, there is thought behind what is actually happening, and most shocking of all: the viewer actually cares. This is that rare action spectacle with a brain, and that brain, in particular, what makes this film special.

There are a lot of elements here that make this film as remarkable as it is. This is a film that will forever look marvelous, not just because of Wally Pfister’s beautiful cinematography and the richly detailed production design, but because of the way that Nolan often chooses to go for practical effects. In every awe-inspiring moment in this film (and there are plenty), it never feels like an overload of CGI fakery. It, quite simply, is the real deal. Hans Zimmer’s thunderous score is also one of his finest hours- some may find it bombastic, I just find it to be grand. Yet the reason why Inception will forever remain great, in my eyes, is the fact that every time I see it, it remains fresh.

Here is a film so rich- rich in terms of appearance, and rich in terms of detail. Yes, you will never forget the image of the streets of Paris toppling on top of one another, nor will you forget the zero gravity hallway battle between Gordon Levitt and the dream drones. That being said, it’s the details that make the film timeless. The ideas on display in Inception are huge, and there are a boatload of them.

Each time I see it, I find myself picking up on something that I did not catch before. This is the kind of film in which if you look at your iPhone for a second, it will be at your own peril. It is the kind of movie that, in terms of the big details, I cannot explain, because it is simply a film that Nolan demands you to actually watch. It demands your attention, and the great thing is: it holds it. Over the years, people have tried telling me that this movie is not good. It is pretentious to say that “you didn’t get it,” yet I urge these people to see it again. There is, as far as I’m aware, not a plothole to be found. Everything here clicks, everything here works. It just asks you to actually pay attention (which, this day and age, may be asking too much). Even after seeing it a plethora of times, it is a spectacular ride that not only deserves to be seen more than once, but, quite simply, you will want to see it again.

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