Science fiction and fantasy

Inception poster


directed by Christopher Nolan

How important is an idea? Inception deals with the concept that an idea introduced into our subconscious in a dream can be far more influential than one that we come across directly. This presupposes that people are like especially gullible sheep, but let's run with it.

The movie starts off like a spy thriller. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) wakes up on a beach. He's suffering with amnesia, and he's taken to see an old man in order to deliver a message. Then he's somewhere else, running and shooting at people whilst things explode all around him and the world literally falls apart.

These bizarre scenes come about because of a technology for shared dreams. Cobb is part of a team of shared dream warriors who do this kind of thing for a living. He has agreed to accept one last dangerous job in return for his freedom. He must plant an idea in the mind of a powerful man, and if he succeeds he will get his name cleared and he'll be able to see his kids again. But is his own subconscious hiding a dark secret from him?

Any plot that involves dreams lends itself to a very obvious twist. However Inception gets around this obstacle by being as layered as a very big onion. There are dreams within dreams, like mirrors reflecting to infinity. It's baffling, and the job they do involves careful timing and a very convoluted set of dreams-within-dreams. It seems like a lot of trouble to go to for a mere idea.

However the pace is brilliant, and the cuts between the dream scenarios work very well. Although each dream is distinct in terms of its location they all share the same kind of movement, and this gives the movie a tremendous atmosphere of suspense.

Characters in the movie are all divided between real people sharing the dream and projections created by the subconscious mind of the dreamers. As soon as the subconscious starts to notice a certain wrongness about the dream these projections will turn on the dreamers. Cobb's wife is an important recurring character. She's a malevolent presence in his dreams and there's a mystery about what really happened to her.

Inception doesn't look futuristic, nor does it dwell on how the technology might work. Yet it's every bit as exciting as The Matrix, a movie which also took the concept of living in a dream to a new level. This is a complex story, and it's intellectually very satisfying. It's the kind of film you need to watch more than once to pick up on all its nuances and to fully understand what's going on. It takes the dreamscape story out of the shadow of Lewis Carroll and redefines it as slick, taut and sophisticated.

12th October 2010

5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

Film Details

Year of release: 2010

Categories: Films
Science fiction

Classification: 12

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