James Cameron talked long and hard about altering the scope of possibility for film-makers last December, but amid the mixed reviews and deafening PR fanfare, he created a film which could not possibly live up to the hype. Six months later and Christopher Nolan has utterly trumped him with a movie that doesn’t so much push back boundaries, but blow them away. Unlike Avatar, it is incomparable, genuinely riveting and epic in a way which goes beyond a pair of 3D goggles. Inception will leave you talking of little else for hours, struggling to collate the questions you have been asked and wondering how the hell people come up with ideas like this.
At the emotional centre of the tale is Leonardo DiCaprio – an actor whose unrivalled consistency and common touch is quietly making him the talent of his generation – as Dom Cobb, a highly skilled thief who specialises in extracting information from people’s subconcious while they sleep. Leo has rather cornered the market in emotionally-scarred redemption seekers of late and his muse here is no different. Following the death of his wife Mallorie (Marion Cotillard) our man is haunted by her memory and hunted by the American authorities who believe he killed her, so when a powerful client (Ken Watanabe) offers him exoneration in exchange for one last job ™, he jumps at the chance. All he and his team (comprising the faultless Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) have to do is break into the mind of a multi-million dollar business heir and convince him to break up the company. Plenty for Leo to get his near-perfect teeth into then.
DiCaprio has taken on stuff like this before, but where Shutter Island simply battered the senses from one angle, Inception mounts an irrestible attack on the audience which is rapid, multi-layered and cleverer than the bloke who invented the internet. There are things here which have genuinely not been done before and as the pace quickens the well-drawn and defined set pieces pile up and interweave leaving you struggling to catch your breath.
After the scene is set, Inception begins surging very quickly and it soon becomes clear to Cobb and his friends that they will have to take their target (Nolan favourite Cillian Murphy) into not just one dream, but a dream within a dream within a dream – (“Three-layers deep? It’s impossible!” someone sensibly shouts at Dom). Ingeniously time stretches for longer in the dream-world than in the real world, and as you sink further through the layers, minutes almost cube themselves. A minute in reality is worth 20 in the dream, a couple of hours in the dream within the dream and so on… Confused? Don’t worry because Nolan explains himself thoroughly and this film never even comes close to dragging.
Each dreamscape is clearly marked from the last (we go from the city to the snow to the beach) and Cobb’s ensuing struggle to complete the mission turns into an outright scramble with new concepts being thrown into the equation to keep the story rollicking forward irresistibly. But it’s the intricacy which will really capture viewers with any small amount of imagination. I could go on, but you have to see these things for yourself – they are truly mind-bending…
Inception – Wednesday 10.10pm on Sky Cinema Hits.