Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Dom Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Eames), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Dileep Rao (Yusuf), Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer), Tom Berenger (Peter Browning), Marion Cotillard (Mal), Pete Postlethwaite (Maurice Fischer), and Michael Caine (Miles)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Inception would have been a fabulous and rather brainless action-packed mainstream movie by Christopher Nolan. This movie is dumbed down to allow kids, who couldn’t grasp Memento or who found Insomnia too boring and full of old unattractive people, to drink in the predictable last few reels of the movie and feel more intelligent than other people because they “get” the obvious anvils delivered by Mr Nolan. Unfortunately, I have seen Shutter Island first, and I am distracted by the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio is essentially playing the same character in exactly the same manner in both movies.
In this alternate Earth, Dom Cobb is an expert in inception. Using a cocktail of sedatives and some intricate preparations involving dreamscaping and such, he and his gang can enter the dream of their target and plant an idea into that target’s psyche. They commit an inception, in other words. When the subject wakes up, he or she will believe that the idea came naturally and will be compelled to carry out the idea. This method of inception is useful, as demonstrated by the opening scene when Dom Cobb and his pals attempt to crack open their target Saito’s brain, so to speak, and discover some corporate secrets of that Japanese millionaire.
That operation fails due to some oversight on the dream architect’s part that allows Saito to realize that he’s dreaming. Cobb and his pal Arthur prepare to go on a run because their client doesn’t look too kindly on failures, but Saito offers them an unexpected counter-offer. If Cobb and Arthur can perform an inception on Robert Fischer, the heir of Saito’s main business rival, and make that man believe that he has to dismantle his father’s business empire after the old man passed away, Saito will offer them not only a lot of money but also a chance for Cobb to return to America and see his children.
You see, Cobb did something really bad in the past that caused him to be accused of the death of his wife Mal. Actually, he blames himself for her death. Unfortunately for everyone involved with Cobb’s projects, Cobb’s subconsciousness always causes Mal to show up in their inception missions, sabotaging them while Cobb remains helpless to stop her. It is novice dreamscaper Ariadne (how’s that for being subtle?) who realizes that unless someone helps Cobb put his demons to rest, their entire mission to incept upon Robert Fischer is doomed to failure. Meanwhile, Robert Fischer isn’t completely helpless as he is trained to allow his subconsciousness to trigger defense mechanisms the moment the inception process begins. Plenty of unforeseen problems arise, and what can go wrong pretty much does. And that’s before Mal makes an appearance…
Inception is a dumbed down version of movies typically with the name Christopher Nolan attached to them, but I don’t hold that against Mr Nolan. He has begun walking down that route with Batman Begins and I don’t think anyone can blame him for wanting the money and the mainstream appeal and critical acclaim. This is especially when Inception is an entertaining and well-paced movie with well-choreographed action scenes and some fabulous visual effects. The “twist” is predictable, but the movie leading up to that point is fabulous popcorn flick material. The secondary characters apart from Dom Cobb are cardboard cutouts for all the depths they have, but I guess they have to be this way to justify their blind obedience to Cobb. Ariadne points out to Cobb that he is being hugely irresponsible to put his team in danger – they will not wake up again if they “die” in the dream world – especially when he knows that Mal will show up and screw things up with him incapable of stopping her, but she doesn’t share her genuine concerns with the other team members.
However, as entertaining as I can this popcorn flick to be, implausibilities and over-the-top depictions of the inception process and all, I am distracted by the similarities between Dom Cobb and Teddy Daniels. Not only are they played by the same fellow in exactly the same manner, they share similar tortured backgrounds involving mentally unhinged wives and the desperation to find absolution by reliving the past constantly. In addition, the movies are released only a few months apart. In fact, a part of me is amused by how well this one could have been a sequel to Shutter Island. Arthur could have revealed at the end that Cobb actually killed his wife and was delusional, and that Arthur, who is Cobb’s shrink, created an elaborate fantasy role-playing inception to get Cobb to face reality, and I won’t bat an eyelid, I tell you.
Inception, therefore, is a pretty odd flick in that I actually enjoy it a little less for having seen the main actor play a very similar role in a recent movie. If you haven’t watched Shutter Island, which I feel is a superior movie to this one, go watch that one first and then wait a year or two for your familiarity with the movie to fade a little before watching this one.