Given how prevalent and oftentimes important our dreams can certainly be, it is baffling that there are not a lot of movies that tackle this concept. While there are movies that take the cheap out of “it was all a dream”, Inception doesn’t fit that mold and instead crafts its intriguing story, world, and environment all around the elusiveness of this concept. It’s narrative is driven by interesting characters, its setup while complex at times offers an introspective and thought provoking look into the world of dreams, and its overall environment makes this a movie that is easily remembered and impactful since the decades of its release. Inception is a masterclass in filmmaking and arguably Christopher Nolan’s greatest film, and above all one of my favorite movies of all time.
Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a mind extractor, someone who goes into people’s subconscious and extracts valuable information to be sold to other parties. During one such encounter, he is given an opportunity to perform “inception” the notion of planting an idea in someone’s subconscious and changing the way they think. While his team believes it to be impossible, Dom believes that it can be done and he assembles a team to perform inception with the hope of getting back to America and seeing his family again.
This movie has a lot of layers and is approachable from many different angles and that’s why I love it so much. You can go into it for the thinking piece that it is and try to put together all the different elements. You can enter the film looking for great action set pieces and tense sequences and be thrilled throughout the duration. You can also watch this movie and find the story of man battling with guilt and grief over the death of his wife and how he processes that. All of these different elements could be a single story of their own, but Nolan has managed to weave together all three into a seamless narrative that engages, evokes emotion, and makes you think all at the same time.
All of the actors in the movie do an excellent job, but no one performance stands out among the rest of them. That is completely okay because the movie is more about the presentation than it is about the characters, but that doesn’t mean that Nolan doesn’t take the time to develop his characters. DiCaprio’s Cobb is easily the most interesting character in the movie and portrays a broken man willing to risk everything to see his family while also wrestling with personal demons that seek to destroy his world.
That kind of character dynamic is fascinating, and adds many nuanced layers that not only affect Cobb as a character but also the supporting character’s around him. The way that Cobb wrestles with himself affects the other characters and at times puts them in danger. It is continually intriguing to watch a team complete a heist without knowing if they can trust their leader and it never comes across as hamfisted or cliche. It fits perfectly within the boundaries and setting of the movie.
The imagination that Nolan has when creating this movie is nothing short of awe-inspiring as he accounts for every little detail and makes it approachable. You can tell that Nolan took a lot of time and research to find out how the human mind works in the context of dreams, and had to draw out how to make it accessible to common audiences. While the movie is a bit confusing at times to see how they are getting from one point to the next, Nolan takes the time to show and then tell the concept to hopefully alleviate some of the confusion. Character dialogue is continuously explaining what is happening and why in order to make the film more accessible.
That continuous dialogue can be a bit distracting at times, and even with the movie constantly explaining itself there are still audiences who feel confused and alienated by its complexity. Upon further re-watches, I appreciate the craft and time that Nolan took and it definitely feels like a movie that you may need to watch twice to fully understand. However it still is accessible upon first viewing given the expository dialogue sprinkled throughout.
But that is one of the signatures of Nolan films and why he is such a revolutionary filmmaker, because he gives you a film that is complex and makes the audience work for the answers they seek. That isn’t seen in any other filmmaker and that’s what makes rewatching Inception so much fun. Each time I rewatch this film, I pick up on a new detail or I learn something new about the characters or plot, or I understand the complexity of the dream levels that are being portrayed. I never tire of watching this film because it always offers something new each time I watch it.
The action in this movie is also inventive with setpieces constnatnly changing to maintain the tension. Car chases, shootouts, there’s even a time when the hallway inverts on itself with two characters punching each other. All of these seek to keep the film entertaining and it never lets up until the scene is done.
The best films are those you can watch over and over again and never get bored and to me that film is Inception. While it has been 10 year since the film first released, it has aged marvelously and provided audiences with tantalizing brain teaser, engaging action adventure, and powerful drama all in one. It’s a film that critics to this day still debate over and unpack new elements that continue to elevate it to greatness. This is one of my favorite movies of all time from one of my favorite directors of all time. With films like these, it’s impossible to not love going to the movies.