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A 2010 movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

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Another Nolan Masterpiece

  • Nov 6, 2010
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Since his impressive debut, Following, Christopher Nolan has proven himself time and time again to be one of the boldest, most original voices in Hollywood. Whether he's applying his impressive storytelling prowess and clear direction to a beloved franchise or working from an original idea, Nolan consistently delivers films that seamlessly work on multiple levels. It's no easy feat. 

In my experience, I tend to look at a film's quality based on two different scales: art and entertainment. Some films, such as romcoms and horror films, tend to have little to no artistic value, but they manage to keep audiences entertained (thus, the glut of both genres in today's cinemas). Others, such as esoteric indie films you and I probably have never nor ever will hear of, have tremendous artistic value but are so wrapped up in the cleverness of the technique that it's impossible to love the film; rather, it only garners a distant respect. This is where Nolan's films, specifically Inception, shine. Inception is a film of tremendous artistic value-all the filmic techniques employed are superlative, from the writing to the cinematography to the amazing (and often practical) special effects. But not only does the film deliver on these technical levels; it's also immensely entertaining, easily one of the most entertaining films of the year. It has intense action sequences, a heart-breaking and honest romance, and moments of comedy. It's a film that anybody can (or at least should) enjoy. 

"Should" is probably the more appropriate word to finish that previous sentence because Inception is a film that rewards the viewer for paying attention. Some critics have complained that the film is hard to follow, but the opposite is true. While Nolan has crafter a deeply complex film that operates on many levels simultaneously, he doesn't exploit his directorial power to make the viewer feel lost or dumb. Instead, he establishes the rules of the world early on and then dives in fully. This is one of those times when it's of the utmost importance that the audience heeds the "Please turn off your cell phone" screens that play pre-trailers. Inception demands-and inarguably deserves-your undivided attention. 

And if you do, what a ride you're in for. Inception is more than a movie-it's one of those event films. It's an experience to see such a masterpiece unfolding on the big screen, and not in the same way that Avatar was last year. With Avatar, the experience rested almost exclusively on the technical aspects of the film. It was beautiful to look at, but the visuals were adornments on a trite, overly familiar story. No, to find a film comparable to Inception, you have to go back a little further to Nolan's last film, The Dark Knight. With Hans Zimmer's booming score, the epic scale of it all, and familiar Batman faces in the form of Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy, it's nigh impossible not to be reminded of Nolan's superhero opus while watching Inception. But where Inception surpasses The Dark Knight (who knew that was even possible?) is in its ambition. Not since Synecdoche, New York has a film dared to take on such big ideas and challenge the viewer to come along for the ride, but this time, the challenge stands in mainstream cinemas. 

Inception is one of those beautiful movies where the whole isn't great in spite of the imperfection of some of the parts; instead, the brilliance of the whole reflects the care that went into every aspect of the film. Anyone who has a specific interest when analyzing or judging a film-whether it's acting, cinematography, editing, or something else-will be able to delve into that particular aspect of Inception and appreciate the time and effort that went into making that part of the film great, and thus contributing to a sense of almost uncanny coherence that exists across the entirety of Inception's filmic identity. 

The best place to start when examining the parts is with Christopher Nolan himself. Nolan is one of the best filmmakers today because he doesn't simply tell an exciting story. He delves into the human psyche. Most of his films reflect a part of the human mind-obsession in Following, memory in Memento, insanity in The Dark Knight-and while one could follow suit and categorize Inception under "dreams," that would be an understatement. By placing the film within the mind-more specifically, the dreaming mind-Nolan lays out a mental field unlike any others he has previously explored. In one sense, the defenses are down, the dreamer is asleep, and the perception of reality we're experiencing is thus more honest, more candid that we might expect to see. But the fascinating thing is that the dreamworlds of Inception are pre-planned, mapped out, created even as they're perceived. They are labyrinths that reflect the dreamer while adhering to a pre-set plan, thus creating a seeming paradox. 

The film's screenplay can be understood in a similar way. Nolan's writing reflects the "pure creativity" that Ariadne (Ellen Page) can't resist when she is being wooed by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The flexibility of the dreams, the way the layers interact, and the unforgettable visuals that come along with them all combine to make the viewer feel like the dreams are somehow alive, even though we know that, as a part of a film, they are all completely deliberately laid out and scripted. It's a bizarre feeling that few (if any) other writer-directors could achieve. The fact that Nolan is directing from his own screenplay makes the sensation of seeing a master at work even more undeniable. Nolan's confident direction-his absolute focus on what he is achieving-is the film's heartbeat. 

Such a unique world provides a huge canvas for interesting visuals. The special effects impress, especially when they aren't creations of CGI, but rather special sets and other practical effects, most notably at play in the hotel action sequences, which create a sense of awe akin to the rotating space stations of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's not hard to imagine Wall Pfister's excitement at getting to shoot such exciting scenes, and his cinematography is gorgeous throughout. Lee Smith, the film's editor, also deserves accolades for keeping four levels of story-telling going concurrently without any sense of confusion or loss of momentum. It's a tremendous feat. 

The international all-star cast has attracted much attention as the announcements of new additions have trickled out over the past year or two, and it's not hard to see why. Littered with Oscar-nominees and --winners, I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that this film provides more awards attention for the stupendous cast; an ensemble SAG Award is a must. 

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers his second amazing performance of the year (the first being, of course, Shutter Island). DiCaprio has consistently proven himself to be one of his generation's most talented stars, and Inception gives further proof. Nolan's writing and Dicaprio's performance combine to make Cobb more than a thief trying to get back to his kids while being haunted by his wife. While such a character would be a challenge to play-and an interesting presence for an audience to witness-there's more to Cobb than what's on the surface. Because of the film's intellectual slant, we get to see what makes Cobb tick in a very real way. We get to see him confront his demons and understand himself better. By the film's last, haunting shot Cobb is a changed man-a better man. By that point, it doesn't really matter if "reality" is real or not (for the record, I think that scene represents the real world). Yes, Cobb spins his totem, but he walks away without consulting it. Even if he's dreaming, he's with his kids at long last, and that's all he's wanted all along. 

DiCaprio has a dream cast supporting him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt finally gets the big Hollywood role he deserves. He steals many of the scenes he's in, playing the "stick-in-the-mud" Arthur with a sly sense of humor that is at its best when he's butting heads with Tom Hardy. I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that Nolan might consider Gordon-Levitt for the villain in the forthcoming third Batman movie. 

Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard (previously contenders for the Best Actress Oscar in 2008) provide a strong female presence, something lacking in some of Nolan's other films. Page plays down the spunky teen persona she sometimes seems to be pegged with, creating a compelling and bright student who wants to understand what it means to possess the scope of power Cobb asks her to wield. Cotillard is simply incredible as Cobb's wife. Her scenes represent the emotional core of the film, and Cotillard delivers in every one. She bursts suddenly from a quiet romance to an intense passion, often to startling effect. 

Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, and Michael Caine all impress in their roles, too, though it's sad to see Caine get so little screentime. It's still nice to have him present as a Nolan regular. 

Were I to scan the dictionary for every superlative adjective the English language has to offer, I fear I'd still come up short in singing Inception's praises. It's a blockbuster with brains-something that can't even be called an endangered species, because it's hard to argue such a thing has ever existed. Inception truly is a dream put onto the big screen, a dream all viewers can (appropriately) share. I suggest you take the plunge.

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November 28, 2010
whoa. I can't add much about the level of detail you provided with this review, except that it is well done!
More Inception reviews
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Christopher Nolan Creates a Dream Worth Watching...
   After the highly-successful “The Dark Knight” which defined the way comic book movies should be made, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to expect nothing but the best from Christopher Nolan. “INCEPTION” has generated a strong buzz ever since the trailer debuted in previews and the worldwide web; after all, this film is written and directed by Nolan himself and with his “Batman” team assisting in the film’s production, it seems like the …
review by . August 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Let me start by saying i don't watch many movies, I'm not a big sci fi buff, and as I'm getting older, maybe I'm just getting a little crotchety.  I'm very aware that by coming out and being the ONLY one Lunch who is giving Inception a negative rating, I'm opening myself up to a lot of questioning and judgment... but that's okay because I know the community will respect my differing opinion and not ridicule me for expressing it.  So here goes:      …
review by . January 04, 2011
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There's nothing quite like it! A Paradox!
I like to watch a movie that keeps me guessing what is happening, why it is progressing the way it is, where it is going & what is going to happen next. Inception is one such movie. It keeps the audience in suspense and guessing, anxious to KNOW what is ahead.       Dreaming is something that I had always been enchanted with all my life. It is through dreams that I see God the first time in my life! Yes, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of my dreams and the …
review by . December 12, 2010
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Stephanie's Favourite Movies: Inception      What's wrong with this movie? Nothing, that's what. This is a perfect movie, there's nothing wrong with it. I appreciated that it wasn't pandering to the lowest common denominator like most summer blockbusters do. It actually took a few brain cells to keep up with it. Of course, you don't have to be a genius to watch it and enjoy it, but you have to be kind of smart to understand it. It's that rare summer …
review by . July 08, 2011
this movie rules and is better than i can rate it!
review by . January 22, 2011
Inception is a rare breed of movie. Firstly, it came out in July and thus can classify as a summer blockbuster, and secondly, it does not insult the intelligence of the audience and actually takes a few brain cells to keep up with it. It's incredibly well-acted, it has an original story in a time when they are becoming harder and harder to come by, and it's a movie that will definitely be apperciated come awards time. It will probably win more awards for its technical accomplishments, and …
review by . July 16, 2010
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After the wild success of  The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan reached the ranks of movie making freedom that so few directors reach.  So what did Christopher Nolan do with his golden key?  Made a movie he'd been wanting to make for ten years.  Inception.  A movie where your mind is the scene of the crime.  It's big, it's complex, it's beautiful... and it's absolutely amazing.  For those who are sick of adaptations, sequels and remakes, Inception …
review by . July 22, 2010
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Before you see Inception, grab your Gingko-Biloba or whichever new age vitamin/drug will quicken your synaptic connections. You're going to need it. You SHOULDN'T see Inception if you aren't prepared to push your brain into overdrive. You're going to be thinking and trying to sort things out from the opening sequence to the twist-ish ending.       This film is, in essence, a quintessential action flick. The special effects are mind-blowing. The constraints …
review by . July 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dreaming Without Meaning
INCEPTION Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine      Eames: If we’re going to perform inception, then we’re going to need imagination.    I knew there was a good reason I fought so hard every night to hold on to my conscious mind and not let my unconscious mind take over.  I’ve got to make sure no pesky extractors get in there to steal my highly …
review by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stylized, Ambitious, Powerful
   Going into Inception was kind of a gamble for me as my friends and colleagues apparently know me better than I thought.  I’ve been hearing this is the “one to check out” since the day it arrived in theaters this past summer and while my friends have once again proven spot-on with their understanding of the kind of fiction I enjoy, it is always worrisome when so much hype comes my way.  I have to make a very conscious effort not to get swept up in it, as …
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Clayton Walter ()
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About this movie


Inception is a 2010 American science fiction film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief  who extracts information from the subconscious mind of his victims while they dream. Unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life in exchange for one last job: performing inception, the planting of an idea into the mind of his client's competitor.
Development began roughly nine years before Inception was released. In 2001, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers, presenting the idea to Warner Bros. The story was originally written as a heist film, inspired by concepts of lucid dreaming and dream incubation. Feeling he needed to have more experience with large-scale films, Nolan opted to work on Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. He spent six months polishing up the script for Inception before Warner Bros. purchased it in February 2009. Filming spanned six countries and four continents, beginning in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 and finishing in Canada in late November of the same year. Composer Hans Zimmer scored the film, using parts of Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien".
Inception was officially budgeted at $160 million, a cost that was split between Warner Bros. and Legendary ...
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 16, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 148 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Syncopy Films, Legendary Pictures
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