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July 19, 2010

Upon first watch, Inception appears to be the product of a genius artist with slight obsessive compulsion who slaved over his script using a fine toothed comb with more precision than a hairstylist searching for head lice. Considering writer/director/movie-god Christopher Nolan had the idea for this film since he was 16 and had allegedly been writing the script for nearly a decade, this assumption may be right. Inception does now what Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon did for its audience over a century ago and what The Matrix did a decade before; It pulls the audience into an intriguing and extraordinary fantasy world then spits them out on their asses to contemplate their own reality after being exposed to the possibility of another.

Unlike Nolan’s previous masterpiece The Dark Knight, Inception may not be a film for the masses. I knock on wood that it is but Inception takes commitment to enjoy it. With a running time notching over two and half hours and a plot that makes the genre “psychological thriller” an understatement, Inception takes its dominant position behind your bent over mind with its pants around its ankles from the beginning of the film and does its business with each thrust only becoming more powerful and faster as the story continues. Yet even through the quick mental coitus that happens, Inception’s pacing is masterfully slow at times— not boring just slow, requiring the viewer’s full attention and invoking alternative ways of thinking through the brisk and complex story. By the end of the film the viewer is left with a myriad of questions, yet they aren’t ones garnered by plot holes within the film but instead by short term memory loss of the viewer or questions prompted by the possibilities of the film’s narrative.

Inception follows Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), an extradited American who makes his living infiltrating the dreams of corporate business owners to steal their ideas and secretes to sell to competitors. However a Japanese billionaire, Saito, (Ken Watanabe) offers Cobb a chance to return home to his children if he completes one last and seemingly impossible job, an inception; implanting an idea so deep in a subject’s mind that they believe it’s their own. Desperate for the chance to see his kids, Cobb puts together a team of experts including his long time assistant Arthur, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), dream world architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), forger Eames (Tom Hardy) and chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) to do the perfect job. All of these character prove to be essential to his last job but to explain each role in this review would be pointless and boring.

Nolan’s screenplay and visual style makes the film more so of an incredible maze then the mind of the inception target Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Nolan’s skill shines through the screen as he creates a fantastic world that details the process of dreaming and introducing the audience to the dream world of the characters while still exploiting the familiar aspects of our own dreams. Nolan also skillfully employs the most impressive cinematic tricks to immerse the audience in the waters of the dream world.

In one shot Ariadne begins to construct the architecture within the dream world of a subject. Amazed at her own ability she begins to design a wall of mirrors that reflects her and Cobb in the mirror image. The camera appears to be nestled between both characters as Ariadne begins to move the mirror back and forth, however Nolan’s expertise reveals neither a crew or director in the reflection, only the two characters staring incredulously at their mirror images. In another sequence the falling bodies of the dreamers affects the gravity in the dreams resulting in much of the film’s use of floating bodies in their dream world. The effect is done so fluidly and impressively that for nearly 10 minutes I forgot the reality of physics and how hard such an effect is to emulate and my mind quickly raced to figure out how such a majestic shot was filmed. My only guess is that it was filmed in water on a green screen and they removed the water in post…

Setting personal value to say Inception is “good” or “bad” is irrelevant and wouldn’t do the film justice. Inception is without a doubt the most important film in years as it redefines and epitomizes the psychological thriller genre and redefines how films are made and reworks the use of special effects. Nolan’s entire career seems to have led to this point from the narrative play of Memento, to the sci-fi elements of The Prestige, to the grossed budget from the Batman films. Inception is a beautiful cinematic experience that implants itself in your mind and settles for days after viewing.

There are a million and one things to say about this film that just can’t be said only experienced. Inception is practically flawless in it’s delivery and it’s conception. For a film buff and psychoanalytical geek like myself when the last shot of Inception cut to black, I exhaled and uncontrollably shouted “yes!” and my friends and I continuously screamed “now that’s how you make a damn movie!” I couldn’t help but wipe the small bit of water that had gathered in my eyes. The tears were from relief and appreciation that a beautiful film can still be made that challenges and entertains the audience instead of all the dribble that Hollywood has been regurgitating this year—and for that Chris Nolan, I thank you.

SEE IT. Repeatedly.

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