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10 Years Later: Inception

1 July 20 words: Chris King

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling” - Chris King delves into Christopher Nolan’s dreamworld…

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Running time: 148 minutes

Inception created a story that was so uniquely its own in a world that is seemingly bereft of inspiration as we continue on through remakes, sequels and misjudged rehashes of old ideas. Christopher Nolan’s audacious idea captured audiences’ imaginations and spawned endless sites to explain its many-layered dreamscape. It was a global phenomenon that relied on its viewer to buy into its world and fully invest in the idea that the space between dreams and reality is not as clear cut as you might think.

A decade on, is Inception really that good, or has the hype died down enough to see any cracks in Nolan’s fiction? 

Let’s start off with the premise. Inception premise is rather simple, thieves of the mind change from stealing information in someone’s subconscious to planting an idea. But that’s where the simplicity becomes complicated. The crew tasked with this seemingly impossible task dive into their target’s subconscious crafting three layers of a dream, all running alongside one another. In each layer of the dream time passes slower. 10 seconds in the first is a few minutes in the second and about 20 minutes in the third and final layer.  

Inception is clever in giving you a short-hand version of the overall plot in the first ten minutes, and Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), along with two more unnamed associates, try to enter the mind of Saito and extract information from it for a rival company. Not only does this introduce us to the concept of dreams and how they work rather nicely, its failure to successfully pull off the ‘extraction’ shows Cobb to be fallible. This is where much of the film’s tension comes from that Cobb, despite his instance, isn’t always right. 

This is the driving force on a first time watch, keeping audiences clinging to their seat as they have no idea if Cobb’s plan is going to succeed as it dramatically unravels before their eyes. On a second watch, it’s rather different. Knowing the outcome removes the tension, but in doing so lets us appreciate the depth that DiCaprio gives to Cobb in his performance. Knowing the details of his life and watching him try to hide them from his friends is tragic, and DiCaprio balances this fragility with determination brilliantly.

It’s helped by the fact that every single actor here is top notch. It’s a star-studded cast with Tom Hardy (Eames) playing second fiddle with DiCaprio and Ellen Page (Ariadne). Even Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer) takes a decent sized role as the target of the mission. The highlights are, unsurprisingly the deliciously confident and funny Eames and the highly strung Arthur. These two in particular play off each other nicely, especially when their gallows’ humour comes face to face with the threat of being lost in ‘limbo’ should they die in the dream.

Everything runs at a rapid pace, exposition interlinked with action scenes or slick dialogue, meaning that the viewer is never bored

Ariadne acts as the audience for much of the film, unravelling Cobb’s secrets and being introduced to the world of creating dreams. Inception does a decent job of not over-egging the exposition, trusting viewers to understand what’s going on when the information is fed to them once rather than re-egging it throughout the film. The only repetition comes from flitting back and forth between the dreams, but given that they’re happening side by side and physical effects in one dream affect the layers below it (for example, if Arthur moves in the first layer his gravity shifts in the second), then it’s not that boring but instead adds an extra dynamic to the action. 

Speaking of action, the set pieces are incredibly polished and well done. The hotel sequence where Arthur fights off waves of goons, Fischer’s subconscious as it tries to reject the interlopers in his mind, sees him doing so in a constantly rotating room. It’s incredibly well done and beats spots off many of the Marvel fight scenes we see today. 

Inception runs at well over two hours, but it certainly doesn’t drag. Everything runs at a rapid pace, exposition interlinked with action scenes or slick dialogue, meaning that the viewer is never bored despite the demands of having to concentrate for that long. This is not a film you can switch off in and have a chat with whoever you’re watching it with, unless you’ve seen it a few times. It demands your attention and it’s definitely worth it. 

My only minor gripe is that Cobb’s reason for being forced to leave America, while tragic, seems a little over-exaggerated. If he’s a criminal, which the film repeatedly reminds us he was forced to become so he can return home, then why not just get a fake passport and re-enter the country?

That said, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Inception is a modern classic, with rewatchability, intelligence and a surprising amount of humour to keep you more than entertained. 

Did you know? Inception was filmed in six countries, beginning in Tokyo on 19 June and ending in Canada on 22 November.

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