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November 6, 2014

Inception (2010)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard

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Synopsis: A highly skilled ‘subconscious infiltrator’, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), puts together a team to try and wade deep into the mind of industrial magnate Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), to persuade him to break up his empire.

Review: Inception is the apotheosis – the ultimate show of ambition if you like – of Christopher Nolan’s striking directorial signature whereby he seeks to merge ingenious narratives containing weighty psychological themes and motifs with commercially accessible, genre-inflected cinema.

With Inception, Nolan has gone ‘all guns blazing’ (quite literally) in the conception of his scenario – an epic, profound journey in which a mentally-scarred protagonist (another Nolan staple) enters the subconscious and dreamworld of not only his ostensible targets but his own highly mangled psyche, to extract (for himself and the audience) colossal musings on memory, mortality and temporality. The level of scientific and psychoanalytical detail Nolan has put into mapping out the universe of his ‘dream detective’ scenario is impressive enough, and allied with awesome cinematography, set design, and a staggering musical score by Hans Zimmer, lends further currency to the immensity of Nolan’s vision.

Not that it’s a criticism per se, but there’s something in the scenario and Nolan’s scrupulous filmmaking that takes on an almost fetishised, militaristic air. All the characters live conveniently well-heeled millionaire lifestyles – constantly globetrotting, decked out in catwalk-worthy designer suits, switching from helicopters and private jets to amazing penthouse suites and über kitted-out warehouses at the drop of a hat, and continually engaged in a form of techno-speak which once or twice in its earnestness runs unintentionally close to self-satire. Also, some of the action sequences appear spurious relative to the cerebral subject matter. I accept the film tries to explain the attacks, gunfire and explosions as facets of the subconscious defence mechanisms of an infiltrated person’s dreams, but part of me senses that à la the Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan is more than comfortable in the apparatus of industrial action cinema, because more subtle psychoanalytical solutions (such as Cobb’s dead wife constantly recurring) were available too.

In total though, Inception is a resounding, spectacular success. Nolan does gain the strived-for ‘kick’ in his epic emotional treatise, and some of the sequences – Fischer achieving a ‘Rosebud’ like reconciliation with his father, Cobb dragging an aged Saito back from ‘Limbo’, and the closing shot of Cobb’s spinning totem just about to fall (or does it?!), will easily go down as some of the most memorable sequences and images in contemporary cinema. (November 2014)

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