Although Christopher Nolan had already made his name with The Dark Knight and demonstrated that he could hold an audience with a complicated story through movies such as Memento and The Prestige, Inception was the first proper “Nolan Blockbuster.” It was with Inception that Nolan brings his unique style of complex characters, dense plot, complicated ideas and summer blockbuster style visuals. He would try to carry this on with Interstellar and most recently Tenet but arguably, Inception has never been bettered.
It has that fantastic Christopher Nolan creativity. The concept is one with tons of potential, seeing a group of people who are usually hired to enter people’s dreams to discover information, instead tasked with placing an idea in a person’s subconscious using their dreams instead. The whole way Nolan uses the idea of entering dreams, from the creation of worlds, your minds natural defences and how it messes with our concepts of time, are all familiar tropes but played as if scientifically bullet-proof.
Nolan writes it well too. He builds the complex story, using Elliot Page’s Ariadne as the new recruit who must learn the ropes. Its basic exposition through new character but the way the process is demonstrated, with folding worlds, trippy visuals and shocking moments, makes this so compelling and means that Nolan can mess with it when it comes to the third act and the actual “Inception.”
That third act could have been fairly messy and because we are using dreams and imagined worlds, Nolan gets to place our characters in many different locations. From a car chase, through to a posh hotel, through to a snow-covered military base, Nolan manages to keep the film interesting and pacey with his plotting, without losing the core story and key ideas. It is a film you have to pay attention to and it rewards those who get their heads around how the key ideas work. Its complicated but never confusing (unlike Tenet for example).
It also helps that his cast are fantastic. Leonardo Di Caprio had already cemented himself as a Hollywood powerhouse at this point, being selective of his roles and rarely seen in a summer blockbuster but the intelligent action of Inception suits his style of acting well and he plays the haggard, desperate Cobb perfectly.
His support is a who’s who of some of the best modern movie actors as well, most returning or beginning their stint as Nolan alumni. Joseph-Gordon Levitt adds ample, centred support to Di Caprio’s troubled hero, while Cillian Murphy plays the “villain” of the movie. Marion Cotillard plays her heart-breaking role perfectly while Tom Hardy offers some well-needed, lighter moments amongst the action and perfectly pitched drama.
The story plays out well and you get resolutions to the action and plot that satisfy but it is always worth focusing on that final shot. The perfect ambiguity of the ending of Inception almost sums the movie up perfectly. The audience get to decide the outcome in a movie about dreams, choices and what we believe is real.
Overall, Inception is the perfect example of a “Nolan Blockbuster.” It is a well-plotted, creative and complex story which manages to hold together many strands of a complicated plot. The cast is fantastic, with Di Caprio a stand-out, and it comes together with a perfectly ambiguous ending.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)
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