I remember reading something once when I was younger about the possibility of being able to control what happens in your dreams. You were supposed to ask yourself throughout the day “Am I dreaming?” Eventually this habit would cause your dreaming self to ask this same question, so that when you realized you were dreaming you would be able to influence the dream in your own way. Basically your dream self could do all the things you would never do in the real world, creating a second reality in a way. Back then I thought it was awesome because I would finally get the chance to kiss the boy I had a crush on… Talk about dreaming big, I know. I eventually forgot about this until tonight when Inception showed me why leaving the dream world to the subconscious is probably a wiser choice.
The characters in Inception take this process one step further. Instead of trying to manipulate the random dream they find themselves in once they fall asleep, the team led by Cobb actually create the dream from the ground up. They then enter this “controlled” environment with their mark, or the person that they will then try to steal certain desired information and secrets from for their client. Stealing from a target is one thing, but the team’s newest mission brings a whole new set of challenges and dangers when they try to plant an idea in the target’s mind. But dreams are never this simple, and neither is this film.
To give away any of the complexities of the film would ruin the experience for you, so instead I am going to treat you to another personal anecdote. A couple of weeks ago I fell asleep watching TV on the couch. When I woke up I was in the same position I was before, though the light had begun to fade in the room. Also, my sister and her boyfriend were now sitting a few feet away on the adjacent couch, and I could vaguely hear the faint sound of my mom calling my name. I tried to respond to her, but I couldn’t even muster the strength to force out one word. My next attempt at getting my sister’s attention was just as feeble as the first because my inability to control my muscles had taken hold of my entire body. Just as panic began to overwhelm me I woke up again, on the same couch with my sister the same distance away, and my mom’s voice traveling in from the kitchen below. Except this time I was really awake.
As random as this story may seem to be, it actually exemplifies the treatment of the dream world in Inception and how it is structured based on how dreams actually work, just taking it to an extreme. My favorite aspect of the film is exactly this and how they incorporate the idea of how easily influenced a person is when in the unguarded sleeping state, prime for outside forces to have their way. It moves far beyond having a voice creep into your dream from the real world, playing with how these outside influences manifest themselves physically, from a sudden loss of gravity to a spinning hallway. But no matter what happens, there is always a logical explanation to the madness.
The film only gets better when the characters dive deeper and deeper into their target’s subconscious, bringing about an even grander intricacy to the dream world that is easy to fully immerse oneself in. On more than one occasion I completely forgot why they were there in the first place having been completely lost to the visuals and lies/truths to the world, but it never got to the point that I couldn’t take a step back to figure out exactly what was happening. Like the characters, I just had to keep reminding myself what was real and modifying my beliefs as more and more secrets are revealed.
Similar to the story there is no easy way of talking about the characters in the film without giving away something that is best to discover while watching the film. So all I will say is that there really is no weak link in the cast that includes the acting prowess of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy, with the only downside being that Watanabe’s accent made me miss a joke that was apparently hilarious based on the audience’s reaction.
It is rare to experience the same dream twice and I can honestly say that Christopher Nolan has created one of the most original films I have experienced in a long time, if not ever, with Inception. It is nothing short of extraordinary, and I have trouble seeing anything beating it out for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.
Final Grade: A
PS – A round of applause goes to the use of the song “Non, je ne regretted rien,” alluding to Cotillard’s Oscar winning performance in La Vie En Rose, which you should watch if you haven’t.