Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Inception - Movie of the Year ?

Inception is the movie you must see this summer. And not just once. I encourage multiple viewings, all in Imax if possible.

Christopher Nolan's newest cinematic dream is truly something special. It's a movie that rewards close attention to detail, and it certainly offers plenty of it. The two and a half hour running time flies by, so well-constructed is the plot, so flawlessly executed is the action and so engrossing are the characters you'll be introduced to.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's the basics: Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, an 'extractor' who steals people's deepest secrets from their dreams. It helps for Cobb that these secrets are stored in dream representations of the places you would most likely hide your valuables in waking life — a wallet, a combination safe. While this is one of the plot's more conventional devices, almost nothing else is.

Cobb is offered a job by a Mr. Saito (Ken Wantanabe) Instead of a robbery, Saito wants Cobb to perform a special job — Inception, hence the film's title. He would have Cobb and his specialized team implant an idea in Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) the son of corporate energy tycoon, and Saito's main competitor, Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite) who we glimpse briefly on his death bed in the 'real' world. Inception does an excellent job of posing questions. What's real ? What's a dream ? Who is telling the truth ? Who is lying to me ? And to Nolan's credit, he doesn't feel the need to answer any of these questions definitively.

To achieve Saito's desired end Cobb assembles his team. There's Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) his right hand man, Ariadne (Ellen Page), the architect of the dream worlds Fischer will be placed in, and Eames (Tom Hardy) expert thief and forger. There's also the chemist (Dileep Rao)

Robert Fischer has Dad Issues, which is not surprising given that the old man is about to die. Cobb and his team decide to use Fischer's complicated relationship with his father as a lever to plant the desired idea inside Robert's mind.

But Cobb has his own unresolved relationship issues and accompanying guilt complex. His dead wife Mal, the always capable Marion Cotillard (just chew on the possibilities of a character with a name like that) hunts Cobb in his dream worlds and frequently sabotages his best laid plans.

Where this movie really shines is in the characters interactions with each other and the sheer spectacle of the main set pieces, all three of them. Fischer is taken into three different dream worlds; the special effects will have you making like that 10-year-old who just saw Star Wars for the first time. You're going to be wowed. I certainly was. The effects Nolan and his team have created should be the definition of special effects.

But it's not just about the fancy CGI footwork, or Inception would fall flat on its (very pretty) face. As the special effects wow you, the layered storyline and characters, mainly DiCaprio's and Murphy's, with their obvious razor-sharp intelligence and emotional frailties, suck you in and make you care.

I will not give any more plot goodies away, suffice to say that one of the characters has a particularly good insight: "The stronger the issues, the more powerful the catharsis." And by the time the action comes to a climax on not one, but three levels and the viewer is rewarded with two such acts of catharsis, you too will know why Inception is the best movie of the summer, if not the year.

This movie is that rare creature that simultaneously stimulates your mind, pulls at your heart and astounds you with beautifully realized visuals. Inception is one dream you won't want to wake from.

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