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★★★★★

Inception

Directed and written by Christopher Nolan

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy

Rated PG-13

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An idea is more than a thought. It’s a virus, a cancer of sorts, that can spread until it completely takes over a person, until it defines the person. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. This is the premise of the film, Inception.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a very good thief. His expertise? The theft of ideas, through extraction, plucking prized ideas from others’ minds. State of the art technology has made it possible for the mind to be accessed in the dream state. While Cobb has become a sought out man for his skill in the world of corporate espionage, his skill has also cost him to become estranged from his family. However, a powerful client offers him a job that could absolve him of an accused crime ­— inception, planting an idea into someone’s mind. Cobb, with a crew of specialists, accept the project, without knowing that Cobb’s past demons could jeopardize everything.

Inception is probably so well received because it has something for everyone. Some may walk away just marveling at the elaborate action sequences; others the innovative cinematography. It may strike a existentialist chord somewhere in the individual and cause much mulling and contemplation afterwards. Recognition must be given to the cast — despite being such a motley crew, they manage to create a startlingly delicious concoction. Dicaprio (Aviator, The Departed) has been known for taking roles as flawed and angst-ridden characters, attempting to sever himself from the baby-faced teen heartthrob of his youth. This role is no different; his ability to switch seamlessly from the self-assured group leader to a man battling his own past is incredible. His anguish tears at us, the limpid blue eyes set underneath furrowed eyebrows. Marie Cotilard takes her spot as the haunting Mal, Cob’s wife, delivering her fatal love with such choking sincerity and eloquence that one cannot help but be ensnared by her. Fans of 500 Days of Summer will cheer as Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings his boyish charm and deadpan wit to the big screen as Arthur, one of Cob’s snarky assistants. While Ellen Page is no Megan Fox, she also gifts her vivacious charm to an otherwise heavy film, playing a brilliant young architect named Ariadne. Ariadne is the greenhorn amongst the team of seasoned veterans; however, her fascination with Cobbs and scrutiny to detail provides the opportunity to understand the battered leader.

Inception is no simple story. Then again, Nolan has never been known for simplicity. Nolan’s portfolio includes The Dark Knight and also the less acclaimed but personal achievement, Memento. He’s a meticulous director, nailing the delivery of complex stories around equally complex heroes. While it is easy to write off Inception as a Matrix-spinoff, the science fiction in the film is less about the guns and more about the story. While the overarching plot line is the process of inception, we are also led into a multi-narrative touching upon Cobb’s self-conscious, a landscape for his inner demons to emerge and do battle with. Chris Nolan had worked on Inception for more than ten years, ultimately delivering a flawlessly tight story with few loopholes but more intrigue. Delving too deep into the details wouldn’t ruin the film but really wouldn’t lend any true insight into the movie. The beauty of Inception is the process of peeling away the layers until it seems like there’s no more, only to realize that if one wishes, there still exists thinly translucent layers.

What is reality anyway? While the characters all possess objects called totems that allow them to distinguish reality from dreams (Cobb has a top that never stops spinning in the dream state), can we truly trust these totems? Is it possible that we may choose to forget whether we are dreaming or not, locking our totems deep inside ourselves? The boundaries of the human mind are stretched, prodded and challenged, and the question of what is reality comes up again and again. Nolan’s delivery of a difficult and intricately developed story dazzles with its visuals but also weaves threads of thoughts, spools for us to unwind even hours after watching the film.

Inception is a brave attempt at exploring the subconscious while also translating an ambitious vision to the mainstream audience. It’s confusing, requires attentive minds, careful eyes, and an open heart. As the dream layers (dreams within dreams) stack up higher, a quick bathroom break or trip for popcorn could have dire consequences, leaving you in the dust. Some may complain that Nolan tried too hard, that the nuances of his masterpiece are right on, but some scenes are too contrived, too cliché. Pushing asides all those nitpicky buzzes, the heart of Nolan’s film is what makes it so unique and triumphs above its faults.