Inception navigates labyrinthine dreams to present a plaguing nightmare of guilt. An idea. A concept. A conscious thought. It manifests the mind, spreading its cancerous tendencies until it envelops. “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you”. Cobb, a skilled dream extractor working for professional corporations, uttered these precise words. Experiencing the overwhelming potentiality when embedding the simplest of ideas into a subject’s mind. Inception. The possibility to change entire thought processes by traversing intricate, architecturally designed, dream spaces without the subject acknowledging the events. Deception.
One dream layer is not enough to implant a contagious concept. Cobb and his team of professional associates, including a researcher, forger and chemist, must survive three levels of hallucinatory worlds, utilising military technology to commit the corporate espionage. The deeper the subconscious, the stronger the idea. Cobb needs this. His current criminal charges preventing him from returning home. Unable to see his children’s faces. Tormented by the haunting allure of his recently deceased wife whom corrupts his fantasies.
For many, Nolan’s Inception is the intelligent blockbuster that portrays “a dream within a dream”. But it is so much more than that. At its narrative core, it is an exploration into a soul ridden with guilt. An individual unable to flee his past. Inflicting suffering, pain and misery upon his very mental state. Cobb’s dreams are not fantastical worlds where cityscapes bend the fabric of physics or imaginative realms flourish with vivid foliage and fauna. They’re memories. An imprisonment of reminiscence. Cobb, powerless to his own guilt, recreates pivotal events with his wife. A viewing gallery of personal echoes, acting as a reminder of the adoration he once had. His fantasy becoming a reality. A sentiment that many, whom experience loss and desolation, can relate to.
Nolan masquerades the central thematic characterisation with an incredibly original concept that ultimately changed the blockbuster genre. Audiences were treated to an intellectually stimulating scenario, allowing Nolan to interweave various philosophies and techniques into a mainstream narrative. Dreams are infinite possibilities. Raw endless amounts of subconscious. Their illogicality striking an imaginative practicability for each layered dream. Nolan merges realistic worlds with surrealistic physics.
The interconnected nature of each dream, with time flowing much faster in each successive level, were edited ingeniously by Smith. A van barrel rolling down a gravelled hill in the first dream caused the second dream to rotate paralleled, in what is one of the greatest stunt sequences of all-time. Activating the free-falling “kick”, a method to wake up the dreamers, in the first dream cancelled gravity in the second dream and caused a rampaging avalanche in the third dream. The narrative co-ordination of each component, ultimately culminating in a crescendo of mastery, are compiled elaborately throughout. An entangled labyrinth where the laws of nature differ between each dream. The descriptive explanations into the process of Inception are blended with subtle characterisations, to prevent mass splurges of exposition throughout. The multitude of difficult aspects may seem intimidating upon a first watch, however every single technicality is explained thoroughly and directly. From weighted totems to architectural boundaries, there are no plot holes. None. To cover an entirely original concept, create investable characters with differing personalities and involve audiences with its action-orientated thrills, is nothing short of masterful.
All performances, even Watanabe’s questionable English, were exceptional. DiCaprio contributing humanity to its artificial landscape. Hardy providing classy humour when interacting with Gordon-Levitt, whom acts as the film’s teacher. Page cleverly perceiving our own thoughts as the recent recruit. Murphy, especially, bringing a myriad of complexions to a character marred with hatred for his father. Zimmer has composed some infamous scores in his time. This though, might just be his best. The legendary booming bass from “Dream Is Collapsing” to the gentle chords of “Time”, letting you float into limbo. Each track has a prevalent rhythm, yet uniquely different, heightening the action shown on screen.
Pfister’s cinematography, once again, exceptional throughout. The ultra slow-motion and time slowdowns complementing the ornate sound design. The distinctive saturation of colours within each dream layer offering a fresh perspective into new worlds. Yet it’s the smaller details littered throughout that truly excite. Seeing the numbers “528491” planted subliminally within each layer, particularly the hotel room numbers, enhance that invasive feeling that you’re mind is being penetrated by an unknown idea. It takes time to manifest a concept, and it shows with these hidden nuances. The practical effects when incorporating the paradoxical Penrose Stairs and encompassing the rotating hallway sequence were simply awe-inspiring.
Much like the final shot of Inception, which will always be remembered as one of the most ambiguous cliffhangers in cinematic history, dreams and reality converge on each other. Art, in all its forms, takes inspiration from others. It is uncommon to divulge into originality and set a precedence simultaneously. Inception is just that. That idea which will continually bury itself within our subconscious. Not only is it Nolan’s best film to date, it quite simply is the greatest blockbuster ever conceived. “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange”.