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Movie Review: “Inception”


Release Date: August 21, 2020 (U.S. 10th Anniversary Re-release) 

Runtime: 148 mins

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio

              Joseph Gordon-Levitt

              Ellen Page

             Tom Hardy

This weekend, I ventured out to theaters again after several months, not to see a new release, but a returning favorite. Ten years ago, “Inception” blew my twelve-year-old mind with its mind-bending dream within a dream heist adventure plot and fast-paced action. 

Watching it with fresh eyes, I picked up on a lot of plot elements that I missed as a child. This is a complex story and, despite what I might have told you back then, I really did not pick up on everything going on. As an adult, I felt like I had a better grasp on the plot. In fact, my experience revisiting “Inception” was very similar to my experience revisiting director Christopher Nolan’s previous film “The Dark Knight,” which I wrote about last year. Read that review here.

The complexity of “Inception” stems mostly from its high concept sci-fi ideas. There is a lot of exposition throughout the film explaining how the world of the movie works. Kicks, projections, limbo, totems and more must be explained to the audience so events of the plot are decipherable. Nolan, who served as the film’s screenwriter in addition to its director, releases information in little chunks so as not to overwhelm the audience. This serves the dual purpose of keeping us curious and wanting to learn more about the rules for the world the movie creates. 

While the screenplay to a large extent serves to get us invested in the movie’s world, I would also argue the excellent performances do some heavy lifting making everything feel real. Much of the dialogue is rather dense, but these actors pull it off in a way that makes me buy into the world.

This main dream heist plot works, but it is balanced against a more human-centered story. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is kept from going home due to a tragedy in his past. Over the course of the movie, we find out more about the event that continues to haunt him. The man whose mind the team has to break into (Cillian Murphy) also goes through an emotional journey, manufactured though it may be.

Nolan’s direction definitely adds quite a lot to the experience of “Inception.” He is famous for his insistence on the use of practical, in-camera special effects as opposed to computer graphics. This film was no different. He ran an actual train down an actual city block and placed a hotel hallway set on a machine that turned around at various speeds to give the illusion that there was zero gravity. Many of the other set pieces in the film are memorable as well, from a snowy mountain fortress to the narrow alleys of Mombasa. Everything is shot with style.

As for music, I would definitely be remiss not to mention the amazing score from the one and only Hans Zimmer. This is the kind of soundtrack that is really heard best on a giant, booming sound system. 

Even for those who do not fancy themselves fans of cerebral sci-fi movies, I still think “Inception” is one of those movies everyone should see at least once.  It is also a movie I would say is well worth a re-watch or two.

“Inception” is not perfect, though. I said earlier the performances in the film were stellar; however, there is one notable exception. Though he does not have much screen time at all, Tom Berenger is particularly bad in his role. I honestly found every line out of his mouth to be unintentionally hilarious. I suppose one could make the argument that his character is largely a projection in the mind of another character, so maybe his acting is an intentional choice on Berenger’s part, but I found it distracting. In addition, it seems as if Nolan’s nightmarish fear of the effects in his movies aging has come true, at least partly. I am speaking particularly of the scene in which Cobb and Ariadne (Ellen Page) sit at the Paris café and the market stands explode their contents out in slow motion after which the street folds in on itself. This is not necessarily something that dampens my enjoyment of the film, but it certainly does not look as impressive as it did ten years ago. 

Of course, as anyone who has seen it will know, no conversation on “Inception” is complete without mention of those last few seconds. This latest viewing, despite the way the camera’s attention is clearly fixed on the spinning top, I was more struck by the fact Cobb’s attention is not. He accepts this as reality and finally feels at home.

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