Some consider this to be Nolan’s magnum opus. I say it’s just the latest work of genius in a long line of many. Potentially the director’s most personal film to date; Inception is taken from an idea that had been gestating in his head for well over 10 years. What is most striking about Inception, aside from the visuals, is the way in which Nolan has taken a concept (what are dreams?), and has fleshed it out into an engaging and pensive action movie. Inception is without a doubt the director’s ‘heist’ movie, but with a time travel-style vibe.
The comparison to time travel films is evident in how the characters are transported to dimensions of time and space where their actions have an effect on other parallel realities. Many directors suffer at the hands of this self-destructive plot device, and it is often considered the kiss of death for logic. Typically for Nolan, he walks into the situation with a clear indication of what he wants to do, and comes out the other side, not only having made complete sense, but also having redefined the summer blockbuster yet again.
Inception is very heavy on set pieces, and is definitely Nolan’s most ‘showy’ film as yet. Somehow, for someone who is very skeptical about visual effects, he manages to create an aesthetic that is mainly practical but lends itself well to CGI augmentation. There are only a handful of directors who could successfully create a dreamlike environment with endless possibilities without it being completely unreal and intangible, and Nolan is one of them. Despite all this flair and exhibition, Nolan still keeps the focus on plot and character drama, ensuring that what keeps the audience invested are the people and their stories.
It goes without saying that perception of reality is not only a theme within Inception, but also the very idea behind its existence. Ideas of betrayal feed into the male/female relationship Cobb shares with his deceased wife, and elements of film noir seep into the film’s bleak tone. One notable difference this time (harking back to the days of Following and Memento) is that it is Cobb’s obsession with his wife that actually leads to him being an untrustworthy protagonist; a slight departure from the usual romanticism of women within Nolan’s universe. For the first time, with Inception, Nolan addresses the themes of parental inadequacies and fears that adults have of losing their children. We have of course seen the situation from the perspective of the child (ala Batman), but Cobb’s desire to return to his children is a driving factor for the character, and proves to be an interesting addition to the director’s catalogue of ideals.
Stand Out Moment:
Probably the most notorious scene in the film, and one might argue, Nolan’s career so far. It needs little description, and even less explanation as to its brilliance. Suffice to say, technically its an astounding feat of camera trickery, sensationally it is tense and breathtaking, and visually it is inspired. This is what happens when an extremely talented director is operating at the top of his game.
Nolan on Inception:
“I’ve always believed that if you make a film with ambiguity, it needs to be based on a true interpretation. If it’s not, then it will contradict itself, or it will be somehow insubstantial and end up making the audience feel cheated. Ambiguity has to come from the inability of the character to know — and the alignment of the audience with that character.”
Nolan is a big fan of artwork by M C. Escher; someone who clearly had an influence on the look of Inception.