Watching Inception, you can only imagine what the pitch process must have been like for the team behind it. Did they take different coloured vials of water to explain who’s who amid their complex matrix of layers and mazes? Perhaps they used concentric circles to represent the dreams within dreams? However they did it, they lost no momentum in translating their vision to the screen.
The director of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan brings a neural overload with his latest masterpiece – and I don’t use that word lightly. Inception is a cross between a confidence trick and a supernatural thriller. Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is something of a psychological thief. He steals information by entering a subject’s mind through dreams. Cobb has been working for various corporations, unable to return to his family in the US because of supposed acts committed against his wife. Then an influential businessman offers him a way out: stop a monopoly by prompting a rival’s son to break up his father’s business. All Cobb has to do is plant the idea in the son’s dream – what has come to be known as ‘inception’.
Bar the subconscious extraction missions, the first half of the film is a modern thriller as Cobb assembles his team for this final job. It’s got all the sharp suits, slick haircuts and snappy dialogue of a crime flick and the cast have terrific chemistry. Given the outlandishness of its premise – entering dreams is mentioned as being a covert project of US intelligence, the only thing I found perplexing is how well Ariadne (Ellen Page), a student who’s enlisted by Cobb to help construct these immaterial mazes, takes it. Perplexing, but not dissatisfying.
The genius to this film is how it takes concepts that we’ve all felt at some point in our lives and fits them into the visual dream worlds. For instance, that sensation you get of falling, forcing you to walk up suddenly, that’s a ‘kick’ and the characters use it to exit dreams. Time is another consideration, and here, the sedatives they use combined with tunnelling deeper and deeper into multiple dreams, they risk losing their grip on reality completely in an unknown coma of limbo. The idea that people become so obsessed by dreams that they can no longer define true reality also runs at the heart of this innovation film. Totems, such as Cobb’s spinning top, are what the characters use to tell whether they in the real world or not.
Things become more complex with each layer, drama and suspense continue to materialise. Cobb’s emotional conflict with his wife (and himself) is what grounds Inception. Seeing the truth about Cobb’s wife, and the relevance it has to the course of events, is one of the pivotal points of the film. There are several exceptional action sequences that could all stand alone, but against the need to complete the job and get back to his family, they’re really an obstacle to get your heart racing. Every trick, every twist, every revelation, that’s what makes this dream so mesmerising.
Suffice to say, I absolutely adored Inception. And its ideas could well make a great video game, much like Tim Schafer’s Psychonauts. But unless it could accentuate reality as believably as the filmmakers have done here, best to just stick with this glorious non-interactive story. Mind you, there as so many variables and imaginative things people would love to do that dream architecture could be a whole new genre.