I’ve waited until I saw Inception three times and a few weeks to really take it in. I spoke with many friends about the movie and got their takes on it, after I watched it. Going into it, I knew that I was in for a mental whirlwind. Leonardo DiCaprio plays our lead, Cobb. He is joined by his friend and partner, Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In this film, these two and several others have developed a way to get into people’s dreams and by doing so, can steal their thoughts and ideas. This is used for corporate espionage and other such crimes. There’s the architect who builds the physical aspect of the dream, it would replicate the victim’s typical environment and provide a platform for the theft to take place. The others are essentially cast members who facilitate and in some cases hamper the progress of the job at hand.
Cobb has one big obstacle: his former wife, Mal. She is played by Marion Cotillard. She was heavily involved in this activity, called extraction. She helped him in many cases. She, in the midst of all the going back and forth began to lose touch with her true reality. In these dreams you can create anything you want to and have a lot of freedom to basically play God. In her loss of her grip on reality, she couldn’t keep track and wanted to return to her reality. In these dreams, to get out of the dream, you have to be killed or woken up. She knew this and when she didn’t believe Cobb telling her that she was in reality, she took her own life. Throughout the movie, she returns in the form of Cobb’s guilty conscience as he blamed himself for her confusion and death (oh yeah, the authorities also believe he killed her). This is very harmful as she is there haunting him and disrupting the plans and turning him in to the victims.
Due to this issue, Cobb cannot build these dreams as he is afraid that if he knows how they are made, she will be there and ruin things. He teams up with Ariadne, played by Ellen Page. She has a masterful imagination and can build mazes that are incredible. After an initial test and then a surprise visit to her dreams, she’s convinced that this is an outstanding way to express her creativity.
While performing an extraction on a corporate executive, Saito, performed by Ken Watanabe, the plan fails. However, Saito hears about another way that invading dreams can be used. Instead of extracting plans and ideas from the victim, they plant an idea into their minds. This is called Inception. It’s very risky and hasn’t been entirely proven successful. Or we think. Saito hires Cobb and crew to plant an idea into Robert Fischer, played by Cillian Murphy, the son of a worldwide power company’s CEO who is nearing death. This idea would say that his father wanted him to break up the company. This would allow competition with Saito’s company and prevent a monopoly.
In order to successfully do inception you have to go deep enough into the victim’s subconscious mind. This involves multiple layers of dreams. A dream in a dream in a dream. This poses great risk as dreams at his depth and complexity are very unstable and very risky for the victim and the team. They work out this plan and are ultimately successful at inception. The company is broken up and all is happy for all. In all of this, Ariadne becomes very suspicious of issues Cobb is having and hiding from the others. She sneaks into one of his dreams and finds out about Cobb’s kids and his wife. She pushes and pushes and he describes what her problem is. She also eventually uncovers why Cobb is so guilty of his wife’s death. He knew inception was impossible because he did it to his wife. They were living together for 50 years in this place called limbo. In limbo, you can create your own world. They did and lived happily for years. Cobb knew this wasn’t reality and wanted to get back. Mal, his wife, didn’t. She loved it there and was convinced this was her reality. He planted an idea deep in her mind that had her questioning her reality. He convinced her to get killed with him to return back to real life. They laid down in a train track and we both hit by the train and woke up in reality. This was all fine and dandy but because of the planted idea in her mind, Mal was still not totally convinced they were really in reality. She was very distraught and confused. He tried to convince her and comfort her but it wasn’t working. You find out pretty early that to help them keep track of reality, they fashion a totem. Some object that will do something only they know in reality that it will not do in a dream. For example, Cobb’s totem is a spinning top. In reality, it will spin normally and eventually fall. In a dream, it will continue to spin and spin. You see him using it from time to time in the movie when he needs to know for sure. While Mal and Cobb were in their limbo, you see that Mal, in her decision to not return to reality, hides and locks away her totem. In reality, with Mal’s struggling, she decides she needs to die again so she can truly return to reality. Cobb meets her at their hotel room where they spend their anniversaries. The room is a mess and he looks around to see her sitting out the window on a ledge. She tries to convince Cobb that this is the only way to return to their true reality. He knows better and frantically tries to talk her out of jumping. She is firm and ends up jumping to her final death. She says that she’s already told lawyers that he’s threatened her and her children’s lives and left the hotel room like that to further convince them of his intentions. He escapes and then is away from his home and children and cannot return as he is a fugitive.
As part of the deal with Saito, he offers Cobb a clean record. This is ultimately what motivates him to do the job. The rest of the film follows the crew through the son’s dreams and we see excellent effects filter down from level to level. They meet the son on a plane and initiate the dream with him there. Strong sedative is used and we’re now in the first dream level. It’s a city and they kidnap the son and threatened to kill him if he doesn’t provide his dad’s safe combination. They put him in a big van and put him to sleep. The second level of dreams is in a hotel. When the van from the first level gets into trouble and does a flip, gravity in the hotel is affected and there’s some awesome effects as they have fight scenes and such in the shifting gravity. You see that what happens in the level above affects the level below. In the hotel, they have the son and convince him that he needs to go into a dream to fight off the people that are trying to steal his ideas. Here comes level three. It’s a snowy mountain with a heavily guarded military style base. All of this is very well done and director/writer Christopher Nolan is a master at tugging on your brain cells. Eventually, he gets to his dying father inside the base. His father said instead of just “disappointed”, he clarifies by saying he was disappointed that his son tried to be like him. This is the idea that grows in his mind and finds a pin wheel in the safe that let him know his dad loved him.
At this point, they all wake up through the layers and you see Saito pick up the plane phone and make his call. You then see Cobb walking through customs at the airport with no problems and then to his home and his children. Before he walks out to see them, he starts to spin his top on the table. The camera zooms from him walking to his kids down to the spinning top. It seems like it keeps spinning, it wobbles slightly but recovers. Then the movie suddenly ends. We never know if the top stops spinning. Perfect ending to a very mentally involved and challenging movie.
I saw it three times. Each time was better and more enlightening than the last. Each time I picked up on something different. Each time I spoke with someone who’d seen it, we asked each other questions to see if we noticed something else. I fully plan to try to see it once more on the big screen and then buy the Blu-Ray. I recommend you see this! See it before it leaves the theaters! See it more than once! We took Wyatt and while he wasn’t bored, we had to help keep him on track with the layers and how it was moving. It affected him a bit as for the next couple weeks he would ask questions like if how can we really know we’re in a dream or not. Very cool.
My rating 5 Stars out of 5: *****