Blu-ray Review: INCEPTION
Author: Kyle Byrd
Official Site: inceptionmovie
Every now and then a genre film will come along that takes old ideas and reinvents them. It reminds you why you go to see fantasy films to begin with. INCEPTION is one of those rare films.
Directed by Christopher Nolan (MEMENTO, BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT), INCEPTION is a sci-fi action film that plays out like a Hitchcockian thriller on acid. It concerns a man named Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a skilled thief who is paid to enter people’s dreams and steal ideas from them. Saito (Ken Watanabe), the head of a powerful corporation, approaches Cobb about doing a reverse operation… planting an idea instead of stealing one. He wants Cobb to enter the mind of his dying corporate rival’s son, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) and plant an idea that will inspire him to break up his father’s company. Saito tells him that if he performs this task, he’ll get clearance for Cobb to live in the United States again, where he has been exiled from after being framed for murdering his wife, Mal (Marion Cottilard). Longing to be with his children in the States, Cobb accepts.
Cobb assembles the best team he can for the job. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the point man who researches the potential targets. Yusef (Dileep Rao) is the chemist who makes the sedatives that put people in dreams. Ariadne (Ellen Page) is the architect who designs the dream landscapes. Eames (Tom Hardy) is a forger, who can impersonate people in the dream world. All are the best at what they do. But they weren’t anticipating Mal maliciously disrupting all the dreams via Cobb’s subconscious.
There’s much more that can be said about the plot to INCEPTION, but I really don’t think I can give out any more details without entering spoiler territory. It’s a film with so many twists and turns that knowing anything else would ruin a lot of the experience. I could explain the story forever and it wouldn’t match the experience of seeing it.
INCEPTION is a rare film where everything just works. Nolan’s skills as a director continue to improve with each film he makes. He’s designed this film like a house of cards. Each point of the story relies on whatever comes next. At times you think it might just wobble and collapse, but it never does. Like THE DARK KNIGHT, Nolan structures this film about as tightly as possible. There’s no fat on it at all. The scenes are all dependent on each other to tell the story. There are so many screenplays that attempt this, but so few that actually pull it off. Nolan has seemingly mastered this difficult task.
There have been complaints about the first 45 minutes of the film explaining all the rules. I don’t find this to be a problem since every detail given in that time span comes into play later. This is one of the few films where everything introduced has a proper pay off later on. The film’s exposition is never on the nose and it never drags down the pacing.
The acting from the entire cast is pretty much top notch. Leonardo DiCaprio gives another fantastic performance. I never thought the pretty boy from TITANIC would become one of my favorite actors, but he’s well on his way. Cobb is a character filled with heartache and regret. He’s damaged goods and DiCaprio really sells it in his performance.
The whole supporting cast is fantastic, especially Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cillian Murphy are the biggest standouts. They all go above and beyond what the script calls for them to do, which is another testament to Nolan’s superb direction. However, if I had to pick a flaw in this film, it would be that (as wonderfully acted as they are), some of the supporting characters could have been developed a bit more. But I find this excusable since this film is really Cobb’s journey more than anything.
It would be criminal not to mention the cinematography by frequent Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister. INCEPTION is by far one of the most visually astounding films I’ve seen in years. There’s just something beautiful and poetic in each of the dreamscapes that are depicted.
Speaking of the cinematography, all the action scenes in this film are downright superb. One scene in particular did something that I haven’t seen attempted in any film before. Arthur fights a thug in a spinning hotel hallway and the scene was accomplished without the aid of CGI. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the other actors had to work with a spinning set and make sure the fight choreography matched the set’s exact movements. It is simply one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a modern Hollywood film.
Ambitious things like this are what makes Nolan a director to watch for. He likes trying big things that may not have been tried before. Even if you aren’t a fan of his films, you have to admire that kind of ambition, especially when Hollywood films are in a stale state where fewer and fewer filmmakers want to do anything different.
Another recurring Nolan collaborator is composer Hans Zimmer, whose work here is some of his best ever. Nolan always seems to get the best out of Zimmer, whose score here is haunting, exciting, and sad in all the right places. He could easily become what John Williams is to Steven Spielberg or Bernard Hermann was to Alfred Hitchcock. INCEPTION has a score that reminds us just how important of a role music can play in a film.
INCEPTION is such a mind bender that it’s a wonder that it was given the treatment it has. This is a movie that messes with your head. It’s like a puzzle, open to interpretations, but still straight forward enough for mainstream audiences. This is probably why Nolan was unable to get the film made when he pitched it between MEMENTO (2000) and INSOMNIA (2002). After proving he can handle films with big budgets and high concepts with his BATMAN movies, he had gained enough clout and admiration to get his own original, high concept film get made.
INCEPTION is a thinking man’s science fiction film. It deals with deep themes such as the reliability of memories, alternate realities, existentialism, and the meaning of dreams. Although these things have been explored in sci-fi films for ages (most notably in works such as BLADE RUNNER, THE MATRIX, TOTAL RECALL, DARK CITY, etc), Nolan manages to take them and make them feel new. He blends them with the Hitchcockian espionage thriller and the results are something that feels completely fresh, instead of something that just regurgitates old stereotypes (I’m looking at you AVATAR).
Along with films like DISTRICT 9 and MOON, it seems like smart, more adult based science fiction is finally experiencing a long awaited renaissance. Lets hope this trend continues. With Hollywood in such a dry spell (especially concerning genre films), something like INCEPTION is a welcome breath of fresh air. Rating: 5/5
To make the deal sweeter, the INCEPTION Blu-ray has a hefty deal of supplemental features to sift through.
EXTRACTION MODE: This is a series of behind the scenes features that can either be played by themselves or along with the film. It mostly covers how each of the film’s action scenes and set pieces were accomplished (and how they achieved a lot of them with minimal CG work).
DREAMS: CINEMA OF THE SUBCONCIOUS: This is a 43-minute documentary about dream psychology hosted by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It features interviews with scientists, dream experts, as well as INCEPTION cast and crew members. It’s a fairly fast paced and informative documentary that should be of interest to anybody curious about dreams.
INCEPTION: THE COBOL JOB: This motion comic chronicles the events that took place before the film and details why Cobb was being hunted by Cobol Engineering in the film. The comic was written by the film’s producer Jordan Goldberg and features art by Long Vo, Joe Ng, and Crystal Rei.
To round out the special features, the Blu-ray package also includes a score-only audio track with the film, DVD and digital copies of the film, and some additional content only available for BD-Live users.
INCEPTION is a landmark science fiction film. It was only fitting for Warner Bros. to give it a grand treatment on Blu-ray.