Never before has a movie engaged my mind so much, for so long, and so deliciously.
Christopher Nolan thoroughly deserves all the praise that has been heaped on him. My personal wonderment is at his achievement of making such a complex story so accessible and entertaining.
There is a reason science fiction, from classic to modern, is a niche genre, and it is the rare book or movie that makes it into mainstream consciousness. And that happens because of the appeal to other, more universal values that are handled by them. The reason good, hard core science fiction remains in the niche is that it is usually inaccessible to mass audiences, relying instead on using very specific science fiction tropes* to keep them going. The tropes, obviously, break down in general audiences as they exist only within the sci-fi community.
Making a movie like Inception, like inception in the movie itself, is not impossible. It’s just bloody hard, to quote Eames (played with flair by Tom Hardy). And that is exactly what Christopher Nolan has achieved. The plot itself is quite complex, and has many levels (no pun intended). While this may be somewhat familiar to hard core science fiction fans, it is hardly the stuff popular cinema is used to. Taking on a task so onerous is brave – some might even say foolhardy. Succeeding as spectacularly as Christopher Nolan has in such a task is nothing short of genius.
To attempt a review of the technical aspects of the movie would be rather pointless. Suffice it to say that the production values are so high that there seems to be no gap between the director’s vision and the final product presented to the audience.
Stellar performances by all the cast – one cannot see the actors for the characters. We are caught up in the adventures of Cobb, Arthur, Eames, Ariadne and Saito, and never see or hear the actors playing them. Perhaps the most well-etched character was the aptly-named Mal, played to perfection by Marion Cotillard.
What stood out for me at every point in the movie was how clearly even the most complex bits were presented without going into documentary mode. You get to know what an architect, a forger or a chemist does without someone telling you, and you know what a totem or a kick is without a lesson.
Another aspect of the movie that seemed to make it work for Vidya and me was the way you get sucked into it without your emotions being involved. Contrast this with the Butterfly Effect, the only other movie I can think of right now to compete in terms of making you actively use your mind to keep up with what’s happening. It left you emotionally drained at the end. By taking that part of it away, Inception leaves your mind crystal clear to appreciate the true beauty of a logically constructed work of art.
To repeat an old bromide, if there is just one movie you watch, make sure it is Inception.
*Tropes are storytelling devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.