Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine
'Dream sharing' is the decadent new form of underground entertainment as well as a sharp tool in the world of espionage. Two or more people may be linked together, whether willing or not, and share the subconscious realm of a single dreamer. While in the dream they may attempt to force discoveries, usually by breaking into a bank or a safe, that lead to the core secrets of the individual; this is a technique called 'extraction', and Dom Cobb is one of the best in his field.
But extraction isn't the only possible dream world manipulation. If ideas can come out, then perhaps ideas can go in; injecting a notion into the subconscious of a dreamer so that they think it is one of their own ideas is called 'inception'. This is far more difficult than simple theft. Dom Cobb is hired along with a rather elite team of his choosing to perform this feat upon the son of a dying power tycoon in order to inject the idea that he should dissolve his father's massive business empire upon his inheritance.
Inception is an epic tale of extremely complicated and grandiose corporate espionage in the dream world of the subconscious mind. To perform this manipulative trick on the tycoon's heir, the team must drill down into the man's subconscious three levels deep. This means they must first manipulate the man in an initial dream, cause him to go unconscious within in the dream itself, follow him into his dream's dream, further manipulate him and make him go unconscious again, and so drill one level deeper. This takes the phenomenon of having a dream within a dream, which most of us experience at some point or another in our lives, and using it as a tool to get as close as possible to the mind's core.
One of the first problems is that the mind has its own defenses. As they walk through the cityscape of the dreamer's world, they often meet the population; projections of individuals who may or may not exist in reality and are symbols within the dreamer's subconscious mind. These subconscious projections may begin to detect the foreign presence, become aggressive, and attack. God forbid the target may have high tech security training; then their dream world population becomes 'militarized' and is downright dangerous to any invading spy.
While this may sound complicated enough, the breadth of the film is so much more. Like any good story, the synopsis is the fuel which drives the engine. As the team executes their highly complicated mission, we learn more and more about Dom Cobb. The man has ghosts consisting of a dead wife, who he misses very much, and two beautiful children he may never see again. These characters have a bad way of popping up in the dream world, even when he's invading the dreams of others, and their appearance can do a lot to distract him from his mission. This is especially true in the case of his dead wife, who has a bad habit of stabbing or shooting people in his dreams. It's a little creepy, and it becomes increasingly emotionally powerful as the many protective layers of Cobb's tortured mind are slowly peeled away.
This is where the film really reaches out. The visions of Cobb's tragic wife and his faceless children - who are always shown in his dream world running away from him, backs turned - are the sort of stuff of which dreams are really made. It becomes perfectly symbolic of Cobb's longing for a better existence, of wanting peace and solace in the arms of his wife and basking in the sunlight of his children. His longing for that world is very palpable and not at all hard to identify with. It is bitter, sad, sweet, and beautiful.
The technology behind dream sharing is not discussed in any real depth, and I think this was the best course of action. This isn't something that has any real basis in any science, either now or any time in the future. If they'd tried to explain it, then they would have just made it ridiculous. It's like the holodeck of Star Trek; they never really tried to explain that either. You just accept that it exists and move on, or don't. It's a fantastical and ridiculous notion, and if you try to analyze the 'how' of it existing it'll only accent how unlikely it is and it will take you out of the whole movie.
I mentioned that this was a rather epic espionage strike, I don't think I quite stressed it enough. The entire venture is very complicated and requires a precision coordination and timing of extreme levels. The dream world of the young tycoon is varied and often harsh, from high security hotels, to snowy castle fortresses, to a bizarre landscape of crumbling and war-torn buildings. The film is underlined and punctuated by a pounding score that is just as epic as the film it seeks to describe.
While this gives the film a wonderful and powerful tension, it is perhaps its one flaw; the tension climbs to a sustained peak and dwells there for much of the film. It becomes one of those experiences which will rivet many to their seats, but may simply exhaust others. It's difficult to sustain tension in a film for so long without any real break, but Inception gives it a powerful and sophisticated shot and for many it will succeed.
Of all the films of the summer season, Inception may be one of the very few that really deserves to be seen. This is a powerful and complicated science fiction adventure that is both smart and emotionally moving. It will be great to see at home, parked in front of the TV, but the big IMAX screen does it the most justice. Go see this movie.