Yes. Believe the hype. It’s that good.
Inception-TitleThree of the most fundamental elements of any story are character, setting and the problem that forms the basis of your plot. Having to teach this on courses (particularly to children) has really forced me to tackle the defining of these elements in simple terms. You must to able to separate them out properly in order to weave them together into a gripping and coherent tale. So when a story comes along in which the character, setting and problem are one and the same thing, any storyteller really has to sit up and take notice.
This is by no means the first film in which one person enters another person’s dreams. In ‘Dreamscape’ in 1984, Dennis Quaid’s character does this very thing, and it is Freddy Krueger’s modus operandi in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, also from 1984. Although one was trying to save lives, while the other was out to take ’em in as gruesome a way as possible. Funny how coincidences like that happen in films (and books) – and weirdly related to the subject at hand – but I’ll post on that another day. Entering someone else’s dreams is an idea that lends itself well to film.
But ‘Inception’ takes it all to an astonishing new level. Structured initially as a heist film or a spy thriller, it diverges from that by having the ‘place’ they want to break into as a man’s dream. Inception-CorridorBut it’s one in which the team’s architect has designed a maze-like reconstruction of reality, akin to a stage on which the target can play out his dream. The challenge is to plant an idea so deep in his sub-conscious that he believes he came up with it himself – hence the title. To do this, they must stage a dream, within a dream, within a dream. And to make things even more complicated, there is a sub-conscious saboteur among them.
It all sounds very abstract, but Nolan’s proven himself a master of using thrilling plotlines, stunning visuals and engaging characters to convey challenging ideas (a man dressed as bat in the ‘Batman’ films, the possibility of the existence of real magic in ‘The Prestige’, or the head-spinning backwards plotting in ‘Memento’). But even for him, this must have been a tough one. It doesn’t show.
I don’t want to give too much away (which would actually be quite hard to do with this film in a blog post), but I’ve seen ‘Inception’ twice and the second time was almost better than the first. First time round, there were small issues with the plotting that bugged me, but Nolan managed to convince me second time round (or maybe I was just having such a good time, I was in a forgiving mood). My mind keeps going back to the climax of the film; three parallel countdowns, each one linking up to the next, each using the same team of characters, each pushing the drama to the last second, and all backed up by a profound and emotionally rich exploration of character. Holy shit, the balls this must have taken to make. And it’s not often you hear the audience in a cinema gasp at the last second of a film (which happened both times).
If you haven’t seen this film, go and see it. If you’re too young, look forward to seeing it as soon as you can. Inception-Spinning TopThis is the best thing I’ve seen this year (yes, even better than ‘Toy Story 3’ – sorry, Pixar), it’s the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. It gave me that buzz I used to get when I was a teenager reading a great book or watching a great film, the buzz that made me want to tell stories. That’s a rare thing for me these days. Thanks Mr Nolan.