BY JACK BRADY
Inception aims to replicate the surreal thrill and utter impossibility of the world’s we create in our dreams, yet it is essentially a dream itself: you’ll have trouble remembering it when it’s over.
The Film follows the heists of a group of thieves called “extractors” that infiltrate the minds of their targets through dreams in order to steal their target’s secrets. In order for extractor Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) to be reunited with his children, he and his fellow thieves must lead their rich and powerful target to destroy his corporate empire by taking him through a series of dreams within dreams, and ultimately plant an idea into his mind through a process called “Inception”. The extractors must then battle “projections” (aspects of a dreamer’s subconscious designed to defend against extractors) and navigate through incredible and labyrinthine dreams ranging from an alpine fortress to a zero-gravity luxury hotel.
The endless firefights and chase scenes are certainly well shot and For the most part, each of the films characters is well cast and evokes genuine emotion from the audience, notably Ariadne, (Ellen Paige) an ambitious and bold “architect” (one who designs the worlds the dreams take place in) and the mesmerizing character Mal, (Marion Cotillard) the insane and murderous projection of Cobb’s deceased wife. However, the rest of the cast fall into exhausted clichés and engage in dialogue that tries desperately to seem witty and unique, yet it’s easy to tell that all of it is completely scripted. Even veteran actor Dicaprio’s character seems distracted and often emotionless during the film, despite Cobb’s emotionally torn and distraught state, as he must choose between reliving his memories in dreams and thus keeping Mal alive, or accepting her death and losing his projection of her forever. While this could have been another masterful depiction of a man tortured by his unwillingness to let go of his past, as was Dicaprio’s role in the film Shutter Island, instead Dicaprio seems simply dazed and distant.
However, the characters themselves won’t be grabbing your attention as the film features the most bombastic film soundtrack to date, surreal and captivating settings, and special effects that truly realize the infinite size and possibility of human imagination. Just as in dreams, every aspect of reality is manipulated and warped, from gravity to architecture.
The shock and awe caused by these effects is evenly matched with the stellar soundtrack, one as varied as it is beautiful. Thundering bass floods the action with adrenaline and excitement, while evocative and subtle piano pieces grace the effective, albeit rare, moments of contemplation and dialogue between the cast.
However, Christopher Nolan would do well to remember that adding all the effects and music to a film can’t compensate for a weak story and flat characters. The sights and sounds of any film are designed to be the vibrant and evocative colors on the canvas of the characters, but without a solid cast the aesthetic brilliance of Inception goes to waste. Inexplicably, Nolan synchronized his effects and music perfectly in his renowned film The Dark Knight and yet cannot do so in Inception, which is far more visionary and in its art and sound.
Ultimately, Inception’s stunning effects and score don’t breathe life into the plot and characters of the film, rather they mask the inexplicable concepts and clichéd characters throughout the film. Virtually no explanation is given as to how or why the characters can access dreams and manipulate them at will, only offering vague explanation as a secret military prospect. This blatant lack of an effort to attempt to explain the surreal premise and events of the film may seem like a trivial thing to criticize, as the film is intended to be as inexplicable as any dream, yet a lack of a strong plot and detailed world certainly don’t help the generally poor acting of it’s denizens.
Inception truly is a visionary and unique film, filled with incredible sights and sounds from start to finish. Yet ultimately Inception lacks the strength to realize its full potential, desperately trying to be both a psychological journey into the world of dreams and an action-packed adventure, yet neither aspect is brought to fruition. Inception will entertain you from start to finish, yet in the end, as quoted by Dicaprio’s character, the film is “nothing more than a half remembered dream.”