Film: Review – Inception

‘Inception’ means ‘beginning’, ‘start’ or ‘commencement’, but that doesn’t shed much light on what Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is all about.
Even if you did read my previous post about Nolan and Inception, little can prepare you for combination of simplicity and complexity of the film itself.
In the film, ‘inception’ is not just the beginning of something, but the principle of planting an idea in someone’s head. The way this is done is through dreams, using the subconscious to control the conscious, which involves connecting people together with a strange briefcase-shaped device which means several people can experience the same dream simultaneously.
The principle which you have to bear in mind watching the film is that dreams always seem real when you’re having them, as DiCaprio’s character Cobb says: “It’s only when we wake up that we realise anything is strange.”
Nolan, who also wrote the film, has never been someone who has embraced CGI in films before, generally adopting a very personal approach to directing, never taking a second unit and often doing shots with a hand-held camera. In Inception though, it’s impossible to avoid, since the story and concepts involved require so much which is not physically possible.
It would be a mistake to think that Nolan has ‘sold out’ with this picture though, since it’s an idea he’s been working on for many years, and it is certainly worth the wait.
The reputation of the director, who also directed The Dark Knight the trailers are keen to tell us, means Nolan is graced with a fantastic cast to sell his story.
DiCaprio, fresh from another deep emotional performance in Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island, shows us how far he has come from his boyish charms evident in the likes of Titanic and Romeo & Juliet, delivering a gripping portrayal of a character which the audience latch on to and follow through the film, something which is integral to its success.
Ellen Page, of Juno Fame, also delivers convincingly as Ariadne, despite being the token ‘young person’, as does Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer Jr., who is the victim of the film’s convoluted heist, despite not realising it.
Brit acting legend Michael Caine, in his fourth film with Christopher Nolan, is on wise old mentor duty once again, without his usual comic relief moments, and in fact its Tom Hardy of Layer Cake as Eames who shines in the comedy stakes.
To go in to the story too much would spoil or confuse things, but the film itself is a triumph of Nolan’s skill as a director and passion for story-telling. Those looking for the excitement, action and explosions of The Dark Knight won’t be disappointed, as the film’s climax providing the most nail-biting finale of Nolan’s work to date.
What is more important to the film though is that you’re constantly asking yourself what is real and what’s a dream, which is exactly the question Cobb is constantly dealing with, making you feel quite unnerved at times, but still exhilarated.
Inception is a film which binds genres together seamlessly, going from a heist movie one moment to a tense thriller the next, with some gravity-defying action thrown in for good measure. It must be seen to be believed.
Rating: 5/5
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140 thoughts on “Film: Review – Inception”

  1. Awesome. My mom and I want to see this movie. I love the whole idea of the movie (plus the action adds to it as well). I’m sure I will love this movie given the fact that it has the same director of “The Dark Knight”. Thanks for the post. Excited to see this new movie!

  2. Ohhh!!! I totally want to see this movie. My friends and I just got done watching “The Prestige”, another great movie by Christopher Nolan. If this film is anything like “The Prestige” or “The Dark Knight” I have a feeling we will like it. Can’t wait to see it!!!

    1. Personally I think it’s certainly on a par with those two films, particularly The Prestige which is very possibly my favourite film of all time, it’s certainly giving it a run for its money.

  3. I saw it last night and can’t get it out of my head–the sign of a truly great movie. Mark this one among the greatest films of all time, I say.

    I’ve read some professional (online magazine) reviews of this and purposely fished the comments for negative reviews and find myself amused at movie snobs writing it off for being “pretentious.”

  4. Incredibly inventive and original. I was paralyzed in anticipation about what would happen, what was happening, and how it was going to turn out. It did not disappoint.

    Great review here.

  5. Inception is a great movie that I got to enjoy after a long wait…it gives one hope to think that there exists people who are still innovative and think outside the normal routine of life..thanks to Christopher Nolan for his great work and extraordinary crew of actors…:)!

  6. I just recently posted my own thoughts on this film, you are completely correct, absolutely fabulous filmmaking by Christopher Nolan. I was watching some of the cast interviews on Youtube, and Joseph Gordon Levitt said something that really resonated me with this film, and explained why it is probably going to be a classic… there are no holes. Watching and rewatching it, you will see that he is correct, they don’t explain away any details due to “hollywood filmmaking”, and every part of the story actually makes sense. That is one of my favorite parts.

    Have you looked into any of the fan theories on this movie? I haven’t read many that I actually believe might have been Nolan’s intentions, but they are thought-provoking none the less!

    1. I haven’t looked into it, but the open ended final shot caused a murmur of giggling once the lights went up in the cinema I was in.

      I agree about the story, fantastic film all round really.

    2. (*SPOILERS*) (*SPOILERS*) (*SPOILERS*) (*SPOILERS*) (*SPOILERS*) (*SPOILERS*) I know that for my own sanity, I’m going to choose to believe that it was reality at the end, and it’s ambiguous enough that I think Nolan’s intention was for everyone to have their own idea. But here’s an interesting observation I had that could make a strong case for it to have been a dream: his children didn’t seem to age. How much time was there between Dom and Mal’s long dream, Mal’s suicide, and Dom’s time on the run? Sure, we don’t know, but the kids seem to stay the same age through it all. BUT! Like I said, I’m still going to choose to believe it was reality just so I can have my happy ending. 🙂

      1. I had the same observation! Also they are wearing the exact same outfit that they had in his “Dreams” the whole time. Also where was their tip how did he and the other guy wake up?

      2. (SPOILER) (SPOILER) (SPOILER) (SPOILER)I know I am stretching but I can’t help it – this movie has made me think so much. I agree with the observation bradenbost made with the kids. Something also interesting that was very subtle is when he was on the phone with his children his daughter sounds MUCH older than what she looked in the movie. Here’s what I think – a stretch, like I said. I do not think he was in reality at the end. I think the entire movie was about him being “lost” in the dream and unable to come out. I think that Ariadne (Ellen Page) character was to Cobb what Cobb was to Cillian Murphy’s character – thus – planting the idea for Cobb to deal with his wife issues. Incepting Cobb to recognize that he is trapped by his own dream. I know this is really stretching but Cobb went to his father to find a new architect and this person Ariadne (who was better than Cobb) appeared and subtly constructed all of these elements to make Cobb deal with his Mal issues. Thus freeing him and letting him “go back home.” Although I don’t think that he was in reality at the end – I do think he got a lot closer. This movie was AWESOME!!!

      3. lcruzproperties: you mean their “kick?” If you’ll notice, as both he and Saito begin to figure out who they are and why they’re there and that they need to get out again, Saito grabs the gun, and the next thing you see is Dom waking up. I think that implies that they shot themselves in that dream–but that could very well have been left out so we would speculate about it, too. And I think Scott makes a fantastic case for Ariadne to be someone there to wake up Dom.

      4. **spoilers**spoilers**spoilers**spoilers*spoilers*

        I chose a happy ending as well..I need to see the movie again to be sure…but the kids do age…there are actually two sets of kids in the credits: Phillipa age 3, James age 30, Phillipa age 6 and James age 3…interesting note: Magnus Nolan played the 20 month old James (I believe he is Christopher Nolan’s son). I have to see it again to see if they ever show the kids at diffrent ages…to me though when the daughter stands up she is much bigger than she looked when she was in the dream sequences before..so if it was a dream the kids did age sort of…and if its not as I believe the kids ages are proof of it perhaps? Thus I need to go see it again to see if this is a clue as to what could be true and not be true.

  7. This film is utterly absorbing. And exhausting! It’s far from a kick-back summer movie experience. It requires full concentration like an indie drama; otherwise it’s easy to get lost in its multi-tiered dream sequences. I slept like a baby after watching the film! 🙂

  8. Yes! I saw this movie last night and LOVED it! I have never heard a theatre collectively gasp/sigh/react to a moment like I did during this movie (not gonna say when – don’t want to spoil anything for anyone).

  9. This movie is definitely one of the best movies I have ever seen, and DiCaprio continues to amaze me as an actor. I saw it two days ago and have not been able to get it out of my head for more than a few moments since then. Spot on review without giving away too many details!

  10. I didn’t realize Nolan also did The Prestige too. Excellent. Inception is certainly another feather in Nolan’s cap for knowing how to “sell the turn” in a film. However, this time it’s “the kick” that takes you home.

    I recommend seeing it with a couple other people because the plot, the character development, and the ending leave perfect openings for discussion. The timing is perfect. The concept is original. And the incorporation of CGI is magnetic to watch.

    We all need a break from the realness of what’s happening with the economy and international conflicts and an intellectual thriller like this gives us that break. It takes us out of whatever world we’ve become bored with and/or frustrated from and allows us the breath of fresh air to remember that imagination is one of the best sources of inspiration to give us pep to keep going.

    Thank you Mr. Nolan, please never stop your imagination.

  11. Don’t forget “Memento”, my favorite Christopher Nolan film (and one of my all-time favorite movies) — it addressed the nature and (un)reliability of memory, just as “Inception” addressed our perceptions of reality.

  12. Both my sons have seen it and said my husband and I MUST see it…am looking forward to it this weekend! Sounds great and different!! Thanks for the review!

    evelyngarone.com

  13. I was totally and impressed and pleasantly surprised by Inception. Thanks for the review! I do have to say though, in regards to,

    “DiCaprio, fresh from another deep emotional performance in Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island, shows us how far he has come from his boyish charms evident in the likes of Titanic and Romeo & Juliet…”

    I think DiCaprio showed this quite a while ago!? No?

    1. Agreed, but it came from something my dad said last night when I was talking about it with him, saying how he was less of a boy and more of a man these days – hence me mentioning it.

      Personally I would say The Aviator is my favourite performance of his.

  14. I went to see this with my wife last night. It is the most visually stunning and original movie to come out of Hollywood in a long time. The visuals remind me of the Matrix along with Eternal Sunshine. Chris Nolan is an amazing director. Watching the movie I felt drawn into a new world, much the way the Matrix did. I want to see it again.

    BB_Baker

  15. I have not seen the film yet, but the special effects look stunning in the trailer. Very intriguing idea.

  16. This is the best film I’ve seen in a while. It kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire movie and there were no “downs” or “lulls”. I had to pay attention or I might miss something! Definitely worth the money.

  17. I highly enjoyed Inception, but it is by no means a “masterpiece.” I will have to see it a second time, but I felt like they didn’t quite follow the rules they set up for the dream sequences. Entertaining as hell, tho.

  18. I wasn’t sure about going to see Inception, but now I think I’ll check it out. Your review makes it sound awesome. Thanks for reviewing this one!
    Take care.

  19. The plot reminds me of Paprika… They might as well called this movie Lettuce. Though, this movie isn’t bad, certainly not.

  20. I am pretty critical of movies and I love sci-fi and action films. This is my new favorite movies. I honestly think it should go on the list of top 10 movies ever made.

  21. Usually try not to make grand statements after just watching something… BUT, this is one of the best films I have seen in the last 15 years. Stellar work from beginning to end.

  22. With all due respect, I beg to differ. On my scale of 1 to 5 this picture gets a 2. (1 = I walked out. 2 = Waste of money). Quite a few people walked out, but we stayed till the end. Because it was so hot in L.A. this weekend that even this film’s torture was better than being outside.

    I must say that the very premise of the film constantly reminds the viewer that storytelling magic depends on willing suspension of disbelief. As a result, it’s hard to care about the people or the outcome.

      1. Exactly. So, instead of being absorbed into the story — which after all is just a film — this movie keeps screaming over and over (and over and over) that it’s just a dream. Who cares how it turns out if it’s just a film about just a dream? Made worse by the fact that I could not buy the premise. The whole thing seemed like an idiot with too much money (the producer) got sold on an idea written by a high school kid.

        There’s no CGI in “Gaslight” but it sure worked a whole lot better.

  23. I am definitely impressed with Nolan’s ability to capture minds in the mainstream arena, The Prestige, to me was a great film. A guy I find similar, not in style but in this aspect, is Darren Aronofsky who isn’t at the mainstream level Nolan is at, but I feel Aronofsky captures mainstream attention at an independent level (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) — and when he did do a mainstream flick like The Fountain, he did it in a great way, original ways to incorporate the CGI aspects.

    Overall, I love Nolan so far, I just hope he doesn’t let the Batman franchise fiddle away his integrity, not that it has, Dark Knight to me was a pretty entertaining film. You just hope Disney doesn’t some how find a film for him to work on. So far however Nolan’s film choices are pretty great — and though I haven’t seen Inception — I will.

  24. I went to see it yesterday, and found it amazing and completely engrossing. It felt much shorter than its 2.5 hour run time. At no point did I ask myself how long I’d been sitting there. Nolan truly has a passion for the story, and it really shows in his craftsmanship. M. Night Whatshisname must cry himself to sleep every night wishing he could be Christopher Nolan. 🙂

    One thing though: It’s a nitpick, but really a sort of important one. Ellen Page’s character was Ariadne, not Adriane. Considering the origin of the name, and her role in the story, it was obvious, but completely apt, and unforgettable.

  25. Great review. Great movie. I am not one who dreams and if I do, Its not something that I remember. I really appreciated the spectrum of this movie and the depth. Sometimes I am not able to follow films like this easily because the concepts are not concrete, however, this movie was masterfully crafted and my winner for 2010. I will be going to see this one as often as I possibly can. This film did a great job of capturing your attention, drawing in the characters and filling you in with plot.

    Go see this if you have not.

    Chad
    http://www.chadbordes.com

  26. I have been a lover of science fiction since I was a young boy. I am a self-employed senior who is a co-owner of an insurance casuality agency of twenty five years. I can say that of all the movies, I have ever seen, this movie is one of the worse I ever seen. Wanted to walk out after the first twenty minutues, but my wife insisted in seeing to the bitter end. I believe there are times that we attempt to talk a bad movie into a good one. This movie is the prime example of that. Save your money and the cost of the expensive popcorn and drink.

    1. Sorry, I’m just trying to make the connection between you stating that you work in ‘insurance casuality’ and your critique of the film. I haven’t seen Inception yet – should I be looking for ‘underwriting’ references or something?

  27. Ehhhh this movie was cooler when it was called either The Matrix/Cypher/Dark City you pick one. Decent film, but not as memorable as those.

    1. Ehhhhhhhh, although it reminded me of The Matrix, it reminded of the part why I didn’t like The Matrix… BECAUSE ITS BETTER THAN THE MATRIX…. more like, why didn’t it come out way before The Matrix? Ehhhhhhh.

  28. I saw this movie yesterday and completely enjoyed it – I was entertained on so many levels within the movie and am happy to see that every movie doesn’t have to be in 3D just yet – I give it 4.5 stars – go see it

  29. My wife and I saw this Saturday evening. Although I absolutely hated it as I thought the plot was so ludicrous that it was beyond stupid, I was, by the reaction of the crowd at the end, only one of a very few in the theater who didn’t like the movie. So, my observation–if you can’t buy into the stupid plot, you’ll hate it; if you can, you’ll love it.

  30. Inception is a fantastic movie. It may possibly trump all other films in it’s category as the best psychological thriller this year. Really, you have to pay attention to every bit of detail in the movie because Nolan makes a point in using something you might have seen in the beginning in the very end.

  31. I try to see all points of view, and the handful of people who didn’t like it don’t really state why they didn’t. Great review. Count me as one of those who has had this movie in her head since seeing it on Saturday. I’ll see it over and over as I’m sure I’ve missed several subtleties.

  32. Oh please don’t confuse things–especially when it comes to the film’s intellectual scope regarding Ideas and the power of dreams and thoughts. The action will entertain you but it’s the film’s concepts that will remain with you after the credits roll.

  33. I am debating between watching Inception or Despicable Me.
    And I think I might just go for inception after reading this review.

  34. You forgot to mention how amazing of a job Joseph Gordon-Lewitt did in this movie. I’d dare to say that his performance outdid DiCaprio’s in this one.

    It’s one of those rare movies I wish was available on dvd the day after I watched it so I could sit there and analyze every scene to bits. I’ll just have to settle for doing that at the theatre I guess

  35. Havent seen the movie. I was wondering how on earth did Chris Nolan fell for those CGI thing. I understand now. And yes, I believe this is another one of those Nolan flicks that needs to be viewed over and over and over…

  36. Inception’s a great movie but it doesn’t quite have the same impact as Memento and certainly it doesn’t carry the bang that The Dark Knight had. I’d rate Inception at 4 out 5 mostly because the hype surrounding the movie far exceeded what it actually delivered. Great concept & great execution but it didn’t quite have the impact as Nolan’s previous movies. The cast delivered though. Great performances across the board!

    Check out my own personal review here – http://wengyuen.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/inception-movie-review/

  37. I loved the movie! I saw it over the weekend with my boyfriend and we both love it. It’s very similar to Dark City only more intricate in the web of events. Watch it and judge for yourself.

  38. This this movie this weekend and was pretty blown away by the whole thing. Couple points that even in a dream seemed a bit unbelieveable. Still a great movie though. The character choices seemed odd together, but they worked great!

  39. It’s even better in the IMAX: the background music and ambient noise aren’t too bad. I think the visuals and acting outpaced the script at points, but it’s definitely worth watching.

  40. Ok so..decentjam,…you liked it?

    How about checking out “25th hour” and other Spike Lee driven works.

    Reality trumps dreamworks. (JMO)

    No pun intended.

    Nicely written.

    Here’s a bit of “25th hour” for you if you can take it.

    If you offend easily carry on to the next post..

    *Parental advisory/Strong language/etc*

  41. Fantastic movie!! I really loved it. See it in IMAX if you can.

    If you liked the Lost you will like this movie. They are different but they are both well written and do not treat the audience like they are stupid. I really like that and it is rare these days.

  42. Oh one more point.. Only hole in the story is why didn’t Cillian Murphy’s character recognize his competator, the one who hired Dicaprio and his team?

    1. *minor spoilers*

      It’s unclear whether Fischer sees the other characters as we do or if he has a different perception, like when Eames ‘pretends’ to be Fischer Sr’s right-hand man, but you make a good point.

      I wondered if he recognised Cobb, since obviously the point of them talking for a few second before he druggs him was surely to get his image in his head, otherwise he could have done it without speaking to him, couldn’t he?

  43. I read your review this morning and a few others -went and watched the film today – and have to admit – it’s certainly one of THE cleverest and most brilliant films to come out in a while. I read that Nolan actually referred to the book Godel Escher Bach (one of my all time favourites) to carry on the loop-within-loop concept. This film of course was widely anticipated in architecture/city planning circles, and as a woman architect, I’m pleased as punch that they finally showed an intelligent self-assured talented woman design architect for a change (instead of the plethora of confused and/or vapid stereotyped women who have dominated most of the films so far earlier this year.)

    An amazing movie, a fantastic concept that leaves you pondering for hours after you leave the theatre, and a whole lot of hard work! (And while Avatar was a visual treat, this movie is in so many ways much much better as it is like a cerebral/visceral/psychological/visual manna.) Really, it amuses me sometimes when people who cannot create works of depth or magnitude, think it is ok to belittle or criticize. Doers do. Non-doers criticize.
    And this is a movie that’s definitely a cut above the rest – and the brilliant inception of Nolan’s doing – and absolutely worthy of the appreciation it is receiving by those who get its ingenuity.

    Thanks for your apt and positive review. As you write: “It must be seen to be believed.” Spot on.

    Also, was wondering about the Dionysian connection of the name Ariadne…?

      1. Figured it out – Ariadne – in Greek mythology is called the ‘mistress of mazes’ as she frees Theseus from the laybyrinth and later becomes the wife of the greek God of chaos and dark dreams – Dionysus. Hence the name of the Architect as Ariadne is intentional – the one who creates the labyrinth.

  44. What a great movie. If it makes you think, and talk about it, then it sure is good. I argued with my boyfriend the whole trip back home… he is dreaming, he is not, he is dreaming, he is not… he is dreaming.

  45. Nice write up. I love this movie and it’s very simple and mostly easy to follow. At the same time I can’t wait to see if the rest of the movies coming out this year will top “Inception.”

    For some reason, I like this movie over “The Matrix,” since I feel the latter is a little dated.

  46. I wish you would have mentioned Joseph Gordon-Levitt when you mentioned the starring cast. I was very impressed by the demeanor of his character and how he fit into the role – unexpectedly – like a glove!

    Great review. I have seen the movie twice now and look forward to owning it (and watching all the behind the scenes footage!) as soon as possible.

  47. Saw it on the opening day, and now planning to watch it again today. This is a film that will only get better as you watch it more and fully understand the nitty gritty of what Nolan had in his mind. Definitely amongst one of the best movies of all time.

  48. I would have walked out but the person I was there with was having a very good sleep, so I thought I would let him get his shut eye and I would pray that this film gets better….

    In the end he had a great sleep, but all the willing in the world didnt make this film any better

    I mean come on, are you people insane?? this film “top ten of all time”?????? really??? haha jeez

  49. Helpful descriptions you provided! I didn’t know Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy were in the movie, nor that it was directed by Christopher Nolan (all of them are connected to Batman Begins, which has Christian Bale, my favourite actor, and they’re all awesome!)! And it’s about dreams! (I’ve written a novel about dreams.) All online signs point to seeing this movie.

  50. Most of the films that hit the theaters are mediocre at best, and there are precious few which I come to love by the time I ever leave the theater; Inception is most certainly among the latter. It’s like The Matrix, Jason Bourne, Ender Wiggin, and James Bond thrown together, but deeper than the physical and psychological thriller lies an emotional element that seals the deal on its sheer, undeniable quality. I didn’t know that Nolan also wrote it, but if I didn’t like him as a filmmaker before then I would certainly like him now.
    Nolan pioneered some new ground in this film, and he has done so confidently — without the uncertainty that comes with exploring new territory (on the contrary, he totally owned it) — and the results are beautiful. I truly believe that Inception has introduced us to a new era in film. Can’t wait to see how people start experimenting after this. Thanks you James for the review, and a super-special thanks to Nolan for gracing the cinema industry with his utter genius.

  51. Liked your review since it didn’t give anything away but still making it sound interesting to those who haven’t seen it yet. I just saw it a couple days ago and it’s great!

  52. i have heard that it is a fantastic movie! I am anxious for the weekend to go check it out!

    I think DiCaprio is one of the more versatile of the actors in hollywood now, he does not seem like the same guy with a different name (like many an actor does these days)

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  54. If you enjoyed INCEPTION, check out this short film from an up-and-coming Australian film-maker:

    You won’t be disappointed.

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