“Inception” is another sterling example of why Christopher Nolan is one of the great film directors of our time and maybe any time.
It is a movie that plays on so many levels of our senses. It is visual, but it also plays on sense of smell as we smell the salt in the ocean in the opening scene. It plays on our sense of balance as we see a character navigate a hotel hallway without gravity. There is something more here than just another popcorn movie of the summer.
In a nutshell, the story is about the life and vocation of a man named Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio). Cobb is a master thief at the art of extraction. He invades the subconscious of his victims, going into their dreams and taking ideas from their minds. Ideas, in Cobb’s thinking, are both profitable and dangerous.
Ideas are a form of capital, the engine fueling the economy. It is not money that makes the engine of commerce flow. It is ideas. Add to this the truth that an idea gives value to life.
Like a virus, ideas can take over a mind and make it do anything at any time. An idea is dangerous because it can change everything in an instant and leave the landscape wiped clean.
Saito (Ken Watanabe), a rival to an energy company, wants Cobb to do one more job. He wants Cobb to go into the dreams of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), the son of the largest energy company in the world, and place the idea to sell off all the pieces to the company. This would make Saito’s company more profitable and larger. While extraction of information from dreams is easy for Cobb, inception – planting an idea and convincing the subject that it’s his own – is difficult.
But Cobb is desperate. He is a fugitive and separated from his children. Cobb’s wife is dead and he is believed to be her murderer. If he successfully completes the job, Saito has the power to clear Cobb’s record, allowing him to return to his children.
What follows is a ride into more than just dreams – and dreams within dreams. It is a ride into questions about reality, faith and the meaning of life.
All of this may sound like a straightforward story, but it is not. This movie has so many twists and turns it will make you feel like a pretzel, which is not a bad thing.
In the hands of another director, this movie would just make the mind feel numb. Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay, gives us a complex story that has a real heart at its core. As the movie moves forward, we come to care deeply for Cobb and his thievery.
DiCaprio gives another Oscar-worthy performance. He does not just run through the scenery and mouth his lines. There is a sense of vulnerability to this character that he wears, not on his sleeve, but deeper.
We watch as the secrets of Cobb’s life and his circumstance come to the surface and realize how damaged he is by what he has done for his craft.
There is a scene in the beginning of the movie where he meets with his professor (Michael Caine) to help him find a new person to aid him in his work. The question of what Cobb is doing comes up, and he tells the professor he is only doing what the professor taught him to do. The professor reminds Cobb he did not teach him to be a thief.
In this scene we see that what Cobb has done is push the boundaries of his knowledge and his training to a place beyond his training. He has taken what he was taught and moved it into new realms. Yet the price of this is great, and we witness the results of that payment.
“Inception” is the finest movie of the 2010 summer season. See it.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio: Cobb; Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Arthur; Ken Watanabe: Saito; Ellen Page: Ariadne; Cillian Murphy: Robert Fischer Jr.; Michael Caine: Professor.
Rated PG-13 for scenes of violence and peril.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.