Inception exemplifies the thinking man’s blockbuster, and it is very rare that filmmakers of tentpole summer fare treat their audiences like geniuses. After scores of films that are so painfully dumbed-down, it doesn’t hurt to watch a brain cell-jolting flick like this one once in a while.
Inception operates on its visuals: the notion that anything is possible within the world of the dream allowed production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas to go wild. The film includes such scenes as an entire city folding in on itself, a freight train running through a city, an assault on a fortress that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond movie and a desolate, abandoned dream city filled with crumbling buildings. One of the many great sequences in the film is a zero-gravity fight scene performed by Gordon-Levitt along the corridors of a hotel. Even for audiences jaded by the proliferation of “wire-fu” since the Matrix films, it’s exciting.
Inception’s greatest asset however is arguably its emotional core that functions like a rope guiding the viewer through the labyrinth of story. Leonardo DiCaprio has carved a career out of playing emotionally-complex characters, Cobb indeed brings to mind DiCaprio’s recent performance in Shutter Island. Cotillard is also commendable in that it’s never easy to play a character who exists only as a figment of another character’s imagination, and Cotillard does this hauntingly well.
The rest of the cast, too, is an iron-clad ensemble. There is literally not one weak link, everybody is perfectly cast. Gordon-Levitt especially seems to be emerging as a bona fide movie star, after making a name for himself in smaller character films. Watanabe manages to be dignified yet possess a misleading sinister streak as the employer and money man.
Tom Hardy is a hoot as the comic relief who is actually really useful. My favourite however (it could be just that I’m a 17-year-old male) is the lovely Ellen Page, who has no problems portraying the youngest yet deepest character in the film. My only complaint with regards to the cast is that Michael Caine, as Cobb’s mentor and father-in-law, is woefully underused.
If you’re tired of being insulted by blockbusters that throw money at the screen and hope it sticks, then treat yourself to one of the best cinematic uses of money ever. There’s no shortage of spectacle or intelligence here.