Inception - Cinema Review

'an intelligent, expansive and introspective thriller that, like all of Nolan's films to date, looks to the inner soul as much as it does the outer world'

With an intense and clever marketing campaign that left plenty of room for a lot of people to be very disappointed, Inception arrived at the box office this weekend as another Christopher Nolan film under pressure to thrill, to chill, to succeed and, more than that, perhaps to even be a masterpiece. Like The Dark Knight before it, Inception over the last few weeks could perhaps have been relabelled Saturation, leaving a film that to many, would only hold up if it could unequivocally claim the 'Best. Film. Ever' tag from whatever movie currently holds that for each individual.

What luck then, that Inception has turned out to be rather good indeed: an intelligent, expansive and introspective thriller that, like all of Nolan's films to date, looks to the inner soul as much as it does the outer world. In a story that introduces a little too much originality for the occasionally exposition-heavy script to keep up with, Nolan blends The Matrix with philosophy in a less heavy-handed way than the Wachowskis could ever dream of, adding in pinches Sartre and Plato like dashes of subtle flavouring in his signature dish. If nothing else (and there's an argument that Inception is actually, everything else) this is a thriller crafted with real care, attention, love and originality. Nolan hasn't stopped at making something which will 'thrill' us, he's gone one step further.

This change in the game, this willingness to go the step further that another director wouldn't have, is signalled by Nolan's cast choices, not a single one of which disappointed, under performed or felt out of place in an 'A' list film. Tom Hardy makes his case to be Hollywood's next Brit-imported action star, Ellen Page officially outgrows Juno and turns in a confident performance, potentially more important than any other single role. Ken Wantanabe, under-used in Batman Begins is perfect, thespian-like, here in his expanded role whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt holds his own and adds depth to Leonardo DiCaprio's starring turn. And what a starring turn.

What the trailer only hinted at, the full version confirms: if there's an actor that has grown more, learned more and developed more over the last ten years or so than DiCaprio then reveal him now or forever hold your peace. Cobb is a rare role but the man who once sank a thousand ships, clobbers him with depth and a barely hidden emotion that he's happy enough to let others (Page and Marion Cotillard in particular) draw out, teasing the audience as they do. Cotillard, by the way, is also spectacular, taking on arguably the most challenging role and certainly her most challenging to date, by turns unlikable, threatening, devoted and bubbling with malicious love.

More than many other creations though, the praise for Inception must sit almost exclusively at Nolan's feet. In another's hands, this could have been a bog-standard thriller but, ever the perfectionist, that isn't enough for the man who made us think twice with Memento and makes us think many more times than that with Inception. Originality of vision is a rare thing indeed, treating the audience with an intelligent respect, much rarer. Nolan isn't going to hold your hand through this, he isn't going to explain everything with title cards at the end or have a hitherto unheard of character walk on and make everything OK. This is cinema for you to question and delight in doing so. This is cinema for you to lap up, ask for more, watch again and leave emotionally involved with everything you've just seen. This is daring and original and disconcerting. This is, most probably, a masterpiece.

Look further...

'spends so much time explaining—and explaining, and explaining—the rules of its narrative conceit that it fails to either emotionally engage or... viscerally thrill' - Slant Magazine (Nick Schager), 1.5/4


  1. He's definitely getting there isn't he? Becoming one of the few directors that you can rely on for a very high quality of film with every new release.

  2. This movie's my new love, you understand. How will he ever follow it up?

    Nice review, anyway.

  3. Cheers Simon. A good point but everyone said that about BATMAN BEGINS. Then, THE DARK KNIGHT. Hopefully, he'll have something up his sleeve.

  4. Great review! And brilliant movie, by the way. I start reading reviews about it only now because I saw it only revently and absolutely loved it. So I didn't read reviews not to be prejudiced or something. Now, I see the word 'masterpiece' in every respond, even if people doubt if it is one. For me, it IS the masterpiece. When I was writing my review, I had to make myself calmer 'cause I was so emotional praising the film. You know, in out time, you rarely get a movie to see that will meet your high expactations and this one for me was beyond them! Nolan is genius.

    I also liked that you mentioned Page's growth as an actor. I noticed that, too.

  5. Thanks Lesya, I'm glad you got to see it and enjoyed it as much as I did! I agree that it's rare that you get a film that can effect audiences so much and inspire such feelings in them as INCEPTION and I've found that, looking back on it, that feeling only grows over time. Page is great and I think one of Nolan's strengths is to give young talent (here; Page, Hardy, Gordon-Levitt but elsewhere; Bale, Pearce, Swank) roles that take them to the next level.

  6. Inception was a chore for anyone who really enjoys not having exposition hurled at them for 2.5 hours. Nolan's overrated and Inception's only glory is Ken Wantanabe. I always kind of giggle when I see praise lavished upon this film.

  7. Fair enough Snarky but you must admit that there's a lot of people who feel differently about the film? I think in some regards Nolan is over-praised: he's certainly much more exposed than some 'new' directors of equal talents.

    The exposition criticism is, I think, a fair one and, although I still think the film is a worthy 5* film, it did affect my second viewing more than my first (more here if you're interested -