If Christopher Nolan’s MEMENTO delved into the cinematic head trip of short-term memory loss, then INCEPTION explores the mysterious mazes of the heart and our fondest, darkest dreams, and it’s a much more emotionally involving puzzle to solve. Told with the visual wonder of origami cityscapes folding over themselves but anchored to reality by a father’s love for his estranged children, this is a brain-bending, challenging tale of redemption and absolution. Your mind may be the scene of the crime in the film’s plot function, but the true punishment is the pain we inflict upon ourselves by regretting the past. Yet this means we also hold the key to our own redemption and release.
Boiled down to its brilliant essence, writer/director Nolan’s film is a story of dreams not so much in the nightly sleep sense, but that of the heart’s desire and what we’re willing to do to fulfill that deepest, most personal dream. This mission belongs to Dom Cobb, played with finesse and conflicted power by Leonardo Di Caprio in one of his best performances. On the surface of the plot, Cobb is an idea thief: a freelance operative hired by corporate elite, trained to infiltrate a target’s subconscious mind and steal information they hold secret (known as extraction). Think of extraction as industrial espionage in a MATRIX-like virtual world of mental suggestion — an illegal Jedi mind trick. Such robbery may be Cobb’s for-hire mission, but with each inception his true goal is to escape the prison of his own guilty, mourning heart which he can’t elude even when he’s awake.
Trying to summarize the story of INCEPTION is like rationally explaining a dream just after you’ve woken from it. Cobb is an extractor, hired to steal ideas from people’s minds until he gets an offer (he can’t refuse) from his most recent target, a business magnate named Saito (Ken Watanabe). Saito hires Cobb to implant an idea in the mind of his competitor’s son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) in the rare, almost unattempted process called inception. Inception is a difficult skill to master and nearly impossible to pull off, since the film portrays the human subconscious as attacking foreign ideas like antibodies attacking a virus in the body. Saito wants Cobb in implant into Fischer’s mind the idea to dissolve his dying father’s corporate empire, but for the inception to work, Cobb must make Fischer think the dismantling is his own idea once he awakens from the shared dream. Not only is inception terribly difficult, we learn it also poses dangers to those implanting the idea in the target’s mind. The story and dramatic meaning of INCEPTION hinges upon this danger in ways audiences must discover for themselves.
Read our full review of INCEPTION at FilmEdge.net.