Inception brilliantly marries the folded Russian doll structure of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas with the surreal CGI of The Matrix, with all the ravishing visual aesthetics of House of Flying Daggers thrown in as a bonus. It is very ingenious and very thrilling to watch, and fully deserves all the acclaim it has received.
Leonardo Di Caprio’s Dom Cobb and his merry band invade the dreams of corporate chief Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) in order to implant an idea beneficial to the corporation’s competitors. However, it becomes clear the young victim has had training in repelling this kind of invasion and his subconsciousness throws up defences against the attackers.
In order to reach their goal they have to go deeper – to a dream world within a dream world within a dream world. Of course they are up against obstacles and deadlines in all three worlds simultaneously, making for an exceptionally action-packed ride.
My slight quibble here though is the uni-dimensional nature of the defenders – they essentially do the same thing on all three levels (so why have levels?) – and have a severe case of baddy-bad-aim-itis (excepting one lucky hit at the beginning). Fleshing out the interior psychological landscape of Fisher – something hinted at but never ultimately deeply explored - may have made for an even more entertaining and surprising journey.
It transpires the emotionally damaged Cobb brings the subconscious projection of his deceased wife Mal with him and she becomes the film’s real and major threat – chillingly played by Marion Cotillard. (The acting throughout is superb but to be honest none of the roles is a real stretch for actors of this ability.)
Christopher Nolan superbly and quite originally uses the conventions of film-making – a scene cut for example – as a metaphor for a dream state. This allows him a bravura ending: superficially quiet and unwinding, it subtly increases tension and threat until one is left hanging, breathlessly, on the very last frame.