If you believed all the hype, Christopher Nolan’s Inception would be the greatest movie ever made. But you shouldn’t believe the Internet hype. Does that mean that Inception is bad? Not at all. Nolan’s scifi dream-heist-caper is a great movie and one of the best of the summer, but blind Nolan-worship from the ‘net has piled on the hyperbole to create expectations that no movie could ever reach.
The idea behind Inception is that it is possible to break into people’s dreams to steal secrets from theirÂ subconscious mind. Â DeCaprio leads a group of these industrial espionage experts on missions like that until they are hired by one of their marks to implant an idea into a rich tycoon heir’s subconscious in order for him to collapse his father’s empire. ThisÂ implantation, called Inception, has never been successfully done before, but DeCaprio knows it’s possible to do it.
Thus the movie kicks into gear and it becomes part heist movie and part scifi. The heist comes in with the formation of a team to pull it off, the typical planning montage, and then the execution; which makes up the remainder of the movie. The twist is that the whole heist takes place within multiple levels of a dream, and in each successive level time passes slower. So at one point the story is taking place among characters on three (and then four) different dream levels. It’s never hard to keep track of, but at times it feels like padding to elongate an already long (2 1/2 hours) movie.
It’s all entertaining, but despite the dream angle you feel like you’ve seen it before. There are elements in there of Total Recall (especially the ending) as well as any heist movie you’ve ever seen (such as the Oceans trilogy). The movie also tried to be overly smart, almost to make viewers feel special for watching it. It’s kind of like a pair of expensive designer jeans or shoes. You’re meant to feel cool just for watching it.
The problem with this is that while it tries to be smart, parts just jump out at you and smack you with elements that almost ruin the whole idea behind stealing written secrets out of a dream. Nolan made two Batman movies, but it’s obvious he’s never watched the excellent animated series where the great Paul Dini used the show to illustrate how in dreams you may be able to “read” text, but it wouldn’t make sense. This is because the side of your brain that translates words into thoughts goes to sleep when you do and the other side of your brain handles dreaming. Knowing that, the scenes where characters find important pages and text while dreaming just detach you from buying into the story.
That’s not to say that Inception isn’t worth seeing. There’s some amazing effects going on here, as well as some pretty good action including that zero-g fight promised in the initial teaser trailer. They key with enjoying Inception is to go in with moderate expectations. Sure, if you’re a rabid Nolan fanboy like the people who saw The Dark Knight thirty times in theaters, you’re going in predetermined to think it’s the greatest movie ever made. Everyone else should go in expecting a somewhat smart and inventive summer blockbuster with amazing visuals and a story that, while it can seem a little long in parts, does hold your attention all the way to an ending that people will be talking about (or laughing about; depending on the audience you see it with) for a while to come.