Last year in September, I wrote a rather long post lamenting the dumbing down of the big budget summer blockbuster. The big budget movie today is just an excuse for burning millions of dollars in special effects and the sole purpose of a plotline is to provide for as many of these as possible. The only other area where money is spent is in aggressively promoting these films to get that one big opening weekend to recover these costs and make a neat profit. As a consequence, big budget movies are pea-brained, bloated, assembly line products which are forgotten as soon as the viewer exits the cinema. In this world of waste, Christopher Nolan is like a saviour sent from heaven to deliver to the masses food for thought; to make sensible use of big budgets to deliver us not only movies that are visually dazzling but also that are thematically strong and force the viewer to do some mental heavy weight lifting. This is why, for an informed moviegoer, Inception carries with it extraordinary expectations after Nolan's The Dark Knight. And as much as it shocks me to admit to it, Nolan's "creation" exceeds these expectations by leaps and bounds, and then some more.
Inception is a film based on a simple truth. An idea is like a virus, which, if planted in the mind of the right people at the right time, can spread and result in world-changing events. These ideas are seen as coming in the form of true inspiration. Look at the work of Einstein, Mozart, Graham Bell, even J.K. Rowling and you'll know what I mean. However, what if these ideas could be planted? What if you could make a person believe something to be true and make him act on it? The result would be the greatest weapon or the greatest gift ever created.
Christopher Nolan has reportedly been working on this project for a decade and it shows. In terms of ideas, Inception is his most daring film since Memento. The script for such a film is an absolute nightmare. One slip can raise a maze of unexpected contradictions. However, Nolan does not miss a step and constructs the film, both as a writer and as a director, in such infinite detail that I saw the movie with my jaw dropped mesmerized by the attention to detail and the perfection actually achieved. In its 2.5 hours runtime, not for a second does a film let your attention waiver. The film is a standing testament to the fact that big money can be used to fund big ideas. This is Nolan's masterpiece.
Insofar as the technicalities are concerned, this is perhaps the finest product to come out of Hollywood, dare I say it, ever. The action sequences are awe inspiring and set a new standard in Hollywood after The Matrix. The special effects are on a need to use basis and when they are, the imagination and effort put into it leaves the viewer spellbound. The production design for a movie with such diverse settings is perfect down to the last details. The background score by Zimmer is absolutely haunting mixed with a sense of thrill, horror and melancholy. The photography is nothing short of stunning in the way in which it effortlessly maneuvers through the complex action sequences, the larger than life special effects.
The characters have been sketched with care for details and the performances elevate them to a whole new level. We have Cobb, so convincingly underplayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, haunted by his past and torn between his reality and his nightmarish dreams. Arthur, the faithful sidekick who has some imagination of his own. Ariadne, the architect, the youngest and the brightest who is the only one who knows of Cobb's inner demons, or thinks she does again so wonderfully portrayed by Ellen Page. The sly and suave Eames (Tom Hardy), also a team player and creative guy. Fisher Jr. has a complicated relationship with his ailing father (Pete Postlethwaite) so nicely done by Cilian Murphy and finally, the mysterious Saito, the least developed appropriately enigmatic character so elegantly portrayed by Ken Watanabe. You care for these characters and even in the midst of the grand production and big special effects, you never lose sight of the human beings caught in the middle of it and that, is where Nolan's greatest success lies.
The final verdict? Christopher Nolan is God's gift to film making. He is a visionary; a revolutionary; and he has only just begun. He is a contemporary Kubrick armed with a distinct and unique style. Inception is his masterpiece, a work that is audacious in its complexity and yet, astounding in its clarity. It is an orgy of visuals, a great thriller, a heart wrenching love story among so many other things. It is tour de force cinema that will make you sit up, notice, think and be amazed at how important and significant a simple idea can be. It sets a new standard by which movies with ideas will be judged in the future. It proves that there is still scope for the ideas and the audaciousness of an independent film maker within the big budget studio film. It is the movie event of the year, not only in scale but also content. And to think that it all started with a simple idea in Nolan's mind is simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying.