Few films have generated the kind of pre-release buzz that Christopher Nolan’s Inception did before its June bow this year. The marketing campaign from Warner Bros. was smart and miraculously ambiguous, as they managed to keep plot details to the official line of "an action thriller based within the confines of the mind." What the hell did that mean? The trailers didn’t give much away either, but man were they gorgeous. Paris folding in on itself? C’mon, how the hell does he come up with/do this stuff? We were promised a smart, spectacular blockbuster and that’s exactly what we got.
Of course your enjoyment of Inception really rests on THAT final shot. It’s designed to have you question everything that happened in the entire running time before it - the characters, the dynamics, even the set-up - because Nolan wants the audience to think for themselves, and dutifully rewards them with stunning cinema. He created this world in all its cerebral glory; he put the biggest movie star on earth at the centre of it then surrounded him with some of the freshest, most brilliant actors in Hollywood. The writer and director did his bit and the studio did theirs by backing him with a huge budget - it was always a question of whether or not the audience would turn up. They did; at the last count Inception was the third biggest film of the year (behind Toy Story 3 at number one, and the dire Alice In Wonderland in second spot). The ultimate $800 million plus theatrical gross of the flick really showed that people will turn up for smart cinema on a massive scale, no matter how complex the plot. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio and ads proclaiming it as a new blockbuster "from the director of The Dark Knight" helped put bums on seats, but folk went back again and again - they wanted another bash at solving the puzzle, or maybe to simply enjoy the spectacular action once more.
DiCaprio was coming off another successful mind bender in Shutter Island. A fine film with a similar subjectivity, it saw the former tween idol play man with a comparable, but more degenerative inner torment. With Inception the scale was upped, and more existential layers added. DiCaprio is excellent, but almost has the movie stolen from under him by Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt; both brilliant as integral members of the team he assembles to crack another dream and plant an idea within the noggin of Cillian Murphy. Ellen Page is solid, acting as the audience and asking questions when applicable, while Marion Colltiard is terrifying and strangely seductive as DiCaprio’s unhinged other half. Simply put, everything just clicks.
You see films of this intellectual ilk break light at cinemas from time to time. More often than not they’re smallish productions packed with great ideas that can never be fully realised because of budgetary constraints or a lack of focus. Warner Bros. deserve massive credit for backing Inception. Even with that cast it was always going to be a tough sell to audiences. It’s incredibly refreshing to see something so challenging and overtly smart do well at the box-office and find its way onto many a DVD shelf. Cinema needed an Inception; a film that proved that you can deliver money shots galore and then make shit loads of money - but not at the expense of character or underlining intelligence. If you haven’t already seen it, crank up the sound on the plasma, close the curtains and prepare to have your mind blown.