One Sentence Plot Summary: Christopher Nolan crafts a metaphor for filmmaking using dreams and an actor who looks a lot like him to reveal his own worries about losing his wife and not being able to return home.
Why It’s on the List:
Inception is a movie that does not exactly hold up to a lot of scrutiny. Exposing the plot holes and story issues is something you could dedicate a lot of time to if you wanted. Almost none of the characters are developed almost to the point where we know the technical antagonist (Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer) better than the team of protagonists. Despite all this, I love Inception. I loved it coming out of the theater in 2010 and I still love so much of this movie ten years later.
Hans Zimmer’s score does a lot of work building the drama and then paying off the emotional toward the end of the movie. This score has been parodied by South Park, quite brilliantly actually, but it’s still a huge reason why the movie works. The performances are great. Leonardo DiCaprio is a great surrogate for Christopher Nolan. Ellen Page does not get a lot to do, but she is one of the better female protagonists written by Nolan (and she doesn’t die!). Tom Hardy gives a unique performance in that he doesn’t cover or obscure his face. He’s charming and has great comedic chemistry with Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Arthur. You can see there is a prior relationship with the way they antagonize each other, and I wish that relationship had some time to breathe.
I’ve mentioned this in articles and podcasts before, but I love heist movies, and even though dreams are involved and the movie is more about placing something in someone’s head versus trying to take something. I love the world building, especially the scene where Page and DiCaprio have their early interactions. The visual dynamics of the three levels are not only distinctive but allow for different kinds of storytelling. It’s unfortunate we have another dead wife because Marion Cotillard has never gotten to play an actual character in either of her Nolan appearances, and she deserves better.
The concepts of dreams is something we think about but don’t really discuss all that often. I wish we had more movies about the meaning of dreams, but this movie almost has had no influence on the greater Hollywood narrative. This is one of the best movies of the 2010s and might go down as Nolan’s best too.
*Another dead wife. Also, name one characteristic Aridane has besides being the architect of the dreams.
MVP: Nolan got a blank check thanks to the success of The Dark Knight. It would have been easy to do another sequel or anything else, but he took a script that had been developed over a number of years and created one of the most ambitious summer blockbusters ever. This is a movie that is ten years old but still feels like it could have come out three years ago, last year, or even yesterday. I have always loved the way Nolan combines practical effects with CGI, and this may be his finest effort. There are some iconic images, most notable involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt battling Fischer’s subconscious as the rules of gravity are defied. As dense as some of the concepts are, the movie is so literalized that you can just watch this on a surface level and get something out of it. Also, just as the layers of the dream, there are also layers to this film as well. Nolan deserves a lot of credit for continuing to tell interesting stories and big budgets.
Best Performance: I think Leonardo DiCaprio is at his best when he’s playing someone trying to be best self but seeming to be on the brink of insanity. Pay attention to the other two Leo movies on this list, and I think you’ll find the same pattern. Although Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not on the list, that might be my favorite performance of his. Here he has to be a leader, an emotional core, and a man of mystery. Cobb and Fischer are really the only characters who we have any personal connection with over the 2.5 hours. DiCaprio excels in his only Nolan movie to date
Best Quote: “What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” – Dom Cobb
Is there a sequel? No.