'Inception': A hot summer hit

By Jessica Rafalko

Contributing Writer

Inception”is one of those movies that cynical cinema buffs claim no longer exist—one that respects the intelligence of its audience. The film is fast-paced yet intricate; it demands the viewer’s concentration. Much like the film’s characters, I was given specific directions when I saw it at the Campus Theatre this week: “Pay attention,” they told me. “For the love of God, pay attention or you’re going to miss something important.”

I showed up to the theater 10 minutes late but thankfully did not miss too much. I was introduced to Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who specializes in dreams. But this was no Freudian scholar sitting on a couch listening to patients spill the contents of their subconscious. Instead, Cobb and his hand-picked team, including Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames (Tom Hardy) and Yusuf(Dileep Rao), infiltrate dreams to extract important information. Cobb is determined to return to the United States after suspicions of murder surrounding the death of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard),force him to flee the country. His ticket home is a Japanese tycoon, Saito (Ken Watanabe), who wants Cobb and his team not to extract information, but to plant it. Saito demands the inception of an idea in the subconscious of his rival, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), an idea to disseminate his dying father’s business and eliminate himself as a competitor.

The storyis based in corporate espionage—not an overwhelmingly original concept. What drives the film is not the premise but its playing ground: the human subconscious. Fischer’s dreams are not the only ones viewers can see—in fact, what happens in Cobb’s mind is what gives the film its depth, its suspense and its true drive.

Cobb tells his protégé Ariadne (Ellen Page) the process of inception, of roaming around in another person’s dream, is like an infection. Those peopling Fischer’s dreamscape (called “projections”) are white blood cells, and Cobb and his team are a virus. Dreams are sacrosanct, and invading them causes our minds to fight back. Writer-director Chris Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) illustrates this vividly—Cobb’s team is repeatedly attacked by Fischer’s gun-toting projections. The only way to escape a dream is to be killed or “kicked” (in the film, kicking is explained as that sensation that occasionally grips us in the throes of sleep, where we feel as if we are falling and quite literally kick ourselves awake).

Dreams become worlds unto themselves: rich in detail, vivid and layered. They are both an escape and a trap, a comfort and a terror. They soothe us while they haunt us. The true beauty of “Inception” lies not in its breakneck pace or stunning visuals (though scenes of anti-gravity violence and rain-soaked car chases are enough to keep our eyes glued to the screen) but in its psychological implications. Are dreams based in creativity, memory or both? Can they reunite us with what we thought was lost? Can they ever be a substitute for the real world?  These questions stick because they relate to all of us. Everyone dreams, after all, and most of us have had dreams that are so affecting that our first thought upon waking is, “I want to see that again.”

Thisis the attitude Nolan impresses upon his audience when“Inception” ends—we want to see it again. Like the best, most surprising dreams, we are eager to relive the experience one more time.

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