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Review: Inception

By Travis Greene

Written & directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo
DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 148 minutes. Rated PG-13 for
sequences of violence and action throughout.

Inception
begins with a shot of a wave crashing into the shore, as Dom Cobb (Leonardo
DiCaprio) struggles against the chaos, trying to orient himself against
something solid. This is as good an introduction to
Inception‘s themes as any. And themes it has, since
it is that rarest of animals: a summer action blockbuster driven by ideas. How
do we know what we know? If we think our dreams are real while we are dreaming
them, how do we know what is real when we are awake? How do our memories come
to define our present, and can an idea (guilt, regret, desire) grow to define
us and control us?

Inception
takes place in a world where the technology exists to enter dreams, and
corporations take advantage of this for corporate espionage.  Cobb is a thief who invades the minds
of important people to steal their secrets, but he is soon hired for a very
different kind of job: not to steal an idea, but to implant one, a
presumed-impossible process called inception. But Cobb has his own past
experiences with inception that threaten his ability to pull this off.

It’s a little hard to describe without sounding either silly or
complicated, but fortunately all these rather abstract and philosophical ideas
are suspended on a familiar structure. Inception is a heist movie. It has all
the beats of that genre. There’s the assembling of the team, the formulating a
plan to access the impenetrable facility, and the inevitable complications that
threaten the plan once it begins. But because it all takes place in the human
mind, director Christopher Nolan can play around with time and physics, often
to thrilling effect. One scene in a hallway is particularly impossible to look
away from, or indeed breathe during.

The well-rounded cast, which includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph
Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, as well as the reliable DiCaprio, does a great
job grounding the heady concepts into believable human interaction, although in
the end the film is more about the ideas than the characters.

Inception
will send you out of the theaters pondering big questions, and not because of
some contrived twist, though its enigmatic final scene is open to
interpretation. It is captivating and entertaining throughout, and deals with
important issues of how we carry guilt, how we deal with our problems
subconsciously, and how we can operate with epistemic humility in the face of
our inherent dependence on perception to experience the world. It continues
Nolan’s string of movies that are both meaningful and entertaining, and I
highly recommend it.

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