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Age of Obama
Barack Obama's presidency
Bush End Game
George W. Bush's presidency since 2007
Bush - Second Term
George W. Bush's presidency from 2005-06
George W. Bush's presidency, 2000-04
Who Is Bob Gates?
The secret world of Defense Secretary Gates
Bush Bests Kerry
Gauging Powell's reputation.
Recounting the controversial campaign.
Is the national media a danger to democracy?
Behind President Clinton's impeachment.
Pinochet & Other Characters.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics.
Contra drug stories uncovered
America's tainted historical record
The 1980 election scandal exposed.
From free trade to the Kosovo crisis.
The Intellectual Mystery of 'Inception'
“Inception” is a frontrunner for awards this year, for a number of factors. The film exists primarily in dream worlds, so the visuals are stunning and surprising. The acting is superb across the board. The story is both intellectually complex and emotionally engaging.
The real star of this film, however, is not Leonardo DiCaprio, despite an excellent performance: it’s writer-director Christopher Nolan, in his richest presentation yet. Nolan’s first breakout piece was “Memento,” but he found commercial fame with “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” and, most recently, “The Dark Knight.”
With Inception, Nolan invents new worlds and story lines we’ve never seen before. I never knew where the story was going to go next, a welcome rarity for this somewhat jaded moviegoer.
We enter the story through the character of Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), a thief who breaks into people’s minds and steals the secrets they thought they had locked safe away there, a process called “extraction.”
In the film, the term “inception” means the act of planting a thought in someone’s mind. Cobb’s team is asked by businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to plant an idea into the mind of his chief competitor, Fischer (Cillian Murphy).
Cobb’s team isn’t sure this can be done. Cobb, however, is certain that it can. And Cobb is deeply motivated to take the job, as he cannot return to America to be with his children unless he can successfully complete this mission.
To enter the mind of another, Cobb and his team must perform an act of “lucid dreaming,” dreaming without losing consciousness in such a way that they can control the direction of the dream. Dreams also require an architect, someone who creates the world, the map, the buildings and interiors.
The architect on the team is Ariadne, played wonderfully by Ellen Page, the young actress perhaps best known for her lead role in “Juno.”
Ariadne quickly learns that Cobb harbors a dark secret. His dreams are haunted by his deceased wife for reasons that become clear as the story unfolds.
What could have been a simple story becomes dramatically more complex by the use of dreams within dreams, up to three layers deep. Some viewers have found the act of tracing which dream they were watching at any point a bit challenging. Personally, I found this a straightforward and simple task.
The story is engaging on emotional, intellectual, and artistic levels. It has some stunning imagery, and some emotional scenes along the way, but it is the mental mystery that held my attention the most.
My one complaint would be some of the action sequences towards the end of the film. Those were the least imaginative scenes, and didn’t further the story. They were necessary to complete the story, but it was what happened in the non-action sequences that held my interest.
This is one of the few films you really should see on the big screen. You won’t get the same impact from your TV, no matter how large or clear. Take the plunge. Hop onto this multi-dimensional rollercoaster ride into the dreams of Christopher Nolan. It’s definitely worth the price of admission.
Lisa Pease is a historian and writer who specializes in the mysteries of the John F. Kennedy era. She's also a movie buff.
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