Inception was the blockbuster film of 2010, and, as is often the case, it's also a movie I didn’t see. As the father of a 2 year old, I don’t get out very often, you see, so, on the few occasions my wife and I were able to pawn the increasingly aggressive and destructive force of nature known as our son off on unsuspecting friends and relatives, we spent said time drinking heavily in restaurants that don’t serve placemats with crayons. And, as is also often the case, now having seen the film at home, I’m really kicking myself in the ass for not seeing it in theaters as this is one of those flicks that your annoying friends– y’know, the single ones who get to do whatever they want whenever they want – will tell you “you just have to see this one on the big-screen”, and they’re absolutely right.
The film revolves around a mercenary group of high-tech thieves who specialize in “extracting” secrets by invading the subconscious of their targets while they sleep. After a botched attempt to extract information from a ruthless Japanese businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe), Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) decide to cut and run, but find they’ve been sold out by one of the project’s dream “architects”. Saito offers to both smooth things over with the team’s former employer as well as help Cobb clear up legal troubles that have prevented him from seeing his children since the death of his wife, Mal (Marion Cottilard) if Cobb and his team can use their talents to convince Robert Fischer (Cilian Murphy), the only heir of one of Saito’s dying competitors, to sell off his father’s empire . Planting an original thought inside of another’s subconscious has never been done, but Cobb is confident that he can pull it off, and, desperate to finally return home to his children, takes Saito up on his offer. For the project to succeed, however, he needs to assemble an elite team, starting with an architect capable of grasping the complexities of the project. Enter Ariadne (Ellen Page), a brilliant young mind, and the star pupil of Cobb’s professor/father-in-law, Miles (Michael Caine). Ariadne is at once fascinated and terrified, but the limitless possibilities of the dream world are too much for her to pass up, so she joins a team that also includes master thief, Eames (Tom Hardy), chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and Saito, himself. As Ariadne designs the architecture of the dream world, and the rest of the team discuss how they’ll navigate it, Cobb finds himself struggling to control his own subconscious, as the specter of his wife not only haunts him, but threatens the lives of everyone else who enters the dream world with him.
I’ll be honest. For the first half-hour or so of Inception, I was a bit confused. Actually, scratch that. I was only really confused for the first fifteen minutes. After that, I became baffled. That lasted until around the third-quarter of the film, where I finally settled into a comfortable state of total bewilderment that carried me right on through to the end credits. All of the elegant sounding pseudo-science, and the crazy rules of the dream world (not the least of which are the disparities in time, not only between dreams and reality, but between the different levels of dreams themselves) had my head spinning, but I think that’s precisely what Nolan was gunning for. It’s a massive mindfuck of a movie - a with so much left open to individual interpretation that I’m sure everyone takes away something different from it. Me, I walked away thinking how cool it all looked and how fun it was while it lasted, but, just as I did with his Batman films, I also shrugged a little and didn’t quite see it as much more than that. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed all of Nolan’s films, but it just seems that, for some reason or another, I just enjoy them a little less than…er…everybody else? I don’t quite know how to describe it other than Nolan’s films feel cold– they’re gorgeously filmed and expertly made, but, in the end, they’ve got this workmanlike vibe to them that, for me, lacks soul. I also think Inception gets just a little too much credit for being this brilliant, game-changer of a film when, as director John Landis recently noted, it’s far from an original concept as films like 1984’s Dreamscape and 2000’s The Cell both tread similar turf (and, in my opinion, do a better job of explaining the “science” behind their respective techniques). Of course these are little nits to pick as I can’t imagine anyone sitting down to watch this movie and not be completely blown away by what Nolan and his team have accomplished in terms of sheer spectacle.
Inception comes to Blu-ray boasting an expectedly gorgeous 2.40:1 transfer that is rich and vibrant with deep, rich blacks that lend a tremendous sense of depth to the image, while fine detail is readily apparent throughout. Early on I noticed a touch of softness in one of the outdoor beach scenes, but I think that was more of a stylistic choice rather than a fault in the transfer. The image is complimented by a literally room shaking 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that is the very definition of reference quality stuff. The dialogue is crisp and clean, directional effects are expertly mixed, and bass is nothing short of devastating. When the bass is as aggressive as it is on this disc, it usually comes at the expense of balance, especially with dialogue, and I tend to find myself fumbling for the controller to raise and lower the volume so I can hear the dialogue and still manage to watch action sequences at a “comfortable” (ie: not piss off the wife) volume. Here, however, we get the best of both worlds.
Warner Brothers loads the 3 disc set with a hefty amount of supplemental goodies, including :
Extraction Mode - An interactive PiP presentation made up of scene-specific interviews, behind-the-scenes snippets, and shot comparisons. The material can also be watched separately as individual featurettes.
Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious Documentary (HD) - a lengthy featurette about the study and science of dreams. Hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and featuring interviews with specialists in the field, this is an informative and entertaining look at the real world of dreams.
Inception: The Cobol Job Digital Motion Comic (HD) – a really nicely put together motion comic prequel, showcasing the genesis of the botched job that opens the film.
5.1 Inception Soundtrack – This is a welcome feature, albeit a strangely implemented one. Here we get the entire Hans Zimmer score, but, rather than have it accompany video or images, it plays to a blank screen. I’m thinking of playing this in the background during dinner parties to make them feel especially intense!
Rounding out the extras are conceptual art galleries, promo art archives, Inception theatrical trailers, TV spots, and BD-Live functionality. Also included is a separate DVD featuring the standard definition version of the film as well as a digital copy for playback on portable media devices.
While I don’t think Inception is quite as groundbreaking a film as its being touted as, I was thoroughly entertained and captivated by the inventive imagery and jaw-dropping special effects. Despite finding the story a bit convoluted, and a bit bothered that the science behind the process is never convincingly explained, I found myself drawn into the world and invested in its characters thanks mainly to strong performances from DiCaprio, Gordon-Levitt, and the always excellent Tom Hardy. Warner Brothers’ Blu-ray presentation is near flawless, with breathtaking picture quality, reference quality audio, and a great collection of supplemental features.