There are few directors that demand my immediate attention, no matter the project they’re on. I’ll spare the analogies to other directors and their films and just cut straight to the chase: Christopher Nolan is one such director whose works I would watch no matter what. There really isn’t a single one of his directorial efforts that I haven’t enjoyed (although Insomnia is a bit of an odd-one-out, simply because it just doesn’t really have the usual “hook” that Nolan’s works often do) and being a huge Batman fan his foray into that universe has been nothing short of overwhelmingly positive for me. In-between his Batman efforts, however, he has spawned some other films; after Batman Begins he directed The Prestige and after The Dark Knight it was clear that his next film would have to be a big one to follow the ridiculous momentum that that film brought forth across the globe. Nolan delivered with Inception, which was in part successful simply because of how original and grandiose it was; the few who criticized it called it pretentious or unbelievable, but those who allowed themselves to get fully enveloped in Nolan’s mind were treated to one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences in recent years.
Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in this sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best there is at extraction: stealing valuable secrets inside the subconscious during the mind’s vulnerable dream state. His skill has made him a coveted player in industrial espionage but also has made him a fugitive and cost him dearly. Now he may get a second chance if he can do the impossible: inception, planting an idea rather than stealing one. If they succeed, Cobb and his team could pull off the perfect crime. But no planning or expertise can prepare them for a dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy only Cobb could have seen coming.
There are only a few films I see repeatedly in theaters. It’s not just a financial thing either; it’s just that a lot of films you can experience on in the theater and you’re good for waiting for the home video release after that. In fact since the last of the Star Wars films came out, the first film I saw multiple times in theaters after was The Dark Knight. With Inception I again revisited the theater, although only once more after the initial viewing; not that I didn’t want to do more, but time and other events didn’t permit me the ability to. Thus I was relegated to waiting for the home video release before viewing the film a third time; although by that point I had read so much about the film online and the ideas it presented that a third viewing didn’t really clear up any confusions I had about the film…it was just an amazing film to watch.
Although to be truthful there were a few things that again “clicked” in the film. It’s the type of film that each time you watch it, more and more things start to make even more sense. Things you were foggy on before are suddenly clear as day and elements you didn’t know that were connected were magically part of the bigger puzzle. It’s absolutely mind boggling how layered this film is; if you take the time to study it and dissect it, it doesn’t cripple and fall apart like other films do. Instead you just find more and more structuring underneath it to hold this story up. It’s definitely not a film for those that just want dumb action (although there is plenty of exciting action elements to the film as well, so those that stare dumbfounded at the screen will at least perk up to the crazy visuals the film throws your way) as there’s just so much to explore and think about. On the flipside it’s a film that should be viewed in a dark room with few distractions; I attempted to watch this film with my mother in a brightly lit room with a fairly small TV and any tiny distraction would divert her gaze from the film which just resulted in even more confusion for her. We ended up shutting the movie off as we had a 30 second side conversation that sidestepped so much exposition filled dialogue that we couldn’t hope to catch up.
An element of the film that I think I found most appealing was its unwillingness to really acknowledge the general absurdity of the premise. It straddles the line between the possible and the impossible so well that it’s hard to even really condemn it based the slightly ridiculous notions that dream spelunking would even be possible. The reality of it though is driven home when Ariadne (Ellen Page) seems to not really be too concerned about such a thing existing. So while the viewer may find it impossible the fact it sits so well and isn’t so out of the ordinary for our main cast is what helps drive the whole idea that this film is built around home.
But of course the film is nothing without its cast and visionary and the film has both of those helmed by genuinely impressive actors. DiCaprio takes the leading man role in stride and the supporting cast is nothing short of exceptional; every man (and woman) plays their roles brilliantly and there isn’t a single character in the film that doesn’t pack some kind of emotional punch. Without a doubt one of the most emotionally draining sequences to watch was the memory of Cobb and Mal (Marion Cotillard) on the balcony’s; both the music and the intensity of DiCaprio’s performance (as well as Cotillard’s general wistfulness and disregard for everything) are things that will forever stick with me as one of the most powerful sequences in the film. The fact it’s replayed a few times throughout only helps to further leave an indelible mark in the mind.
Another “selling” point of the film was its unique and truly fantastic visual effects. While there’s a fair amount of CGI to populate it, I was surprised to find out how much of it was done with real actors and objects. For instance the turning hotel hallway and room setup was one of the most stunning things to witness but when you see how they did it…it’s genuinely crazy how they were able to pull it off. The budget for this film was huge but the visual payoff was absolutely worth it. Pile on those visuals Hans Zimmer’s compelling score and you have a film that will be on top of a lot of critics lists for some time. Zimmer’s score is really as unique as everything else with this film, as it was synthesized electronic first and then played by an orchestra second, so it’s left with a very edgy and rough sound, all the while being performed by an orchestra.
Truthfully I can’t sing enough praises about this film. I’ve not even talked one lick about the plot but it doesn’t matter—the plot is something you need to view more than once to fully appreciate in all of its complexities and at this point for me the film is more about the experience of watching them move through dreams and how they manipulate things within it. Without a doubt Inception rocketed to the top of my favorite movies list and although I have only three viewings (well, three and a half) viewings under my belt I look forward to piling on dozens more in the future. If ever there was a Must See movie, this is it.
Warner brings Inception to Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case. Inside is the usual pairing of discs (one Blu-ray, one DVD/Digital Copy combo) and a fair collection of extras, although not nearly as much as I had hoped for. But as with any modern action film on Blu-ray, we get a killer A/V presentation and combined with the multiple copies of the film and the nifty 3D/lenticular image that adorns the slipcover, this one is sure to fly off the shelves.
Video arrives in a VC-1 encoded effort and is basically what you’d hope from a big release like this. Endless amounts of detailed paired with ridiculous visuals make this one of the most stunning films to lay eyes on since The Matrix. Everything from Cobb’s hair to the buildings to the clothing…everything about this transfer is as life like looking as it is in reality. There were a few brief moments where the image looked a bit softer than it did in previous frames, but these moments are fleeting and hardly worth mentioning (and I only noticed the once because I had to pause the film briefly). It’s a really brilliant looking transfer otherwise, with the films steel blue hue making for a very “cool” looking effect from start to finish.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and…warn the neighbors. There are so many moments where not only the sound effects but also the score kick in to vibrate the walls and windows (the windows in my house are the old metal frame variety, so the amount of vibration that movies push upon them is sometimes louder than the subwoofer itself) that you’ll be using this as a demo disc in a short amount of time. It’s not just the LFE output that gets used and abused frequently though, as surround speakers are constantly full of chatter and rarely without something to speak up about. A particularly favorite scene of mind was the one when Ariadne first realizes she’s dreaming and stuff starts ballooning and popcorning (my own word) out all over the place as it is just riddled with directionality and subwoofer activity.
The extras on this set are split into two discs. The first disc is a kind of “Maximum Movie Mode,” only this time it’s called Extraction Mode (44:13, 1080p) and is a lot less involved. It’s more akin to the previous Blu-ray integrated extras that Nolan’s Batman flicks had. Still, it’s quite nicely produced and all in all there’s a fair amount of the production covered (including how they did the hotel hallway/room sequences). There’s very little actor input; I think we only ever hear from DiCaprio and Gordon-Levitt, but it’s still a good mix either way. I did notice the manner in which the extras were constructed were of a very nice caliber; by that I mean they weren’t cheesily assembled. Then I saw Jason Hillhouse was a producer on it and it all made sense. How could they suck with that man involved?
Disc two has a strange Behind the Story (59:03, 1080p) mashup that is really split into two separate outings: Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious (44:29, 1080p) and The Cobol Job (14:33, 1080p). The “Dreams” bit is a kind of documentary on dreams themselves, although there’s input from Nolan (and it’s narrated by Gordon-Levitt) so it’s not totally disconnected from the film itself, as there’s quite a bit of talk about the film and how dreams and…well, it’s all very technical. Good stuff though. The “Cobol” one is a motion comic which I’m not the biggest fan of but it’s fun to watch regardless I guess.
The final bout of extras is a selection of Conceptual and Promotional Art as well as Trailer/TV Spot Galleries. Before the disc wraps up though we’re treated to a 5.1 DTS-HD MA Inception Soundtrack (38:38) which obviously isn’t the entire soundtrack, but a good bit of it at least; I do wish they’d have set photos from the movie to the music though, as it’s just a plain black screen that really serves no purpose. Thankfully I have an A/V receiver so I could shut my TV off while I listened to it, but those who don’t have such a setup may be forced to leave the TV on.
Overall the lack of commentary is what hurts the film most but it’s still a Highly Recommended release just for the A/V presentation of the film and the extras that we do get with it.
Inception arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on December 7th.