As Christopher Nolan's Inception begins, you are immediately thrown into confusion. The way the director decides to start the movie immediately has you questioning what is going on as far as the story, and if you know the basic premise from the trailer, then you are already questioning which part of the scenes are taking place in someone's dream and which part is real. It's all very confusing, but it's a very good tactic to begin with, as it makes you interested in finding out what exactly is happening. It challenges your brain to figure out what it all means. However, like any great movie with mystery, it seems to promise it will answer all your questions with time.
The film sets up a complicated premise and idea very quickly by throwing you into the action right away, and then not fully explaining the concept until later. Doing this lets the viewer enjoy the mystery and confusion following the beginning sequence. After Ellen Page's character, Ariadne, is introduced, she acts for the audience, asking the same questions they had been thinking about during the opening sequence.
Inception does a very good job explaining it's rules fully. However, after the rules are explained, the sense of mystery stays. The main character, Cobb, has a very complicated, and unseen past. as the story goes on, the details of Cobb's past, as well as the secret of his mysterious wife and her presence in the dreams, are explained. So too, are the flashes of his children. But as the movie goes on, The viewer is still interested in what exactly all these things mean, and the mystery isn't fully explained until much later. It makes you much more involved in the complicated character, and concerned of how things will turn out for him.
The group that is compiled by Cobb and Arthur near the beginning of the movie serves a very specific purpose. They all want to perform Inception, mostly for different reasons. They each have their own jobs, and the way they are recruited as well as the nature of their jobs makes them seem like very good criminals, which you could say they are, as they are professional extractors who get information out of people through their dreams. It's a very interesting cast, as they are the main characters as well as being criminals, but they still end up being heroic in a way, since they aren't necessarily doing anything bad.
The film plays a little bit with ambiguity. This may be one of my main conflicts with the movie. As it goes on, there are some hints here or there that things might not be how they appear. You start to lose track of what is a dream, and what layer of a dream something is. for a normal viewer, it's possible for them to lose track of what exactly is going on, but I don't think it will take away from the enjoyment as long as they have at least a vague understanding of the concept. There are also slight hints that something that may have appeared to be a dream earlier on in the film was actually reality, and vice versa. This serves to add a layer of complicity to the movie, as well as affecting the overall theme. It also confuses the audience, which if it is done right, such as it is in this movie, could make the audience want to continue watching to make sure they found out what it all means.
In relation to Christopher Nolan's other films, inception seems quite a bit different. In Memento Nolan messed around with the audience's perception of time by having the narrative run backward. In The Dark Knight, Nolan changed up the superhero genre and took it to a new level in seriousness. However, Inception seems to be one of Nolan's most Hollywood-oriented films. While the concept seems like something out of a good independent feature, the action and overall production value seem to be aiming for the target audience of American filmgoers in theatres. This is a movie that you could go and see with your family on a Friday night and grab some popcorn. Nolan might have done this deliberately when constructing this film to try and lull the audience into a sense of regularness within the film, only to surprise them later on when it all turns a little odd.
The film also has some elements related to crime dramas. Marion Coutliard plays the femme fatale in this movie, or at least this movie's version of it, which was a popular character in noir movies. Many people have said that this movie is basically Christopher Nolan's take on a noir or robbery film. The movie also has a bit of a connection to James Bond style action movies, like the final dream layer where there is basically an fortress surrounded by snow that the heroes are trying to break into to finish the job. There is also a little bit of the feeling of a James Bond movie at the beginning of the movie when you realize that Cobb and Arthur are trying to plant an idea into someone's head, with the characters even dressing up in suits and having small guns hidden on their person.
This film has a few different ways the theme can be thought of. There is an overlaying theme of whether or not it's okay to live in a dream, and what reality truly is. There is some connections to film. You could say that the group that is out to perform inception could be akin to a film production team, and that filmmakers try to incept an idea to their audience, in a way. There are many connections that could be made to the relationship between the group in the film and a group of filmmakers. Overall, the movie warns against getting lost in any kind of fictional world, whether it be your dreams, or even movies themselves.
(Written in 2012)