It’s almost hard to know what to say about this. It feels like everything has been pretty much said already. I can’t remember the last time such volume was aid or written about a summer blockbuster. Christopher Nolan – of Memento, The Prestige and The Dark Knight fame – has clearly been told by his studio to do whatever he likes with a huge budget after the runaway success of The Dark Knight.
I’ve enjoyed every one of Nolan’s. He’s fond of keeping the audience guessing, and woe to you if you tune out for a moment or two at the wrong time. He also knows how to put together a proper action sequence, which means that he’s finding for himself an audience for his brand of intelligent entertainment who would otherwise be going to see The Expendables. For which we can only thank him. He’s sometimes a bit too fond of showing off his narrative dexterity, but let’s be honest – when was the last time you felt the need to criticise a major blockbuster for being a bit too smart? Exactly – even when he gets that a little wrong, we still owe him some praise for the willingness to raise the bar.
All this is there in Inception, in spades. You know the deal by now, I’m sure. Leo DiCaprio is specialist in the bizarre art/science of inserting ideas into the sub-conscious by way of manufactured dreams. This time he’s called up to do a job of such complexity that everyone else tells him it’s impossible – on the understanding that if he does, he’ll be able to see clear his name regarding his wife’s death and see his children again.
So it begins. Action sequences inside dreams that show us the at-times impossible created with the emphasis on the physical rather than compute generated. Which means more impact, more ‘crunch’, just a more visceral experience – and all the more exciting for it. A plot that layers and folds back on itself faster than a Freudian slip. Leo at his best, Ellen Page continuing her welcome journey to her surely inevitable stardom (I really hope she continues to choose the good stuff she’s chosen thus far…), and Michael Caine, who always seems to crop up somewhere in a Christopher Nolan film.
All of Nolan’s films are , in some way, about how our past affects our present – and our future, before we’re even aware it’s doing so. If that’s been hinted at, sometimes only subtly but there all the same, since the backward storytelling of his debut Memento then it’s at the front and centre of this, the most successful film he’s made. In the unlikely event you haven’t seen it, I can’t say much more than that. For now, this: even as you let the film’s perfect final scene play in your mind and have the compulsory debate as to whether it means one thing or the other, you also know that you’ve seen a major blockbuster explore how past traumas worm into our sub-conscious and affect us more than we know. It’s hard to believe such a big film manages this – but perhaps that’s why it’s touched such a chord with so many. We all have pasts, all have skeletons of different sizes and shapes in our cupboards. Think about it and the film leaves you asking: what will happen if I don’t seek healing here? Get it, from the God of past, present and future.