In less than a decade, Christopher Nolan has evolved from indie darling to Hollywood’s most bankable director. After the non-stop action of The Dark Knight and the star power of The Prestige, it is easy to forget that his breakout film was the quirky, confusing and low-budget Memento from 2000.
In that film a complicated plot and an even more complicated time line is reverse-engineered with guidance from homemade tattoos. Memento was that rare type of film where you anticipate gaping holes in the plot but everything is ultimately tied together in the end. Nolan perfected the narrative model taught at every film school in the world: be as weird as possible to get people’s attention, but don’t forget the inherent value of a well-told story.
Nolan’s two passes at the reinvented Batman franchise stuck to more straightforward narrative patterns – introduce a bad guy, introduce a good guy and let them do battle. While both films were commercially and critically well-received, you couldn’t help but wonder: What would the world of Batman look like if Nolan was given the freedom to make a film as intellectually complex as Memento but had far more star power than Guy Pearce?
Enter Inception, a phenomenally complex story with bankable stars set against the backdrop of the human brain’s capacity to create and control memories. We begin with Dom Cobb, a merchant of mind control played by Leonardo DiCaprio, as he seeks to win over a potential client for his services. Awarded the assignment of a lifetime, he sets out to assemble a team of experts (including child-star-done-right Joseph Gordon-Levitt and everyone’s favorite pregnant teenager Ellen Page) charged with constructing a world inside the mind of Robert Fischer, the heir to a global energy conglomerate played by Cillian Murphy, doing his best work since ‘28 Days Later.’
Here's where things start to get really complicated: across layers and layers of the mind and deeper and deeper states of unconsciousness, our ‘heroes’ begin an epic battle for control of the mind. Absurdity reins supreme. The gunshots are real but lack immediate consequences. Time lines are constantly manipulated but ultimately there is a race against the clock. People can simultaneously live and thrive in various states and places in various medical and mental conditions all at the same time.
In short, there is a lot of information to keep track of in Nolan's invented world. The initial reaction of most, if not all, viewers will be to stop and try to figure out the route that brought them to this point. Every thinking man and woman viewer will make an effort to halt the conflicting messages and stop the war in their own mind.
Take my advice: surrender to Inception and allow Nolan to take you on this guided tour his mind – I can offer a guarantee that the seamless script will bring you home safely.