Inception was Chris Nolan's baby from a decade ago about dreams and the nature of reality. In a completely non-Hollywood way, he waited to make this movie, refining it over and over again (kind of like Wall-E's creators). Inception's script is well done with realistic motivations behind characters' actions. Cobb has a reason to make his choices. Saito has a reason to crack Fischer. Fischer has a complicated father-son relationship which the team manipulates, but he will act on. The small attention to detail about dreaming is great: dream within a dream, paradoxical nature of dream settings, outside effects influencing the dream, dying wakes you up, dreams feel longer but only take 5 real minutes. This was a great way to get the audience hooked into a complicated plot; it treats the audience as a partner. The story has the great 'heist' set up where a job is offered, the team gets assembled, they show you how they plan to do the job, and then the job gets executed. There is progression, and in the middle of it all, small flashback scenes through dreams or explanations of Cobb & Mal's story.
Underrated element to this movie production is the music. I posted a youtube link earlier on the 'cue' music slowdown score element that was very similar to the French song used as a musical cue for the dreamers. Brilliant. What is also brilliant is the score itself. The music plays up your emotions for the dream inception chase sequence. Music slows you down for the gut wrenching emotional bits where Cobb has to wrestle with his demons. Another thing I did not notice until my 2nd viewing was that some score elements are reminiscent of the theme to Vertigo. In the "Snow Fortress" dream, when the dreamers first drop in and are on the mountaintop, the sweeping music sounds like the section of the Vertigo theme between 1:05-1:40 in the Vertigo link above. It also sounded a bit James Bondian. In relation to Vertigo, it is a small homage to another movie about a guy who does not trust his vision or grasp on reality, losing the woman he loved to suicide and then incorrectly seeing her elsewhere. This small homage made me love this movie eve more because it showed the care and craftsmanship involved in each production element.
As far as special effects, the movie was well done. My wife loved the 'physics of it all' scene in Paris, and I liked the zero G to full G to zero spinning stuff. Kudos to the production crew for pulling that off with as little CGI as possible. The dream training scene of exploding cafe fireworks was cool. The limbo scenes were pretty interesting, as they were an empty cityscape but felt off. The city was full of buildings, but didn't it look oddly phony? You could tell the buildings were not normal but couldn't place why? This type of disorientation worked well with the theme of dreaming, deception and false reality.
A movie is just a shell if not filled with interesting characters, and Nolan delivers with wonderful characters. Cobb (Leo) is the savvy vet who has a ghost haunting his moves and sabotaging him. He is an imperfect man, but a loving husband who wanted to go back with his wife to their life and still wants her around. He keeps a dreamscape around of his memories with her to see her again. He has a driven purpose. He has regrets. He learns through the movie to progress and move on. Some people have ripped the Ariadne character, but she is the 'audience' stand in. She is the rookie, newbie who we experience the movie through with unknowing eyes. As she learns, we learn. She doesn't entirely trust this dream stuff and acts rational, whereas the dream veterans act like this si old hat, making it tougher for us to identify with them. Besides the old pro bit, I did love the British guy Eames. He was a cheeky talking tough Brit with a sense of humor. He was like a cross between a British Public School Boy and a soccer hooligan. Folks have criticized the Mal character for being crazy, but remember that her character for most of the movie is just a representation of how Leo remembered her. She played the crazy, betrayed & angry 'dead wife' well. I think people just hate her voice, which sounds just like Kristen Wiig's Bjork impersonation, especially when Mal is tearing up in limbo near the end. The scene in his dream basement was awesome. She was legit freaky. The characters made sure that this movie was not just a cool idea and awesome special effects.
In the end what is reality, what is dream world and where would you rather spend your time? If you can feel, taste, smell, hear and see it, isn't it real in the materialistic sense? Our mind makes the matter real, so why isn't it real there? Cobb sleeps at night with a special sedative to recapture moments with his dead wife who is really just a recreation in his mind. Even in limbo, she is just a projection from his mind. The random poor folks who sleep all day to enter the dream world are falling alseep to wake up because the dream world has become their reality. It could be tempting, and as the old man says in the film, who are you to judge? Grasp that old lover again or talk to your departed relative, it is possible there. For the fools that think they lucid dream every night from the moment they go to sleep until they wake up, they do not even grasp the true damage that would do to their brain if it were true. How could one live 24 hours with constant stimulus as if one were awake? A person would go insane and lose their grasp on what is real. This is a theme running through Inception. Leo spends more time in the dream world, and by keeping his mind active for so long, he loses a grasp on things. This has to be some of the motivation for his delay in shooting at Mal in the Snow Fortress as he wonders if she is real. How long has he been playing between both worlds? Which world should he, and we, spend our time in? This is a great flick, and one I highly recommend. Please go see it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Watching the ending for a 2nd time, it is pretty obvious what the top's actions mean. It looks like it will fall, and even by wobbling so much shows that it was reality. In the dreams, the tops spins perfectly. That quick ending cut did make the dopes shout "Awwww" in the theater because they couldn't think for themselves.