In honor of the release of the new Christopher Nolan-produced Superman movie, we’ve decided to examine all eight of Nolan’s films as a director, from Following to The Dark Knight Rises. Each day, We Minored in Film’s own Julianne Ramsey will discuss and examine one of Nolan’s movies, leading up to the June 14th release of Man of Steel.
I am going to attempt to be as spoiler-free as possible, because I think Nolan’s films are best enjoyed without prior knowledge of the paths they take. Yet there may be times in which I want to talk about a certain twist or plot development, and I will do so. What that basically boils down to is: Be warned. Spoilers may be present, but they will be minimal.
Film: Inception (2010)
While it was remarkable that Dark Knight ended up being as successful as it was, it was a film that was all but guaranteed to recoup its investments. The far bigger gamble was Nolan’s follow-up film, 2010’s Inception. It wasn’t based on a comic book or a video game or a children’s cartoon. It was a completely original property, with a focus on dreams and attempts to both steal ideas from/plant them in a person’s subconscious. The studio obviously had faith in Nolan as a box-office draw (and really he may be one of the few remaining directors whose name is a cause for anticipation amongst the general public), but the plot of Inception sounded far odder and cerebral than typical summer fare. This film would really prove whether or not Nolan was a legitimately marketable director/screenwriter or a competent studio director who can only deliver the goods for a franchise film. Luckily, Inception, while not the smash that was The Dark Knight, was a massive financial success and proved that audiences would pay to see a film that didn’t have caped crusaders or robots in disguise.
The film’s plot, which is really a heist film in a complicated setting, revolves around a business man (Ken Wantanabe) who wishes to see his competitor (Cillian Murphy in a rare, likable role) dissolve his company. In order for that dream (<- see what I did there?) to become a reality, he hires Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) to invade his rival’s dreams and plant the idea in his head through a process called, you guessed it (at least I hope you did) inception.
What follows is Cobb’s attempts to recruit individuals to assist him and their attempts to invade a seemingly impenetrable fortress and plant the idea.
The problem is Cobb’s subconscious is haunted by the malicious presence of his late wife (Marion Cotillard). In the real world, that would be an issue that would plague Cobb alone. However, in the world of dreams, a subconscious spectre can have a devastating effect. Psychic ghosts can manifest themselves in a very real fashion, and that’s pretty much what happens here.
What makes Inception such a fascinating film is the way in which it creates rules for the dream world that seem both complicated and relatable. For instance, the idea that time passes more slowly in the dream world than in reality. Who hasn’t had a dream that seems to stretch on for days, only to awaken and see that only a few hours have passed? Beyond that, the idea of your mind’s acceptance of the extraordinary in a dream, only recognizing the world’s strangeness upon awakening is instantle relatable to the casual viewer.
Check out an exposition scene between DiCaprio and new recruit Ellen Page:
It allows the film to play with the differences between dreams and reality in a way that makes both worlds recognizable but also startlingly unique. Buildings may stand upside down in the dream world, but they still resemble real-world buildings.
In addition, the acting from the film’s stellar cast is flawless. An obsessive protagonist haunted by past actions is a Nolan staple by this point, but DiCaprio infuses the character of Cobb with an emotionally devastating and satisfying arc. The film’s complicated structure and impressive visuals may be the film’s selling points, but DiCaprio infuses the film with a necessary emotional center. After all, the film’s ambiguous, spinning-top ending wouldn’t have inspired so much debate had the audience not felt some emotional attachment towards Cobb.
Inception remains a remarkable film, as admirable for its scope and inventiveness as it is for its screenplay and acting. The film was nominated for Best Picture (an honor many hoped would be bestowed on The Dark Knight), but Nolan failed to receive a Best Director nod, which was a travesty. Compared to that year’s Best Picture/ Best Director winner, The King’s Speech (and Tom Hooper for said film), could anyone really make the claim that The King’s Speech was a better directed film than Inception? I have a feeling Nolan’s film will remain in the public consciousness long after King’s Speech has faded into the background. It’s a brilliant, thrilling, intellectually dazzling film that holds up to multiple viewings.
Check out the trailer below:
Next up in The Great Christopher Nolan Film Re-Watch is The Dark Knight Rises, in which Tom Hardy acts his heart out from behind a mask and all anyone wants to do is do their best mocking impression of his distinctive voice (plus, Bruce Wayne sends a thousand chiropractors mad with really, really suspect treatment of a broken back)