Those familiar with the Silva Method might ally themselves with much of the philosophy in Inception. Such as the lift going down till the basement (the method used to plumb the various levels of the subconscious mind) and the kick mechanism (quite like the NLP click used to get you into the zone). The other déjà vu feelings will come from scenes that are reminiscent of fighting scenes from films such as Batman, The Matrix and the ‘warped relationship’ scenes from the oh-so-brilliant Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.
So we have the brilliant Christopher Nolan taking us through the life of an architect, Leonardo DiCaprio, as the complex Cobb, who is set upon an assignment by corporate magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe) where he has to plant an idea in the brain of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), who has just inherited the corporate empire built by his father (Pete Posthelthwaite). Quite like the Simon and Garfunkle line in Sounds of Silence. “And the vision, that was planted in his brain…”
As payment, Cobb will be able to return to his children and his home in the US. DiCaprio plays the role of a man who has the ability to extract secrets from his subject’s subconscious mind. But he also has to deal with his own secrets that are intertwined with his memories of his dead wife played by Marion Cotillard turning up at the most inappropriate moment while he does his work – she is the literal spoke in the wheel.
To get into Fischer’s mind, he seeks the help of Arthur (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) and Ariadne (Ellen Page), another architect who comes recommended by Cobb’s father-in-law (Michael Caine). He also joins hands with Eames (Tom Hardy), who can impersonate anyone in a dream and Yusef (Dileep Rao), a chemist whose knows how to use drugs to keep sleepers sedated on alternating levels or bring them back to wakefulness.
The cinematography is brilliant and so is the script for a good part of the movie. In the end, all the characters could be the levels of our own subconscious mind.
Fischer has his unresolved relationship with his father. Cotillard, plays a woman who, at first is enchanted with the perfection created by herself and her husband and then gets sickened of the same perfection and thus keeps her first home to retain her identity in his perfect paradise. The scene where they show the two walking down this perfect boulevard is a dig at those perfect couple ads shown by developers to sell their project.
Cobb first plays the Pygmalion husband who believes that he deeply loves his dead wife but then later realises that he himself has the push and pull feelings that come up in every relationship that leaves no room to grow.
Ariadne is the child woman who knows no boundaries and is not equipped to deal with the consequences of impulse but grows up faster than Cobb and Fischer before the end of the tale. Eames is the risk taker who will take the extreme step when necessary while Arthur is the practical side, the voice of reason and the thread that binds. Yusuf is the compassionate one, who does not judge the needy.
Having said all that, the movie is interesting to a point. Somewhere it gets too long-winded, too gimmicky and certain parts are too loud or too cerebral with a very contrived ending. The characters also stay pretty two dimensional most of the time.
Eames seems the only one with spirit while Yusef and the chase in Zanzibar or Saito’s party seem like stereotypes of two cultures. The entire army and snow chase should have been cut. Period. Maybe, then we would have a crisper movie ending instead of a Bollywood styled one.