Rajeev Masand

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Idea is everything!



Rating: 4

July 16, 2009

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

Director: Christopher Nolan

Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, is a film that asks of its audience to participate in its unraveling. You don’t just settle into your seat and ‘watch’ this film as an ordinary spectator; you sit there and carefully work it out, piece by tricky piece. If most films, by very definition, are made in order to entertain or engage viewers, Inception does more than that: it challenges them.

Not that you should expect any less from the director that gave us the deliciously complicated Memento and the cerebral blockbuster that was The Dark Knight. With Inception, Nolan fuses the core agendas of both those previous films — he is delivering a spectacle, but to enjoy it completely the audience must earn it.

Indeed Inception requires that you submit your full attention. The film is part sci-fi, part heist thriller, and part mind-bending psychological puzzle. And chances are you’re going to need to watch it at least a second time to grasp exactly what is going on.

Let me lay out the basics: Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a master thief-for-hire trained to extract information from a sleeping person’s brain. He performs the job skillfully, but lands his toughest challenge when he’s hired by a powerful businessman, Saito (played by Ken Watanabe) to plant an idea in a rival’s head, instead of stealing one. The idea when planted, will cause Saito’s business rival Robert Fischer (played by Cillian Murphy) to break up his father’s multibillion-dollar empire.

Dom sets out to accomplish the job with a faithful team that comprises his longtime right-hand man (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a ‘forger’ who can morph into another person’s identity (played by Tom Hardy), a scientist who supplies the sedative needed to put the victims and the extractors into a slumber (played by Dileep Rao), and an architect who designs mazes for the dream world (played by Ellen Page). It doesn’t help however, that Dom is haunted by the memory of his dead wife Mal (played by Marion Cotillard), who has the irritating habit of showing up in his subconscious and messing with his mind while he’s at work.

Much of the film’s first hour is spent illustrating how Dom’s job works: how he extracts dreams and ideas from people’s heads, and what exactly the process involves. You’re introduced to the concept of multiple levels and layers within the subconscious (meaning dreams within dreams within dreams), and you’re familiarized with the rules by which this virtual-reality world works — such as what happens if you die in a dream, the nature of dream time v/s real time, and the dangers of layering elaborate dreams within dreams.

As a viewer it takes time to arrive on the same page as the characters, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, you find yourself flummoxed again by all the drama and action unfolding within parallel dream states.

Visually, Inception is a jaw-dropping marvel if you consider the manner in which Nolan blurs the real with the surreal, without ever going all Alice in Wonderland on us. Watch the scene in which the city of Paris folds in on itself like a book, or the one in which Gordon-Levitt gets into a gravity-defying duel with a bunch of bad guys in a hotel corridor. Using minimal CGI to execute the audacious stunts, Nolan keeps the dreams grounded in plausibility.

There is no shortage of high-adrenalin action either, which is delivered in that breathless foot-chase sequence through the streets of Tangiers, a scene that seems as if it’s been pulled straight out of a Jason Bourne movie.

The ensemble cast dives into the film’s challenging narrative and delivers credible performances across the board, although special mention has to be made of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who creates a composed, confident character that is a clever foil to DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb.

As the leader of the pack, the protagonist of this drama, Leonardo DiCaprio is first-rate. He brings genuine emotion to the scenes in which we see Cobb overwhelmed with love for his wife and children, and he is every bit as convincing in his action star avatar. For DiCaprio Inception stands as a companion piece to Shutter Island in which he also played a widower at the mercy of dark illusions.

Ultimately the film works because it keeps you on your toes throughout. There is excitement to be had in the struggle to keep up with what’s going on, and in the end if you feel like there’s a lot that went over your head, well, join the club!

If you thought Memento was confusing, wait till you sink your teeth into Inception. I’m going with four out of five for Christopher Nolan’s Inception. It’s the most original film I’ve seen in long time. A masterstroke of writing and storytelling. At roughly two hours and thirty minutes it leaves you exhausted, but in a good way.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

11 Responses to “Idea is everything!”

  1. Sheethal says:

    Hey Masand,

    I was waiting to see your review on IBNlive.com….. (I work so I don’t get to see your show on Friday, I watch the repeat on Saturday though)
    “Nolan fuses the core agendas of both those previous films — he is delivering a spectacle, but to enjoy it completely the audience must earn it.” Absolutely agree.
    I watched this movie after 2 sleepless days and so I was very concerned me snoozing during the movie. (These days I sleep during most movies). But there I was on my toes trying hard to register every diminutive detail of the movie in my mind so that I am not l left confused.
    I am not a Sci-Fi fan but this one just flabbergasted me.
    And Masand, I am glad I earned it.

    Sheethal Manohar Reddy,

  2. Aditya Vikram says:


    This flick has received nearly 100% positive reviews from almost every eminent reviews around the globe, including your favorite Roger Ebert. Would you go far enough to say that this movie is perfect in every sense of the word? If not, where would you rate it amongst your favorites? (assuming The Dark Knight might be up there as well! :) )

  3. Zia says:

    loved your review of inception. brilliant film. but you mispronounced cillian murphy’s name. First name pronounced “Kill-ian”.

  4. Swaroop says:

    Hey sir,

    This is an excellent review you have given here. ya as u said the movie leaves u exhausted in a good way and so true.

    this is a must watch movie and probably Nolan’s greatest work to date.


  5. Amol Panditrao says:

    Hey Rajeev,

    I am a regular follower for ur reviews since quite a while..I enjoy your crisp remarks and to-the-point criticism..

    Even this review was no exception..

    However, I saw the movie and I was so stunned by it, I watched it again the next day..

    The movie, according to me, is the movie of this decade..and IMDB ratings are backing me here!!

    So I thought maybe you should have gone with at least 4.5 out of 5 on this one!! :)

    Looking forward to good movies and your reviews every Friday…


  6. Hi sir!
    im a follower of your reveiws.
    i love the way you percieve the film.
    i go for a film only if you teell me to!
    you”re really doing a good job saving our rs200.

    keep reveiwing and helping us with the movies!
    take care..

  7. PRAVEEN RAWAT says:


    here is another fan of your talking about inception as we all know that how good and superber the movie
    is……m just a new comer to ur group
    and i hv not seen u giving ur all stars to any movie….(may be m wrong)
    what m asking that what u think the movie will be like that would deserve all of ur twinkles
    well m a great fan of yours but also of chris.. nolan , i think that movie atleast deserves 4.5
    and please if u hv any movie having ur all stars, plz let me know…….
    keeep ur good work on

  8. R.Anirudh says:

    i think there is a star missing mr.masand

  9. Aman says:

    Move over remakes of Indian mythological epics with a twist, her comes Inception Hollywood’s own epic that lets your jaw drop and keeps it that way for as long as it is running on the screen. Christopher Nolan this time comes forth with a visual extravaganza that is set to scintillate every nerve of your body and that leaves you demanding for more. Nolan rightly delivers what is expected of a director of his stature after the success of his past films The Dark Knight and The Momento. This time Nolan comes up with a film about dreams. Not about people living their dreams but about people living in their dreams. Dreams as they say are ‘the most resilient parasite’ and Inception sucks the blood out of your face as it completely bowls you over in the first 5 minutes itself. As the movie begins with a dream within a dream, Inception demands the viewers’ attention right from the first minute of the film to its 149th running minute. Shot in 6 different countries with a rumoured mega budget of over $200 million, Inception is worth every penny that one spends at the box office.
    Inception is a sci-fi psychological-heist thriller which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, a man who can get into any person’s dreams and thus can steal any kind of personal or secret information from the man’s sub-conscience. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Arthur, Dom’s associate who is perfect in his job. The film begins with Saito (played by Ken Watanabe) taking an audition of Dom and Arthur and their crew. But it turns out that they fail as Dom’s dead wife Mal (played by Marrion Cottilard) keeps mysteriously appearing in his sub-conscience. Arthur and Dom leave Saito before he actually comes out of his dream. They are about to escape when Saito again meets them and offers them a job of not stealing someone’s ideas but to plant one. While Arthur insists that such a thing is not possible Dom agrees to the job in return of getting his hand cleared of all criminal charges that he faces in the US and which is why he cannot return to see his young kids.
    Saito needs Dom to plant the idea in Robert Fischer Jr.(Cillian Murphy)’s head to breaking up his father’s business empire so that Saito can take over the entire energy business of the world. Now Dom needs a crew of an architect to design the world of their dreams, a thief who can frisk stuff as easily as he can take up some one’s identity and a chemist who can keep the shared dreamers sufficiently sedated till their job is done. Dom finds an architect in Adriane (Ellen Page) who is recommended by Dom’s father (played by Michael Caine), a forger Eames (Tom Hardy) and the chemist Yusuf (played by Dileep Rao). Now Dom and his crew along with Saito manage to get Fischer into slumber and pass into a triple levelled dream to plant the idea of breaking up his father’s empire. En route to their final destination they end up straightening the strained relationship between Fischer and his father and also bringing to light the motives of his Godfather and his father’s friend Peter Browning (Tom Berenger). Dom and his crew end up in a four levelled dream totally unplanned and thus Adriane also helps him solve the mystery of his dead wife’s presence in his sub-conscience. Dom and his crew are successful in their endeavour and Dom returns a free man; but Nolan leaves the story open ended, not showing whether the world that Dom returns to finally is the real world or that of a dream.
    Leonardo DiCaprio steals the show all the way with an awe inspiring performance. Joseph Gordan-Levitt in the role of Arthur is brilliant and Cillian Murphy leaves a good impression. Nolan succeeds in deceiving the audience in a maze of dreams within dreams and hardly does one realise the need to munch pop corn or even flutter an eye lid. The only thing that seems odd is that all characters in the movie seem to be too easy about the concept of shared dreaming and understand the twisting chain of events with hardly any effort. The SFx used in the film are first rate especially the scene in which one half of the city of Paris closes like a lid on the other half. Joseph Gordon’s zero gravity sequence does raise an appreciating murmur amongst the crowd and after a long time we get to watch a film with pin drop silence in the crowd and claps after the end of the show. Not sure as to how many awards does Inception bag but it surely has won the hearts of millions across the globe and is set to do well in India too. With a strong script, impeccable execution and flawless cinematography, Inception is by far the most entertaining film of this year till now.
    My rating 4/5 and a word of recommendation to watch the movie. Believe me you miss it if you do not watch it in a theatre.

  10. Mihun Prasad says:

    Hey Rajeev,
    Its really astonishing to me that you really think the way I think about all the different movies, unfortunately its still a small portion of movie watching population that really thinks in that way……..I saw this movie along with my 5 best friends who were agreed to join with me after I pleaded them to come, any way at the end it was only me who enjoyed it and understood ,rest of the friends were literally abusing me for dragging to such a film…….i just felt pity on them for they adore the mindlessness that bollywood offers them consatntly……….Chris Nolan you are a genius…….and Rajeev Pls don’t change the way you review your movies…….there are still great number of people like me who give great importance to your reviews.

  11. giggs says:

    now u have watched “inception” now go and watch anurag’s “no smoking”,,,,,,,,

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