I've been looking forward to Inception since before The Speculative Scotsman launched. Way back when, I singled it out as my most anticipated film of the year - nothing set to play in theatres during 2010 came close to evoking such excitement in me. The last time I was so psyched about a film, The Dark Knight was just about to come out, and I firmly believe the most recent Batman movie is one of the greatest pieces of cinema in existence, its comic book roots be damned. Furthermore, I'm of the opinion that Christopher Nolan, who also gave us Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige, is singularly the most accomplished filmmaker of our generation, and he has been living with the bare bones of the concept that Inception enacts for a long time. Only now, with the tremendous success of The Dark Knight to bolster him, has Nolan had the budget and the license to realise his dream.
And what a dream it is...
There were fears, just before Inception opened, that we were looking at a modern-day Blade Runner, which is to say a great critical success and potentially a cult sensation, but a flop at the box office; a financial doomsday device when you're talking about a film which spares so little in the way of expense as Inception. In the end, I suppose only time will tell, but if there's a single thing that has worked to discourage people from seeing this movie, it's that they don't have the slightest clue what it's about. I've been following its development more closely than most, and I confess: as I walked into the theatre on opening day, I hardly knew what to expect myself. The marketing has been powerful, in its way - "From the Director of The Dark Knight" and all that - but counter-intuitively rather vague; deceptive, even. The trailers have been impressive and yet utterly baffling, the posters iconic but insubstantial. From the earliest stages of development through to Inception's eventual release, this movie has been shrouded in mystery and enigma. Various of its cast members are on record saying even they didn't fully grasp what was going on, for goodness' sake. Only now that the movie's actually out there have people begun to understand what Inception is.
Alright. Perhaps Inception is a bit more demanding than your usual popcorn fare. Nolan seems to have skipped the mediocre origin story of Batman Begins with this potential franchise in favour of a more roundly satisfying sequel straight out of the gate. Inception, by all rights, could have been Extraction 2, the follow-up to a film which would have served to familiarise us with Cobb's ensemble and more formally introduce the world outwith the somewhat contextless dreamscape we spend the vast majority of our time in as it stands. But though Nolan makes a stimulating game of out its explanation, the initial concept which informs all the action is straightforward enough in itself, and the spin on which the narrative largely pivots isn't hard to get your head around. Inception is simply the inverse of extraction, with raised stakes: Cobb and company must go in and give rather than take and get the hell out. Keeping track of the various stages of the subconscious the intrepid extractors must plumb can be somewhat problematic - take a single leap of faith, however, and the rest fall into place - but otherwise, Inception isn't half as mind-boggling as I think we all expected. Devotees of science-fiction in film or literature will have no trouble with it.