Blu-ray Review: Inception

Warner Bros.| 2010 | 148 mins. | PG-13

Hot off the stunning achievement that was The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan could have easily cashed a big check by attaching himself to a pre-existing project. Instead, he took on an original project of his own making that can only be described as massive in scope. A sci-fi heist picture occurring largely in the dreams of its characters, Inception has been meticulously formed and sculpted with storytelling proficiency. As any fan of Christopher Nolan knows, the writer/director seems to enjoy getting deep into the minds of his characters and viewers, and with Inception he has done a first class job.

InceptionLeonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a corporate spy who explores people’s dreams, stealing valuable information from their subconscious. But his latest client, Saito (Ken Watanabe), wants more than extraction; he wants inception. He wants Cobb to journey into the subconscious of his young competitor, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), and convince him to divide his father’s company.

He can give Cobb the one thing he really wants: a ticket back to his old life. Cobb assembles a team of architects, chemists, and conmen to try to figure out how to travel deep into Fischer’s dreams and seamlessly plant an idea. But, as they’re preparing for the job, it becomes clear to Cobb’s young architect, Ariadne (Ellen Page), that Cobb is keeping a secret—one that could sabotage the job and put all their lives in peril.

Nearly half of the film is taken up with the plan to plant the idea in Robert’s mind, which involves the characters interacting on no less than five different levels of existence (one in “reality” and four dreams-within-dreams), all of which have their own temporal dimensions. This extended action sequence, which involves plots within plots and dreams within dreams, takes cross-cutting to a new level and is very close to exhausting in its execution; there is always the danger of becoming lost in the maze, Nolan and his editor Lee Smith keep us oriented even when we’re lost. DiCaprio essentially plays the same character he played in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island earlier this year, but he plays the haunted protagonist so well that it feels like a welcome encore, rather than a retread. His obsessive desire to “go home” at any cost propels him and us into the vortex, and the fact that we are never sure what to expect is only part of the film’s grand achievement.

The special effects in Inception serve the story, rather than the other way around, which is a rare occurrence these days. In this case, we are presented with cities where streets defy gravity by arching overhead and massive cliffs that collapse into the sea. In the film, there is a point to everything, most often to illustrate how dreams distort the commonplace into something that defies the natural laws. It’s a visual assault on the senses—mind and body.

Be aware, you may have to watch Inception more than once to understand all the nuances, twists and turns. This is not the kind of film you can sit at home, talk through and expect to understand. If you are fully engaged, expect Inception to stay with you for quite awhile, much like one of the dreams in the film.

Captured in its original 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio, the colors are quite vivid. There is a thin veneer of natural print grain visible, giving the picture a film-like quality but never interfering with the reproduction of its colors, which show up most realistically. There is a small degree of softness in a few shots; otherwise, object delineation is sharp and detailing precise.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 affords strong, taut, deep bass, along with dynamic impact for an awesome sonic experience right from the movie’s opening scene. There’s an effective use of the surrounds as well, not only during the obvious gunfights and car chases but during moments of environmental concerns, too, like waves, rain, traffic, trains, etc. Needless to say, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack music opens up beautifully in the side and rear speakers.

Disc one contains the feature film, plus an “Extraction Mode,” which allows you to watch the movie with a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes covering the film’s most-intriguing moments. Or you can “Skip Right to the Action” and just watch the featurettes. Then there’s BD-Live.

Disc two, also a Blu-ray, contains the rest of the moviemaking extras. They begin with a forty-four-minute documentary “Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious,” wherein co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and leading sleep researchers try to persuade us that there is more to dreams than meets the eye. Next, there is a fourteen-minute graphic comic, “Inception: The Cobol Job,” which provides a prologue to the movie’s story. After that is a BD-Live feature, “Project Somnacin: Confidential Files,” on dream-sharing technology. And, finally, we find an audio-only section, “5.1 Inception Soundtrack,” thirty-eight minutes of Hans Zimmer’s music; a conceptual art gallery; a promotional art gallery; three theatrical trailers; and thirteen TV spots.

On disc three we get a standard-definition DVD copy of the movie, along with a digital copy for iTunes and Windows Media (the offer expiring May 6, 2011), the three-disc case enclosed in a handsome slipcover with a lenticular picture on front.

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