Disk format: Blu-Ray (Collector's Edition)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy and Pete Postlethwaite
Despite writing a substantial piece on Inception when I blogged about it last summer, I decided that it ought to have a proper review now that it's out on DVD and Blu-Ray, so here it is. I'll try not to cover the same ground as I did back in August, but you may want to read what I wrote then first, as it goes into considerable depth about what the film all means.
I'm reviewing the collector's edition Blu-Ray box set - I don't often splash out on the top of the line releases like this but even back in the summer I'd already decided that Inception is one of the most important films I've seen in the last decade, and when I saw pictures of the briefcase tin and spinning top goodness inside it, I knew I had to have one.
When it arrived, it didn't disappoint, either. You get a handsome, well-made box with the contents packed in foam inside. The spinning top isn't an exact copy of the one in the film, but it's close enough. As well as the film on Blu-Ray you get a Blu-Ray disc of extras and a copy of the film on DVD as well (although the DVD is pretty much free of extras). Once the disc was placed in the PS3 it ran quickly, without problems - in stark contrast to some of the other Blu-Ray releases I've encountered over the past year. My only quibble with the release is that there isn't a director's commentary. Instead, the menu allows you to watch the film in a special mode - "Extraction Mode" - where the player switches out to sequences where Christopher Nolan and the rest of the team explain how key scenes were achieved. This is a bit like the "follow the white rabbit" mode from the original Matrix DVD, except that the extras here are triggered automatically. They are all fascinating. You can watch these extras as they're triggered by the relevant moment in the film but you can also choose to watch them as stand-alone features and there's nearly three quarters of an hour of them. After watching how the fight scenes were filmed, my admiration for Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who did his own stunts) is even greater than it was before. The sequence in the hotel corridor is still jaw-dropping, no matter how many times I watch it.
The quality of the picture on Blu-Ray is, naturally, stunning. Inception is one of the best-looking movies I have ever seen, and the cinematography is breathtaking: Wally Pfister has become more or less unbeatable when it comes to action movies. In fact, the whole film is a master class in how to do things properly. I'll reiterate what I wrote back in August, because I believe it even more strongly after repeated viewings of the film: the logic of film and the logic of dreaming is the same. We meet characters with no idea of who they are or how we got there and only the vaguest hint as to why they would be important to Leonardo's protagonist. When the scene changes, we aren't shown how the transition occurred from one point of view to the next. How could we, when each cut, each scene is a creative act made under the control of the director? The act of explicitly putting the whole film together in front of our eyes was actually raised by Christopher Nolan in one interview, drawing parallels between each member of the team and what their role would be in a film company. Cobb is the director; Arthur the producer; Saito the head of the studio; Eames the actor and Ariadne is the production designer. Fischer, of course, is the audience. When I read that I was grinning from ear to ear.
The film itself is a masterpiece. There, I've said it. The last film that has had this level of impact on me, and that bears up to repeated viewings and the most minute scrutiny, was Blade Runner. Inception is a brilliantly imagined piece, and every aspect of its execution is carried out impeccably. Like Blade Runner, Inception has a knock-'em-dead story, jaw-dropping visuals, a soundtrack that will work its way deep into your psyche, and a premier-league cast. Every member of the ensemble is superb; there isn't a weak performance in there. Inception is also like Blade Runner in that it has some really memorable lines of dialogue. I love Arthur's "It was worth a shot" when he's talking to Ariadne; Cobb's "You can rub them together all you want, they're not going to breed" when he finds Eames playing with a couple of poker chips; and then there's Michael Caine and Leonardo DiCaprio's exchange about a replacement architect...
"Someone as good as me?"
"I've got someone better."
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's delivery of Arthur's dry humour pervades the movie:
"So once we've made the plant, how do we get
out? I'm hoping you have something more elegant in mind than shooting
me in the head."
But it's Arthur's conflict with Eames (Tom Hardy) that drives the dialogue most effectively. Hardy gets a couple of absolutely classic lines, both of them directed at his foil:
"Your condescension - as always - is much appreciated, Arthur. Thank you."
and of course the line that featured in all the trailers:
"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."
The sound, too, is fantastic. I have listened to Hans Zimmer's score many times over the last few months and the CD has become one of my all-time favourites. You get a 5.1 surround mix of pretty much the whole of the CD on the Blu-Ray extras disc, too - result! I laughed when I heard Christopher Nolan in extraction mode describing how Hans Zimmer had told him that he was thinking about "getting someone like Johnny Marr" to play guitar on the soundtrack - and of course the person he ended up with was the former guitarist with The Smiths himself. Hans Zimmer reckons that the brass section that was assembled for the soundtrack sessions was the biggest on record, and it certainly sounds like it when you crank the surround system up loud. The power of the music is hugely important in making the film such an impressive experience, and the score is such an integral part of the whole it's impossible to imagine the film being as effective without it.
The extras disc has some great stuff on it - the documentary on dreams presented by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fascinating, particularly if you've got more than a passing interest in neuroscience or psychology. The weakest element of the set is the prequel to the movie - The Cobol Affair - which is presented as an animated comic, and a not particularly well drawn one. It feels like filler, which is a shame. However, you get a huge collection of production art, TV spots and movie trailers. It's fascinating watching these in one lump, as it's possible to determine what the marketing department latch on to as a way of selling the movie and how the presentation of that changes as the advertising campaign develops - in pretty much the same way as how we see Cobb's approach change and become more focused between when he uses Nash as his architect and when he's using Ariadne.
As you may have realised by now, I really like this film. Inception is a story of redemption and reconciliation, it's a celebration of creativity and inspiration, but above all it's a story of hope.
Chris's rating: Five Stars