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Dom Cobb is a professional thief with a difference: the spoils he goes after are not material objects but the thoughts, dreams and secrets buried in the minds of other people. This rare talent has cost him dear, rendering him a solitary fugitive stripped of everything he ever really cared about. When he is offered a chance for redemption by reversing the process and planting an idea rather than stealing it, he and his team of specialists find themselves pitted against a dangerous enemy that appears to pre-empt their every move.
For more about Inception and the Inception Blu-ray release, see Inception Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 24, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Berenger, Michael Gaston, Russ Fega, Jean-Michel Dagory, Ken Watanabe
Director: Christopher Nolan
» See full cast & crew
Inception Blu-ray Review
Bold and breathtaking, just like the movie itself...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 24, 2010
There is a small, militant camp of malcontents who despise everything Christopher Nolan has ever committed to film, and their numbers only seem to grow as countless critics and the movie-going masses at large declare him to be one of modern cinema's greatest visionaries. They see Memento as pretentious, arthouse drivel; Batman Begins as a serviceable but unspectacular foray into comicbook adaptations; Insomnia as bland and uneventful; The Prestige as an over-scripted mess with three twists too many; and The Dark Knight as an overblown, over-hyped cash-in that doesn't deserve the accolades it's received. To them, Nolan's latest buzz-earner, Inception, is either a dull, confounding, over-plotted misfire or a convoluted, self-important, superficial brain-bender. My apologies if you're one of these disgruntled few... I can't come out and play today. I've long been one of the masses, willingly drinking more and more of Nolan's Kool Aid with each passing film. As far as I'm concerned, Inception not only stands as the pinnacle of a master filmmaker's canon, but as a cerebral masterpiece in its own right; one that's far and away my favorite film of 2010, and a strong contender for my favorite film of all time. And believe me, that isn't the sort of statement I ever make lightly.
Anyone who can pen a concise, revealing, spoiler-free plot synopsis of Inception is a far better writer than I. After eighteen scrapped variations, here's my best (and, ironically, shortest) effort. Hoping to implant an idea in the mind of a recently deceased entrepreneur's heir (Cillian Murphy), a rival businessman (Ken Watanabe) hires a team of highly skilled thieves -- sullen team leader Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), point man Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), master forger Eames (Bronson's Tom Hardy), dreamscape architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) -- trained in invading other people's dreams. But dream-diving isn't an easy task, especially when the goal is to plant an idea rather than extracting information from the target's conscious. Complications abound of course: the creation of an elaborate array of dream worlds is required to pull off the job, subconscious projections pose a serious threat, and waking up isn't always as simple as it sounds. Nor is Nolan's intricate film. Part heist flick, part densely plotted sci-fi genre pic, part dramatic character study, part action thriller, part cinematic enigma, Inception braves intertwining paths most films would avoid altogether. And Nolan? The famed writer/director toys with everything from perception to reality to time itself, all within the span of two-and-a-half perfectly paced, magnificently constructed hours. Even if you don't enjoy Inception's story as much as others, it's difficult to walk away without some appreciation for its balance, artistry and spectacle.
Imagine a film like Shutter Island (with which Inception shares a few small but potentially distracting similarities) as a straight line comprised of a series of linear scenes. Imagine six of these equally complex lines laid out across one another, arranged symmetrically, and then folded into a Rubix Cube of interlocking twists and turns. Now imagine holding this bizarre little puzzle box and being asked to solve its mysteries as it comes to life in your hands. This, dear readers, is just a taste of what it's like to watch Inception for the first time. Plot points arrive in droves, rules and exceptions to those rules are divulged in quick succession, and psychological analyses come fast and often. All the while, an eclectic ensemble of wounded protagonists, witty heroes and conflicting interests threaten to muddy the waters, but are never given the chance to do so. Nolan's command of his cast is as commendable as his command of his cameras, and their pitch-perfect performances are a testament to his control of an increasingly unconventional production. It's the stuff of nonsensical nightmares and filmmaking failures. Yet Nolan manages to maintain a focused narrative, ably develop his characters, address any and every possible plot hole (at least those that aren't patched by suspension of disbelief), and deliver an incredibly satisfying pay-off.
And I have to say: for as many tales of woe that have been written about viewers' first encounters with Inception, I didn't have any problem. I never felt lost or frustrated; I never felt out of my depth or in need of some point-by-point map. (And that's saying a lot considering Nolan simultaneously juggles four time lines, four separate dream levels and four prevailing storylines.) But I was also aware that I wasn't fully digesting every single detail that graced the script and screen; I recognized how much more Nolan's world had to offer that my feeble brain could absorb in one sitting. Was it overwhelming? Yes, but not for the same reasons some outspoken critics have described, and certainly not in a way that disappointed me in the slightest. I felt such an emotional connection to the characters, such an intense fascination with Cobb's quest (both internal and external), and such inexplicable awe at the sheer audacity on display that I reacted accordingly. The hair on my arms and neck stood at attention. Chills ran up and down my spine for the better part of two hours. Tears welled up on occasion, and the film's closing moments were as moving as any in recent memory. It's rare that a film so readily engages my intellect; even rarer that a film elicits such a visceral response from my mind, heart and body.
I could go on at length about Inception's casting and performances, its mind-blowing visual and practical effects, its beautiful cinematography or inventive set pieces, the subtleties of its story and themes, its intriguing realities and refined dream mechanics, the driving surge of Hans Zimmer's infectious score, the effortlessness with which Nolan weaves exposition into the fabric of his tale, or the emotional undercurrent that charges each scene. Oh, did I mention the many, many ways in which key aspects of the film are left open to thought-provoking interpretation? Be that as it may, Inception should be experienced and savored; describing anything other than the film's impact would only take away from the thrill of discovering it all for yourself. If I could get away with writing, "you simply must see Nolan's latest tour de force" and nothing more, I would, just in the hope that newcomers would watch the film with as clean a mental slate as possible. So, for what it's worth, "you must see Nolan's latest tour de force." Not only is it an amazing, eye-popping technical achievement -- the likes of which have to be seen to be believed -- the entire film defies explanation and shatters expectations. My advice? Stop reading reviews of the film and tackle it for yourself. The less you know about Inception, the better.
Inception Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you were one of the outspoken few who despised The Dark Knight's Blu-ray transfer -- those who, like me, still complain about its overcooked contrast, crushed blacks, overzealous edge enhancement, unsightly ringing and shifting aspect ratio -- prepare to breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief. Inception's 1080p/VC-1 encode isn't the year's be-all, end-all video presentation, but it comes so close to perfection that it was all too easy to overlook its minor issues and descend, undistracted, into Nolan's mesmerizing dreamscape. Although faces occasionally appear a tad overheated, Inception's unassuming interiors, wind-swept city streets, lush parks, warm hotel hallways, stormy beaches and icy military bunkers are brimming with bold, beautiful colors, rich blacks, (generally) lifelike skintones and striking contrast leveling. Likewise, while slight ringing rears its head throughout the film -- most, if not all, of which appeared in the film's theatrical presentation as well -- detail is crisp, clean and organic, fine textures are exceedingly well resolved, object definition is sharp and satisfying, and most every aspect of Nolan's intricate world is given ample opportunity to shine. On the technical front, artifacting, noise, smearing, aliasing, crush, banding and other obnoxious compression anomalies are either non-existent or kept to an absolute minimum, and the transfer is as proficient as they come. Perfect? Not quite. A perfect representation of the film's theatrical presentation? As someone who watched Inception several times on the big screen, I'd say so. Negligible issues notwithstanding, Nolan disciples, head-scratching newcomers and, really, filmfans and videophiles of all stripes will be most pleased.
Inception Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is, by my estimation, one of the best -- if not the best -- lossless audio mixes of the year. Powerful, engaging, resonant, immersive, overwhelming... all applicable adjectives, all wholly inadequate when describing the sonic stunner that awaits listeners. LFE output is robust and rewarding, fully embracing every tumbling van, falling elevator, devastating explosion, collapsing building, burst of gunfire, and hair-raising crescendo and brassy bellow in Hans Zimmer's score. The rear speakers are just as involving, granting Nolan's world all the nuance and activity it requires. Interior acoustics and environmental ambience, whether real or surreal, are given the support of the entire soundfield, and directionality is as convincing as it is precise. Through it all, dialogue remains undeterred, and the actors' lines, whether shouted or whispered, are never lost in the mind-bending madness. Voices dwell and thrive within the mix (yet never succumb to its ground-shaking force), effects are crystal clear, and prioritization is spot on. In fact, I don't have a single gripe to share. To put it mildly, Inception sounds utterly fantastic.
Inception Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 3-disc Blu-ray edition of Inception spreads Nolan's supplemental content across two BD-50 discs, and includes both a standard DVD and Digital Copy of the film. Unfortunately, the special features aren't nearly as exhaustive as I had hoped. Warner's Extraction Mode offers 45-minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes alongside the film, but without an audio commentary, Maximum Movie Mode or Picture-in-Picture track, the Extraction experience doesn't cover enough ground. Enthusiasts clamoring for a frame-by-frame deconstruction of Inception will be disappointed, particularly once they realize Warner's two discs only offer two-and-a-half hours of material to dig through (forty minutes of which involves an audio-only presentation of Hans Zimmer's score). Even so, the content on hand is high-quality stuff, and most fans will walk away fairly satisfied.
Inception Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Not everyone will fawn over Inception. Some will call it pretentious, others will call its junk-science a deal breaker. Still others will see it as further proof that Christopher Nolan isn't the grand auteur so many believe him to be. However, there aren't many films like Inception -- strike that, there aren't any films like Inception -- and those who yield to its surreal, multi-layered dreamscape, arresting complexities, sprawling set pieces, jaw-dropping special effects and visual wonders will be left in stunned silence. As I see it, Nolan's trippy head-game is cinema in its purest form -- bold, inventive and daring -- and I was completely swept away by its story, momentum and intensity. Better still, Warner's Blu-ray edition is a must-own release. Its supplemental package is a bit lighter than I expected (despite the presence of an In-Movie experience and a second disc of special features, Inception only offers an hour of true behind-the-scenes material), but its video transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio track are both outstanding. Be sure to add this one to your collection as soon as possible.
Inception: Other Editions
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Inception Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Inception Makers Not Involved in 3D - March 1, 2011
Last week, reports indicated that Christopher Nolan was working on a stereoscopic conversion of Inception to release it on 3D Blu-ray. However, Wally Pfister ASC, the film's Oscar-winning director of photography, now has clarified that, while a 3D release is "definitely" ...
• Christopher Nolan Converting Inception to 3D - February 25, 2011
Christopher Nolan has often voiced his reservations about 3D movies and especially stereoscopic conversions. However, during a recent interview, filmmaker Jonathan Liebesman (director of Wrath of the Titans) surprisingly revealed that Christopher Nolan is currently ...
• Blu-ray Sales, Dec. 27 - Jan. 2: Inception Beats Afterlife - January 6, 2011
It was neck and neck for the top-selling Blu-ray spot in the week ended January 2, but in the end Inception, now in its fourth week in stores, narrowly beat newcomer Resident Evil: Afterlife in the charts. Sony's horror/action/sci-fi movie got 44% of its total ...
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