Christopher Nolan has made trippy, psychological dramas a signature of his decades-long career as a filmmaker. From Interstellar to The Prestige, Nolan continues to turn intriguing concepts into memorable, mind-bending films. However, outside of the The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception remains Nolan’s most impactful masterpiece.
Inception is the last of Nolan’s films on Netflix and it's primed to leave the streaming service on June 30. There are a multitude of reasons you should watch (or rewatch) this mind-blowing film, if nothing more than to revel in its brilliant cinematography, Leo DiCaprio's angst-ridden hero, and the movie's ever-lasting cultural legacy.
Released in 2010, Inception follows Dominic “Dom” Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), highly skilled extractors who cleverly steal ideas and information buried in a person’s subconscious. When an ambitious businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe) tasks Cobb with implanting a very specific idea into the subconscious of his business rival Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), Cobb takes the job in hopes to get his kids and his life back.
Cobb and Arthur then recruit architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and the skilled identity thief Eames (Tom Hardy) to build and help infiltrate the layered dreamscape. However, their mission is threatened by the secret buried deep within Cobb’s own guilty conscience.
Christopher Nolan cites high-concept films like The Matrix and Dark City, the 1998 neo-noir sci-fi, as his influences for Inception, and that’s evident throughout this movie predicated on the idea of multiple people sharing one lucid dream.
Originally envisioned as a horror film before becoming a dream heist, Inception inarguably has the biggest pop culture imprint of Nolan’s original films. Fans debated the “spinning top” ending (and still do), Lil Wayne parodied the film — right down to the slow-motion chair fall into the bathtub — in his music video for “6 Foot 7 Foot” in 2011, and even the science of Inception has been written about at length.
Beyond becoming a pop culture phenomenon, Inception is a highly effective film, primarily because Nolan relies on stunning, and sometimes horrifying, visuals to tell its story. That, in turn, heightens the tension and danger of being inside someone’s mind. Anything could go wrong at any moment, and the brain is unpredictable, infinitely vast, and complex.
The visuals and intense sound effects are juxtaposed with an emotional depth that isn’t immediately clear. But, much like the arrival of Mal, the emotional core of the film is unexpected yet powerful, tackling the weight of guilt, loss, and the strength of memory. It's made all the more exceptional with the addition of Hans Zimmer’s haunting and gorgeous musical score.
Inception is a combination of suspense, action, and psychological and emotional twists. It pushes the envelope with complicated concepts, breaking them down in expository scenes that don’t patronize the audience. After all, a dream within a dream within a dream does warp everything, with its ambiguous finale calling into question the film’s own depiction of reality.
Ultimately, Inception is a shining testament to Nolan’s masterful filmmaking, a thought-provoking sci-fi adventure that has withstood the test of time and a stark reminder of why we should be excited for the director's next time-bending movie: Tenet.
Inception is available to stream on Netflix until June 30.