Blu-Ray Review: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ Rewards Repeat Viewing

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CHICAGO – Summer 2010 was filled with some of the laziest mainstream product in the history of the blockbuster season. Creative bankruptcy ruled almost every weekend and audiences wisely turned away from most of it. And yet the one film that will be most-remembered from the warm months of this year is the one that stood out like a black swan. “Inception,” now on Blu-ray and DVD, is the most ambitious and daring big budget summer blockbuster ever released. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

Whether or not “Inception” is a masterpiece has already been widely-debated and will continue to be as more people catch up with it on Blu-ray and DVD, but it is incredibly rewarding to see that an original concept like Christopher Nolan’s can compete with sequels and blockbusters based on other properties. There’s still some work to do (“Inception” is the only non-sequel and/or non-family film in the top ten of 2010) but it’s incredibly rewarding to see that a project as completely original as this one can find a massive audience. They don’t all need to be sequels.

Inception was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010.
Inception was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

“Inception” seems like a film tailor-made for Blu-ray. You can pause the action and discuss your theories on the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream (within a dream?) story of Nolan’s intellectually-challenging enterprise or you can just turn up the volume and bask in the HD experience. In theaters, if you left the story to get some popcorn or use the bathroom, you were probably lost when you came back in. It’s nice to have a pause button with “Inception.”

Inception was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010.
Inception was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

The video and audio on the WB release of “Inception” are stunning and the way they enhance the film is key to the release, but the special features reek of a placeholder, something for people to buy this holiday season while they wait for a more Special Edition coming down the road. Here’s a hint — When there’s no commentary and no deleted scenes on a film that made as much money as “Inception,” you can be virtually guaranteed that there’s material being held for a double dip. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

At its core, “Inception” is about a man trying to deal with tragedy. The man is Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a soul forever changed by his travels through the mind. In the first scene, his partner in crime Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) admonishes him for bringing his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) into the action of the subconscious. Cobb is a man who can’t let go of what he has lost and has a job where he can literally manifest that loss in physical form. He has to face down the demons of his mind literally to survive “Inception.”

Cobb and his team are hired by businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform the task of inception. Cobb has made a living stealing ideas from people’s dream states but he now must perform the opposite maneuver and implant something deep enough in someone’s brain that the mark thinks that the idea is actually his own. Said idea is for the son (Cillian Murphy) of a recently-passed mega-mogul to break up his father’s company. Cobb gathers a team that includes an “Architect” named Ariadne (Ellen Page), a chameleonic muscle man named Eames (Tom Hardy), and a master of sedatives named Yusuf (Dileep Rao). They will make up the group that essentially performs an elaborate heist. It’s not unlike “Ocean’s 11” or other heist movies in the sense that Cobb needs to complete one last amazing job before he retires. Call it “Cobb’s 6.”

Inception was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010.
Inception was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Maybe. That’s one reading of “Inception.” There are others. In fact, it’s possible that the first half of the film is just as dream-based as the second. Whatever your interpretation, Nolan and his insanely-talented production team are constantly trying to keep the viewer slightly left-of-center. Even in the “real world,” it’s hard to find your bearings. Cobb notes that most dreams start in the middle as you can never remember how you got there. Almost every scene in “Inception” starts in the middle. And Nolan uses his score in an unusual way, not beginning or ending scene breaks and adding to the sense that something’s just not right even before Cobb and his crew take their dream journey. “Inception” is about dreams within dreams that is ultimately a film within a film within a film. Who is more of the architect of a dream world than Nolan himself?

Technically, “Inception” is jaw-dropping. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is a stunning blend of shadow and light while Lee Smith’s editing is as essential to the overall piece as any editor’s work this entire year. The visual effects are unbelievable, including an action sequence between Arthur and some security guards in which gravity becomes a non-factor that is one of the most impressive ever filmed.

In theaters, some criticized the lack of an emotional through line in the piece, but that criticism falls away on second viewing at home. Now that you know all the twists and turns, watch the movie again and focus on just Cobb and Mal. The emotion is there. Both DiCaprio and Cotillard are spectacular. They break the film down to its essentials in that it’s about trust, obsession, and loss.

Sadly, the Blu-ray release of “Inception” could be considered a bit of a disappointment. The commercials have touted “90 minutes of special features.” 90 minutes?!?! In today’s market, that’s nothing, not with a 3-disc, multi-hour version of “Avatar” sitting on the shelf. People talked about “Inception” for longer than 90 minutes in coffee shops after seeing it. What is here is interesting, especially the piece about dreams, and the behind-the-scenes material is well-organized and interesting, there just isn’t quite enough of it. Maybe next summer.

Special Features:
o Extraction Mode
o Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious
o Inception: The Cobol Job
o 5.1 Soundtrack Selections From Hans Zimmer’s Versatile Score
o Conceptual Art, Promotional Art and Trailer/TV Spot Galleries
o BD-Live: Project Somnacin: Confidential Files
o DVD Version
o Digital Copy

“Inception” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, and Michael Caine. It was written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 7th, 2010. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Nunya's picture

Special Features

If you do some research you would know that Nolan isn’t aa big fan of doing alot of commentary or behind the scene things on his movies. He feels it is akin to a magician giving away his tricks when you show too much of what went into making a film. It takes all the wonder and magic out of it. None of his movies have had a double dip with added features from previous outings outsider of that one cool Memento version that was basically a puzzle to even get into.

BrianTT's picture

Yes and No

I know that about Nolan but it’s not always within his control and you’re sort of but not quite right. In 2005, a Batman Begins DVD was released. 3 years later, a Limited Edition DVD was released timed to The Dark Knight with postcards and collectible packaging. I would wager that there will be a TDK: Special Edition when the next Batman film is released whether Nolan wants to or not. There’s a Memento: 10 Year Edition being released in February (with a commentary as you mention). That’s 2 out of 4 films (Prestige missing) with at least two editions on the market and a third likely when the next sequel is released.

Either way, if we agree or disagree that there will be a double dip, the special features on Inception are disappointing.

BrianTT's picture

Forgot Insomnia

Before you correct me - 2 out of 5 with a third likely and I would say 4 out of 6 (with special editions of TDK and Inception) by the time the next Dark Knight movie comes out. Just my prediction.

Nunya's picture

Special Features

No, you’re right. Guess I should have been more specific. I meant double dip just to add previously unreleased special features or footage, etc. And forgot to add it’s not usually that it isn’t so soon soon after the initial release. I don’t mind double doing to capitalize much later during an upcoming sequel or anniversary of a movie. As long as it’s not a one through for year one. Also, moue that I read my courtesy message I realize I came off sounding like a know it all jerk. Didn’t mean to. Should have worded it different.

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