Oscar Profile: Inception

by Tom Ingram

Inception‘s reputation precedes it. Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller about dreams and corporate espionage made a ton of money and garnered overwhelmingly good reviews, but there’s been a lot of backlash from people who say it’s pretentious and impossible to understand.

The good news is that this appears to be a lot of sour-grapes nonsense. Inception is about Dom Cobb, an “extractor” who enters the dreams of big corporate leaders to steal their secrets. He’s turned to a life of high-class crime after being falsely accused of killing his wife and exiling himself from America.

After a failed job puts him in trouble with a big client, Cobb is offered a way out: One Last Job, which will get him everything he needs to return to the States. Enter the mind of Robert Fischer, the young heir to a massive corporate empire, and plant the idea of breaking up his father’s accomplishment. “Inception” jobs are orders of magnitude more difficult than simple thefts of ideas, to the point where many people aren’t sure they can be done at all.

Cobb knows otherwise, though, because he’s done one before. He assembles a team of the very best extractors in the world, and sets about using his trademark–multi-layered dreams–to mess with Robert Fischer’s head even as he has a mental breakdown that messes with his own.

What’s especially notable about Inception is the way it ties together the wildly disparate events of the different levels of dreaming into one very strange but hugely compelling narrative. Oddly, the movie wasn’t nominated for Best Editing, but it’s really an excellent piece of work bolstered by good performances and a top-notch script.


  • Best Picture
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Visual Effects

Given the huge competition for Best Picture, I don’t think Inception will or should win, with the caveat that years from now it will be remembered more than any of the other movies nominated. The screenplay was excellent. I’m not sure if it will win, but it should. Screw The King’s Speech, it’s going home with plenty of Oscars anyway.

The visuals for this movie are simply amazing. Taking cues from MC Escher, the sets, cinematography, and special effects are all designed with the twisty logic of dreams. Against mediocre movies like Iron Man II, Inception is a no-brainer for Best Visual Effects.

Even better, though, is the score. Hans Zimmer, with his odd instrumentation and powerful melodies, reminds me of Bernard Herrmann, the venerable composer for Citizen Kane and Vertigo. This is one of the highest compliments a film composer could get. Nothing else on the list even compares.