Inception_Joseph Gordon Levitt waistcoat_(C) 2010 Warner Bros © 2010 Lord Christopher Laverty. All rights reserved.

Review: Inception

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Not everyone is going to like Inception. Not everyone likes, say, Fight Club, or Inglourious Basterds. Mainly because they went in expecting one thing and came out with something entirely different. And this is Inception in a nutshell. Slick, engaging, tense, yet maybe nothing at all like you expected.

The screenplay by director Christopher Nolan, apparently decades in the making and originally a horror story, is constructed as his own personal maze in which to lose viewers. The meat of the film, the heist or ‘Inception’, incorporates several plots working concurrently towards a single narrative. Shooting at exotic locales such as Tokyo, Morocco and Fortress Mountain in Canada, and along with near constant action, Nolan has likened his film to a James Bond movie. While this is true, it is also akin to a sci-fi version of Heat, or on a more rudimentary level, Total Recall.

Some way into its spiralling web of story is Inception’s virtuoso sequence, featuring rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as point man Arthur. At least as impressive as emotive headliner Leonardo DiCaprio, though as his antithesis; an internal, controlled character whose actions speak louder than words. DiCaprio, now mature enough to be a convincing adult lead, his facial features and hairstyle resembling a cross between Errol Flynn and director Nolan himself, plays flaky corporate dream thief Cobb with a subtle intensity. Visible, yet restrained enough to respect the ensemble.

As Cobb’s most athletic team member undertaking the most physical action, Arthur clambers around a zero gravity dream world killing assailants with upside down martial arts while simultaneously figuring out a solution to the impending ‘limbo death’ ready to befall his colleagues, Cobb included, in precisely three minutes.

The juxtaposition between Gordon-Levitt’s formal costume of fitted three piece (minus jacket) and his character’s energetic on-screen ballet recalls Sean Connery’s OO7 dispatching henchmen in a Conduit Cut suit without pulling so much as a shoulder seam. Arthur drifting along a hotel corridor, towing his dormant friends behind wrapped in electrical cord stands out as the kind of cool movie moment Nolan is fast becoming the master of (see also the Batpod up the wall in The Dark Knight). It is both awe-inspiring and ridiculous.

Carefully selected attire is an essential part of the world of Inception. Costume designer Jeffery Kurland (for he designed all the suits in the film) has utilised fabrics of varying weight and colour, plus a blending of classic and modernistic styles to establish setting and differentiate protagonists in slight but distinguishable ways.

Note Michael Caine’s outfit of tweed jacket and Nehru collar shirt with popper buttons. As Miles, a university professor who may be vital, may be exposition, Caine’s costume subtly informs proceedings with a merging of old and new (likewise echoing his and Cobb’s relationship). It is not implicitly stated that Inception is set in the future, however Miles’ clothing is not quite ‘now’, although, paradoxically, it could be. In other words there is a suggestion that the story could take place in the near future, or even that Miles’ appearance is actually part of Cobb’s amalgamated dream state. Or more radically Miles could just be an older gentlemen who dresses a little kookily. Point being, there are no absolutes in Inception. And with this in mind don’t neglect to register what Cobb’s children are wearing either…

Even with a multi-layered narrative juggling several conscious (or unconscious, or subconscious, as the case may be) states and timeframes, the characters are easy to follow. Their clothing immediately discriminates in such a way that an individual’s primary personality trait is intoned without them having to say or do anything.

For example, the immensely watchable Tom Hardy as relaxed chameleon Eames in lounge lizard open-neck shirt with splayed collars or Cillian Murphy as businessman mark Robert Fischer Jr, always in a cutaway collar. Marion Cotillard’s Mal is introduced in an angular silhouette as the wicked witch haunting Cobb’s mind. Although, interestingly, there are no real villains in this film – not literal ones anyway.

It should come as no surprise with a story fluctuating through volatile degrees of consciousness that Nolan drops hints to remind his audience it is okay to be disorientated; that this the point. Guy Dyas’ production design confirms the dream state with geometric shapes incorporated into bedspreads, wallpaper and sofas (not to mention neckties). Even the barrage of score from Hans Zimmer is set to disorientate as much as stimulate.

Nolan has used his craft, moreover his craftspeople, to play his audience. Not in a clever-clever way, but in a Hitchcock way, i.e. that ‘play’ is the optimum word. Inception is very silly movie that deliberately takes itself very seriously. Just roll with the journey and trust that it will take you where you want to go.

Inception is released worldwide on 16h July.img src=

© 2010 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.

  • http://anthropologist.wordpress.com Marianne

    I love your top picture (and also the 3rd). It wasn’t clear to me right away, but both pictures are of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Just confirms an impression that’s been building for a while: Gordon-Levitt is way waaaay cooler now, than di Caprio.

    Go, Joseph!

  • Zeiram

    I enjoyed your review… I’ve never read a movie review by any critic that delved so deep into the insightfullness of the costuming and how it relates to the overall story. Great job, made me want to see it more.

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  • Grace

    Love your review, although I feel that films dealing with perception/reality should have some deliberate absolutes. It’s arguably impossible to create a film without them, or at least would make for a pretentious and boring ‘maze’ not appropriate for an entertaining experience (which Inception was and film should be). Therefore, I was irritated to an anal degree that Ariadne’s suit costume in the ‘hotel’ level included a scarf remarkably similar to Saito’s scarf in the ‘limbo’ level where he has become an old man. And both were styled identically.

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      You raise some interesting points, Grace. I too want clarification regarding costume differentiation between the dream states. I had an interview set with Jeffrey Kurland but can’t seem to pin him down at the moment. I’ll keep trying though, and I’ll put your issue about Ariadne’s scarf to him too.

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  • Mush

    Do you happen to know who designed the suit worn by Cobb in the final airplane scene all the way through the end? Combined with the shirt and tie, it was very impressive power suit.

    Thanks!

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland designed all the suits in the film. I’m going to try like mad to get some costume answers, including specifics about the plane suit. GQ’s probably jumped the queue in front of me, but watch this space anyway.

    • Chris

      I just discovered this site while searching for the answer to the very same question: What is the suit that Cobb is wearing while on the plane. I have favorited this site on my browser and have been checking everyday hoping for an answer, either way this seems like a very interesting site.

      Thanks!

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      Well, the purpose of the site is more to look at how costume affects plot and character rather than just the brands of clothing, tailoring, etc. Though I try to find that out whenever I can because I know people are interested in it.

      Thanks for bookmarking. I’ll hopefully have some Inception news for you all soon.

      Chris

  • Dean

    great review, loved the insight into the costumes.

    i thought the film was extremely stylish. I loved the differing styles. Eames with his very old-british attire and arthur with his very fitted suits. I loved that wallet-chain on Eames, it was very classy yet hip, I wonder who was the maker?

    I think what struck out to me was the amount of watches on display. Could you find out what watches the actors were sporting?

  • Dean

    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3737027328/ch0158128

    eames looks best in that. Cant make out the watch unfortunately

  • Matt

    Personally my favorite on the clothing would be what Eames was wearing in Mombasa. My buddy turned over to me and pointed out the shoes he was wearing, I would like to know the brand if anyone knows. Overall though, great costume design for the whole movie. Props to the designer.

  • Grant

    I need to know where to find that wide-knotted purple paisley tie worn by Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer. It was really eye-catching.

    • Leo

      Hey Grant – did you ever find out about the tie? I’m looking too…

  • Ben

    If you find out anything further about the costuming for this film, I would love to know who makes the leather jacket worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It looks like it could be made by Aero leather, but I’m not sure. Also, I’m with Dean, and I’ve love to know what watches the characters are wearing, especially DiCaprio’s and Gordon-Levitt’s.

    By the way, just to help you out in case anyone’s interested, Gordon-Levitt’s boots are by John Varvatos, and they’re called the Spectator Boots. I’m 100% positive. They retail for $598.

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      Thanks for this info, Ben. I’m having a hard time getting access at the moment. Industry NDAs (non disclosure agreements) are killing me! I’ll keep trying though.

  • Angela

    Ugh! to marianne… The third picture is not also of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s the guy who played the Satio character. Get it right! humm Joseph Gordon-Levitt is so dreamy :’}

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      That’s Ken Watanabe, who arguably looks just as sharp in a 3 PC.

  • Ben

    One more thing. The pants Leo wears with his leather jacket are from Belstaff, and they’re called the Voyager Pants. Belstaff sells them on their website, but not in the same color. A few random Japanese websites (which a simple Google search of “Belstaff Voyager Pants” will yield) carry them as well.

  • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

    Just by the by, Jeffrey Kurland designed all the suits in the film Should DEFINITELY have more costume information for you soon…

  • Mark

    The piece of clothing I really liked and wondered about was the grey/blue sweater/jacket/blazer worn several times by Dicaprio. In one scene, it appears to be a long shirt/jacket that may be a fine corduroy with pockets on bottom. In another scene it seems more sweater-y. Do you know anything about this piece of clothing.

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      Not sure about that piece specifically, but Jeffrey Kurland designed all the suits himself. Hopefully more details SOON.

  • Ben

    Chris, if you’re still digging, there’s one more piece I’m looking for. It’s the brown trench coat/peacoat that JGL wears in the scene early in the movie when Saito asks he and DiCaprio to join him in the helicopter. I couldn’t get a good enough look at it to describe all the details, but it looks about knee-length or a little shorter, brown, double-breasted, possibly also trench coat but also possibly a long, cotton peacoat. Do you remember what I’m talking about?

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      I know Jeffrey designed all the suits himself, but not sure about that coat (which I do remember). I’ll ask him about it for you.

      UPDATE: The raincoat, which is actually green, was designed by Jeffrey Kurland himself.

  • Alphonse

    Great Movie review and extremely original wording linking the drama to the clothing. In that regard the scene at the runway when DiCaprio is wearing a navy blue coat with long collar is as amaizing as the jacket itself. Anyone knows who’s coat is it?

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      Thanks Alphonse. THIS should provide an answer to your question.

  • lee

    While at the snow scene, those jumper under the snow coat is eye catching (even just showing a little bit).

    Love the film and like all the clothes so it’s great to find your work here…like this page and the one : Inception: Jeffrey Kurland Costume Q&A; love it!

  • Jon

    Chris, would you happen to know where Jeffrey Kurland got the ties from? Specifically the ones worn by Cobb and Fischer in the dream scenes, as well as the one Cobb wears on the airplane? I know the suits and shirts were custom made but he says nothing about the ties. Thanks.

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      There is a brief mention of the ties HERE Jon. Going over my notes it appears that the ties were custom made too – I would assume all of them.

  • http://Gmail.com Ben

    Chris, excellent Q&A. Great questions, and great article. That definitely cleared up quite a bit for me. One question that still remains unanswered for me though (unless I missed something, which I very well may have), is who designed the leather jackets. I know the suits and tailoring were made custom by order, but I imagine a custom made leather jacket would be somewhat of an unnecessary expenditure. Did Kurland specify where he got the leather jackets from (particularly JGL’s)? Also, I saw you mentioned that Kurland himself designed the green raincoat worn by JGL in an early sequence. Is this the same coat I’m thinking of when I mentioned the brown trench/topcoat JGL wore when meeting Saito at the helicopter?

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      Arthur’s green raincoat is what you thought to be the brown trenchcoat. As far as the leather jackets are concerned, I’m not sure. I’ll try to find out for you.

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      I’ve had a few points raised about the clothing in Inception not covered by the Q&A. I do not have a direct line to Jeffrey, but if there are enough worthwhile questions to ask I’ll get in contact again for a follow up interview. Keep posting them here and we’ll see what we can come up with.

  • Thomas

    Love the suit that Cobb was wearing on the airplane. So glad I found this site where people thought the same thing…hope to find the answer!

  • Karissa

    Hello I was wondering what the brand or where they got the white winter jackets in the winter scene in inception? I’d love t know, I’ve been searching everywhere! Thanks!

    • LJ

      I have been searching for the same answer everywhere. If I see a close resemblance or anything other of value I’ll be sure to tell you.
      Anyway, great website full of interesting stuff and not just requests. It’s very exciting to see people as excited over film costumes as myself.

  • raijin

    If you can get or do rough layout of fabric …you can show it to a custom tailor around town. I know few in Miami that can do it for ya. But costs much. An alternative is if you travel to HK/South Korea/India is to go with your design to one of custom tailor shops … n get the job done for pennys on the dollar. Had one of my buddies visit S.Korea n got a custom suit made to fit and looked high end for 150 bucks. (2-pc jacket and pants).
    Ofcouse for the film its a picture perfect frame and hence even used CGI to def. take off an unwanted wrinkle if they deemed necessary.
    Its the only answer to custom tailor jobs is to meet it with your own. As far as leather jacket goes…replicas are out but my biggest concern on those is the type of leather used. Leather unfortunately in mass replica is no good from Asia market. Has to be Euro (britz or Italian)… I’m not gonna name any famous brands as it will put false info on thread. But Aero or AceCafe Leathers should be able to get a custom jacket like that done no problem. Will cost ya (700-900 usd range) but even have the option of Horse hide leather. Which Asian market and replica makers wont even talk about.
    I’ve for last 7 years tried to find a dress shirt seen in an anime that had white with purple pin stripes. Till this day never found it.

  • Johnny Boots

    Does anyone know the make of the under sweaters worn during the winter scene? They are the knitted look with the high collars.

    Great review by the way

    • http://clothesonfilm.com Chris Laverty

      I genuinely thought everything was made to order under the instruction of Jeffrey Kurland, though there is certainly a chance these weren’t. I’m going to check out the movie again on Blu-ray soon and if I get an opportunity to put this question to Mr. Kurland I will.

  • Mark J Belcher

    Any one know any info on the Artic Parkas worn during the Hospital scene?

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  • Johnny

    I got to admit’ those snow camo snow jackets with the large buckles are beautiful! Very stunning! Please put them on the market I’d buy a dozen of them! They look fantastic! Job well done to the designer!

    Johnny

  • Robin

    I am very interested in the grey suit worn by Ariadne’s character. It was a gorgeous suit, and I’ve come across several comparisons with the suit and the hairstyle to Madeline in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Very interesting idea. I would %100 purchase that suit, though!