Christopher Nolan’s Inception was released in July 2010, and became a worldwide hit, inspiring parody, homage, and critical acclaim. Made in a very different landscape and context than the one in 2020, it would be easy to underappreciate it. Nolan has become a prominent figure in film in the intervening years and arguably one of the most successful directors in modern cinema. He has acted as a defender of the tried-and-true methods of making a movie, shooting on 70mm film, demanding cinema releases, using practical effects whenever possible (like strapping an IMAX camera to a plane to shoot Dunkirk), and making wholly original films rather than constant sequels and prequels (though when he did venture into adaptations, he created the Dark Knight trilogy, the best set of superhero films ever made). It’s these traditional techniques which have made Inception not feel outdated in the slightest.
The practical effects are key. A lot of films from the 2000s were over-reliant on CGI that has aged poorly, making them now look like bad animated films. Nolan avoided this by creating mind-bending effects practically. Most famously, the revolving hotel corridor scene used an actual hotel corridor set and a revolving mechanism. In a film where the plot is based on straddling the line between reality and dreams, and more specifically, convincing characters that dreams are reality, using completely real effects to create that reality makes for a much more powerful viewing experience.
There are many elements to discuss about Inception: Leonardo Dicaprio’s incredible performance, the intense, oft-copied score by Hans Zimmer, the beautiful cinematography by Wally Pfister, but it would take days to properly analyse every element of the film (I’ve personally watched multiple 40 minute presentations entirely about the ending). What can be written briefly is this: Inception at its release was one of the most brilliant, beautiful, innovative films ever released, a testament to what filmmaking could and should be. 10 years later, it is that same incredible experience and still one of the greatest films ever made.