Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t one of my favorite actors, so the previews last summer for Inception left me conflicted. The special effects looked phenomenal, which would normally compel me to see the film on the big screen, but Mr. Titanic was in the lead role, which generally means I stay far, far away. After dozens of glowing reviews from friends and co-workers — even though they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) divulge the plot — I decided it was time to see Inception. Once it hit Blu-ray, that is. After all, there’s a 55-inch 3D Bravia and 5.1 surround-sound setup here, so why take the $15 risk of my caution being correct? Now I’m the one recommending Inception.
Inception provides one of the best Blu-ray experiences released in Q4, both from a presentation and an entertainment standpoint. The plot remains hard to explain — it’s essentially The Matrix meets Ocean’s Eleven — but its premise of pulling heists by planting ideas in people’s dreams is nothing if not unique, and the subtext of DiCaprio going all “mental” as he deals with his wife’s unfortunate suicide is intriguing enough that even I can overlook the fact that DiCaprio’s delivering the lines.
Yet as fascinating as the movie itself may be, it’s the multimedia elements that really make the Inception Blu-ray a homerun. Normally the video gets the first mention in a Blu-ray review, particularly if the film is as special-effect focused as Inception, but the audio quality in Inception turns conventional wisdom on its head. Quite simply, Inception has the best DTS-HD Master Audio track to hit Blu-ray. Period. From intense action scenes that provide a subwoofer workout to more-gentle flashback sequences that require fine dialogue-driven clarity, Inception nails it all. Considering the variety of scenes and audio needs, the balance between action and dialogue is particularly impressive, as is the utilization of the surround speakers. Inception does a great job as a film enveloping viewers in the dream worlds of its actors, and a large part of that immersion is the simple feeling that it sounds like you’re there. The rear channels deliver a sense of place in Inception like few Blu-rays before it.
Now, just because we mentioned audio over video doesn’t mean Inception’s VC-1 transfer is poor. Quite the contrary, in fact. Inception’s 1080p video is just as nuanced as the audio, with eye-popping special effects and crisp edges when they need to be, co-existing with gentle curves and a warm color palette as the scene calls for it. The skintones retain their warmth as well, even in the film’s later blue- and white-heavy snow sequences, while the crush-free blacks contrast nicely with bright outdoor scenes. There’s really nothing not to like here.
The bonus features Warner Bros. included on the Inception Blu-ray represent what must have been a difficult conceptual choice for the studio: overwhelm home viewers with exhaustive options, or deliver just a few high-powered features. Warner opted for the latter with Inception, packing on eight features totaling about 2.5 hours and adding BD-Live functionality. This is bound to upset the biggest Inception fanboys, who likely wanted a Lord-of-the-Rings-esque treatment with two weeks’ worth of features, but for most folks the selection here is fine. The Concept Art Gallery, Promo Art Archive and Trailers segments are standard enough, as is a special BD-Live portal containing schematics for the dream-sharing technology called Project Somnacin: Confidential Files. The remaining four features heat things up a bit.
Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious is a 44-minute documentary in which psychologists, professors and other related pundits muse about sleep. No, not the theoretical possibilities of controlling people’s dreams, but the literal science of sleep. How, why, REM, patterns, yada yada. It’s no coincidence that psychologists and professors are included on the interview panel, because this feature really is somewhat cerebral. Amazingly, it still remains interesting, but more from a PBS sense than one specifically tied to Inception and the concepts that drive it.
As if to wake viewers up a bit, the feature Inception: The Cobol Job is a 15-minute motion comic that delves into the backstories of the main three characters first got involved with their dream-planting venture. Motion comics appear to be the new big thing, and having one included on the Inception Blu-ray set is bound to boost their profile even more. It also just happens to look cool, so check it out.
The most puzzling bonus feature is the Inception Soundtrack included as a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 compilation. All 10 tracks, all 39 minutes of them, are included here for your listening pleasure. The score is solid and I don’t mean to take anything away from it by saying this, but this bonus feature is rather boring. Unique and high-quality, to be sure, but it only includes the audio track. There is no video whatsoever. This seems like a huge missed opportunity, particularly since the galleries are included as stand-alone bonus features that could have instead lent their artwork to this feature as a way to compel people to actually keep their TVs on while this bonus feature plays. As it stands, you may as well give the TV a rest for 39 minutes and fire it back up again when the audio ends. The audio sounds great; it just needed some visuals to avoid the bout of head-scratching you’ll have when you only hear the bonus feature rather than see it.
To make up for this, Warner Bros. winds things up with Extraction Mode, a making-of feature that bends the lines of your normal making-of presentation. Although the content is largely what you’d expect, it’s not presented via a stand-alone feature or a Picture-in-Picture mode. Instead, this mode co-exists with the feature film almost in an inline sense, where the movie occasionally shifts from feature to making-of expose and back again as if on a timeline. After a scene concludes, if there’s a bonus feature that explores some aspect of it, it fires-up automatically, does its thing and then transitions back to the film. On paper it sounds jarring, but in practice it makes total sense. It’s not the way I’d recommend watching the film for the first time, but for second, third and more play throughs it makes all the sense in the world. Heck, it also gives you a good excuse to watch Inception again on Blu-ray.
Which you know you will, especially when the Blu-ray presentation is this fantastic. Inception got great reviews theatrically, and it’s nice to see its home release is upholding that standard. From crisp video to outstanding audio, Inception truly delivers the full Blu-ray package, and it’s bound to be a showcase audio piece for many home theater owners as well. If you’re even remotely intrigued by the film or a science fiction fan, there’s really no good reason not to pick this one up.
Click here to buy Inception on Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
- Score: 9.5
- Sharp video, amazing audio and an intriguing story combine for a powerful presentation that manages to overcome my general malaise for all things DiCaprio.
— Jonas Allen