(They’re the dream warriors!)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Marion Coittard and Tom Hardy. Directed by Christopher Nolan. 148 minutes. 14A
Two summers ago, even the more pretentious popcorn people of the world were blown away by Christopher Nolan’s gothy Gotham opus, The Dark Knight. This summer, they better be ready to explode. Inception, Nolan’s latest mind-fucking drama, makes Batman look like a geek in bondage gear.
The film follows a team of high-profile dream thieves, or rather, well-paid criminals that steal ideas directly from your mid-sleep subconscious state. The leader of the said pack is a Cobb (DiCaprio), a brilliant, but obviously bruised, man. Cobb hasn’t seen his children in ages, for reasons that I am going to purposely keep under wraps, and he’s dying to find a way home. So when businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), offers him a one-way ticket back to his babies, he, and his long-time partner in mind-altering, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), jump on it. The catch is, Saito doesn’t want them to do the standard thought-plucking procedure. He wants them to perform “inception,” planting idea in a rival business leader’s head (Cillian Murphy). Cobb says he’s only done this once before, and seems weary of his abilities, so the team adds some new members: a cocky master of dream disguise named Eames (Tom Hardy) and a whip-smart young architect named Ariadne (Ellen Page). The rest of the story is too original, and genuinely surprising, to dare spoil.
What I will say is the special effects that frame Inception’s constantly changing dream sequences are worth the ticket price alone. They’re overwhelmingly spectacular, fake enough to seem surreal, and real enough to seem tangible. One scene in particular (look for Gordon-Levitt levitating around an abandoned hotel corridor) will have you questioning your sense of gravity. Hell, every scene will have you rethinking your surroundings. Don’t be surprised if you leave the theatre wondering if the fellow movie-goers are really there, or if it’s all in your head.
One thing you won’t have to get all introspective and philosophical about is DiCaprio’s performance. There’s no question he’s been following his break-out character’s advice and making it count, again. He has picked another great film, and great director, to showcase his natural intensity, and don’t be surprised if he gets buzz for it (although, perhaps not Oscar-related). He’s well-groomed pawn in Nolan’s cinematic chess board, clearly aware that the film is even bigger than his obvious talent. His take on Cobb is eccentric yet endearing, a toned-down version of his character in the middle of Shutter Island or, if you want to get more critically-acclaimed, a more thoughtful (and less hopelessly Bostonian) cousin of Billy Costigan.
And DiCaprio’s not the only piece of the puzzling picture that fits nearly perfectly. The whole cast is in on the trippy tale, leaving their previous personas behind and fully immersing themselves in the elaborate set-up. Marion Cottilard is both heart-breaking and terrifying as Cobb’s long-lost love, Mal. Gordon-Levitt is also strong, both physically and emotionally, demonstrating that he’s galaxies away from the awkward kid he was on 3rd Rock. Page and Watanabe also deserve kudos (they’re both necessary parts of Cobb’s development). But the real standout here is Tom Hardy. He’s oozing with leading man potential: rugged, handsome and deadpan funny. His playfully hateful chemistry with Gordon-Levitt provides quirky comic relief when the dream drama gets a little too real.
Inception may well be the best drama of the year so far, depending on your summer movie-going personality. If you’re looking for a large Coke and a mind-numbing escapist pic, keep your mind closed to Cobb and his gang of cranial criminals. They will most likely put you to sleep (or perhaps give you way-too-thought-out nightmares). But if you’re sick the standard summer fluff, Inception will be, well, dreamy. A