‘Inception’ is a thinking-man’s sci-fi thriller with DiCaprio in key role
By Skip Sheffield
If dreams are the key to the subconscious, then getting into someone else’s dream could unlock the true feelings in that person’s brain. If you can get into the brain, you could alter a person’s perception of reality and even the thinking process.
That is the basic but complicated premise of “Inception,” a thinking person’s thriller by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”).
Writer-director Nolan is big into the significance of dreams. So am I, so right away I am in his corner. My dreams are vivid, funny, sad, sometimes terrifying, but I consider myself lucky to have this alternate reality.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, an “Extractor” of dreams of others. This power can be used for good or evil or in Cobb’s case, profit. Corporations hire him to steal ideas from rival companies.
Ken Watanabe is Saito, a seemingly clueless Japanese tourist who in reality is a sharp businessman who challenges Cobb with his most ambitious project: get into the dreams and brain of a dying corporate head and implant an idea that will change the outcome of the man’s will and his corporation’s future. Cynical Cobb reluctantly accepts to pull off one last caper before he quits the dubious business.
Cillian Murphy is Robert Fischer, Jr., son of the corporate head and presumed heir of the company.
So far it’s fairly straightforward by science-fiction standards. If Cobb can burrow into the brain of Robert Jr., he can unlock the key to a fortune.
But nothing is at it seems in the multi-leveled dream reality of Dom Cobb. He is all tangled up in the reality of the tragic death of his wife Mal (French actress Marion Cotillard) and his separation from his son and daughter, with dear old dad (Michael Caine) fluttering in and out of his consciousness, but not offering much in practical advice.
Cobb assembles a “dream team” to pull off the caper. It is Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levin, with slicked-back hair) as chief researcher; Eames (Tom Hardy), “The Forger” who creates identities in a physical form; Yusuf (Dileen Rao), the chemist who formulates the drugs to put subjects under, and Ariane (Ellen Page) a very young but gifted woman who designs the dream worlds in which the action takes place.
These dream worlds are in three layers, each one deeper and scarier than the next. On the very long flight from Sydney to Los Angeles the team springs into action, which at the reality level means they are all asleep but at the next deeper levels, all kinds of stuff is happening simultaneously.
If you think this is too needlessly complicated, be aware this is a story of love; of doomed love of Cobb for the wife he hurt and betrayed. If you’ve ever wakened from a dream with a profound sense of loss, you will relate to Cobb’s pain.
On the other hand, if it’s action you seek, there is a Batman-like barrage of good guys and bad guys shooting at one another, chasing at breakneck speed through cities and countryside and blowing things up in spectacular ways.
On a visual level the computer-generated realities are stunning. In his mind Cobb has built entire cities that bend and fold up upon themselves; skyscrapers that crumble into the sea and weightless free-falling bodies like space travel or a Matrix film.
Is it theoretically possible to enter another person’s dream? I really don’t know. My dreams are already so vast and daunting I can’t imagine enduring any more subconscious stimulation.
But as an action-thriller, and yes a work of art, Inception is like nothing else you’ll see this summer. I think we will have to wait years for the final verdict on this one, but for now,
Three and a half stars