Warner Bros., Rated PG-13
Reviews are ideally an assessment of a film’s value as entertainment or enlightenment. They should never be a guide when attempting to figure out what in the movie’s world is going on. Such is the case with Christopher Nolan’s mind-over-matter blockbuster Inception, a confounding riddle of a story where the characters are lost inside one another’s dreams without a clue. Please, I think we already have enough trouble navigating the murky labyrinths of our own nightmares and making it out by morning.
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Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb, a futuristic new breed of corporate espionage industrial spy and professional dream bandit, who is hired by corporations to steal their rivals’ conglomerate plans from inside the minds of their adversaries. Here Cobb faces an unorthodox assignment from the multinational robber baron Saito (Ken Watanabe), who sends him on a mission to plant rather than extract thoughts inside the head of a competitor tycoon, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), so he can dissolve his rival’s financial empire.
The deal with Saito is pretty much an offer Cobb can’t refuse, because he is being hunted internationally in connection with the death of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard). He’s desperate to return to the States with a fake passport that Saito can arrange so he can reunite with his young children. So Cobb schemes to infiltrate Fischer’s cerebral inner recesses, accompanied by sidekick Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a team of sleepwalker suits in confrontation with brawny enemy brainiacs. He also has a newly recruited architectural dream-weaver Ariadne (Ellen Page), who’s apparently a whiz in homo-sapien interior decorating.
Seemingly the opposite of writer/director Nolan’s Insomnia, this action-driven yet at the same time somnambulant messing-with-your-mind scenario boasts intermittently astonishing imagery. There’s a freight train barreling down a busy midtown street; a crew of cerebral predators floating in the air as if they’re lost-and-found astronauts having wandered in from The Right Stuff minus their space suits; and for some reason a hypnotic, spinning secular dreidel tossed in, too. But where this particular train derails is when it veers into Freudian territory and rambles on with overly intellectualized screen lectures endlessly delving into a psychoanalytic dissection of the subconscious.
Because if there’s one thing more snooze-inducing than being stuck as a spectator in somebody else’s dreams, it’s got to be getting imprisoned in someone’s perpetual therapy sessions as an unwanted shrink. Not to mention that we’ve all been there, done that, when it comes to aggressive mind control, as in commercial advertising, subliminal and otherwise, attacking our brain cells and getting inside our collective heads whenever we don’t happen to be sleeping.
Although most movies turning up at the ’plexes these days insult the audience’s IQ by dumbing themselves down to appeal to some imagined lowest common denominator, the opposite holds true for Inception. That is, it’s an invasive sci-fi noir operating at a level so far above and beyond what may be deemed the average viewer’s comprehension that head-scratchers are likely to abound in the audience with this convoluted complexity in the extreme.
So is Inception accessible enough to plant the idea of an entertaining experience in most people’s minds? In your dreams.