Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reel To Reel: Inception

Check your head!

Going Rate: Worth full admission, but pay only matinee price because you might need to see it again.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
Rated: PG-13 (but could probably pass for a hard PG)
Red Flags: Gunfights, mild language

Inception is the most mind-bending movie I have seen since The Matrix. I know comparing films to The Matrix is a worn-out device, but that film defined or re-defined so much of what we're getting or expecting from sci-fi actioners that it serves as the bar, worn or not. But whereas The Matrix built its world on virtual reality, Inception deals with the reality each of us enters every night: our dreams.

Mr. Cobb (DiCaprio) is an "extractor," a hired thief who steals secrets from the crevices of people's minds by entering their dreams, that state where our subconscious likes to doodle but also leaves our guarded information vulnerable. The subject -- or victim, if you will -- is drugged into sleep, and then Cobb and his accomplices enter his dreams through a chemical-drip network hooked up to an IV-machine which is never really explained. After one extraction involving a corporate heavyweight, the victim's boss hires Cobb to reverse the process and plant a self-destructive idea in the mind of a competitor. The payoff is a chance for Cobb to end his fugitive lifestyle and return to family, which he has abandoned after a voyage into the subconscious ended in tragedy for him and his wife.

Watching Inception is to wander through a two-and-a-half hour labyrinth of dependent subplots which keep boring deeper. I managed to keep everything straight, no small feat for director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), but some of you will want to see this film again to catch all the nuances. Inception is not popcorn entertainment but a movie which requires your complete attention. Hacking into people's dreams isn't a new plot device, but I can't remember it being executed this well. Right out of the gate, we aren't sure whether we're in a dream or reality. Nolan plays with our heads like Cobb's team going in to steal our thoughts.

As for comparisons with The Matrix. A fight scene in this film is done in zero gravity, and I am flabbergasted at how well it works. CGI is a big part of this film, not surprisingly, but it does not become the star, even as it rolls stairways and cityscapes into optical illusions. It's all about the interaction between conscious and subconscious. It's eerie and creepy and all so real.

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