Thursday, July 29, 2010

607 - Inception review

"Inception" is a cinematic rarity, a highly original, 2½-hour work of amazement that's an embodiment of the classics. Writer/director Christopher Nolan has produced a story of redemption and forgiveness, a timeless sort of tale that comes shrouded in ideas inventive and dazzling. We can watch enthralled because we don't know what to expect, and leave touched because emotional truths have been spoken.

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a tortured soul who happens to be the best "extractor" in the world. Extraction concerns a technology that Nolan wisely neglects to explain in serious detail, one that literally allows for the construction of worlds. A combination of drugs and machines allow Cobb and his team to invade the dreams of an unsuspecting mark, with the purpose of stealing their most valuable secrets.

Cobb assembles a dream team of dream thieves for his latest mission, a seemingly impossible challenge to alter an individual's subconscious perceptions. Among the crew is Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an expert researcher; Eames (Tom Hardy), an impersonator; and Ariadne (Ellen Page), an architect who designs an entire world to be plugged into the victim's mind. There are many more characters played by wonderful actors, but to avoid turning this review into a list, I'll simply acknowledge that casting and performances alike are all spot on.

Nolan's concept of the dream, for all its morphing scenery and unreliable gravity, is rooted in reality. The surreal takes a backseat to the emotionally resonant, the architecture of the mind providing a realistic simulation for moving experiences. Even as those aware of the dream are capable of manipulating the fabrication to their advantage, it's still a place where the subjects kill or be killed, and can experience pain and heartbreak of tremendous proportions. Cobb's own mind is threatened by Mal (Marion Cotillard), a mysterious woman who, as lost loves tend to do, stalks his dreams, even when he knows the world isn't real.

There's much more to be said about the plot, but I'll decline to do so. "Inception" is there to be experienced, a cerebral web to be untangled by audience members. The film's intricate action sequences and lavish special effects belie the deeply personal tone. Nolan's films, from his early ("Memento") to his most recent ("The Dark Knight,") show a consistent interest in deception and identity. "Inception" must certainly be the largest film in cinematic history to convincingly address the way our memories and feelings add up to ourselves.

Like many of Nolan's protagonists, Cobb carries a tremendous burden of guilt, and his profession means the resulting dangers become more literal. Nolan takes that emotion and makes beautiful art out of what might happen were we able to face the demons of the mind head on. Allow me to borrow a phrase from another great film: This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

5 out of 5

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