The twisted stuff of dreams

2010-08-02 00:00

CHRISTOPHER Nolan has yet to fail as a director. The man behind Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Prestige has created an action film that will make your brain hurt in the most wonderful way. Inception is conceptually convoluted, yet has already sparked conversations like The Matrix did.

The premise of the film sounds simpler than it actually is. Inception is a story about dreams, and about how people’s most intimate intellectual property may not be safe from theft. Writer-director Nolan, who took 10 years to get this film made, proposes in this story that while you sleep, it’s possible for thoughts to be extracted or inserted, although the latter has to be done at a deeper level of subconsciousness. Hence Nolan presents to us the concept of dreams with dreams … within dreams.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, an international thief with a specialist function: he’s an “extractor”. He puts himself to sleep, enters the dreams of another person, then rummages around and steals something important that pops out of the sleeper’s unconscious. Saito (Ken Watanabe), the head of an enormous Japanese energy company, hires Cobb to go beyond extraction to inception. Here, the task is not to steal an idea, but to plant one that the dreamer will think is his own. The target is a rival energy company’s future CEO (Cillian Murphy). In return, Cobb will be cleared to re-enter the U.S. and be re-united with his children, whom he has been banned from.

Cobb assembles his crackpot team, which includes a dream architect (Ellen Page), a forger (Tom Hardy), a chemist (Dileep Rao) and a demanding, unimaginative sourpuss (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

The able cast and their characters are dwarfed by the complexity of the story, as Nolan’s cinematic methods straddle the line between walking alongside his audience and toying with them. Most of the time you’re not sure if you’re in a dream or not, and by the end, it’s all a bit confusing and, well, bemusing.

That said, it’s hard not to engage with Inception. It’s a visual feast, with fabulous, frivolous intricacies all along the way and a director who clearly knows what he’s doing, perhaps a bit too well.

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