'Inception' most brilliant

Article Published: Jul. 22, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Inception' most brilliant

Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Tom Berenger star in 'Inception.'

Can Christopher Nolan make a bad film?

Considering his track record (Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, to name a few), it sounds like an outlandish idea. But outlandish ideas are his cup. Nolan's a master of his time, crafting films as deep and thought-provoking as they are accessible to all audiences.

His latest, Inception, is no exception. In fact, it's better than that. To call it a head-trip would be an understatement. Though it's high on spectacle, brimming with special effects both stunning and grandiose, Inception never loses sight of the story, mind-bending as it is, at its nucleus.

That alone separates it from, well, practically everything Hollywood's released this summer, where story is second banana to spectacle, with the final product slipping on the subsequent peel.

Nolan doesn't slip, and Inception - at an extensive 148 minutes - never loses its grip, holding one's attention all the way through, and then on the drive home. It's a conversation piece, purposefully ambiguous and nearly impossible not to discuss. Then again, when a film's setting is the human mind, that's almost a no-brainer.

Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island) plays Cobb, a professional thief, but hardly in the conventional sense. Cobb steals secrets from people's minds, using a method called "extraction," which allows him and his teammates to create a dream for their target and then populate the dream as though they were part of it.

While there, more or less disguised as figments of the dreamer's subconscious, they're able to glean information from their surroundings and coerce their subject into divulging information that would otherwise never be revealed.

Naturally, Cobb and company are popular in the corporate sector. Shady businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe, Batman Begins) is a fan, seeking their expertise for the job of a lifetime. Instead of stealing an idea, Cobb is to plant one in the heir to a rival corporation (Cillian Murphy, Sunshine), "inspiring" him to dissolve the family business and allowing Saito's company to buy it out.

Called "inception," the process has only been accomplished once and with disastrous results. But Cobb's willing to risk it for the chance to return home, having been forced to flee the United States on bogus murder charges, and the enigmatically connected Saito can deliver.

But to ensure that the planted idea grows organically, it must be placed deep as can be in the subject's subconscious - in other words, a dream within a dream within a dream.

With a task so complicated, Cobb enlists a dream team, as it were, of mind-searching professionals, including longtime partner in crime Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 500 Days of Summer), dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page, Juno), smooth-talking Eames (Tom Hardy, Layer Cake), and chemist/anesthesiologist Yusuf (Dileep Rao, Drag Me to Hell).

The team is unaware, though, of Cobb's own dangerous subconscious. Since extractors can manipulate their subject's dreams through their own thoughts, the vengeful projection of Cobb's dead wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard, Le Vie en Rose), serves as a constant threat to their mission's success, as well as Cobb's sanity.

Throughout the film, Cobb battles with his inner demons, paralleling the bigger picture, as Nolan elegantly delivers a message about the power of memory, be it for better or worse, letting go or hanging on.

But that's just the tip of the mental iceberg. Expertly written by Nolan, Inception is packed with clever twists, a thought-provoking character arc, and some of the most imaginative action sequences committed to celluloid, all woven together in a seamless presentation, and all to the tune of another excellent Hans Zimmer (Gladiator) score.

Nolan's casting is also spot on, through and through. By now, DiCaprio's filmography is generously peppered with flawed characters, and though they share many similar traits, he still manages to bring new depth to his roles, and Cobb is case in point.

As an ensemble, Cobb's team works splendidly, sharing an almost cold chemistry befitting of their characters, as well as the narrative.

And like its many narrative components, Inception is multi-layered and quite proud of it. To categorize it as science fiction or adventure would be unfair; Inception's simply a good film.

Inception, rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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