← Back to Reviews

Christopher Nolan

Sci-Fi puzzle piece about dreams and espionage, memory and regret. It jumps right in with dreams inside of dreams, and frankly I was less than engaged for the first section of the flick. We learn very quickly that the "realities" are malleable and even that there is no real jeopardy, since if you die in a dream you simply wake up. We meet the lead dream interloper, Cobb, played by Leo DiCaprio, and members of his team who assist him, chiefly another operative played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. There are some hints layered in about a wife and some legal troubles that prevent Cobb from returning home, as well as the main crux of the plot, about one corporate baron (Ken Watanabe) who wants to implant the idea of breaking up the company of his rival (Cillian Murphy) in his own mind, with the assist of Cobb's dream team. While the first introductions to the dreams were pretty interchangeable and therefore dull to this viewer, by the time they get involved in the big job and the three or four layered dream, they finally add a sense of both jeopardy for the characters and a tangible goal and clocks to work against, which makes the second half of the film quite fun.

There are dozens of action scenes, as the subject's subconscious is manifested as secret-service-like minions who try and root out those uninvited into the dream with chases and gunfire. These never became anything other than repetitive, even with the jeopardy supposedly attached, the one exception being the centerpiece sequence with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's dream-self having to do battle inside a hotel that has lost it's idea of gravity, with the combatants flying through and bouncing off of hallways and rooms. Otherwise it's mostly as if it were choreographed like the old "A-Team" TV show, with hundreds of large caliber machine gun rounds rattling off but nobody ever getting hit. As for the emotional payoff the film builds to, as DiCaprio's character must confront versions of his wife (Marion Cotillard) in his subconscious, it works intellectually, I suppose, but has no real feeling with it.

Once the final multi-layered dream begins it's really very well constructed, quite clever, and delivers the wow factor you'd expect from the trailer and TV spots. The cast, which also includes Ellen Page, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas, Tom Berenger and Pete Postlethwaite, all do well, some of them with very little material to work with. Even with the flaws it was still an interesting experience, for sure, and not dumbed-down in the ways most summer movies usually are. But it never clicked for me as anything revelatory, just a well-realized bit of stylish fun, though I appreciated the winking tweak of the final shot. If you had to pitch it to a Studio suit, it'd be Dreamscape meets Shutter Island by way of The Matrix. Nolan's Inception aims to be deeper and more resonant in feeling that that, but for this perceiver of the shared dream I woke up after the end credits generally satisfied yet still wanting more than I was given.