MovieMantz Review: ‘Inception’

“Running Down a Dream”

Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Directed by Christopher Nolan

After grossing more than $1 billion worldwide, it’s safe to say that 2008’s “The Dark Knight” – which is generally regarded as one of the best (if not the best) comic book movies ever made – was a tough act to follow. But with his daring and extremely challenging new epic, “Inception,” director Christopher Nolan doesn’t just follow “The Dark Knight” – he tops it, and in a big way.

But in an effort to fully appreciate and comprehend just how bold, ambitious and brilliantly executed “Inception” really is, it might help to get a better understanding of what the title actually means.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief whose skill is the art of “extraction”: entering the subconscious of his corporate targets and stealing their ideas while they’re dreaming. Cobb is haunted by the death of his wife (Marion Cotillard), but his one chance at redemption comes in the form of a wealthy businessman (Ken Watanabe), who hires him to pull off the reverse of his skills: instead of stealing an idea, Cobb must implant one – hence the term “inception.”

So before you see the movie, or if you’ve seen it once and thought it was too confusing and hard to follow (which, admittedly, it is), consider this as a form of inception from a film review: see it again, and while you’re at it, see it a third time. That’s because “Inception” deserves to be studied and absorbed through multiple viewings, which will go a long way to help break down its dynamic configuration – one that’s far too dense to be fully appreciated the first time around.

Come to think of it, that sounds like words of wisdom that were first uttered back in 2001, when Nolan’s breakthrough movie “Memento” first broke onto the scene. Like that film, the brilliance of “Inception” lies in its structure. Where “Memento” used a forward-flowing narrative to tell a story in reverse, “Inception” goes from one layer to the next, and like a house of cards, the strength of the next layer is wholly dependant upon the stability of the previous one.

And as constructed by Nolan – who also wrote the screenplay – “Inception” is a sturdy $160 million-budgeted sci-fi thriller that brings to mind the stunning visual splendor of 1999’s “The Matrix.” But thanks to a smart story that’s brimming with ideas, it’s much more cerebral and complex – especially when dreams occur within other dreams (and, even further, within other dreams). And it’s extremely fast-paced, which makes its 2 hour and 28 minute running time fly by.

It’s also toplined by a great cast, led by the master extractor played by DiCaprio. His “Mission: Impossible”-style team includes Ariadne (Ellen Page), the architect of his artificial world; Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his most trusted colleague; Eames (Tom Hardy), an expert at visual forgery; and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), whose drug compound allows them to share their dreams. It’s all in an effort to plant an idea into the mind of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), which will hopefully lead to the dissolution of the vast energy conglomerate that he’s about to inherit.

It all adds up to a trippy cinematic experience, but one that’s decidedly different from the likes of “Mulholland Drive” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Those films were astounding because they were filled with atmospheric subtext that left their meanings open to interpretation. “Inception” is loaded with expositional dialogue that can, at times, be exhausting to keep up with, but as long as you pay close attention, its interpretation is pretty literal (though the haunting final scene will leave many moviegoers to draw their own conclusions).

“Inception” is an imaginative and ingenious movie, but it’s also a risky one, since it’s being released at a time when the cineplexes are bursting at the seams with mind-numbing spectacles rather than mind-blowing ones. It may not gross as much as “The Dark Knight” at the box office, but where that film was snubbed for a Best Picture nomination, “Inception” is a guaranteed front-runner (especially now that there are ten spots to fill). As a result, “Inception” may be a tough act to follow, but if anyone can top it, Christopher Nolan can.

Verdict: SEE IT!

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