| Writer-director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight” and “Memento”) challenges the audience to think outside the box in this highly anticipated sci-fi thriller. His unfettered creative imagination has room to roam freely thanks to an unlimited budget.
Superstar Leonardo DiCaprio (“Shutter Island” and “Titanic”) plays Dom Cobb, a con artist who is able to steal ideas from people by entering their dreams while they sleep. This unique ability to penetrate the subconscious is referred to as “extraction” and is highly sought after in the competitive world of corporate espionage.
Cobb is given a test run as an audition for new client Saito (Ken Watanabe from “The Last Samurai” and “Batman Begins”). His performance is so impressive that Saito asks him to undertake the more difficult task of “inception,” which involves planting an idea in the target’s head. Cobb assembles a team of experts to carry out this seemingly impossible mission.
Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt from “(500) Days of Summer” and “3rd Rock from the Sun”) is Cobb’s righthand man and longtime organizer. Eames (Tom Hardy from “Black Hawk Down”) is the “forger” who can impersonate people in dreams. The chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao from “Avatar”) supplies the powerful sedatives that keep the group in parallel slumber lands.
Brilliant architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page from “Juno”) is the newest addition to the team. She is responsible for designing the lifelike structural mazes in which the various levels of dreams take place. Cobb tutors her on the mechanics of the dream sharing concept, which occurs when more than one individual inhabits the same dream.
Nolan adds complexity by placing three layers below reality and a fourth referred to as a state of limbo. The whole premise is based on an idea being the most resilient parasite and a subject’s mind always knowing the genesis.
The measurement of time differs depending on the depth of the dreamscape. One minute in real time is the equivalent of 10 minutes on level 1, one hour on level 2 and years on level 3.
Nolan operates like a skilled chess player and stays several moves ahead of you until you can master the game. Important terminology like “totems” and “kicks” are explained. The ironclad rules are laid out, but then the rug is pulled out from under you. You need to possess flexibility and dexterity in your mind to adjust to constantly shifting states of existence.
The fly in the ointment involves Cobb’s deceased wife Mal (the enchantingly beautiful Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard from “Nine,” “Public Enemies” and “La Vie En Rose”) who keeps popping up to derail the mission. Cobb is suffering from survival grief and feels responsible for Mal’s death. He has been convicted of the felony and can’t return to the United States to be with his young son and daughter.
Two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine, who played Alfred in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” has a supporting role as Cobb’s architecture professor and father-in-law.
The mark in this heist caper is Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy, best known for his role as the Scarecrow in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”), who will inherit his billionaire father’s empire. Saito wants the son to break up the company and start from scratch to make a name for himself thereby eliminating a competitive rival.
The complexity of the storytelling may cause confused moviegoers who are never quite sure what is happening on screen to exit the theater within 30 minutes. Those that stay the course will be treated to stupendous special effects, impressive set designs, Oscar-worthy editing, a vibrant and haunting musical score from composer Hans Zimmer, and top-drawer cinematography.
The acting and dialogue take a back seat to the mind-blowing action that is a cross between “The Matrix” and James Bond. The movie lacks character development and fails to provide any emotional connection. Despite having too many concepts to absorb in one viewing, this escape-from-reality thrill ride holds your interest and takes you places that you have never been before.
The 2 1/2-hour running time flies by and is not an impediment. The movie leaves you with a lot to think about and anxious to actively participate in your next dream.
This sophisticated and uniquely clever cinematic concoction is a refreshing change from the usual lineup of mindless summer fare.
The IMAX Experience premium version is available in Johnson County exclusively at AMC Studio 30.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"