Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA/United Kingdom, 2010. Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Syncopy. Screenplay by Christopher Nolan. Cinematography by Wally Pfister. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Kanjiro Sakura, Yoshikuni Taki, Emma Thomas. Music by Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Guy Hendrix Dyas. Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurland. Film Editing by Lee Smith. Academy Awards 2010. American Film Institute 2010. Golden Globe Awards 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010. Washington Film Critics Awards 2010.
Leonardo DiCaprio works in the highly odd business of invading people’s dreams in order to extract sensitive information which is valuable to people who pay him big bucks. The process involves hooking himself and his subject to a machine, falling asleep and suddenly finding themselves in the same dream, complete with kooky imagery and strange sequences of action that, as in the case of dreams, make very little sense. Or at least that’s how it should be: Christopher Nolan’s semi-successful film doesn’t have nearly the mindfuck plotting that its premise offers and the whole thing makes far too much sense. After a successful job on shady businessman Ken Watanabe, the conquered mark turns around and offers our hero employment: to create an “inception”, the process of planting an idea in the mind of a rival corporate competitor (Cillian Murphy) to make him destroy his own business. According to the story, the process of making this happen requires Leo and his team of psychoanalytical experts (including dream “architect” Ellen Page and minions Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Lukas Haas) to go three levels deep into dreams within dreams within dreams. Sounds like a straightforward plan except for one really, comfortably predictable twist: DiCaprio has skeletons in his closet having to do with the death of his wife (Marion Cotillard), and these are getting in the way of a job well done. Christopher Nolan once again plays with expectations and conventions with this crafty little thriller, but it is dressed up to be so much more than it is. There’s lots of wonderful imagery and some thrilling sequences, but overall the effect is numbing and the shell game isn’t nearly the marvelous maze that a movie like The Game was. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic, with Cotillard the only performer who actually draws some kind of emotional immediacy out of her scenes; the rest are cardboard stereotypes, and their dialogue always feel like it is marking plot exposition that never comes off as character expression. Nolan shows very little explanation as to how the technology being used works and how it is even possible, wrongly choosing to slather the film with guilt and melancholy instead of any kind of entertaining fear or dread. Production values are terrific, with state-of-the-art visual effects, photography and art direction making for a shallow and overlong, but great looking, moviegoing experience.