Just as James Cameron fashioned a far-distant world in “Avatar,” Christopher Nolan has created an even more intriguing inner world in this terrifying new sci-fi thriller.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a master of extraction. Trained in high-stakes corporate espionage and the use of psychotropic drugs, he steals thoughts that are buried deep in the subconscious when the mind is most vulnerable. Problem is: he’s now an international fugitive, unable to return to his family in the United States. So when a wealthy, mysterious businessman (Ken Watanabe) offers him a way home, Cobb agrees to perform a far more dangerous feat: to implant an idea in the brain of an industrialist heir (Cillian Murphy).
Clever, always inventive writer/director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “Memento”) is fascinated by the relationship between waking life and dreaming particularly, as he says, by the fact that “everything within a dream – whether frightening or happy or fantastic – is being produced by your own mind, and what that says about the potential of the imagination is quite extraordinary.”
As a result, Nolan’s stylish, illusory dreamscapes defy the laws of time and physics, like an arresting Parisian cityscape folding in upon itself and an eye-popping chase sequence with weightless participants bouncing off walls in zero gravity. While revealing a dazzling myriad of mercurial perils that lurk in the subconscious, Nolan never violates the ingenious internal logic of his complex, sophisticated concept.
Delivering a multi-layered performance, Leonardo DiCaprio (“Shutter Island”) embodies a desperate man, haunted by secrets, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“500 Days of Summer”) as his trusted colleague, handling the high-tech details. Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) is Cobb’s late wife/the love of his life, and Ellen Page (“Juno”) is a brilliant architecture student who’s intrigued by the opportunity to design and build interlocking, maze-like structures that don’t exist in reality. Michael Caine, Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite, Tom Hardy and Dileep Rao add pivotal support.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Inception” is a tantalizing, tension-filled, mind-bending, time-twisting 10. It’s the most exciting thrill-ride of the summer.