Inception (Rated PG-13) 4 STARS

You know what movie really reeked? Insomnia, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the amazing Memento. You know 08-04-10-inception-poster1.gifwhat else reeked? The Prestige, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins. You know what movie didn’t reek? Inception (148 minutes), which Nolan wrote and directed. His lead actor is completely overrated and his two female leads are underutilized, but on overall thrills and head-scratchiness, Nolan delivers. If we could just get him to jumpstart a new X-Men franchise, I might finally be able to put my Singer vendetta to rest.

The film opens on a beach, with Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) face down in the sand. He is detained by armed guards and taken inside a building. Puzzling dialogue takes us into the next scene so as to confuse the audience as early in the film as possible.

The film’s focus is the creation and manipulation of dreams, and in a wonderfully crafted introduction to this central idea Cobb and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gorden- Levitt) submit a business proposal to Saito (Ken Watanabe). During their meeting with Saito, Cobb’s wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) appears and throws a wrench into their plans.

This leads into the main plot. Cobb and his team are hired to target a man named Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). They are supposed to assist Saito in an act of industrial espionage, planting an idea to influence Fischer to break up his near monopoly in order to protect Saito’s business interests. Even though Cobb is experienced with stealing ideas, the rest of his team is convinced that planting an idea (inception) is impossible. At least they are until Cobb tells them a bedtime story about a dream within a dream.

The only problem with “inception” is the potential damage to the subject and danger to the dreamer. Once the existing team (and the audience) understands the risks involved, Cobb meets with his father-in-law and teacher, Miles (Michael Caine). Miles offers his most brilliant student, Ariadne (Ellen Page) to work with the team. Despite her stupidly dramatic name she seems like a pretty good egg. Cobb and Company manage to recruit her as the dream’s architect and then set about filling out the rest of the team.

A series of classic team building subplots follow. First Cobb hunts down expert forger Eames (Tom Hardy) to impersonate a key character inside the dream. Then he goes after Yusef (Dileep Rao) to prepare the carefully crafted chemicals necessary to induce the proper dream state.

Back in the “A” plot, Ariadne and her stupidly dramatic name begin to discover some of Cobb’s better kept secrets, which reveal an even greater element of risk to the group. It is here that the concept of Limbo is explained, and those of you in the slow seats will probably want to take some notes, because it all gets a little hard to follow at this point.

It is a major strength of the film that reality and the various levels of dreaming are so interchangeable, since the audience can keep guessing til the cows come home without ever really knowing for sure where the characters are. While there are various ambigious clues offered throughout the movie, each viewer is allowed to decide at what point the dream ends and reality begins (if it ever does).

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