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Movie Review: Inception

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Inception is an intense, high-octane, high-powered sci-fi thriller from the mind and pen of Christopher Nolan, director of Dark Knight and other blockbusters.

Everything about Inception works and it works on every level and with every sequence. It’s an ambitious, dreamy film where illusion becomes reality. It’s all about the dreams and nail-biting adventure lurking within shared dreams. No doubt, in the hands of an amateur a dream film would be a nightmare, but with good research, great acting, good writing, and a solid storyline, Nolan has given the audience a clear alternative to 3-D, making his film the first important one of a new decade and the summer of 2010.

Inception opens and ends with a spinning talisman indicative of the dream state, with Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) explaining his mission in clear terms: “inception” is the planting of an idea into another person’s unsuspecting mind so effectively that they must believe the idea their own. Shared dreaming is the vehicle of choice and the thrill goes to the bone. Inception runs 148 minutes but I can sum it up nicely in six words: “birds on a tether dream together.”

Inception is an education within an education. It is a teaching, talking tool that does not preach or overreach. On the other hand, it is boring. Boring like a crochet needle poking a tiny wormhole into the psyche that pulls and traps the watcher into its labyrinth. Inception uses physics inherent in the meditative and dream states. The characters discuss and teach each other and the audience simultaneously, seamlessly the inner workings of dreams. On the physical level no one can escape a law discovered and discussed by Buddhists and meditation practitioners for centuries — a previously little understood phenomenon Einstein dubbed “time dilation.” The film explains the concept and to its credit maintains that aspect during all the dream sequences.

Time dilation and “the kick” are both key events in the second half of the film. They must be understood by the audience for full effect. This requires good writing. We must buy the explanations on faith. The trailer for Inception describes an event that is integral to dreams — the “kick.” In my journals, I use a simpler term, the “wake-up dream,” dreams designed by the brain to wake the dreamer up, warn of danger, or prevent him from moving into a dream too deeply. Time dilation and kicks are used by director Nolan to decided effect. With dialogue he avoids undue confusion and thereby overcomes two common pitfalls of many films: lack of background information and story development.

Inception is about the science fiction and the detailed story. However, the cast ensemble is exceptional. Ellen Page and Marian Cotillard are the only women in the film and their interaction occurs only through Cobb. DiCaprio is Cobb, a product of a self-imposed exile, a man without a country he needs to get back home. He is a mentalist who practices what I call “dream control.” He is master of the dream.

Inception takes the audience into the real world of dreams where dreams within dreams are carefully built in the first half of the film, sequences which scaffold the second half of the film. In the movie Cobb is married to Mal, the star and Oscar winner from La Vie en Rose, Marian Cotillard. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the son of a billionaire who becomes the target of Cobb’s gambit to return home. His partner in crime co-star Ellen Page (Ariadne). She delivers a solid, stellar performance and holds her own next to megastar DiCaprio. DiCaprio has grown as an actor and rocks the thriller genre. Bravo, well done. I was ready to watch it again.

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