THE STUFF OF DREAMS
Every once in a while comes a film that celebrates cinema as spectacle, a magnificent web of make-believe that transports you into a universe as enthralling as it's unreal. Christopher Nolan's Inception is that film of the year, or the decade, perhaps. It's a big-budget extravaganza of the highest order; a production that marries intelligent thought with dazzling special effects for maximum impact. The plot is far-fetched, yet compelling, the action dizzying, but seemingly coherent, the characterisation glamorously suave, the performances, designed to please.
The idea of getting into someone else's head is tantalising, orchestrating their dreams and altering their perception of reality, an even more audacious one. Nolan has made a career of bringing such radically inventive concepts to mainstream cinema from Memento and The Prestige to The Dark Knight, the box-office killer that perhaps afforded him the luxury of making this expansive fantasy he's apparently been carrying around in his head for years.
At the start of the film, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor who invades people's minds to draw information. A Japanese tycoon, Saito (Ken Watanbe) hires him to now reverse his skill and alter the thoughts of a rival businessman Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to make him break away from the energy business, thereby leaving the field to him. Dom puts together a team of experts including his trusted aide Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames (Tom Hardy, very charming), Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and young Ariande (Ellen Page), who specialises in 'dream architecture'. She's supposed to construct dreams from scratch, but without drawing from her own memories (to avoid confusion).
The mission is well underway and as expected, things don't always go according to plan. Firstly because it's impossible to control the thoughts of another human being without interference from various elements of their sub-conscious. Secondly, the invaders' own machinations too are vulnerable to emotions and Dom has an entire back-story involving his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) that keeps haunting his dreamscapes and threatens to sabotage the operation.
Instead of high-speed chases around global locations, we have wild escapades inside this fantastical simulated world as Dom and co. keep delving deeper and deeper into Fischer's mind. CGI are used creatively to fashion the mind-bending alternate realms Dom and Ariande concoct. Cool thriller elements like gun battles, car crashes and choreographed spills are juxtaposed with existential concepts like perception of reality, the captivating force of ideas and the elemental need to hold on to the past. And then there's the passion play of Dom's other-worldly relationship with his wife and old-fashioned family ties.
Inception warrants repeat viewings. And perhaps you may start looking at it more skeptically the second time round. But before that, let Nolan's spectacular vision knock you out.