Andy Bockelman: ‘Inception’: Sweet dreams are made of this

'Inception'

3.5 out of 4 stars

148 minutes

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joesph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page.

Now playing at West Theatre.

How do you top one of the most-hyped movies ever made?

Most directors might be intimidated to take the next step, but the maker of “Inception” proved that, even in between creating installments of material that’s heavily in demand, he can make a great film in his sleep.

There’s no security like the human mind, especially during unconsciousness.

At least, that used to be the case.

Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has made a living out of extracting confidential information from important and powerful people in an environment that they cannot control: their dreams. Along with his business partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb is the best at building illusory worlds to be shared and experienced by unsuspecting slumberers who happen to have crucial knowledge that’s worth a lot of money.

But, he’s looking to get out of the business and pick up his life where he left off, and an offer from a Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) may just give Cobb a chance to rebuild his own reality.

However, the latest job involves something more complicated than removing ideas from someone’s mind, in fact, the very opposite — Inception requires the implantation of an idea in the mind, something that has been more of a theory to those in Cobb’s line of work.

He’s willing to try anything, assembling a new team for the endeavor, but the elements of Cobb’s psyche may prove the most inhibitive in this final hurrah.

DiCaprio proved he had a flair for flim-flam work years ago in “Catch Me If You Can,” but he’s much darker and psychologically tormented here as a wanted man who can no longer step foot in the U.S. because of an incident that can be traced back to his insistence at pushing the boundaries of what can be done in the dream world.

Marion Cotillard is excellent as Mal, his deceased wife, who remains a repressed memory pushed deep down in Cobb’s subconscious, able to ruin his work whenever he empowers her by feeling the slightest amount of guilt.

But, pulling against her is a respectable crack team including Tom Hardy as identity forger Eames, able to impersonate anyone with enough practice and observation; Dileep Rao as Yusuf, a chemist who creates a sedative powerful enough to ensure the group can stay asleep longer than they ever have before; and Ellen Page as Ariadne, a brilliant architecture student tasked with visualizing a series of mazes with limitless potential through which her cohorts can navigate as they handle this tricky mission.

Confused? Good, that means you’re safe.

Words are worthless in describing this science fiction opus from Christopher Nolan.

After the headaches of “The Dark Knight,” it would be understandable for him to tackle a project a little less ambitious before moving on to another new Batman movie, but the writer/director dreams big and lives up to his own expectations, and ours, in the process.

The best way to think of it is like a cross between “The Sting” and “The Matrix,” but thankfully, Nolan pens a story that merely uses special effects without depending on them. Yes, seeing an entire city fold in half is a thrill and Gordon-Levitt’s mid-air fighting sequences are something to behold, but the psychological complexity and the layers of the plot are what make this a real triumph, not to mention the fascinating idea of the totem, a handheld trinket unique to each dreamer to ensure that they are really awake.

Besides Hans Zimmer’s typically magnificent musical score boosting the ambience, there’s just no end to the possibilities as we go from a dream to a dream-within-a-dream to a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream, and further.

Although Nolan develops the subplots a bit more than he needs to, it’s a gratifyingly long route that never once threatens to put you to sleep.

The beauty of “Inception” is that it’s easy to follow, but understanding it takes it to another level entirely. A film that warrants and almost demands subsequent viewings is the kind that’s likely to stay in your mind for a good long while. But, be sure to consult your totem every time the end credits roll.

Just to be safe.

Now playing at West Theatre.

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