His speciality; he enters the target’s dreams and manipulates them to reveal the secret information he’s been hired to steal, that is, until he crosses the wrong mark, Ken Watanabe’s industrialist.
His secret; his ability to architect and penetrate dreams has been severely compromised by the ghost of his dead wife (Mario Cotillard), a death that haunts his subconscious, sooner or later derailing any dream-state he enters…
After a spying mission goes spectacularly wrong inside Watanabe’s dream, thanks to Cotillard’s ghost, Watanabe offers Cobb his one shot at redemption; break up a competitor company and Watanabe will clear the criminal charges against Cobb for Cotillard’s death, allowing him to go home to his children.
On one level we have an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist caper, Cobb gathers his team including novice dream-architect Ellen Page, conman and hustler Tom Hardy and dependable right-hand man and fixer John Gordon Levitt. Cillian Murphy is the mark, Pete Postlethwaite in his final cameo is Murphy’s demagogue father, Tom Berenger the slippery corporate advisor.
Things soon descend into a multi-layered structure of dreams within dreams; Cobb’s ‘mission impossible’ – which is far better than anything Tom Cruise can produce – to plant an idea into a mind, not merely extract information. The jaw-dropping special effects of Page’s early training mission are quickly surpassed as we drop from one dream-scape to another, the action sequences step up to a level of gritty realism unmatched by Nolan’s own Batman or the James Bond re-launch.
In all this we have De Caprio fighting his guilt as he reveals the circumstances of his wife’s death, Page attempting to keep each crumbling dream-scape together, Levitt fighting the projections of Murphy’s ‘militarised’ and espionage-proof mind in his own remake of The Matrix in miniature.
Try to keep up with events as dream-time shifts faster and faster in each layer down, to the will-they, won’t-they climactic escape.
Among the supporting players, Postlethwaite need do no more than lie in his sickbed to steal scenes, Cotillard is excellent as the deranged and deadly projection of guilt, while Sir Michael Caine appears as Cobb’s father-in-law, anchor to the real world of family.
Christopher Nolan is sometimes criticised as a cold director making chilly films. In his high-concept movies, this is often the case, but amidst the sci-fi action this is perhaps his best study of a whole cast of characters, each portrayed by top-notch talent, with no doubts about their material.
Proving you can make an intelligent movie AND clean up at the box office, Inception is already a genre-busting cinema classic. RC
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Sir Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy
Genre: Sci-fi / Thriller
Certification: (UK) 12A