Inception. Although well acted and full of stunning visuals and creativity, Inception’s dream worlds are depressingly familiar. The characters, except for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb, are sketchy and under-developed, and even Cobb is a variation of Leo's character in Shutter Island. The unlimited potential of fantasy scenarios is somewhat wasted by Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay.
Cobb and his co-conspirator Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are high tech spies who “extract” corporate secrets from people’s dreams. After a botched assignment, their intended target Saito (Ken Watanabe) entices Cobb into “one last job” that will clear Cobb’s name and allow him to reunite with his children. The catch is that this time, they have to plant an idea into the mark’s mind, a very dangerous and complex process. Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) is the lone heir to a huge oil conglomerate, run by his cold and withholding father (Pete Postlethwaite). Cobb’s job is to convince Fischer Jr. to dismantle the corporation upon his father’s death. It requires planting the idea three levels down into Fischer’s psyche, which is, as you can imagine, very difficult, and is complicated by the fact that Cobb’s personal demons keep invading his dream worlds, including his wife, Mal, well-played by Marion Cotillard.
There is no denying that Nolan has created a fantastic world with Inception, and it is an incredibly dense narrative that requires absolute attention to follow. That makes the lack of imagination in the dream worlds that much more disheartening. The Los Angeles shoot-out scenes feel like a Bourne Identity retread, while the snowy fortress scenes feel like a standard issue James Bond knock-off. The dreamers are never in mortal danger, even if they are killed, so the suspense is somewhat muted.
Inception is leaps and bounds above typical summer dreck like Transformers. The cast is uniformly excellent (especially the hot Tom Hardy as the cool “forger” Eames), although Ellen Page is a little lightweight for her role. Still, when you consider where our dreams can take us, in the words of Eames, Inception “shouldn’t (have been) afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
UPDATE: Inception is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.