Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, 148 minutes
"Inception:" A spellbinding sci-fi tale with DiCaprio at the center
I will say up front that "Inception" is too long, too confusing and it stars one of my least favorite actors, the overly-earnest Leonardo DiCaprio. I will also say that it's one of the most entertaining, mesmerizing films that I've seen this year, even if I still didn't quite understand all of it. But then "Inception" deals with dreams and the subconscious, something that is often hard to wrap your brain around.
DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a skilled thief given one last shot at redemption. Cobb is the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved, including his two adorable children and a wife (Marion Cotillard) who went off the deep end and whose fate was squarely in his hands.
One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible: inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe and Ellen Page) have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one in the head of a young executive (Cillian Murphy). If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.
"Inception" is a mind-bending, cerebral but fascinating sci-fi thriller from "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan, who once again proves there's life outside a dark cape and mask. It's also thoroughly and maddeningly frustrating at times but if you stick with it you might actually enjoy it. The climax is a little muddled and overextended, but Nolan's all-star cast and eye-popping, Oscar-worthy visuals are a treat throughout the well-paced film.
DiCaprio proves himself a worthy sci-fi action hero, and proves what a good director and good material can do to tone down his normally excessively earnest portrayals (his most recent flick, "Shutter Island," proved what a good director and bad material did for him). For one, Nolan has the good measure to keep DiCaprio's typical shouting to a minimal (he reminds of other big movie stars, namely Nicolas Cage and Al Pacino, who have a penchant for shouting to prove their acting prowess). Second, he makes the visuals and the theme the movie's main star, which means that DiCaprio isn't in every shot, a good thing since Nolan has also assembled a sublime cast.
Page and Gordon-Levitt are both strong in large supporting roles, as is Murphy (if you remember, he was the villain in Nolan's "Batman Returns") in a more sensitive turn for the unusual actor. Oscar-winner Cotillard is good in what is the film's trickiest role that isn't fully explained until "Inception's" final moments. Caine, who features prominently in the film's trailers, really just cameos to bookend the film, but then Nolan has a few other eclectic actors who aren't used as much these days: "Platoon's" Tom Berenger (unrecognizable until I saw the credits), Pete Postlewaite and Lukas Haas (yes, the boy from the 1985 film "Witness," now grown up).
Of course, you can't overlook the first-rate visuals and eye-popping visuals and sets, with buildings turning upside down, trains barrelling through and houses falling into the ocean. If I tried to explain them to you, you wouldn't understand "Inception" anymore than after you actually saw it. It blurs the line between reality, the sub-conscious and redemption, and I can really say is that "Inception" is a spellbinding, mind-bending thriller about what is actually real and what isn't.
With a tolerable DiCaprio performance, some astonishing special-effects and a few well-handled action set pieces, "Inception" is a mesmerizing, highly entertaining (if not overlong at 148 minutes) and highly original film that defies explanation and is better seen than explained.