In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo di Caprio (Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Eames), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Dileep Rao (Yusuf), Cillian Murphy (Fischer), Tom Berenger (Browning) and Marion Cotillard (Mal) (2010): A gleaming, machine-tooled puzzle box of a movie which has justifiably spawned a plethora of theories about what’s “real” in its narrative (and justifiable complaints that it didn’t snag Christopher Nolan a Best Picture or Best Director nod).

One’s assessment of what’s real hinges on one’s assessment of the film’s somewhat Byzantine explanation of how dreams work. Do you take at face value the “infinite subconscious” and the accelerated time of the dreams or don’t you? Are the emblematic names of a couple of characters coincidental, aimed only at the viewer, or aimed at the “realness” of the dreamscape itself?

Nolan’s tale of a group of dream thiefs hired to implant an idea in the head of the new head of a multinational conglomerate falls down only, I suppose, in the realm of emotional depth and richness of characterization. But the actors are all so good at combining competence with a sort of post-James-Bond bitchiness that the whole affair goes down smoothly, though the James Bondian third level of the dream world bogs down a bit in pyrotechnics and too much gun-toting action.

South Park accurately skewered the gobbledygook of the dream-world dynamics (Ellen Page has an occasionally thankless role as a sort of reverse-Basil Exposition, repeatedly getting DiCaprio’s Cobb to explain how things work, sometimes at credibility-stretching moments). Nonetheless, the movie is a serious fun machine, and DiCaprio has really started to grow on me as an occasionally dewy eyed action hero. Recommended.

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