Directed by Christopher Nolan’s
Christopher Nolan’s new film “Inception” – and I’m not sure what that title means – is about a man who can worm his way into people’s dreams, create a reality based on the dream, and then find out the secrets that the dream is disguising. As you can imagine it’s dangerous work; sometimes the dreams involve him, and he has to go along with his subject. He can make gravity go sideways, bend streets and buildings into new shapes, stage car crashes, and more – anything, in fact, that can be dreamed can be staged as well. He has a group of confederates who work with him on all his assignments.
The man is of course Leonardo DiCaprio, named Cobb here, and he is a man with a desperate background of his own. His marriage to Marion Cotillard, named Mal here – has given him two beautiful children whom he can’t quite get back to when he wants. In the meantime he finds Ariadne (Ellen Page, grown up since “Juno”) an architect who can design a maze that his target will be put in the middle of once we are in his dream. The target is the heir to an industrial fortune, and Cobb’s client wants to plant in his head the irresistible idea that he will split up the company and sell it, thus removing a competitor from the field.
In a sense the plot is less important than the images of the film, as Cobb and his group move through cities, hotels and other likely places, fighting off various forces by means of gravity shifts – you can do anything in a dream, evidently – that are fascinating to watch, particularly a fight through a hotel corridor in which up is down or sideways, people float through the air, and – dreamlike – there is no real resolution to the fight. There is a fascinating episode in a 747 that’s going to be in the air for ten hours, flying to Los Angeles, in which Cobb and his – I want to say Merry Men – keep the target in a state of dreamland while they implant the seed of selling his company.
It’s interesting that because “Inception” is a dream rather than reality, all the conventional tropes of action movies – the fights, the switches of place, the revelations – don’t have the impact that they would have if they were real; it’s just another dream, we can wake up from it and forget it afterwards. That doesn’t mean that “Inception” is a bad film; the experience of viewing it is as powerful as though it were real, and there are even a number of subliminal references to other films – James Bond, Alfred Hitchcock – and one lovely piece on the sound track; it’s of Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf singing “Je ne regrette rien.” Christopher Nolan has made “Inception” all that “Memento” was not, and while you’re watching it you will have a very good time.