Dir: Christopher Nolan
Star: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard
I confess to being somewhat disappointed in this: not that it’s in any way a “bad” movie, but I was expecting something a bit more. I’m not quite sure what. Visually, it’s certainly a treat, with a lot of money, effort and imagination clearly having gone on to create the multiple levels of the dream worlds. And I admire Nolan’s script, which manages to keep proceedings mostly clear, providing the viewer pays attention – it’s certainly a lot more intellectual than you’d expect. I think maybe it’s a shame that such an incredible concept is used on something as prosaic as a bit of industrial espionage. If you had the ability to go into people’s dreams and make them think anything you want – and get them to believe it was their own idea – then using it for nothing more than commercial reasons seems like a bit of a waste.
Still, I enjoyed the mechanics of the mental chess that goes on between Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team, and their target, an energy heir whose subconscious they are exploringm to implant a desire to break up his father’s empire – the inception of the film’s title. However, turns out Cobb has baggage of his own, in the shape of his late wife (Cotillard), and the guilt her death caused in Cobb, and that may pose as much a problem to the team as the defences in the target’s mind. The second-half is basically one long action sequence, with the team split over three separate levels of the dream world, where time moves at radically different speeds. On one level, they are in a van falling into a river, on another, they are planning and executing the storming of a mountain fortress. It is impeccably crafted, but again, the purpose of it all just seems too prosaic.
I think it is probably a movie that would repay – or, at least, not degrade with – repeated viewing, but I also wasn’t that impressed with DiCaprio. Not that I ever have been, admittedly. I can’t help wondering what someone like the late Heath Ledger might have done with the role, as DiCaprio just doesn’t bring the necessary air of world-weariness to a part that demands more emotional resonance. That’s what leaves the film feeling empty at its core: with Cobb never becoming likeable and empathetic, it feels like Nolan is playing with chess pieces, shuffling them around a board of dreams.