After seeing Inception, I couldn't help but feel perplexed, and maybe a little cheated (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT HERE) -- kind of like I felt when the series Newhart ended. Only much more confused. It's a movie about the power of dreams, yet I was left wondering, "Was the whole thing a dream?" Who knows?
I can't make heads or tails of the brilliant writer-director Christopher Nolan's latest effort, and yet I still recommend it.
It is a visual feast. We're taken from abandoned warehouses-turned-into-dream-factories to Parisian cafes to African street markets to snow-covered mountains topped by futuristic, multi-layered concrete structures. People float through zero gravity, and there's a terrific homage to Gene Kelly and his iconic dancing on the ceiling scene from Singing in the Rain.
If Giorgio de Chirico's and M.C. Escher's paintings were transferred to film, they might look something like some of the lonely cityscapes folding in on themselves in Inception.
If there are a few too many car chases, explosions, fireballs and avalanches, you can forgive, since the whole of the movie is so wondrous and imaginative.
Maybe too imaginative. The premise is too confusing to try to explain. This is a world where it is possible to invade someone's dreams to either swipe his ideas or implant a thought that the victim (if that's the right word) will believe was his own. As such, it's possible to change the future. Or, history. As I said, I'm confused.
Leonardo DiCaprio ably plays the leader of this gang of dream invaders-for-hire. The adorable and versatile Joseph Gordon-Levitt is his sidekick. Along the way, they pick up plucky Ellen Page who is able to design complex mazes for the victim/dreamers to get stuck in. They also pick up a chemist and some other specialists, too. There's a lot going on here, including a cornucopia of supporting characters who are hard to keep up with.
Just as in some of our own nightmares, these characters find themselves in impossibly intricate spaces, from which they can't get out. Just as in our own dreams, dead people make appearances. But in Inception, we're not sure if Leo's wife (Marion Cotillard), who haunts his dreams, is dead or alive.
Tom Berenger shows up, a little meatier than I remember, in his first good movie since The Big Chill. He does well in a small, but, important role. Pete Postlethwaite isn't put to much use, since all he's called on to do is lie in a hospital bed in precisely two scenes.
In Nolan's Memento, a widower with short-term memory loss must tattoo clues about his wife's murder on his body, lest he forget them. That movie made us invested in Guy Pearce's tortured character so that we actually cared about him and wanted him to solve the mystery. Inception isn't so much concerned with the outcome (or the storyline or characters) as it is with visual wizardry. And, that's dazzling enough for me to recommend you see it.