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MovieMike's Movie Reviews (83)

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Inception 
Director Chris Nolan Scores Again
3.5/4 stars

Ever since writer/director Christopher Nolan came onto the scene with ‘Memento’ (2000), I’ve been a huge fan. He followed that effort up with 2002’s ‘Insomnia’ (starring Al Pacino). He followed up with ‘Batman Begins’ in 2005, ‘The Prestige’ in 2006, and continued his Batman work with 2008’s ‘The Dark Night’. Nary a turkey in the bunch, I dare say. Much like ‘Memento’, ‘Inception’ is a concept film with a very complicated and layered story. Most often, films that derive their plot from some sort of gimmick or complex machination tend to end up as clunkers or just fall apart in the closing scenes. Winners in this category include M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Sixth Sense’, or ‘The Blair Witch Project’. Some films I feel failed to fully realize their own potential include ‘The Happening’ (another M. Night Shyamalan project), or 2009’s ‘Knowing’ with Nicholas Cage. When I say Mr. Nolan has another winner on his hands, I can’t help but feeling I’m making an understatement.

Leonardo DiCaprio fills the leading role as Cobb, the leader of a group of thieves who are corporate spies-for-hire. The major twist is that they operate within dream states, utilizing fictional hardware and drugs that allow them to delve into the subconscious of their target. Cobb’s main partner in crime is Arthur, played to good effect by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (‘The Lookout’). They trip up and become beholding to a corporate mogul named Saito, (Ken Watanabe). We also start to learn that Cobb has a desperate personal agenda as well. Saito presents Cobb with a mission that will allow him to achieve his personal aims and satisfy his debt to Saito at the same time. Trust me when I say this gets complicated in a hurry. But again, Chris Nolan does an excellent job of layering on all the plot lines and elements, without getting bogged down or twisted up by them along the way.

Ellen Page (‘Juno’) shows up as a new-hire, Ariadne. She proves to be a quick study, but also uncovers the depth of Cobb’s liabilities; liabilities that the rest of team has greatly underestimated. Other actors include Tom Berenger (‘The Substitute’), Lucas Haas (remember 1985’s ‘Witness’?), and Michael Cain (who’s lately been turning up as Alfred in Nolan’s Batman series). Marion Cotillard (‘Nine’) appears as Mal, Cobb’s deceased wife and her performance here is flawless, adding measurably to the intrigue.

While much of the action takes place in a dream world where many things are possible, the film avoids going off the deep end with too many surreal special effects. In those scenes where imagination trumps reality, such effects are applied judiciously which helps enhance their impact. Given the goal of the film, it seems to have been a monumental task to ‘get it right’ – but in my opinion, Mr. Nolan has done just that. As if to confirm this, I was surprised by the collective and audible ‘Whoa’ of the theater audience at the closing scene. Running time is 148 minutes, but you’ll hardly notice the time go by (another mark of a great movie). Bring your full attention and you’ll be saying ‘Whoa’ yourself!


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