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Nolan taps into viewers’ brains with ‘Inception’

Fri., July 16, 2010

Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio star in “Inception.”
Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio star in “Inception.”

Christopher Nolan’s knock-you-out-of-your- seat “Inception” is the blockbuster we’ve all been thirsting for, a sleek brain twister that makes this summer’s other mainstream releases look puny, drab and empty-headed in comparison.

As he did with “The Dark Knight,” Nolan crafts a brilliant piece of slick, tantalizing entertainment – a cinematic chess match that demands focus and smarts from an audience that’s been jonesing for the same kind of mind-blowing film experience we first got with “The Matrix.”

That wish comes true with “Inception.”

From a trippy opening dream sequence to a pulse-pounding finale that’s a delirious mash-up of a James Bond flick and a Philip K. Dick novel, the sci-fi thriller seductively holds you in its clutches.

Not since James Cameron’s “Avatar” have I been in a theater where an audience so thoroughly surrendered itself to what was transpiring onscreen. But “Inception” is a better film than “Avatar.”

While it’s stunning visually, “Inception” dazzles us not with technology, but with smarts, immersing us deep, deep into the dreamscapes craftily manufactured by Nolan and his cast of rich characters.

Blithely summarized, “Inception’s” plot would seem confusing and impenetrable. Here’s a cursory overview: A team of dream raiders for hire led by Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) attempts the risky proposition of planting an idea into the subconscious of an business empire heir (Cillian Murphy, the Scarecrow in “Batman Begins”).

The team includes the haunted extractor (DiCaprio), an ace at invading a target’s dreams and stealing their secrets; the calm point man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “500 Days of Summer”), a model planner whose feathers rarely get ruffled; the architect (Ellen Page, “Juno”), an upstart new recruit who draws up the visuals of dreams and seeks to find out what makes Cobb tick; the tourist (Ken Watanabe, “The Last Samurai”) who bankrolls the endeavor and wants to be involved in the process; the forger (Tom Hardy, “RocknRolla”), who can assume the identity of others in dreams; and the chemist (Dileep Rao), who sedates the team and serves as their driver.

DiCaprio proves with each movie that he’s matured into one of our finest actors. Page gives a refreshingly different performance, not relying on wisecracks as a means to create a character. And Gordon-Levitt again shows his versatility, playing his character as strong-willed and stoic.

Beyond the acting, every other detail is also right in “Inception” – the dramatic music by Hans Zimmer, the sexy designer duds the cast wears, the special effects that never, ever overwhelm the story, merely complement it.

Simply put, mainstream moviemaking just doesn’t get any better than “Inception.”

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