To try to completely distill filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s sprawling sci-fi chessboard action-drama on the fly and in short-form would be something of a fool’s game, so a longer review will likely follow, in some form, somewhere, but suffice it to say that an admiration and understanding of the mind-bending Inception rests largely in one’s appreciation for and tolerance of the idea of esoteric feeling fueling an action film rather than merely corporeal concerns.
Still plagued by the death of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), freelance corporate espionage agent Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) extracts ideas from dreams, tilling his victims’ subconscious for valuable information. Busted by a businessman (Ken Watanabe) who offers him a chance for amnesty by planting an idea deep in the mind of his ascendant rival (Cillian Murphy), Dom and his team plunge deep into a multi-layered dreamscape.
Rangy and intellectually muscular, Inception is flawed in the ways that only a brilliant, overreaching work can be. While almost always involving, it doesn’t have a suitably engaging antagonist, and its grander emotional strokes don’t quite pack the emotional wallop Nolan thinks they do, mainly because Mal remains a cipher, a placeholder of peaceable tranquility rather than a full-blooded character.
What’s most heartening and invigorating, though, is the sheer, staggering theoretical and philosophical ambition on display, and the amount of studio muscle and capital thrown at it, when pablum is so often Hollywood’s default setting. At its core, Inception is a rumination on the very human and appealing idea of utter stability, and arrested happiness. For plenty of film geeks, that will be achieved this summer. (Warner Bros., PG-13, 148 minutes)