Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'Inception' a crafted spectacular


Four stars

By Gary Buiso

“Inception” is a sci-fi heist thriller for the ages — a visually astounding marvel with a moving, thoughtful core.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “The Dark Knight”) has outdone himself, weaving layers of subconscious into an elegant quilt, referencing cinematic influences such as Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, but never aping them, allowing him to break free to stitch something wholly unique.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a corporate raider hired by companies to extract information from rivals by entering their dreams, which take place in a world designed to have the mark give up the psychic goods.

But wealthy businessman Saito (Ken Wantanabe) isn’t after information — he wants his rival’s heir, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), to break up his father’s empire. To do that, Saito hires Cobb to plant the seed of an idea into the son’s mind, a dangerous, untested procedure known as inception.

Cobb agrees, and true to heist-movie tradition, assembles a crack team to help with the job.

From there, much of the film takes place inside Murphy’s purloined mind — trained to combat psychic invaders using a veritable army of defense mechanisms, usually ill-humored men clad in dark suits, firing automatic weapons.

But it’s no easy job, particularly when Cobb is simultaneously warden and prisoner to memories of his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Spectacular action sequences unfold across dreams within dreams, atop snow-capped mountains, through the streets of Paris, and in gravity-defying hotel lobbies. It’s all done seamlessly, with spectacular cinematography and a pounding score by Hans Zimmer.

Performances are fine across the board, with DiCaprio’s pained study of loss and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s elegant aerial ballet standing out.

“Inception” is less a complicated Chinese puzzle than an artfully rendered Russian matryoshka doll — where beneath carefully crafted layers a delightful surprise awaits: a tender heart.

“Inception.” Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout. 148 minutes. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Dileep Rao and Cillian Murphy. Playing in Brooklyn at Park Slope's Access Digital Theatres - Pavilion Cinema, BAM Rose Cinemas in Fort Greene, Cobble Hill Cinemas, UA Court Street Stadium 12 in Downtown, Kent Theatre in Coney Island, and UA Sheepshead Bay 14 (IMAX available).


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