Re:View – Inception

The Arts

No Spoilers

In 1984, Dennis Quaid starred in a shonky FX thriller about a man who could enter other people’s dreams called, appropriately, Dreamscape. It featured a fight with a giant snake-man on (I think) a train, and had a plot like Swiss cheese. Now comes a reboot of that idea with the full bells and whistles treatment, and it’s a hoot. Working on the idea that you can say the most ridiculous technobollocks if you keep a very straight face indeed, Leonardo Di Caprio and his Mission Impossible dream team enter the subconscious and pull off info-heists for financial gain.

Nobody questions the morality of this unless they’re discussing the ongoing problem of Leonardo’s wife (stunning Marion Cotillard), but they do share reams of information about the process, making this possibly the talkiest action film ever made. Luckily frozen-faced Ellen Page is there to listen as the various Basil Expositions drop their loads.

Wisely, any explanation of how the system actually works is avoided (it’s in a metal suitcase and consists of a button and some leads) but such is the gravitas with which everyone treats the subject that we happily buy into the idea, opening the gateway for a genuinely innovative story structure and great Bond-style FX from Chris Corbould, a gentleman I last met on a 007 film who has the loveliest job in the world.

The actual heist fills the second half in staggering complexity, to the point where Page actually has to ask for a plot reminder, and is the most exciting thing I’ve seen all year. Does it matter that the audience only has a vague idea about what’s going on? Not really – you get the gist to share the thrills. And for once it’s nice to sense that a scriptwriter is guiding you rather than the CGI people.

Speaking of FX, these have the heft and gravity of genuine physical actions, instead of the horrible weightless feel you usually get in action movies, and raise the stakes for future films. It’s impossible to tell what was green-screen and what was a set build. The philosophical elephant in the room – namely, if you’re only dreaming, none of it matters – is skirted over nicely, and Hans Zimmer’s best score in years ties it all together. Arrange to eat afterwards; you’ll be having Blade Runner-style arguments about avuncular Michael Caine’s cameo when it’s over.

Inception is also a film that proves why 3D is now redundant except as a gimmick. This immersive 2D environment, so rich in ideas, would not stand an extra dimension because our attention would be diverted from the demands of thinking through the multi-layered story. An instant classic from the UK’s finest geek-director – and laconic team member Tom Hardy would make a great 007 when MGM finally gets bailed out. Bring on the sequels (but only from Nolan).