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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

CHRISTOPHER Nolan cements his position as the undisputed king of the intelligent blockbuster with Inception, a mind-bendingly brilliant existential heist movie that raises the bar in mainstream entertainment.

Having blown just about everyone away with his last movie, The Dark Knight, Nolan resorts to original material for this unique, bold and extremely clever thriller that delivers on both spectacle and emotional impact.

There will be clever-clever critics who claim to “get” Inception on first viewing, as well as those who dismiss the goings-on as pretentious nonsense. But while Nolan may invite accusations of the latter, he should be indulged… and repeat viewings are almost essential in allowing the full intricate layering of Inception to unfold.

Make no mistake, this is bravura filmmaking in every sense of the word: visually innovative, emotionally complex, and fiendishly clever. It delivers on a technical level, as well as a human one, seldom putting a foot wrong throughout the course of its two and a half hour running time, and steadfastly refusing to waste the presence of any of its high profile cast members.

And so to the plot: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a corporate spy for hire who specialises in the art of extracting priceless information from people’s dreams. He’s also a man with a shady past: a father who cannot return home to his children in America because of the doubt surrounding the death of his wife (Marion Cotillard).

Cobb is given a chance to right this wrong, however, when a Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) offers him the chance to achieve the holy grail of dream manipulation, by planting an idea into the rival businessman (Cillian Murphy), who is about to inherit an energy empire from his dying father (Pete Postlethwaite).

In order to do so, Cobb assembles a crack team, comprised of his right-hand man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an architect (Ellen Page), a forger (Tom Hardy) and a chemist (Dileep Rao) to get into the mind, while creating an intricately layered set of dream worlds within dream worlds in which to work his magic.

To complicate matters still further, however, the dream worlds they create are populated by ruthless bodyguards intent on protecting the mind of their owner, as well as the presence of Cobb’s wife, who would seem to have her own agenda for thwarting their plan.

As complicated as the above sounds, Inception is not so densely plotted that you’ll get lost – but you do have to pay attention at all times, and loo breaks are ill-advised!

And once the rules have been established, it’s a rollercoaster ride that offers a filmmaking tour-de-force.

Nolan is no stranger, of course, to creating complex scenarios that function as high quality entertainment. Earlier works such as Insomnia and Memento, in particular, laid the groundwork… while his work on the Batman movies has given him the confidence to mount such intelligent narratives on the biggest of all stages.

And yet Nolan brings a warmth and authenticity to proceedings that’s lacking in so many modern blockbusters, never letting the spectacle dwarf the performances, or diminish the emotional connection.

Hence, jaws may well hit the floor at scenes of cities folding in on each other, or men fighting in gravity-defying corridors… but they’ll also be gripped by the will they/won’t they nature of the heist, the ‘where are they now?’ nature of the screenplay, and the strong emotional peg to the story courtesy of Cobb’s unfolding tragedy.

The set pieces, meanwhile, dazzle… being staged in real locations, without the use of CGI, and taking a defiantly old school approach to execution that owes much to both the James Bond movies and Michael Mann’s gritty, ultra-real approach.

Of the performers, DiCaprio is typically excellent, building on the strong work he did in the similarly themed Shutter Island earlier this year, while Gordon-Levitt is an excellent foil… a loyal companion and a hero figure in his own right.

Tom Hardy ditches the edginess that has threatened to become a trademark and oozes charisma in a role that seems destined to catapult him to the fringe of the A-list, while Page and Cotillard offer feisty, intelligent and sympathetic companions/love interests.

Nolan regulars Watanabe, Murphy and, briefly, Sir Michael Caine, all make their mark in some way.

Having been lucky enough to be able to see Inception twice already, I can confirm that it’s a film that really does stand up to second (and repeat) viewing to catch what you missed, and heighten the overall experience. But then it’s a tribute to Nolan’s majestic ability that you’ll really want to return to the world he creates time and time again.

This is filmmaking of the highest calibre: a summer event movie that rates as one of the most brilliant cinema experiences you’re likely to have in a long, long time. Or to put it another way, it’s the stuff of dreams.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 148mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 6, 2010