Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine.
Reviewed by:David Germain, Associated Press
Opens Taiwan: today
It's no rarity for blockbuster Hollywood directors to dream big. Dreaming big and smart, though, is Christopher Nolan's specialty.
Nolan elevated the superhero thriller to high art with "The Dark Knight," his followup to "Batman Begins." He pushed the bounds of illusion and perception in the thrillers "Insomnia" and "The Prestige."
Now Nolan is casting audiences into the subconscious of Leonardo DiCaprio and his co-stars with "Inception" - essentially, a heist movie taking place in people's dreams.
The scale, action and visual effects are as grand as those in the biggest summer popcorn flick. "Inception" also offers a depth in theme, story and characters seldom seen in huge Hollywood spectacles.
"I view the film first and foremost as a large-scale thrill ride. That's what it's always been intended to be for me," Nolan said in an interview. "If it's got more interesting ideas in it and whatever, that's all intended to just rattle around in your brain and make you want to think a little bit more about this world that the film creates. That for me is a lot of fun in a summer blockbuster, really."
Nolan and distributor Warner Bros. have played coy about "Inception," only gradually revealing plot points to stoke the imagination of fans, who inevitably are interested in the next project from the man behind the biggest opening weekend ever with the US$158.4 million debut of "The Dark Knight."
The movie's trailers have been artful teases loaded with wild images - a train barreling through traffic down a city street, characters hurtling about the walls and ceiling of a hotel hall in a gravity-defying fight scene, a section of Paris tilting up and folding in on itself.
It's fair to say "Inception" is the most-anticipated original film - something not based on a book, comic, game or other source - since James Cameron's "Avatar."
"There's a lot riding on 'Inception,'" said Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who co-stars as DiCaprio's right-hand man in an operation to sneak into people's dreams and steal their secrets. "This is going to really send a very strong signal to the mainstream movie industry that if this movie does really well, you don't need to have some sort of prepackaged, market-researched brand in order to make a big hit movie. What people really respond to is good storytelling and compelling human drama."
While DiCaprio's Dom Cobb makes his living as a corporate raider of the mind, the heart of "Inception" is centered around a new challenge - planting an idea in a man's subconscious so he will awaken and act on it as if it were his own. The characters tumble through layers of dreams within dreams, the action challenging both them - and the audience - to ponder what's real and what's illusion.
The film co-stars Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page and past Nolan collaborators Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine.
Writer-director Nolan, who turns 40 two weeks after "Inception" premieres, said he dreamed up the idea about a decade ago, as his independent hit "Memento" was opening studio doors for him.
The British filmmaker said he has been toying with how to use dreams in movies since his teens, though.
"I've become over the years more and more interested in the creative potential of the mind and the way that every night we're able to create entire worlds," Nolan said.
"The idea that you can be completely convinced while you're asleep that you're in a real situation, and you've created this room or whatever, and I've created you as a person, everything you're saying I'm putting as words in your mouth, but I feel that I'm hearing them for the first time. That to me suggests infinite potential for human creativity, an infinite mystery to the way the human mind works."
Such sentiments kind of define the highest aspirations of Hollywood blockbusters, considering the resources that go into them, Nolan said.
Hollywood has always been known as the land of dreams, but filmmakers now have technology at their disposal to hurl audiences into worlds approaching the limitless possibilities of their unconscious projections.
"The closest film for me would probably be the first 'Star Wars' that did this for my generation. Create a world not just where you literally forget the world you came from, but you want to lose yourself in that world so much that you watch the film again and again," Nolan said.