Inception – living the dream

Writer/director Christopher Nolan’s latest film is still looping through my mind after tonight’s viewing — it’s a tad exhausting.

In Inception, Nolan, who did a superb job re-energising the Batman franchise, casts Leonardo DiCaprio — far from the prow of the Titanic, thank goodness — as renegade spy Cobb who can enter a sleeping person’s dream and root out hidden or suppressed knowledge therein. Wanted by the law and with his wife, um, problematic, he sees an intensely dangerous mission as his one last chance of getting to live his life with his children. He leads a team of dream-shapers into a rich businessman’s dreams, not to extract, but to implant a ruinous suggestion that will earn Cobb his freedom to be a father.

There are dreams within dreams in this clever heist movie, where the treasure is an idea and the vault a man’s subconscious mind. Cobb’s relationship with his wife adds a gorgeous undertow to the movie’s arc as the action sequences, the kind we used to see in James Bond, pile up. My one negative about the flick was that there was perhaps too much bad shooting, too many shoot-outs and chases and fisticuffs that didn’t do much more than look pretty (some, very pretty indeed).

As the credits roll, we’re left with a question akin to that notably posed by The Matrix and a large section of the Philip K Dick canon: what is reality, and is it any more reliable, or preferable, than the dream?

A blog at NME suggests a few movies that cover similar terrain to Inception, and you’ll find a couple more amongst the at-times snarky reader comments (Dark City and Eternal Sunshine… were two that came to my mind quick smart, and I rate them both highly).

Another good thing about Inception was that it has completely erased (well, almost) the bad taste left by Predators, which we saw last week when Inception was all but sold out at the theatre and, well, since we were there… bad mistake. Should’ve got a takeaway and gone home to finish off Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. I had hoped Predators might breathe some life into the franchise, but it went from improbable to dull very quickly indeed.

Shudder, er, Shutter Island

Shutter Island is director Martin Scorsese’s new baby, and I finally caught it, late in the season, after being enticed by its Gothic whodunit trailer.

The island is an asylum for the violent criminally insane, back in 1954, with the impact of World War II and the Cold War adding undercurrents to what begins as an investigation into an escape and quickly develops into a far deeper, and more complex, mystery.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the investigating Federal Marshall who brings a whole baggage train of issues to the case as he faces off against the head psychologist played by Ben Kingsley.

The acting is uniformly superb, and I’m pleased to be able to vanquish thoughts of the execrable Titanic (just drown, won’t you?) while watching him work.

And Scorsese works up some delightful atmosphere with his bedlam visions.

But the movie falls sadly short of the mark that it could’ve and should’ve reached, and a damn sight sooner than its almost 140-minute running time.

There were a few warning signs that things were going pear-shaped from the get-go: unnecessary info dumps and a strange meeting between two cops, an overwrought score that thankfully settled down as the story progressed, and then the unnecessary expositions mounting up as the increasingly obvious (and slightly dubious) conceit was unveiled. I kept hoping for a further twist in the tail to unravel the conceit, but it wasn’t to be. There was, however, a very enjoyable and rather pointed, I mean poignant, closing scene.

And poor Max Von Sydow was wasted — he’s right up there with Christopher Lee on the list of actors who deserve chunkier roles, in my book — and an entire subplot told in flashback seemed all but irrelevant to the story in hand.

Good, but not great.

Among the trailers was the new ‘reimagining’ of a Nightmare on Elm Street: it looks tasty.