Ad­ven­tures in the sub­con­scious take genre to next level

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Charles Ealy

Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan has been mess­ing with our minds, our mem­o­ries and our dreams ever since he put him­self on the moviemak­ing map with 2000’s “Me­mento.”

Nolan’s lat­est mind-blower, “In­cep­tion,” goes way be­yond “Me­mento” and sets a new stan­dard for big-screen imag­i­na­tion.

Com­puter-gen­er­ated spe­cial ef­fects take the au­di­ence into beau­ti­ful, threat­en­ing, ac­tion-filled dream lev­els rem­i­nis­cent of the art of M.C. Escher. And as we fol­low the char­ac­ters far­ther into parts of the sub­con­scious, the ques­tion emerges: What’s real and what’s not? Re­mark­ably, Nolan pro­vides am­ple clues as his mind­bend­ing movie rips through ever wilder worlds.

Here’s the setup, with­out giv­ing away key plot points: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of thieves are hired to plant an idea in the mind of the heir to a huge for­tune (Cil­lian Mur­phy). To do this, they must get the heir into a dream state and hooked up to a spe­cial de­vice that al­lows the team to share his thoughts and cre­ate al­ter­nate uni­verses that will seem real to the heir. Then they must lead the heir through var­i­ous lev­els of sub­con­scious­ness un­til he is ready to dis­cover the idea that will change his mind radi--

cally — and the course of the fu­ture.

Cobb rounds up a team of ex­perts to help cre­ate and nav­i­gate the dream worlds. They in­clude Ellen Page, the ar­chi­tect who de­signs the dream land­scapes; Ken Watanabe, the ty­coon who is pay­ing for im­plan­ta­tion of the idea; Joseph Gor­donLe­vitt, the point man who helps the team out of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions; Tom Hardy, a forger who can as­sume var­i­ous sub­con­scious iden­ti­ties; and Dileep Rao, a chemist who can ad­min­is­ter pow­er­ful seda­tives to make the heir and Cobb’s team go deeper and deeper into a shared dream.

If you’ve seen “The Ma­trix,” then you’ll prob­a­bly un­der­stand the idea of al­ter­nate uni­verses. But “In­cep­tion” makes “The Ma­trix” look com­par­a­tively sim­ple since we fol­low the char­ac­ters through mul­ti­ple lev­els of un­re­al­ity.

Most of the ac­tion in “In­cep­tion” comes from the no­tion that the heir will put up re­sis­tance as the dream pro­gresses. At var­i­ous lev­els of the sub­con­scious, the heir’s re­luc­tance takes the form of ma­chine-gun-wield­ing armies bat­tling those who are shar­ing his dream. And some­times, the ac­tual set­tings be­gin to de­te­ri­o­rate, with build­ings crum­bling and ho­tel cor­ri­dors ro­tat­ing 360 de­grees.

Two more big prob­lems lurk in these dreams. Cobb is bring­ing along his own mem­o­ries from pre­vi­ous mis­sions, and those in­clude a trou­ble­some fig­ure from his past who wants him to stay in the level of his sub­con­scious where she re­sides.

What’s more, if Cobb or any of the other peo­ple die in the deep­est of the dreams, they might very well be un­able to climb back through the nec­es­sary lev­els of un­re­al­ity to re­al­ity. If all of this sounds com­pli­cated, it is. But “In­cep­tion” is an elab­o­rate maze that’s well worth nav­i­gat­ing. It’s a bril­liantly trippy cin­e­matic work of ac­tion­filled sur­re­al­ism. The sets, spe­cial ef­fects and act­ing are first-rate. Nolan’s script is even bet­ter. Rat­ing: PG-13 for ac­tion, vo­lence. Run­ning time: 2 hours, 27 min­utes. The­aters: Alamo Lake Creek, Barton Creek, Cine­mark Gal­le­ria, Cine­mark Cedar Park, Cine­mark Round Rock, Cine­mark South­park Mead­ows, Do­bie, Gate­way, High­land, Lake­line, Metropoli­tan, Starplex, Tin­sel­town Pflugerville, West­gate.

Arthur (Joseph Gor­don-Levitt) helps a team of crim­i­nals out of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions in the sub­con­scious of their vic­tim.

Melissa Mose­ley

Ari­adne (Ellen Page) and Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) try to scam the heir to a for­tune by tak­ing the back door to his sub­con­scious.

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