Blu-ray Review: Inception

British director Christopher Nolan wants to mess with your head. Memento, the film that put him on the map, moved backward in time to disorient viewers and subvert conventional storytelling. Ten years later, Inception feels like a follow-up, even though Nolan made movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the interim.

British director Christopher Nolan wants to mess with your head. Memento, the film that put him on the map, moved backward in time to disorient viewers and subvert conventional storytelling. Ten years later, Inception feels like a follow-up, even though Nolan made movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the interim. Inception's multileveled world once again allows the director to play with time and space, as well as - no easy task - to make viewers question the nature of perceived reality.

As with Memento, however, Inception's ambitions eventually outstrip its reach, resulting in a film that's dazzling if not entirely fulfilling. The big difference on the screen is in the movie's budget and resulting production values, enabling Nolan and his team to create some of the most imaginative, convincing visual effects ever committed to film.

The story takes us inside the minds of its characters, as expert "extractor" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) - whose job usually involves using futuristic technology to invade the dreams of his subjects and steal industrial secrets - must perform an act of "inception": planting an idea that the subject will act on because he believes it's his own. The details get muddled and occasionally confusing as Cobb and company go down a rabbit hole of dreams within dreams, even though they frequently pause to explain what's going on, itself a clear sign of story troubles.


Remarkably, the people behind the Blu-ray release seem to have worked under the unspoken truth that the visual effects are the film's most compelling feature. There's no director's commentary and very little of big box-office draw DiCaprio in the other extras. Instead, we get making-of segments that address the visual effects as works of creative problem-solving. These segments reveal that the movie's greatest success comes from Nolan's refusal to rely on CGI; Inception is an analog movie, and that's why these dreams seem so real. A 40-minute documentary about dream science comes off long- winded and light on substance, but its few key points make the story's central conceit easier to digest.

Can a near miss of a film still be transformed into an essential Blu-ray? It sure doesn't hurt that Inception's opening close- up of ocean waves - and much of the conventional cinematography that follows - is breathtaking in definition and texture as presented here in the disc's 2.40:1 picture. The same can be said of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which delivers an especially vivid three-dimensional soundscape. Throw in a powerful 40-minute excerpt from Hans Zimmer?s score, and what have you got: A Blu- ray package that actually outshines the movie contained therein. After all these years, it's hard not to feel that the concept - the dream? - of home theater has truly and finally arrived.

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