Inception (Warner Bros.): The first blockbuster to come out at UK cinemas since the World Cup ended is this insanely ambitious sci-fi actioner from director Christopher Nolan. The story revolves around a gang of hi-tech thieves led by international fugitive Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), who steals highly valuable information from people’s dreams. After a job on a Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) goes wrong, he is faced with the daunting challenge of ‘inception’: instead of stealing information, he must secretly plant some inside the mind of an important businessman (Cillian Murphy).
Assembling a team of experts (which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Tom Hardy) who can help him execute the mission, he must also deal with his own troubled past, which endangers his ability to do the job at hand. The scale and ambition of this film is something to behold as Nolan returns to the narrative puzzles of previous films like Memento (2000) and The Prestige (2006) but does so on the scale of his recent Batman films (certainly this would never have got made if The Dark Knight wasn’t such a huge success).
This is a challenging film and many audiences might be put off by the way the story switches between the real world and the shifting dreamscapes of different characters. Having seen it twice now, the pieces do fit together, although at times you feel like you are struggling to remember a dream just by following the action on screen.
DiCaprio is solid in the lead role and his team have also been well cast: Joseph Gordon Levitt is a charming point man; Ellen Page nicely combines innocence and gravity as the rookie ‘dream architect’; Tom Hardy relishes his part as a forgerer; Ken Watanabe is a pleasingly enigmatic boss figure; Cillian Murphy conveys surprising depth as the rich mark and Michael Caine hits the spot in a smaller than usual part.
As you would expect for a Nolan film, it is a technical masterclass: the production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas makes stunning use of several real world locations; Wally Pfister’s cinematography captures intense emotions and epic action beautifully; the visual effects by Double Negative and Plowman Craven are so good they never feel like conventional CGI; there are some highly imaginative sets overseen by special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, especially one amazing sequence involving a hotel; and editor Lee Smith manages to warp time and space brilliantly throughout.
Warner Bros have spent a lot of money on this and must be a little nervous as to how audiences are going to react. It is a dense film which may put off viewers not willing to enter the maze Nolan has constructed. On the other hand there is pently of action and spectacle here and it may be a film that people will want to debate and experience a second time. It will have a big opening but there is a question over its longer term box office prospects. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 12A]
The Concert (Optimum Releasing): A French comedy about a former conductor (Aleksei Guskov) who, after being fired from the renowned Bolshoi Orchestra during the the communist era, sees a shot at redemption when he learns that they will be playing at a theatre in Paris. He recruits a young violinist (Melanie Laurent) to accompany his old musicians and hopes to stage a new concert with them.
Directed by Radu Mihaileanu, the score was composed by Armand Amar and the music on the soundtrack features works by Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Mozart and Khachaturian. Optimum will be hoping that arthouse audiences not interested in Inception will be interested in seeing a more accessible, feelgood European film. [Curzons Mayfair, Soho & Key Cities / 15]
Bluebeard (New Wave Films): Based on the dark fairytale by Charles Perrault, about a young bride married to a murderous aristocrat, this film version also adds another narrative layer with with two present-day girls reading the story in an old book, which they have found in an attic.
Directed by Catherine Breillat, it stars Lola Créton as Marie-Catherine, the teen bride, whilst Dominique Thomas is Bluebeard. This faces arthouse competition from The Concert, and New Wave Films will be hoping fans more discerning fans of French cinema will turn out for this one. [Key Cities]
Mega Piranha (Metrodome Distribution): More exploitation nonsense from the studio that gave us Mega Shark, with the main selling point being that it stars 80s pop singer Tiffany. Referred to as some as a mockbuster, this will get a DVD release next month. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus & selected Key Cities]
Rapt (Artificial Eye): A French drama about a rich industrialist (Yvan Attal) who is kidnapped and held hostage is the latest film from director Lucas Belvaux. [Curzon Soho & selected Key Cities / 15]
Rough Aunties (ICA Cinema): A documentary of from director Kim Longinotto about child abuse in South Africa. [ICA Cinema]