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Stars: Leonardo di Caprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite, Lukas Haas

Director: Christopher Nolan

A bewildering attempt by The Dark Knight director Nolan to execute a triumph of style over substance. And there's a lot of style on show in this story of the invasion of dreams, something Freddy Krueger's been at for years.

Here, though, it's big business. as Cobb (di Caprio) and his team (they all dream the same dream when they're asleep together) steal valuable secrets from people's minds on behalf of major corporations.

After one failed attempt, Cobb is offered a chance to return to a normal life with his children. Their mother (Cotillard) committed suicide after being unable to separate fantasy from reality and, although her death must surely have seemed self-inflicted, Cobb somehow finds himself a fugitive from the law.

His chance of redemption comes from a Japanese businessman (Watanabe) who wants the opposite of what Cobb's been doing: to plant an idea in the mind of Fischer (Murphy) so that he will split up his company.

The film has some careering action scenes, including a James Bond-like siege on a snowy stronghold. But is also has a plot you soon give up on, and characters you can't warm to. Lots of things happen in dreams within dreams, but to what end? 'Wait.' cries mind-boffin Page. 'Whose subconscious are we going into exactly?' Good to know someone else was baffled as to what was going on. And the film is further weakened by a very intrusive background soundtrack that makes dialogue difficult to hear.

Still, if you're ease with such dialogue as 'As soon as the music ends, we all ride the kicks up the layers', you may consider this an unqualified masterpiece.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
148 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Jul 2010