All the people touting Christopher Nolan's Inception as groundbreaking in terms of originality clearly never saw Joseph Ruben's Dreamscape. Dr. Paul Novotny is in charge of an experimental research department, which attempts to alleviate individuals who suffer from recurring nightmares. The process of 'dreamlinking' is used, where a psychic projects their consciousness into the sleeping person's subconscious, or dream-state. Enter Alex Gardner, an extremely talented psychic who wastes his gifts to hustle gamblers and meet woman. An old student of Dr. Novotny, Alex reluctantly agrees to join the program that is funded by the government. Lets just say from there Government corruption runs wild through Robert Blair, a powerful political reactionary who will do whatever he believes is necessary to "protect the people'. Given the release date of Joseph Ruben's Dreamscape it's no surprise to find the film running rampant with political commentary centered around the nuclear bomb. With the president having horrible nightmares about nuclear winter, he decides to attempt lasting peace with the soviets, forcing Blair to take the necessary steps to make sure this doesn't happen. While the film has a very serious subject matter Dreamscape never stops having a sense of humor, something that is far less frequent in the films of today. The film uses some well-timed editing transitions and music cues to give the film a nice touch of tongue and cheek humor, which is quite important given the film's far-fetched concept. This is a film that is loaded with narrative threads and themes but it somehow manages to touch on everything without feeling convoluted. One of my only complaints revolves around the character Tommy, Alex's fellow psychic mind reader. His general arch is fine and very necessary but I really think he should have been less antagonistic towards Alex early on in the film, making his dealings with Robert Blair more of a surprise. The dream aesthetics are creative and interesting, from the use of handheld and various atmospheric techniques, the dreamscape feels very different than the normal world. The climatic sequences where Alex and Tommy go toe-to-toe in the President's dreamscape has got to be the highlight of the entire film featuring lots of stimulating imagery and inventive ideas. Joseph Ruben's Dreamscape features great actors such as Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow, a genuinely unique concept, and a generally light but dramatic tone that all work together to deliver a solid piece of filmmaking.
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