Almost a quarter of a century before Nolan’s Inception there was another movie about people who could go into other people’s dreams. Dreamscape is a fun science fiction movie that easily blends action, comedy, and even horror into a mildly engaging experience. We will be following cheeky Alex Gardner, a burned-out but highly talented psychic recruited for a secret government program. He’s played by young Dennis Quaid who gave another good performance. It recommended him for his role in Innerspace, a couple of years later where he was shrunk and inserted into an unsuspecting store clerk.
If you think the plot of Dreamscape is a bit far-fetched, I assure you it’s not. The US government did a number of experiments involving the paranormal. If you to know more about them, I suggest you check out The Men Who Stare at Goats. However, apart from this whole aspect, we’ve also got corruption, conspiracies, and real-life problems as themes in this movie. Since there are so many of them, at times it does feel a bit disjointed. The fast pacing and an exciting atmosphere help with that. And there will even be a couple of old-school action scenes.
And on top of all of that, we have the moral implication brought on by the main concept of entering other people’s dreams. Our hero, at one point, even enters the dream of his coworker only to end up kissing her. Was this sexual harassment despite it never taking place in the real world? At the same time, I don’t want you to think that Dreamscape is some overly clever and pretentious movie. It keeps things quite realistic considering its premise. Finally, despite the intriguing poster design, Dreamscape is definitely not an adventure movie but more of a supernatural thriller.
Despite his incredibly powerful psychic abilities, Alex Gardner now spends most of his days betting on horses and drinking beer. He even owes a local mobster a lot of money and is constantly looking over his shoulder. And just as he evades one set of thugs another one appears out of nowhere. They whisk him away to a secret government facility where Alex meets his old mentor Doctor Paul Novotny. He wants them to work together to save people who are suffering from nightmares. And after meeting a young boy tormented by these horrific dreams, Alex agrees. However, he doesn’t know that there’s a hidden agenda behind this whole program…
Dreamscape relies on good old practical and optical special effects avoiding CGI altogether. After all, in the year of our lord Satan 1984, CGI was still wonky at best. It would take a couple of years before we got our first realistic CGI animation (The Abyss – 1989). The visuals are surprisingly effective and still look good. I especially liked the dream sequences with those strange stairs. Moreover, all of these “Dreamscape” scenes feel like dreams, visuals are there just to amplify this feeling. Of course, we shouldn’t forget about Quaid’s performance as well as Max von Sydow’s and Christopher Plummer’s.
Also, I don’t know why but I found the clothes to be horribly outdated in this movie. They look like something out of a thrift store (probably the place where they ended up). So, it’s strange to see our protagonist wearing something like that or scientists wearing crappy suits. Again, a minor inconvenience but I mention it just because I want to see if you felt the same.
Director: Joseph Ruben
Writers: David Loughery, Chuck Russell, Joseph Ruben
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Kate Capshaw, Eddie Albert, David Patrick Kelly
Fun Facts: The producers wanted only Dennis Quaid for the role of Alex. They were very satisfied with the end result and commended Dennis on his dedication and performance.