Inception is a chilling trip into the psyche . . . of writer-director Christopher Nolan, an action director who shattered the Tomatometer with The Dark Knight. Nolan's follow-up offers more muted colors, gift-wrapped themes, and GQ leading men with stockbroker comb-backs — indicators of high-minded artistry, all. Leo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a corporate espionage expert at "extraction": lifting secrets out of targets' minds. Drugging them, then joining them for naptime, Cobb can drop in to guest-star in their dreams, and there pick the locks of his marks' subconscious — often represented as an actual safebox. Cobb is planning his "last job," a mind-cracking with the untested mission of leaving an idea in his mark's head. The target is the heir to a corporate dynasty, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), who must be persuaded to abdicate his waiting throne. Cobb explains his art as "a chance to build cathedrals, entire cities, things that never existed." Those so inclined can follow the script's breadcrumbs and read Inception as a metaphor for the act of artistic creation — but Cobb/Nolan aren't constructing things that never existed. (Fischer Jr. dreams of a car-chase shoot-out in the pouring rain.) As for the would-be-emotional catharsis at the center of Inception, it's based on Cobb's choice: whether to go on permanent vacation with his dream-memory, or to return to real life. Too bad Nolan either can't articulate or doesn't believe in a distinction between living feelings and dreams — and his barren Inception doesn't capture much of either.