‘They say if you die in your dreams, you really die in your bed…’ sang Bruce Springsteen, and that’s the high concept behind this prime slice of 80’s cheese, which imagines a world of counter-espionage in which agents seek to infiltrate the nocturnal fantasies of the president of the USA. So far, so Inception, but if you want to see what the result looks like if handled in a literal, unimaginative way, then Joseph Ruben’s dated techno-thriller has all kind of silliness to offer.
Amazon Prime have exhumed this 1984 film with a blurb that focuses on hero Psychic Alex, played by Dennis Quaid. Psychic Alex is gifted with various telekinetic powers, and spends his days hiding from unscrupulous authorities and winning big at his local race-course. Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow are bickering away at the top of a secret government organisation that’s seeking to enter the dreams of President Edward Albert, and they fancy Psychic Alex as their ticket to the party. Seemingly based on Stephen King, horror author Charles Prince (George Wendt, Norm from Cheers) warms Psychic Alex that he’s in over his head, but when Prince vanishes, Psychic Alex has to face down the suits and strike out for freedom.
Inception at least had a pile of eye-candy visuals to work through; as with Brainstorm, the dreams here look like very 80’s Chroma-key effects, and don’t dazzle the eye or mind. Ruben seems to be aiming for some kind of Hitchcockian gloss, notably when Alex sees a car hurtling towards him while trapped in a public phone-box, but bursts of dream activity come to a weird finale when Alex confronts the President in his own dreams and attempts to save him from an assassin.
Too violent for kids, and too silly for adults, Dreamscape at least shows what Inception would be like if boiled down to its bones. The manoeuvrings of the sinister government operation are predictable, as are Alex’s attempts to shake off his pursuers by getting help from his race-track adversaries. The usually reliable composer Maurice Jarre’s score doesn’t help, nor does Kate Capshaw’s romantic lead, but at least the final product is slick and well shot by Brian Tufano (Trainspotting). Dreamscape just about made its money back on release, but the flights of fancy undertaken here have been somewhat overwhelmed by today’s lashings of CGI.