October 3, 2010
Psychic Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) was the 19-year-old prime subject of a scientific research project documenting his psychic ability, but in the midst of the study he disappeared and has since been using his talents solely for personal gain, which lately consists mainly of gambling and womanizing.
After running afoul of a local gangster/extortionist named Sneed (Redmond Gleeson), Gardner evades two of Sneed’s thugs by allowing himself to be taken by two men, Finch (Peter Jason) and Babcock (Chris Mulkey) who identify themselves as being from an academic institution. At the institution, Alex is reunited with his former mentor Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow) who is now involved in government-funded psychic research. Novotny, aided by fellow scientist Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw) has developed a technique which allows psychics to voluntarily link with the minds of others by projecting themselves into the subconscious during REM sleep (i.e., while they are dreaming).
Alex is blackmailed into joining Novotny’s project that he (Novotny) intended to use for a benevolent purpose as a clinic to diagnose and treat sleep disorders, particularly in the form of nightmares, but the project has been hijacked by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer), a powerful government agent with possible CIA ties, though it is never clearly revealed in the film. Alex eventually discovers that he is actually involved in a U.S. government-funded project to use this dream-linking technique for assassination.
Before the plot is revealed, Alex gains experience helping a man worried about his wife’s infidelity and taking over the case of a young boy named Buddy (Cory Yothers) who’s plagued with nightmares so terrible that a previous psychic lost his mind in an attempt to help Buddy. Buddy’s nightmare bogeyman involves a large snakeman which later becomes a weakness for Alex.
A subplot involving Alex and Jane’s growing infatuation culminates with him sneaking into Jane’s dream without the use of the machines which are a part of the process, a point Jane does not realize at first because she is too angry that Alex was able to have sex with her in her dream.
With the help of a novelist named Charlie Prince (George Wendt), who has been covertly investigating the project for the basis of a new book, Alex learns of Blair’s sinister intentions.
Prince and Novotny are both murdered to silence them; things get worse when the President of the United States (Eddie Albert) is admitted as a patient, and Alex’s colleague Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly), a sociopath who (as Alex discovers) once shot his own father to death, is sent into the President’s nightmare by Blair in an attempt to assassinate the President.
Blair considers the President a threat to national security due to the President’s nightmares of a post-apocalyptic world, which represent his fears and becomes cause for his wishing to enter unfavorable negotiations for nuclear disarmament.
Alex and Jane manage to get close enough to the President’s room for Alex to project himself into the President’s dream and save him: after a fight in which Glatman rips out a police officer’s heart, attempts to incite a mob of nuclear attack victims to attack the President, and battles Alex in the form of the snake-monster from Buddy’s dream, Alex assumes the appearance of Glatman’s murdered father in order to distract him, allowing the President to ram a spear into Glatman’s back, killing him.
The President is grateful to Alex but reluctant to confront Blair, who apparently holds a truly powerful position in the government. To protect himself and Jane, Alex enters Blair’s dream and murders him before Blair can bring about any sort of retribution.
The film ends with Jane and Alex boarding a train to Louisville, Kentucky (home of Churchill Downs), intent on making their previous dream encounter a reality. Encountering the ticket conductor from Jane’s dream gives them a moment of pause.
Link: Dreamscape at IMDB