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'Inception' Movie Review

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 4.5 Star Rating (2 Reviews)

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page photo from Inception

Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page in 'Inception.'

© Warner Bros Pictures
Inception is so spectacularly entertaining you'll want to see it twice, and so mind-bendingly original you'll need to see it more than once to get all the intricacies of the story. Writer/director Christopher Nolan cements his place as one of our top living filmmakers with this trippy sci-fi action thriller/romance that more than lives up to its hype.

Inception's one of those movies you absolutely must engage your brain to understand and enjoy. Get your popcorn and sodas before the first frame or go without - you don't want to miss a minute for fear of losing track of the story. But Inception not only demands your attention it earns it by never letting the effects overwhelm the characters, never settling for an easy out or taking storytelling shortcuts, and by keeping the pace brisk and the action stunningly inventive.

A refreshing reprieve from a summer full of disappointments, Inception is that rare beast that lingers with you long after you've left the theater. What Nolan's accomplished with Inception is, to put it simply, brilliant.

Inception - The Story

Inception is all about a new form of corporate espionage: the ability to steal ideas while the owner's dreaming. This is done by means of an 'extraction' team. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) heads up the most successful such team, with Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as the point man who helps set up the scheme. They'll be joined for their riskiest mission by Ariadne as the architect (Ellen Page) who creates the perfect dreamscape, and Eames (Tom Hardy) as a forger/master of disguise. Yusuf (Dileep Rao) is in charge of administering the drugs used to keep the team and its target in the dream state and who ultimately makes sure they all exit the dream safely.

When we first are introduced to Cobb, a conflicted man who cannot return to his family in the States for a reason that's left unexplained for much of the film, he's in the middle of trying to extract a secret from a powerful businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe). The mission doesn't go as planned, but it does lead to a job offer Cobb can't refuse. In exchange for planting an idea in someone's head, Saito offers Cobb the opportunity to return to the US to be reunited with his family. That offer's impossible for Cobb to resist as he desperately misses his two small children, although planting an idea means the team will be entering uncharted territory.

The target of the job is Robert Fischer Jr (Cillian Murphy), the heir to a multibillion-dollar corporation. Saito wants Fischer to break up his father's company so the team must plant that seed in Fischer's subconscious. How they go about tackling this mission, how they handle the complexities involved in journeying through a stranger's mind, and the emotional turmoil Cobb experiences as he spends extended periods of time in the dream state with - no spoilers here - someone whose presence both disturbs and thrills him, makes for an incredibly tense thrill ride of a film you have to experience to understand.

Ken Watanabe and Marion Cotillard photo from Inception

Ken Watanabe and Marion Cotillard in 'Inception.'

© Warner Bros Pictures

The Acting

Leonardo DiCaprio is having a terrific year with both Shutter Island and Inception clear examples of why he's one of the most sought-after and respected actors of his generation. DiCaprio doesn't go big when small will do, and that can also be said of the rest of the cast.

Ellen Page may be diminutive in stature but as Ariadne, the sole female member of the extraction team, she's a fearsome presence. And as the chemist who handles the dream-inducing drugs, Dileep Rao (Avatar) is responsible for the film's lighter moments, of which there are very few, and he handles the task of providing comic relief well. Marion Cotillard (Nine) isn't part of the team (and I've deliberately left mentions of her character out so as not to spoil the film) but she does play a key role in Inception. Cotillard gets better with each project, and she's simply breathtaking and heartbreaking as a pivotal player in Nolan's twisted drama.

Particularly impressive is Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) as Cobb's right-hand man. Gordon-Levitt did 99% of his own stunts which is an impressive feat in this film, but he's equally as adept at handling the film's quieter moments. And Nolan has also brought back a few of his past collaborators - Michael Caine (as DiCaprio's dad), Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy - to fill key roles. It seems Nolan can't do a movie now without Caine, which is good news for all of us Caine fans. Cillian Murphy, The Scarecrow in Nolan's Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, makes the character of an heir to billions into a sympathetic figure, playing him as someone who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but who doesn't adopt the airs of a filthy rich man who thinks he's entitled. This sort of character has been done to death in films so to see how Nolan and Murphy have chosen to humanize the character is refreshing.

Ken Watanabe is a terrific actor but I have to say that if there's anything about Inception that I was a little disappointed in it was the occasional scene in which Watanabe was a little difficult to understand because of his heavy accent. It's a minor annoyance and it only flared up a few times. And last but not least, Tom Hardy's a real scene-stealer as a forger who can kick ass and steal identities.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy photo from Inception

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in 'Inception.'

© Warner Bros Pictures

The Bottom Line

Inception makes a clear case for why the Academy Awards should honor ensemble efforts. Every member of Nolan's team pulls his/her weight in Inception and, as complex as this story is, one bad apple could have spoiled the entire film. The story revolves around Leonardo DiCaprio's character, however every one of the key roles is fully fleshed out, every actor is pitch perfect. Normally in a production of this size there's a character or two you sort of forget are even in the film after you've left the theater. That's not likely to happen with any of the characters in Inception.

Nolan opted to go with as little CG as possible and to involve his actors in as many stunts as they could safely handled. That adds a level of realism to the film with the characters seeming to be in real peril. From the gorgeous sequence featured in the trailer with Ellen Page and Leonardo DiCaprio sitting at a table outside a Paris cafe while all around them storefronts burst into the air to a white-knuckle crash scene with a van filled with the team out of control and rolling down a hill to a high speed shoot 'em up sequence in the Alps to our heroes underwater in distress, Nolan's decision to do as much in camera as possible is shown over and over again to have been absolutely the right choice. There's an extra weight and grittiness to each of the action scenes that wouldn't have been there if they were CG creations.

Cinematographer Wally Pfister and editor Lee Smith may have had the most difficult jobs on Inception, but the results of their hard work is award-worthy. The film deals with waking reality and multiple levels of dreaming, and Pfister and Smith helped pull off Nolan's vision without making a single misstep.

Inception isn't so much just a movie to sit through in an air-conditioned theater as it is a genuine cinematic experience. It's actually a little draining both mentally and physically, but not in a negative way. You become so immersed in this world Nolan's created that sitting through Inception takes a little time to recuperate from, and you'll be replaying scenes in your head for days trying to answer a few lingering questions. Worth every penny spent in the making, and worth every dollar forked over for a ticket, Inception may just be the best movie of 2010. As of mid-July, it's at the top of my list for all of 2010's releases thus far.

GRADE: A

Inception was directed by Christopher Nolan and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.

Theatrical Release: July 16, 2010

Disclosure: This review is based on a screening provided by the studio. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
Best of the Year? Probably not..., Member collegenarc

We are just barely halfway through the year and everyone knows, the movies that studios have more faith in will come out in the fall in time for awards consideration. Inception was very good summer popcorn movie, I liked it very much, but it wasn't to me an instant classic like people keep claiming (or as complicated, or in need of repeat viewings to understand it). Definately a step up in quality from the Batman films which I don't understand all the hype... I loved Following and Memento and had high hopes for Nolan until he remade Insomnia and rebooted the Batman franchise. I hope Nolan goes back to doing original films like Inception and his earlier work.

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