If you didn't see Inception over the opening weekend, don't read any further and go out and see it, then come back to read this review. I'll try not to give away too much, but in a film as complex and layered as this, giving away almost anything is too much.
The year 2010 can be a depressing time for film fans: to see a film in the theater, you have to shell out upwards of $10 for a ticket ($15 for IMAX), and a lot of the time the films are unoriginal and unmotivated, plodding along with a plot that usually is predictable or pretentious. Although there are many directors that I love (and still come up with new and exciting ideas to put out there), there are three that thoroughly surprise me every time one of their babies is birthed onto the big screen. One is Tarantino (enough said there). Another is Paul Thomas Anderson, whose wonderful Magnolia and There Will Be Blood rank among my absolute favorites. And then there is British director Christopher Nolan, whom I have loved since first taking the wild backwards trip that is Memento. This past weekend's Inception is his latest (and possibly greatest) film to date. And that's saying a fucking lot. Fellow Blogger and avid film fan Mark Magee told me that some are saying that Nolan is saving Hollywood, film by film. It's impossible to disagree: Inception can be viewed two different ways: a science fiction mind bender with thrilling action sequences, or an adrenaline-fueled action movie with a thinking man's touch. Either way, it works, and it is the best time I have had at the theater in a very long time.
Here's where things get tricky: if you ignored the spoiler warning above, I highly suggest that you skip to the last paragraph so you do not learn any of the plot points of the film. At its basic form, Inception is about dream vs. reality. Technology has advanced enough that people can enter your dreams to steal ideas from your subconscious, which ends up being a form of mind rape. There's an "extractor", a person who enters a dream to ultimately steal an idea (usually in the form a document or object found in a safe or a bank vault within the dream). There's an "architect", who gets trained to manipulate the landscape of the dream to make it easier for the extractors (sort of like a mind version of SimCity). There's also a "forger", who can switch identities inside the dream to also aid the extractors. Others help the process in different ways as well. Extractors are well trained and can generally steal the idea without much trouble. Their one last job is a bit different though. Instead of extracting an idea, they have to plant an idea...an inception. It is in this that the characters' trouble lies. Placing an idea is much harder, as the the dreamer has to believe that he/she came up with the idea themselves, which requires some precise emotional and relationship manipulation.
Inception is the best film of 2010 so far, and there's a decent chance it will be the best film of 2010 come December. Nolan has taken a calculated risk by coming up with an unknown and fairly original property and making it a big-budget blockbuster for action junkies and thinking men/women alike. The cast is brilliant, the story is complex yet fruitful to finally understand, and the direction and cinematography are absolutely top notch. My only complaint is this: when leaving the theater, I had a sinking feeling that I wouldn't enjoy any form of entertainment this much in a long while. Ultimately, that's actually a pretty damn good feeling to have after the credits roll. (A)