This review may be a bit late – heck, I wasn’t even planning to see it – but I’d heard good things, and I’m glad I went. Consider this your nudge to not miss this one. (Note: I did not see this in IMAX. If I have the chance on a second viewing, I’d do so.)

Title: Inception

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb

Joseph Gordon Levitt as Arthur

Ellen Page as Ariadne

Tom Hardy as Eames

Ken Watanabe as Saito

Dileep Rao as Yusuf

Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer Jr.

Tom Beringer as Browning

Marion Cotillard as Mal

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Premise:

An (extremely) lucid dreaming technology developed to train soldiers has far more…interesting uses. Such as high-stakes corporate espionage. But since it’s all inside your head, how much control do we really have over our subconscious?

or

What happens when we set a heist movie inside the dreaming mind?

High Points:

1. The writers managed to make the world feel “complete” – by which I mean they introduced this technology and showed us several ways it’s affected the world they live in outside the confines of the plot. The dreaming technology wasn’t simply used as a Maguffin to drive the story.

2. A (fun, well-choreographed) fight scene in a world where physics don’t work the way they should – without making me want to compare it to The Matrix? Bravo, sirs & madames.

Low Points:

1. I’m not sure how much of this is me getting old, but several of the actors appeared WAY too young for their characters. But that’s a nit – their acting chops were more than up to the job.

2. At times they lost me – I started to get confused as to which layer of the dream I was in, and where the “kicks” were coming from and going to. I think I could go back and put it all together again in my head if I wanted, but I’m not sure.

3. The most grievous problem I have with the whole film is Ariadne’s immediate realization of the nature of Cobb’s problems. It definitely felt like a case of plot, rather than character, driving the story. But since the complaint is the speed of understanding, and the movie already clocks in at 2.5 hours, I think I’ll mostly forgive it.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6 Lucid Dreaming stories where people enter the brain without the express written consent of the NFL individual aren’t new. Although written like that, it sounds complex enough that I don’t care. But I do think that the idea of holding a multi-level confidence game/heist story within someone’s mind is new enough to warrant a 5 here.

Effects: 6/6 The effects are what this movie’s hype really stemmed from. That is, before people got to see it and realized it’s just a good film. But even so, the effects hold up remarkably well. Most of the more impressive effects are during brief “training” sequences early on, but those visuals stay with you and inform a great deal of what you see later. I loved the use of the Penrose Staircase

Story: 5/6 The story was well plotted. The reveals were well timed. They lose a point here for relying on blunt-force trauma to get some of their points across to the audience – but no more than that, since as complicated as this movie was, they may have lost too many people with too much subtlety. The biggest problem is listed in the “low points” section above.

Acting: 6/6 My only complaint here is how little use they had for Michael Cain. Even so, the rest of the actors were excellent. Every one of them was convincing, fully behind their role. I enjoyed watching all of these characters and their interactions, and even genuinely liked most of them.

Production: 6/6 The visuals were impressive and widely varied. There were a few cases where the settings of the dream conveyed a lot about the people who was dreaming it – and a few cases where the dreams were designed to serve a specific purpose – each of which they served quite well. I imagine it’s convenient to have a story where the setting’s contrived nature is actually a plot point, but they managed to pull it off without reminding you how contrived everything must have been.

Emotional Response: 3/6 This is probably the weakest point for me. Because you can’t die in the dream, there’s very little sense of imminent danger, so I didn’t spend much time worrying about characters, even when Saito spent half the movie bleeding to “death”. Which is not to say that there’s no danger here, but they did a poor job of impressing it upon me, mentioned as it was – already after the gunshot wound. The very very very end of the movie evoked a momentary groan of annoyance along with a simultaeous realization of “actually, that works really well right here”.

Overall: 5/6 This one’s going on my list of “Movies I really like” – right alongside Dark City. In fact, if I had to describe this movie to someone, I’d call it “Dark City meets The Italian Job”. And I would personally consider that a ringing endorsement.

In total, Inception receives 36/42.