Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan's Inception delivers.

Christopher Nolan is no stranger to pressure.  The man seems to thrive when the stakes are at their absolute highest, which they often are when he is involved.  Batman Begins saw him face the challenge of reviving a moribund franchise from Joel Shumacher hell and providing an interesting origin story for the beloved hero.  He delivered.  The Dark Knight was one of the most anticipated sequels of recent memory, no less so because of the tragic death of star Heath Ledger.  He delivered one of the greatest summer films ever and also the highest grosser of 2008 earning more than a billion dollars. Inception is a tent pole summer film with a star-studded cast and mysterious plot details.

He delivered.

Inception provides the smartest thrills of any film released this summer, and there don’t seem to be many others to challenge.  Inception tells the story of a near future where it is possible to infiltrate people’s dreams.  Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an expert at this and does so for corporations around the world interested in knowing their rivals secrets.  However after a botched job Cobb is forced to go on the lam, where Corporation head Saito (Ken Wantanabe) offers him a job that would allow him to return to the States, where there is a warrant out for his arrest.  This job requires Cobb to assemble a team Ocean’s Eleven style and plan a very complex heist.  I will not reveal more for fear of giving anything away, the film should really be experienced without much foreknowledge.

This is by far Nolan’s most ambitious project.  So much is packed into the two and a half hour running time, none of which is extraneous or useless.  Because of the complexity of the science fiction Nolan is forced to go at a breakneck pace to make sure that the audience understands.  The first act plays like a psychology book, educating the viewers on what the crew is going to be doing, which is unfortunate but necessary.  However as the heist begins Nolan trusts his audience to track with him and hang on for the ride.  And what a ride it is, the action sequences are stunning, from a street chase in Africa to a zero gravity fight scene in a hotel corridor that is unlike anything ever seen.  Within the architecture of the dream anything becomes possible, leading to beautiful visual’s that give the illusion of a dream.

Ken Wantanabe in "Inception"

The visual aspect of this film would mean nothing without the emotional core and performances.  DiCaprio carries the film with his character’s slowly unwinding psyche serving as the main antagonist to the crew.  His performance is nuanced and perfect as a man full of guilt and regret, yet hopeful for redemption.  The crew is rounded out by some great young actors that are essentially cementing their futures as leading men.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is perfect as Cobb’s sidekick, delivering very believable physicality and oozing confidence and charisma.  Tom Hardy is also pitch perfect as the brutish Eames who serves as a foot soldier for the crew.  Ellen Page’s character is unfortunately limited by primarily expositional dialogue that causes her to come across as rather 2-dimensional.  However I feel the best performance is that of Marion Cotillard, who plays Cobb’s wife.  She portrays a character that needs to be equal times menacing and lovely, and does so superbly.

Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception"

Overall Inception does have its flaws, but they are because of the ambition and scope of the film.  It is still by far the best film of the summer and is sure to receive recognition come Oscar time.  Nolan continues to prove he is the best young director working and can deliver a thinking film that still has better action sequences than any other summer film.

For more on Inception, see: “Leonardo DiCaprio on Inception: Christopher Nolan helped me understand his dream world”

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