Will the director of The Dark Knight rescue us from Hollywood's summer of meh? Early reviews of Christopher Nolan's Inception are out, and they promise a complex, thrilling movie. Will it live up to the hype? Some spoilers ahead.
So basically we'll round up what the reviewers said, in a spoiler-free fashion, and then at the bottom, we'll summarize the spoilery bits. So if you are one of those people who is frantically trying to avoid Inception spoilers, you'll have a chance to jump off before we careen into spoiler-land.
UGO basically says it's one of the best movies of the year, an action film for intellectuals that sets a standard for all other Hollywood movies. You may have to watch Transformers 2 afterwards, just to balance it out.
Variety calls it "commandingly clever," and adds, "Even when its ambition occasionally outstrips its execution, Inception tosses off more ideas and fires on more cylinders than most blockbusters would have the nerve to attempt."
Thompson on Hollywood calls it a strong Best Picture Oscar candidate, and calls it a "taut suspense thriller" as well as a moving love story. It's full of Kubrick homages and actually recalls the best of Kubrick's work.
Empire Magazine's Nev Pierce is one of a few reviewers to compare it to a James Bond movie, and says it's like Charlie Kaufman's take on 007.
Awards Daily says it's easily one of the best pictures of the year, and maybe even of the decade.
AICN says it represents Nolan visually peaking, and "cinema doesn't get much purer than Inception."
InContention says, "Every single moment of Inception is more gripping than the last," and it may solidify Nolan's place among the modern masters of cinema.
JoBlo gives it 10 out of 10 and says you'll be discussing and debating about the film for ages after watching it, until you feel compelled to see it again.
FilmSchoolRejects calls it the best big-budget film of the year so far, and adds: "Inception is what The Wachowskis wish the rest of The Matrix films after the first could have been."
Cinematical says "Inception is nothing short of a stunning, spectacular, visionary achievement."
HitFix says it's an exhilarating experience, but not really an action film.
Chud says, "Inception is a masterpiece." It barely even feels like a movie, it's so immersive, and at times it feels like a miracle.
Box Office Magazine gushes, "A bold, inventive, audacious entertainment, Inception charts a new course for motion pictures and sets the bar very, very high."
The Hollywood Reporter says that it's one of the most original movies of the year, and praises all the performances — but says that two and a half hours of tense situations and mind-bending complexity may leave you exhausted. And you'll have to see it three times to understand everything.
The one dissenting opinion comes from Coming Soon, which says Inception is an exceptional film. "So how is it that Inception comes together as such a bore?" Coming Soon blames a too-exposition-heavy screenplay and and flat, lifeless characters, and says it's like a less-exciting mix of Solaris and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
So now that you're in a lather of excitement about this film (unless you choose to believe Coming Soon over all the other reviewers), are you ready for some pretty heavy-duty spoilers? Last chance to jump off, otherwise!
So as you've no doubt heard, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) specializes in extraction, pulling secrets out of people's dreams. His point man is Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Cobb is a broken man, and his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) tends to show up in dreams and haunt him, screwing up his work. This happens at the start of the film, when Cobb is leading an extraction mission inside the dreams of a wealthy businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe). Saito is aware they're all inside his subconscious. We wind up with Mal holding a gun on Arthur, who gets killed in the dream and wakes up in reality — where he, Saito and Cobb are attached intravenously to a machine.
Back in the real world, Cobb and his team try to scatter to the four winds, but Saito catches up with them. And it turns out the screwed up mission inside Saito's head was just Saito's way of auditioning Cobb for a different assignment — going inside the dreams of Saito's future rival Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) and planting an idea, instead of stealing one. (That's the "Inception" of the film's title.)
Because he was accused of killing his wife, Cobb unable to go back to the United States, and he longs to go home and rejoin his two toddlers. Saito offers him a chance to get his life back, if he can just pull off this difficult mission of planting an idea in Fischer's mind. Fischer is soon to be heir to his family's company, and Saito wants Cobb to trick him into dissolving the company for "emotional" reasons.
To this end, Cobb hires an actual architect named Ariadne (Ellen Page) to design every street, room and building in the fake dream, so it looks real enough to deceive the dreamer. In the process, he teaches her about his work, and she finds she can't resist the dream world. Among other things, we learn the rules of the dream world, including the fact that time moves ten times as fast in a dream as in real life, and the dangers of layering dreams within dreams. If you die in a dream, you wake up, but if you get lost in a deep-layer dream, your mind may never emerge intact. At one point, it's raining in a dream, and we're told that's because the dreamer didn't go to the bathroom before falling asleep. Also, another dreamer's "projections" may be adversarial and even dangerous. Even though we learn the rules in detail, the film later breaks some of them or renders them irrelevant, in some surprising but logical twists.
Cobb also recruits other members of his dream team: Eames (Tom Hardy), a "forger" who can shapeshift in the dream world, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) a chemist who supplies the powerful sedative that puts Fischer and Cobb's gang into the dream state.
Eventually, our heroes plunge inside Fischer's mind, and get lost in the maze of chambers and antechambers. Many of the dreams resemble action movies, natch. There's a huge snow-bound set piece filmed in Calgary, Canada. Towards the end, there are no less than four different lines of action intercutting at once. The stakes keep getting higher, and yet more personal at the same time. Oh, and there's no trick or twist ending — most of the answers are given to us in the very first scene. As the film goes along, the ghost of Cobb's wife becomes more and more dangerous, because of his repressed subconscious. We realize as the film goes along that Cobb is keeping his emotions under wraps because he's trying to guard his secrets, which eventually spill out.