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Inception teaser poster

A 2010 movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

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Inception -- Wow. Eye popping and intelligent

  • Jul 22, 2010
Pros: Narrative control, story, acting.

Cons: Special effects were good, but don't live up to the billing.

The Bottom Line: If you are intelligent enough to read opinions about the film, then you are intelligent enough to understand it no matter what friends say.

Before I get to the review itself I want to go into two quick anecdotes. The first is that the inane scrolling “ticker” at the gym—I learned that Wesley Snipes is headed to jail for something but Roman Polanski went to a jazz festival instead of jail—it said just this “So what if Inception is incomprehensible?” The second item has to do with the movie that the theater started to show us: Knight and Day. After we got that straightened out and they switched over to the correct film, I decided it was a bit of a ploy to put us in just a wee bit extra confusion.

In brief, Inception is comprehensible, despite the gym ticker. It takes a little more effort than most summer blockbusters but it is still not that hard to follow. So the next question is whether the story is worth the effort. By and large, yes.

Cobb manipulates dreams; he and his team of specialists are hired for acts of corporate espionage. They kidnap a victim’s dreamscape and work to use the dreamer’s subconscious against itself to uncover whatever their client is paying to obtain. They call this “extraction.” Ordinarily that would be it, but their form of spying has spawned a form of defense where the victim can be taught to fight back, keeping the information safe. So this team has had to devise a way to carry the dreamer at least one level deeper—the so-called dream within a dream. The deeper the dreamscape the greater the risk for failure.

After a monumental failure, Cobb puts his team at extreme risk by taking on the job of “inception”: planting the seed of an idea into the subconscious with the hope that it will germinate in a predictable manner. As with most stories that involve a sort of double or nothing (where nothing usually means death), Cobb has to augment his team with more talent. Just as nested dreams increase complexity, having more members on the team has the same effect, especially if the subconscious of one of the members has become shaky.

Cobb’s motives are not as pure as greed. It is this storyline that takes what would be a mildly fun summer trip into something darker and richer.

I’ll cover the standard three categories before going into a bit more depth (that depth might contain spoilers and will be correctly marked).

Special effects. The primary reason I wanted to see the flick was the special effects. The previews left me drooling. I am a movie snob but show me a movie with explosions and a good car chase and I’m there whooping it up with the mavens of the genre. In this arena, Inception was a bit of a disappointment. I have to say that the effects were well made and seamless, there just weren’t enough of them. To put it in a specific context Christopher Nolan directed both Inception and Dark Knight. If you saw and liked DK then know that the effects are not as stunning. They fit the story, but not the billing. And while there were explosions, there really isn’t a car chase (alas).

Acting. The summary makes it sound like Cobb carries the film; this is not true. I just had to withhold more detail because it would be unnecessarily long and could inadvertently spoil the plot. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb. He is up to the standard he set in films like The Aviator and Shutter Island. But neither Mr. DiCaprio nor his character upstage the other members of what is ultimately a solid ensemble piece. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays what amounts to the team’s anesthetist—no matter the dream-depth, he is responsible for waking his mates up at the correct time. His character is intense and uncannily accurate and he has no trouble making that character work. The always half-demonic Cillian Murphy plays the main victim of the treatment. He breaks out of his standard typecasting to play a sympathetic character well. All other actors put in ensemble level performances smoothly.

I separate the two female characters and their actors on purpose. Ellen Page (Juno and Hard Candy) plays the replacement architect. She spends a significant amount of screentime with Mr. DiCaprio and remains his equal throughout. This role is more mature than her previous performances but she maintains an edginess that makes her character thicker. Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for her role as Edith Piaf in Vie En Rose) plays the fulcrum character. Her performance is equal to the importance of her role—nuff said.

The story. If you can handle the overlapping narrative of films like Pulp Fiction or Mystery Train and if you can handle the supposedly arbitrary narrative shifts of movies like Slacker and 20 Bucks, then you have the necessary tools to handle Inception. If the nested narrative of a novel like Absalom, Absalom or the mind-blowing perception game of The House of Leaves present no serious challenge, then you will have no problems following the film. It is very tight and well controlled. I never lost sight of the type of dream shown or who played what role mainly because there was really no unintentional bleed through. The one warning here is that if you either are not familiar with this kind of narrative or simply don’t like it, then there is no reason to watch it no matter your taste in special effects or level of fandom for any of the principles.

What follows will not be spoilers in a plot sense, on purpose, but it will contain information relating to other films that could spoil this one. So I would advise not reading past here if you want to go into the movie as naked as this review allows.

Two bits, the psychological one first. If you are, or remember being, a lucid dreamer then Inception will make eerie sense that will likely be lost on people who have no idea what that means. I control the vast majority of my dreams—my only nightmares are when I know I am dreaming but cannot force myself awake. So on a totally personal level, I had some deeply disturbing moments. So, for the lucid dreamers, know you go in with a larger tool-box. You may “know” more about the film, but you may come out feeling more violated in the process.

There are likely comparisons with all of the Matrix flicks and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. For folks digging into the less well known, Inception will remind of Strange Days (a woefully overlooked film), Le Jette which is the short film that inspired 12 Monkeys. All of these comparisons are supportable and sound (even if the whole Matrix franchise makes me want to wretch). However, Inception is stronger than each of these because of the narrative control Mr. Nolan maintains. Except where noted, the other films are not weak, they just do not have Inception’s control and intensity.

And there is one last little piece that is meant, I think, for the movie fiends. The dream manipulating crew use a particular song to give them a bit of a warning that they are about to be pulled out of their dream: “Je ne regretted rein.” That is Edith Piaf’s most well known song and the last song Ms. Cotillard sang in her Oscar winning performance as the Little Sparrow. It really doesn’t fit the theme of the film, but the doff of the hat was fun all the same.


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October 10, 2010
I liked this movie quite a bit too. Welcome to our community and we are so happy to have you on board!
More Inception reviews
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Christopher Nolan Creates a Dream Worth Watching...
   After the highly-successful “The Dark Knight” which defined the way comic book movies should be made, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to expect nothing but the best from Christopher Nolan. “INCEPTION” has generated a strong buzz ever since the trailer debuted in previews and the worldwide web; after all, this film is written and directed by Nolan himself and with his “Batman” team assisting in the film’s production, it seems like the …
review by . August 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Let me start by saying i don't watch many movies, I'm not a big sci fi buff, and as I'm getting older, maybe I'm just getting a little crotchety.  I'm very aware that by coming out and being the ONLY one Lunch who is giving Inception a negative rating, I'm opening myself up to a lot of questioning and judgment... but that's okay because I know the community will respect my differing opinion and not ridicule me for expressing it.  So here goes:      …
review by . January 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There's nothing quite like it! A Paradox!
I like to watch a movie that keeps me guessing what is happening, why it is progressing the way it is, where it is going & what is going to happen next. Inception is one such movie. It keeps the audience in suspense and guessing, anxious to KNOW what is ahead.       Dreaming is something that I had always been enchanted with all my life. It is through dreams that I see God the first time in my life! Yes, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of my dreams and the …
review by . December 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stephanie's Favourite Movies: Inception      What's wrong with this movie? Nothing, that's what. This is a perfect movie, there's nothing wrong with it. I appreciated that it wasn't pandering to the lowest common denominator like most summer blockbusters do. It actually took a few brain cells to keep up with it. Of course, you don't have to be a genius to watch it and enjoy it, but you have to be kind of smart to understand it. It's that rare summer …
review by . January 22, 2011
Inception is a rare breed of movie. Firstly, it came out in July and thus can classify as a summer blockbuster, and secondly, it does not insult the intelligence of the audience and actually takes a few brain cells to keep up with it. It's incredibly well-acted, it has an original story in a time when they are becoming harder and harder to come by, and it's a movie that will definitely be apperciated come awards time. It will probably win more awards for its technical accomplishments, and …
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
After the wild success of  The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan reached the ranks of movie making freedom that so few directors reach.  So what did Christopher Nolan do with his golden key?  Made a movie he'd been wanting to make for ten years.  Inception.  A movie where your mind is the scene of the crime.  It's big, it's complex, it's beautiful... and it's absolutely amazing.  For those who are sick of adaptations, sequels and remakes, Inception …
review by . July 22, 2010
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Before you see Inception, grab your Gingko-Biloba or whichever new age vitamin/drug will quicken your synaptic connections. You're going to need it. You SHOULDN'T see Inception if you aren't prepared to push your brain into overdrive. You're going to be thinking and trying to sort things out from the opening sequence to the twist-ish ending.       This film is, in essence, a quintessential action flick. The special effects are mind-blowing. The constraints …
review by . July 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dreaming Without Meaning
INCEPTION Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine      Eames: If we’re going to perform inception, then we’re going to need imagination.    I knew there was a good reason I fought so hard every night to hold on to my conscious mind and not let my unconscious mind take over.  I’ve got to make sure no pesky extractors get in there to steal my highly …
review by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stylized, Ambitious, Powerful
   Going into Inception was kind of a gamble for me as my friends and colleagues apparently know me better than I thought.  I’ve been hearing this is the “one to check out” since the day it arrived in theaters this past summer and while my friends have once again proven spot-on with their understanding of the kind of fiction I enjoy, it is always worrisome when so much hype comes my way.  I have to make a very conscious effort not to get swept up in it, as …
review by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Listen to the some of the awesome Hans Zimmer soundtrack while reading:            A film like Inception only comes along once a decade, and it's no surprise it took Writer/Director Christopher Nolan over ten years to polish the screenplay into its final form. The loud and frenetic visuals in the trailer all fall into place when you see the film, which represents a masterful blend of genres and ideas, some of which have been attempted before but never …
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Paul Savage ()
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About this movie


Inception is a 2010 American science fiction film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief  who extracts information from the subconscious mind of his victims while they dream. Unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life in exchange for one last job: performing inception, the planting of an idea into the mind of his client's competitor.
Development began roughly nine years before Inception was released. In 2001, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers, presenting the idea to Warner Bros. The story was originally written as a heist film, inspired by concepts of lucid dreaming and dream incubation. Feeling he needed to have more experience with large-scale films, Nolan opted to work on Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. He spent six months polishing up the script for Inception before Warner Bros. purchased it in February 2009. Filming spanned six countries and four continents, beginning in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 and finishing in Canada in late November of the same year. Composer Hans Zimmer scored the film, using parts of Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien".
Inception was officially budgeted at $160 million, a cost that was split between Warner Bros. and Legendary ...
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 16, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 148 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Syncopy Films, Legendary Pictures
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