Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine
So it's a masterpiece. Right? Right. Ok, that's the hype dealt with - the director easily meets it. It's hard to think of many film-makers who could pull off a twisting tale of dreams-within-dreams. It's even harder to name people who would think to do it in the first place. Inception is a bold concept, deftly woven into a thrilling tale, and cleverly wrapped up as a summer blockbuster. It succeeds on every one of those levels.
From the moment we meet Cobb (DiCaprio), expert stealer of secrets from people's slumbering minds, a buzz sets in. The kind of buzz that you get when you're seeing a truly original idea unfold. And loving every second. Cobb is, of course, haunted by his past - a wife, Mal (Cotillard), and kids he can never see - but businessman Saito (Watanabe) offers him the chance to go back home. The job? Inception. The task of planting an idea in someone's head, not just nicking it.
Assembling a team of forgers and thieves, Cobb turns to the ambiguous Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) and snarky bad-ass Eames (Hardy). But the key to any heist is the architect, the one who builds the world of the dream. Enter Ariadne (Page), new girl of the group, who serves as our eyes and ears. Asking questions and planning out cities, she offers the necessary exposition, explaining the rules of Nolan's warped Russian Doll structure. Then she folds Paris in half. On top of itself.
The visual trickery constantly astounds. So much so that your mind almost filters it out the first time round, just so you can follow the breathtaking events. As soon as they break into the brain of Robert Fischer (Murphy), guns are fired, vehicles destroyed. Turns out he's got subconscious security, a defence against the technical trickery of Cobb's crack ensemble.
As bullets fly around them, they dive one level deeper, switching a blue-grey city for a swanky hotel. Not that this world is any simpler; everything ripples down the rabbit-hole, causing gravity to tumble, buildings to topple, and corridors to rotate. And that's before Cobb's wife pops up in his subconscious, threatening to tear everything apart with a vengeful glare.
Packing each brand new place with pulse-pounding action, Nolan lets rip like never before - off the leash with a budget to play with, he's limited only by his imagination. It turns out he can imagine a lot. Thanks to Wally Pfister's beautiful eye, the cinematography serves the cyclical script as well as Zimmer's score and the exceptional cast.
DiCaprio anchors an emotional story with brilliant gravitas - like Scorsese's Shutter Island, it's impossible to imagine anyone else in his role. Although this role is far better. Gordon-Levitt makes a meaty cipher out of ostensibly being a sidekick, while Ellen Page breaks free from Juno as the fast-thinking, likeable female. Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe pack a punch with fewer lines, topped only by Michael Caine's equally confident cameo. And underneath it all, Marion Cotillard haunts the screen as Cobb's fatal spouse, creating a tragic core to this fast-paced thriller.
But the star of the show is, without a doubt, Tom Hardy, who just gets better with every part he's given. He lies, charms and shoots with a swagger that comes from loving what he's doing - it's especially obvious in a Bond-esque ski sequence, which proves he could be 007 in his sleep. But he's got something even better: a key role in Nolan's own brain-rattling Bond film.
Right up to the riveting house of cards climax, Nolan pelts us with questions of philosophy and guilt. But Inception never gets bogged down by its themes - the plot demands your attention, but that's the genius of Nolan's best work yet. It rewards you for your effort, even when you reflect on it the morning after. Inside the darkened cinema, outside in the bright of day, Inception remains a completely absurd dream. All the depth and scope of Solaris, slotted neatly into some of the best action sequences since the original Matrix. The absurd part? This is even better.
Impossible. Intelligent. Incredible. Inception is a 5 star film that dazzles as much as it boggles.