In a summer of dumb, "turn your brain off blockbusters," Inception asks you to think. It asks that rare thing of a summer escapism movie by asking you to engage with it instead of just letting it pass you by.
The film still offers its own brand of unique action, thrilling shootouts and car chases and, to use an example, a peculiar yet visually arresting fight scene in a hallway with zero gravity that is surely one of the most memorable of the years. And there's all the jaw-dropping special effects you could hope for, without going overboard and stepping into Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) territory.
Writer/director Christopher Nolan knows how to handle the action, how much to focus on and how. In perhaps his most conceptually complicated film to date (that's even counting Memento, still his best work): he takes the basic idea of entering people's dreams and takes it to a second, then third and eventually a fourth level until, just like the subjects of the dreams, you get to the point where you're not sure what's really the reality of the story.
The plot follows Dom Cobb who, along with a team of other specialists, can enter into people's dreams and both extract or implant information (or in the latter case, an idea).
That's all you should really know about specific plot details as this is a film you're best going into knowing as little as possible. It will make the experience all the more satisfying and keep you guessing like you should, right up until the end (and beyond).
The film has a cast that most other director's would give their right arm for, from the always intense DiCaprio and the incomparable Joseph-Gordon Levitt to the suave, magnetic Tom Hardy and the ever watchable and rather brilliant Ellen Page. But the film - and this could be construed as negative, although not in the opinion of this reviewer - is more of an ensemble performance piece rather than one of any individual performance. It works best when the characters are playing off of one another - bouncing that wonderful dialogue of Nolan's back and forth - rather in any scene where they may be doing the heavy lifting on their own.
I can't quite put my finger on why I have to stop short of calling Inception a masterpiece as many have classified it. Perhaps it's the sometimes heavy reliance on explanations and exposition to clue viewers in certain vital things. Maybe that was to be entirely expected considering that it cost well over $150 million to make - the studio needs to make its money back, after all (even if Nolan did deliver a billion dollar Batman movie with The Dark Knight).