Inception is the most anticipated film of the summer. Director Christopher Nolan, the man who brought us The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Memento, has put together an all-star cast for his latest outing. The hype for the film has been extensive and Inception is something people have been talking about for a very long time.

Almost every early review has been positive and the people who’ve already seen the film can’t stop talking about it. With this the hype continues to grow, as does the fear that Nolan’s film will have too much to live up to.

Fear not. Original, ambitious, imaginative and mind-blowing, Inception is not only the film moviegoers have been waiting for, it’s the film moviegoers deserve. In a summer (actually a year) full of such a poor selection of dreck, Inception provides us with all the missing ingredients. It’s the best movie of 2010 thus far and will be hard to compete with in the months to come.

From the extravagant set pieces and enthralling action sequences to the captivating visuals and top-notch acting, everything about Inception is impeccable. Rather than merely meeting expectations, it transcends them in every way possible. It’s a brilliant tour de force: Nolan’s magnum opus.

While it’s best to go into the film not knowing anything, providing a small summary won’t hurt. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an expert thief. He’s not a thief in the normal sense of the word, instead he’s a subconscious thief. He specializes in extracting and stealing secrets from the subconscious while a person is dreaming. When tragedy strikes, Cobb’s life is torn apart. He’s forced to flee the United States and go on the run as an international fugitive.

Cobb yearns for his old life and when offered the opportunity by a mysterious financier named Saito (Ken Watanabe), he jumps at the chance. The catch is that Cobb must pull off a daring heist rarely done before. Instead of stealing an idea from someone’s mind, he must plant one. Accepting the job, Cobb puts together a team to pull off the job, determined to get his old life back.

To say anymore would be criminal. What was mentioned above is just one layer of this incredibly-deep, well thought-out and absolutely mesmerizing plot. Storytelling is an art and Nolan has mastered it. The story is nothing short of genius. It is so detailed and well-written that Nolan fully engages the audience right from the start. The story is not simple and you’ll have to pay attention to every scene to keep up, but in the end you’ll be stunned – and rewarded – by the complexity of it all.

Nolan creates a whole new world in Inception: the world of the dream. The world of the dream has its own laws, paradoxes and rules by which it operates. It may seem daunting at first but as Nolan pulls you in you can’t help but to become completely fascinated and intrigued by what you’re watching. It turns out to be mentally stimulating rather than confusing. Second and third viewings will be a must.

Nolan manages to stay one step ahead of us throughout. He has us wondering and guessing in every scene and even at a 2 and half hour run time there is literally not one monotonous or lackluster scene. Not one scene runs on too long, no dialogue feels unnecessary and no shot lingers on. The editing (by Lee Smith) and pacing are handled with precision and fluidity.

Smith does a wonderful job as he cuts the film together in a proficient manner. The editing in this movie is honestly a miracle. At one point Smith has to cut four parallel story lines of action together and do so while still keeping the audience fully entranced and on the edge of their seats.

Complementing the editing is Wally Pfister‘s jaw-dropping cinematography. The film is a visual masterpiece and a marvel to watch. The cinematography magnifies the scope of the film, providing expansive photography shot in six different countries. With Inception we get some visually-arresting landscapes that will no doubt impress even the most jaded of viewers.

Grandiose visual effects litter the film and some of them are truly mind bending. One scene in particular – a fight in zero gravity – will have people talking for some time.

Adding even more to the film is the beautiful and haunting score by master composer Hans Zimmer. The score perfectly infuses a sense of urgency into the action sequences while amplifying the awe-inspiring scope of the film.

Nolan manages to produce an unparalleled level of intensity in Inception. The film completely envelops and draws you in. At times it’s almost exhausting trying to keep up with everything that is going on but it proves for one hell of a ride. Not only is the relentless action completely engaging, but it is also full of heart.

Cobb is the emotional center of the film and the romantic plot line between him and Mal (Marion Cotillard) is handled surprisingly well for a tentpole film of this nature. Usually romances are handled haphazardly in action/thriller films. This is not the case here, Nolan creates a truly moving and emotional romantic subplot between the two, which is important as their relationship is an essential part of the film.

This passion must be equally attributed to the acting on screen. Other than Michael Caine, who literally had 5-10 lines and was criminally underused, everyone else is fantastic.

DiCaprio shows once again why he is one of the top actors in Hollywood. He anchors the film and exudes confidence as he takes charge of every scene. A large part of the film’s success rests on DiCaprio, and the audience will completely buy into his situation. His performance is remarkable and he keeps us emotionally engaged.

The supporting roles are a bit less fleshed-out but, luckily, all the actors provide terrific performances that exude a depth that may have not existed on the page.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, undoubtedly one of the most talented young actors working in Hollywood today, plays Arthur, Dom’s right-hand man and longtime partner. Levitt shows how much he has matured since Mysterious Skin. He plays the role with a great degree of professionalism and takes his part seriously. You can see he is giving it his best shot and he is very passionate about the film. He doesn’t try to compete with DiCaprio in anyway and this works out for the best.

Ellen Page also turns in a good performance. She has matured a lot since Juno. She has a lot of one-on-one scenes with Cobb (Leo) and constantly holds her own.

Tom Hardy, who’s most noticeable role was the lead in the Nicholas Winding Refn indie Bronson, deserves far more recognition after his turn in this film. Hardy is the comedic relief. Spot-on timing and witty one-liners are his specialty and he provides some genuine laughs. His character’s charming arrogance clashes with Levitt’s patronizing arrogance beautifully. He delves into his role with gusto and forges an immensely watchable character who will connect with audiences.

Rounding out the main cast are Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy. Murphy, who plays Robert Fischer Jr, the target of this heist, is terrific in the role. As the audience, you actually feel sympathy for his situation and although he comes off as cold at first, you will grow to like his character by the end. Watanabe also gives a solid performance – not as well-rounded as in The Last Samurai – but a respectable turn nonetheless. His accent makes it a bit hard to understand him sometimes, but he conveys emotion more through his actions than his words. He brings heart to a character whose morals are in a gray zone.

Cotillard does wonders with the Mal character, offering both vulnerability and divisiveness, constantly seducing the viewer into feeling something for her mysterious character.

I had the chance to see Inception twice before it hit theaters and I can honestly say I will probably see it a third time once it is released. The ending, shrouded in ambiguity, begs audiences to see the film multiple times and the complexity of the plot means that with each viewing you will surely pick up on and understand more.

An audacious film no doubt, Inception could have easily become a mess. Luckily, Nolan, the gifted director that he is, juggles everything perfectly and delivers something that is truly a masterpiece.

Drawing evidently from franchises like James Bond and films like The Matrix, Nolan unassailably draws you into his world as he symphonically composes a stunning work of art. Inception isn’t a film you should see, it is a film you must see. Oozing with originality, infused with inventiveness and undeniably brilliant, Inception is the best movie I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

10 out of 10

Have you seen Inception? If so, did it live up to your hype?

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