out of Five
Running time: 148
Brilliantly directed and superbly conceived, this is a genuinely exciting, intelligent thriller with stunning visuals, gripping action scenes, a brilliantly constructed script and terrific performances from a note-perfect cast.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento), Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a corporate spy skilled in the art of stealing ideas from people's minds as they sleep (aka extraction), with the aid of his loyal sidekick Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a never-explained machine. When wealthy new client Seito (Ken Watanabe) asks Cobb to try the reverse procedure and plant an idea in the mind of a rival businessman (Cillian Murphy) – a process known as inception – Cobb is reluctant, until Seito promises him that if he's successful, he'll be allowed to re-enter the States and see his children again.
Cobb and Arthur duly assemble a crack team for the heist-like job, including new dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), “forger” Eames (Tom Hardy) and chemicals expert Yusuf (Dileep Rao). However, as Cobb gives Ariadne a crash-course in dreamscape-creation, she realises that Cobb's wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) is lurking in his subconscious and that her destructive presence could jeopardise both the mission and their lives.
DiCaprio is terrific as Cobb, who perfectly fits the Nolan template of a damaged man trying to correct the mistakes of his past. The supporting cast are equally good, but the stand-outs are Cotillard (who manages to be both chilling and heartbreaking), Hardy (whose wisecracking character nabs all the best lines), Gordon-Levitt (effortlessly cool throughout) and Murphy, who brings unexpected emotional depth to what could easily have been an underwritten role.
The story is ingeniously constructed, with four separate layers of dreams-within-dreams all playing out simultaneously, thanks to skilful editing and a brilliantly written script that rewards close attention during the exposition scenes. Similarly, the action sequences (most notably a zero-gravity fight in a rotating hotel corridor) are both original and genuinely thrilling, while the effects work is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
The film really gets inside your head, courtesy of cinematographer Wally Pfister's stunning visuals and a haunting score by Hans Zimmer. It's also a film you'll want to see again immediately afterwards, although not for the usual reasons.
Inception is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year – an intelligent, genuinely thrilling and superbly directed blockbuster with terrific action sequences, stunning visuals, terrific performances and a finale that packs a powerful emotional punch.