Inception ★★★★★

I must have seen Inception a dozen times now, and on every single viewing it feels like the first time around. That surely testifies to the genuine brilliance pouring from Christopher Nolan's epic, which I first reviewed on release back in July 2010; that review, for the most part, stands below as I feel the same way about this movie as I did the first time I experienced it. Simply, this is exactly what a modern blockbuster should truly be - innovative, exciting, emotional and with something to say. The success of Nolan's film, and its subsequently populist seeping into pop culture, proves that with the right talent in front of and behind the camera you can create a truly great piece of cinema while also storming the box office.

It's a blockbuster, Jim, but not as you may know it. There are moments of balletic fighting and gunplay that recall The Matrix; the climax has one thread that is so James Bond you imagine Sean Connery (or should that be George Lazenby?) popping up in a cameo and it has the coolness of a true caper, with moments of comedy - particularly from a supremely wry Tom Hardy - that elicit laughs. But otherwise, this is totally original, one of those blissfully simple yet enormously complex ideas you wish you'd thought of first. Nolan grounds it in rules, exposition delivered through set-up & characterisation, and a true career-best turn from DiCaprio. Far are we from the Robert Pattinson-esque annoyance of the Titanic days, here he's doing work that earns him the right to one day when older be talked of as we do De Niro or Pacino - a true American acting great. He's outstanding, as indeed are the rest of the cast - Hardy, as mentioned above, practically treats this as a Bond audition; Joseph Gordon-Levitt is solid as DiCaprio's right hand man, Cillian Murphy excellent as a clipped CEO's son, while Marion Cotillard is mesmerising in the difficult role of DiCaprio's wife, yet also a form of his subconscious. Only Ellen Page really suffers, drowning a little in a role that doesn't give her much to work with beyond looking strained, startled or delivering exposition.

Yet even such a strong ensemble are second, mind, to Nolan's script and direction. He keeps it epic yet personal, exciting yet emotional, and every penny of the budget is up there on screen. One visual in particular - you'll know it when you see it - is one of those first-time cinematic WOW moments like the White House blowing up in Independence Day or bullet-time in The Matrix. The piece is gripping and full of layers without ever feeling like hard work; you'll leave with a headache but for all the right reasons and you'll be talking about what it means for days. If I have one criticism, parts of the multi-stacked finale drag ever so slightly, but not enough to detract enjoyment.

It's certainly interesting re-watching Inception after The Dark Knight Rises, a movie Christopher Nolan will struggle to match for sheer scope of narrative and execution. Time still remains to tell whether this original story will best his magnificent Bat-trilogy, but I imagine Inception will always remain in his top 5, even as his career ends (and we're a long way from that). It's frequently breathtaking, riven with incredible ideas that develop beautifully from existing concepts, yet holds an emotional core at its centre that Leonardo DiCaprio quite possibly deserved awards for handling so skilfully - flanked by great support, a clever script, a brilliantly bombastic score by Hans Zimmer and peerless direction. If ever you needed proof, too, that Nolan so should make a James Bond movie - Inception really is it.

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