Inception ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

About every decade or so, a new, iconic sci-fi/actioner seems to be come out and completely capture the imaginations of both the critics and the general public alike, for better or worse; in the middle of the 80's, James Cameron's The Terminator shocked audiences everywhere with its dark, nightmarish visions of a post-apocalyptic future. At the end of 90's, the Wachowskis produced The Matrix, amping up the genre with a blend of unbelievable cyber-punk action and basic (but still intriguing) philosophical musings. And, at the turn of this decade, we saw the release of Christopher Nolan's Inception upon the world, a twisty, thrilling, visually sleek puzzle box of a film, one that expertly utilizes exciting, visceral action scenes in order to get audiences to more easily swallow its crafty, mind-bending, soft sci-fi concepts, creating a great example of the disappointingly rare breed of original modern summer blockbusters (in more ways than one), and a fairly iconic entry in modern popular cinema to boot.

It concerns itself with the story of Cobb, an expert thief who specializes in corporate espionage, albeit, an extremely unusual form of it; you see, instead of physically breaking into the headquarters of rival corporations and, say, stealing prototypes of their latest inventions, Cobb specializes in breaking into people's minds, utilizing his crack team of "extractors" to craft and inhabit ridiculously elaborate dreamworlds (which often consist of dreams within other dreams) in order to decieve their targets and abduct the innermost secrets from their very subconscious. When Cobb finds the ultimate "job" after being hired not to steal an idea, but to PLANT one, in the well-defended subconsciousness of a corporate heir, a seemingly impossible task known as "inception", he must assemble an elite team of mindthieves to create the ultimate dreamworld, an impossibly convoluted, labyrinthian realm of dreams within dreams within dreams, with an equally complicated, intricate scheme to go with it, all while the memories of his (not so) dead wife constantly haunt him, threatening to ruin the entire plan, and make him become lost for forever in an endless mental abyss, one where reality and fantasy cease to be seperate.

Explaining the film's story any further than that would surely spoil it (at least, more than I usually care to in my reviews), and more importantly, be very, VERY hard to do, not only because the film's extensive cast of characters create a lot of moving parts in the plot, but also just because of the basic rules that govern the film's various dreamworlds, which are numerous, and become ever more complicated as they continue to be unwrapped bit by bit as the film goes on, and new wrinkles are are added on top of the old ones, as the characters go deeper and deeper into the mindmaze that is the overall dreamland, and the multiple layers and threads of the dream converge in spectacular fashion. It is honestly often kind of confusing, especially when Nolan unnecessarily rushes through explaining certain important details, but despite that, I still understood enough of the basic gist of what was happening to keep the momentary bits of confusion from ruining the film, and it's still fascinating material on the whole, as Nolan created a lovingly detailed, fully fleshed-out cinematic concept here, having a lot of fun with experimenting and playing around with the possibilities of the various guidelines he created for the dreamworld, which makes for some surreal imagery that's rather striking in its sheer impossiblity (the ways the various dream levels interact with each other makes for a particular tour-de-force fight sequence in a hallway), and you can easily see every moment of the 8 years of painstaking development he put into the central idea.

Besides that, despite other flaws such as the often thrilling, but sometimes needlessly overlong fight scenes against the anonymous, disposable mental "projections" of the film's main target, or occasionally turning its characters into nothing more than robotic, emotionless exposition machines (which is necessary to an extent given the dreams' inherently convoluted rules, but Nolan still goes overboard with the over-explaining at times here), Inception still excels by making us to care about the people within it, and getting us to be as lost within the dreamworlds, as unable to tell fantasy from reality, as they are (which isn't surprising, seeing as over half the film takes place within one dream or another, which makes us forget what's real). During its most memorable moments, there's a raw, sincere undercurrent of emotion flowing through the film, as we witness the most secret, innermost pains and regrets of not just Cobb, but the other characters within it as well, and when they recieve their ultimate moments of emotional catharis or acceptance onscreen, we in the audience feel it just as much as they do.

Of course, most of the events that happen in Inception don't actually, er, happen, but that's part of the point; oftentime, our perceptions of reality matters just as much as reality itself, sometimes even more so, and it doesn't matter if something is "real" in the film or not if it it feels real. Of course, you can say that about any movie out there that's not a documentary, but Inception really makes a point of exploring that point at length, creating an unabashedly original blockbuster, not just in the sense that it isn't based on any existing property, or that it contains a fairly novel, refreshing core concept to hang a work of popular entertainment on, but also in the way that isn't afraid to challenge your basic perceptions of what reality really is, and make you, well, think while you're being entertained. When it comes to Inception, just forget what you know is real, and get ready to go deeper, into one of the better films of this decade.

Final Score: 8.5