Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

If you’re looking to hang a flag on one tent-pole film this summer, this is it.

Christopher Nolan has gloriously delivered on the high expectations his Dark Knight shouldered upon him. Inception is set to spin weightlessly above the other seasonal actioners jostling for position over the coming weeks.

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His mind-bending sci-fi thriller is a bullet train of an original story that careers through electric set pieces to an infernally clever, exhilarating climax. All the while Nolan ticks off the accepted conventions with aplomb, mixing in furious car chases, pounding gunplay and gravity-defying fight scenes. He’s even got the 007-style lair-storming covered. His genius lies in making such staples of the genre stable continually fresh, innovative and unpredictable, from the shape-shifting ground up. Nolan’s ringing the changes.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb heads up a shady crew of espionage specialists, expert in delving into people’s dreams and stealing secrets from their subconscious - a known threat and useful resource in the world of high-end global business, apparently. Operating outside of the law and separated from his young family because of past sins, a dangerous new assignment finally offers Cobb a chance of redemption. Rather than extracting an idea from a person’s head, can his team implant one instead?

Selling such a loftily high concept means downloading an awful amount of exposition as economically as possible. Luckily Elliot Page’s thickly named Ariadne is team newbie and her introduction to Cobb’s methods is the red pill that leads us in. It’s not at first clear that the screenplay will pull it off as the exposition comes thick and fast and Page, indeed everyone, always has a lot of ground to cover. Still, despite one mistimed gear change, it’s a resounding success, at least over the first viewing. Nolan never talks down to the audience and he trusts you to think through what’s happening in the world he creates; he expects you to keep up.

He’s aided by a uniformly superb cast. The diminutive Page holds his own, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as chiaroscuro as the set designs and Tom Hardy again swells beyond his character’s moldings. Ken Watanabe brings gravitas and Cillian Murphy invests Cobb’s target with a guarded humanity. And a long AWOL Tom Berenger gives it a whirl, too.

DiCaprio has to carry the film down its spirals of reality and subconsciousness. How many people he takes with him may depend a lot on whether he still divides an audience with a performance, however hard he strives to hurdle the Hollywood hooey. Here he’s solid, convincing enough, leading us and Marion Cotillard as his wife to the romantic heart of the matter and a superlative, masterfully layered third act.

Valuing imagination, creativity, grief, conviction and the act of believing all resonate, as well as a pleasing riff on the trompe l’oeil that is filmmaking itself. There is more than a nod the very art of storytelling - a neuro-noir fantasy this may be, but with its plucky band travelling to the underworlds and back it’s also as classical as it can get. I also see a searing critique of marketing, spin-doctoring and, in a world shuffling back from financial ruination, the modern melancholy that things weren’t ever quite right or what we were led to believe. That and some kick-ass SFX to boot.

You’ll want to see it again, such is the journey and payoff. Not to marvel at the impeccably shot visuals and locations, but to delight in how Nolan sutures it all together, to appreciate the layers that he can coalesce in an unashamedly entertaining blockbuster.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2010
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DiCaprio's dream spy takes on the ultimate inside job.
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Read more Inception reviews:

Anton Bitel *****
Nick Da Costa ***

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas

Year: 2010

Runtime: 148 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, UK


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