...go with me here. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I feel about Inception. Now don't get me wrong: I loved it. A lot. But what I really can't figure out is this: if I were to take a step back and look at the film critically, how would I rate Inception.
I got nothing. Seriously. I've never been so at a loss for opinion of a film. This might be a long one, so brace yourselves.
On the positive side of things, there is no filmmaker more visionary and innovative today than Christopher Nolan. The director who showed exactly how good comic book films can be, and how great a performance can be, really takes an intriguing concept and completely fleshes it out to the point where everyone can see it, if not understand it. (More on that later.)
But to the critics who are bashing Inception as being "not a masterpiece," I say: so what if it isn't? The fact is that Nolan took serious risks on this screenplay and on this movie, and I applaud him for all of them.
Inception succeeds in being both an auteur's film and a big summer blockbuster, something that hasn't been done since, oh, gee, I don't know... The Dark Knight? I really don't know of any filmmaker who can do exactly what he wants to do, make his film as smart as he wants his audience to be, and have the people of America and all around the world come in droves to see it.
I won't bore/spoil you with plot synopsis. It's not required for this piece anyway.
Leonardo DiCaprio is aggressively passionate and wonderful in his role as antihero Dom Cobb, a Danny Ocean for the smarter set. While Ocean's Eleven and its poorly planned offspring were always, to me, a bit hindered by the smugness of the cast, this group has a seriousness of purpose with moments of humor. No one character is more serious than Cobb, however, and no one actor is more committed than DiCaprio.
The other actors range from fine to fantastic in their roles. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page, both more commonly associated with their humorous, quirky roles (from the films (500) Days of Summer and Juno, respectively), are both perfectly understated here, but don't get a lot of room for grandstanding. Tom Hardy as a shapeshifter is humorous and a good foil for Gordon-Levitt's ultraserious character. Michael Caine cameos as a father-in-law type as only Michael Caine can. Marion Cotillard (who beat Page in the 2007 Best Actress Oscar race for her role in La Vie En Rose) is mysterious and antagonistic in her role as Mal, Cobb's wife. And Cillian Murphy, obviously a Nolan favorite (remember him as the Scarecrow from Batman Begins?), is a centerpiece of the plot and plays his role with aplomb.
So if the acting is solid, the writing is good, and the direction is amazing, what could be bad about this movie? Well, in truth, nothing is BAD, just...unfinished. All of the characters except Cobb are paper-thin and without any real development. The plot is sometimes rushed, and the reasoning behind the big heist at the center of the film is murky, to say the least. And the climax is far too long. I feel like there was climactic music going on for at least half an hour.
These things will not bother you as you watch Inception, as they should not. Nolan has crafted the perfect popcorn movie with a brain. You'll be confused, you'll be intrigued, and you'll want to watch again. But you won't be disappointed. Inception is grade-A filmmaking, and, along with Toy Story 3 and The Kids Are All Right, surely one of our Oscar nominees for Best Picture come January.