After a summer spent in blockbuster doldrums, Inception comes along and handily claims the title of best summer picture with a movie that balances intelligence with action, drama with suspense and a story that keeps audiences pinned to their seats.
It's a cinephile's dream come true.
With Inception, writer/director Christopher Nolan has proved himself to be in a league of his own when it comes to making movies. He took the superhero movie and turned it into a psychological examination of one man, and he's now moved an action film into the arena of high art.
The movie is as complex as anyone's wildest dreams - the subject at the core of the film. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an "extraction" expert - a person who uses dreams to go into people's mind and steal information. Cobb is haunted by the memory of his dead wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard) and separated from his children.
So when wealthy magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe) tells Cobb he can get him home if he can pull off an "inception" - planting an idea in a person's mind, instead of stealing it - job, Cobb leaps at the chance for a ticket home.
He assembles a team to go with him: hist longtime partner, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames (Tom Hardy), Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and Ariadne (Ellen Page). Together they have an almost impossible job to pull off, in a limited time.
The movie plays like a mix of film noir, action, drama and thriller rolled into one package that holds the attention and won't let go for a minute. The film is paced to within an inch of its life, and Nolan never lets up on the tension. Being the ace writer that he is, Nolan weaves into this action meditations on loss, guilt and the power of the human subconscious.
Not exactly the typical summer blockbuster.
The acting is superb on all fronts. Page proves that she can do more than play smart, sarcastic girls and the film should be a long-deserved springboard for Gordon-Levitt. DiCaprio, in his second brilliant role of the year - the first being Shutter Island - puts all the cards on the table in a role that shows a man on brink, desperate for redemption.
Viewers will be hard pressed to find a more purely entertaining picture all year. As the famous Hollywood saying goes - and aptly worded for Inception - it's "the stuff dreams are made of."