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Inception (2010) BluRay

There is a small, militant camp of malcontents who despise everything Christopher Nolan has ever committed to film, and their numbers only seem to grow as countless critics and the movie-going masses at large declare him to be one of modern cinema's greatest visionaries. They see Memento as pretentious, arthouse drivel; Batman Beginsas a serviceable but unspectacular foray into comicbook adaptations; Insomnia as bland and uneventful; The Prestige as an over-scripted mess with three twists too many; and The Dark Knight as an overblown, over-hyped cash-in that doesn't deserve the accolades it's received. To them, Nolan's latest buzz-earner, Inception, is either a dull, confounding, over-plotted misfire or a convoluted, self-important, superficial brain-bender. My apologies if you're one of these disgruntled few... I can't come out and play today. I've long been one of the masses, willingly drinking more and more of Nolan's Kool Aid with each passing film. As far as I'm concerned, Inception not only stands as the pinnacle of a master filmmaker's canon, but as a cerebral masterpiece in its own right; one that's far and away my favorite film of 2010, and a strong contender for my favorite film of all time. And believe me, that isn't the sort of statement I ever make lightly.

"You create the world of the dream. We bring the subject into that dream and fill it with their subconscious."

Anyone who can pen a concise, revealing, spoiler-free plot synopsis of Inception is a far better writer than I. After eighteen scrapped variations, here's my best (and, ironically, shortest) effort. Hoping to implant an idea in the mind of a recently deceased entrepreneur's heir (Cillian Murphy), a rival businessman (Ken Watanabe) hires a team of highly skilled thieves -- sullen team leader Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), point man Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), master forger Eames (Bronson's Tom Hardy), dreamscape architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) -- trained in invading other people's dreams. But dream-diving isn't an easy task, especially when the goal is to plant an idea rather than extracting information from the target's conscious. Complications abound of course: the creation of an elaborate array of dream worlds is required to pull off the job, subconscious projections pose a serious threat, and waking up isn't always as simple as it sounds. Nor is Nolan's intricate film. Part heist flick, part densely plotted sci-fi genre pic, part dramatic character study, part action thriller, part cinematic enigma,Inception braves intertwining paths most films would avoid altogether. And Nolan? The famed writer/director toys with everything from perception to reality to time itself, all within the span of two-and-a-half perfectly paced, magnificently constructed hours. Even if you don't enjoy Inception's story as much as others, it's difficult to walk away without some appreciation for its balance, artistry and spectacle.
Imagine a film like Shutter Island (with which Inception shares a few small but potentially distracting similarities) as a straight line comprised of a series of linear scenes. Imagine six of these equally complex lines laid out across one another, arranged symmetrically, and then folded into a Rubix Cube of interlocking twists and turns. Now imagine holding this bizarre little puzzle box and being asked to solve its mysteries as it comes to life in your hands. This, dear readers, is just a taste of what it's like to watch Inception for the first time. Plot points arrive in droves, rules and exceptions to those rules are divulged in quick succession, and psychological analyses come fast and often. All the while, an eclectic ensemble of wounded protagonists, witty heroes and conflicting interests threaten to muddy the waters, but are never given the chance to do so. Nolan's command of his cast is as commendable as his command of his cameras, and their pitch-perfect performances are a testament to his control of an increasingly unconventional production. It's the stuff of nonsensical nightmares and filmmaking failures. Yet Nolan manages to maintain a focused narrative, ably develop his characters, address any and every possible plot hole (at least those that aren't patched by suspension of disbelief), and deliver an incredibly satisfying pay-off.

And I have to say: for as many tales of woe that have been written about viewers' first encounters with Inception, I didn't have any problem. I never felt lost or frustrated; I never felt out of my depth or in need of some point-by-point map. (And that's saying a lot considering Nolan simultaneously juggles four time lines, four separate dream levels and four prevailing storylines.) But I was also aware that I wasn't fully digesting every single detail that graced the script and screen; I recognized how much more Nolan's world had to offer that my feeble brain could absorb in one sitting. Was it overwhelming? Yes, but not for the same reasons some outspoken critics have described, and certainly not in a way that disappointed me in the slightest. I felt such an emotional connection to the characters, such an intense fascination with Cobb's quest (both internal and external), and such inexplicable awe at the sheer audacity on display that I reacted accordingly. The hair on my arms and neck stood at attention. Chills ran up and down my spine for the better part of two hours. Tears welled up on occasion, and the film's closing moments were as moving as any in recent memory. It's rare that a film so readily engages my intellect; even rarer that a film elicits such a visceral response from my mind, heart and body.

I could go on at length about Inception's casting and performances, its mind-blowing visual and practical effects, its beautiful cinematography or inventive set pieces, the subtleties of its story and themes, its intriguing realities and refined dream mechanics, the driving surge of Hans Zimmer's infectious score, the effortlessness with which Nolan weaves exposition into the fabric of his tale, or the emotional undercurrent that charges each scene. Oh, did I mention the many, many ways in which key aspects of the film are left open to thought-provoking interpretation? Be that as it may, Inception should be experienced and savored; describing anything other than the film's impact would only take away from the thrill of discovering it all for yourself. If I could get away with writing, "you simply must see Nolan's latest tour de force" and nothing more, I would, just in the hope that newcomers would watch the film with as clean a mental slate as possible. So, for what it's worth, "you must see Nolan's latest tour de force." Not only is it an amazing, eye-popping technical achievement -- the likes of which have to be seen to be believed -- the entire film defies explanation and shatters expectations. My advice? Stop reading reviews of the film and tackle it for yourself. The less you know about Inception, the better.
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