The set-up is fairly straightforward: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) works on the black market infiltrating dreams and extracting valuable information from his marks on a subconscious level. He's hired by tycoon Saito (Ken Watanabe) to plant an idea into business rival Fischer's (Cillian Murphy) mind as the catalyst for corporate sabotage. Saito makes it clear to Cobb - who's wanted by US authorities - that if he completes the assignment he'll fix things so that he can make it through immigration and go home.
Like much of Nolan's work, the story is a dense and complex puzzle and this narrative trickery leads to plenty of surprises - it's impossible to predict where Inception is going and these gear-shifts are part of its brilliance. It powers through the two hours-plus running time at breakneck speed, sending the heist team - including Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and the excellent Tom Hardy - plunging deep into the mind of Fischer. There are multiple levels of reality, dreams-within-dreams (that metal spinner, by the way, has major significance), but the sci-tech aspects are used to facilitate the story instead of dictate it.
The action sequences range from the epic (snowmobile chases straight out of Bond) to the wildly inventive (Gordon-Levitt navigating rotating corridors), while DiCaprio strikes emotional chords in scenes with his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) and the son and daughter he's been separated from. When it's all over, you'll want to walk straight back into the cinemas and see it again to unravel it completely. Inception embraces ambiguity and doesn't neatly tie up loose ends. Our verdict? It's challenging, whip-smart, thrilling and unmissable.
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