Christopher Nolan's films get people talking and thinking about film, which may be the best thing about them. From "Memento" on, every film Nolan has made (with the possible exception of "Insomnia," which I have not seen and cannot comment on) has resulted in a wild exchange of views in the blogosphere, igniting cinephiles, fanboys, and those casual viewers who just like to have a little substance to go along with their summer popcorn experience.
"Inception" is not a film without flaws, and in a series of posts about the acting in the movie, Sheila O'Malley (the gold standard of bloggers, as far as I'm concerned) has done a typically wonderful job of pointing them out (see the links below). I agree with much of what Sheila has to say, but even with all that, I flat-out loved the movie. It made me think of this line from Robert Christgau's review of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" :
Springsteen needs to learn that operettic pomposity insults the Ronettes and that pseudotragic beautiful-loser fatalism insults us all. And around now I'd better add that the man avoids these quibbles at his best and simply runs them over the rest of the time.
To me, that's what Nolan accomplishes in "Inception" - he simply runs over the flaws in the film. So while I can understand and fully appreciate that Ellen Page's Ariadne is less a character than she is a device to move the plot along and help the viewer understand what the hell is going on, I can forgive and even overlook that, because the whole is so stunning - breathtaking, even.
It is a breathtaking movie, even more so than "The Dark Knight." There were several moments when, not unlike the feeling I get when I listen to a great rock album, I felt the goose bumps rising on my arms, and I just sat there wanting to let the experience wash over me. Most notably, the scene at the beginning of the film where the protagonists are battling Ken Watanabe's crew, and the magnificent scene (see picture above) where Arthur fights the security guard in the "rolling hotel corridor."
Kudos to all of the actors involved. Leonardo DiCaprio has managed to reinvent himself over the past decade, and we are all the better for it. Ellen Page has a spark that is hard to define, but which makes her fascinating to watch even if her character is not. Tom Hardy jumps off the screen with a level of charisma that screams "star!" Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings a sly humor to what is essentially a humorless role. Tom Berenger hasn't aged very well, but it's good to see him again. Ken Watanabe is his usual, dependable self.
I haven't even tried to describe the plot, because I won't do it justice. You just have to go see it yourself. "Inception" is a spectacle, the kind of summer escapist fare that gives "summer escapist fare" a good name.
Sheila O'Malley on the acting in "Inception" :