‘Inception’: The Early Reviews Are In!

'Leonardo DiCaprio finds the tortured center of his character,' one reviewer writes.

Almost one year ago, the teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” hit the web. It featured acrobatic fight sequences, hallucinatory imagery, and left us with far more questions than answers. Just what the heck was this movie really about, anyway?

In the months that followed, Nolan slowly peeled back the curtain to reveal peeks at his top-secret follow-up to 2008′s “The Dark Knight.” Now, with the movie’s July 16 release date approaching, “Inception” has been fully unveiled to industry insiders, and the first reviews are beginning to pop up online. Here’s what folks are saying about the flick.

The Story

“Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, an expert in what the film calls extraction, the theft of secrets or information from the subconscious mind,” Todd Gilchrist wrote in Cinematical.com. After botching a job thanks to the intrusion of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), Cobb finds an unlikely opportunity for redemption from one of his former victims: Saito (Ken Watanabe), CEO of a flourishing multinational, offers him amnesty in exchange for planting an idea — known as inception — within the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), one of Saito’s competitors. Enlisting the help of teammates Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Ariadne (Ellen Page), Eames (Tom Hardy), and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), Cobb reluctantly agrees to the mission, only to discover that the mind’s defenses are more formidable than any physical threat he could face. Heist-movie plot details notwithstanding, the above description scarcely scratches at the surface of what’s in the film, and certainly reveals nothing of the deeper conceptual and thematic dimensions of its story.”

The Look

“Shot across four continents by Nolan’s regular d.p., Wally Pfister, and outfitted by production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, ‘Inception’ is easily the director’s most visually unbridled work,” Justin Chang wrote in Variety. “Its canvas stretches from the skyscrapers of Tokyo to the bazaars of Tangiers, from an amber-lit hotel corridor to a snowy mountain compound (a setpiece that plays like an homage to ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’). Pic has arresting effects and images to spare, such as the sight of Paris folding in on itself like a book or Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur performing a fight scene in zero gravity (the explanation for which is even more dazzling).”

The Performances

“DiCaprio finds the tortured center of his character, a man who is part thief and part spy and whose own guilt-ridden subconscious stands to destroy his chances of succeeding at the proverbial one last job,” Jim Vejvoda wrote in IGN.com. ” ‘Inception’ is sort of a companion piece in a way to ‘Shutter Island,’ the year’s other mind-bender DiCaprio thriller. Gordon-Levitt — who, like DiCaprio, was a child sitcom actor — continues to prove he’s one of the brightest up-and-coming dramatic actors with his turn here. And although she has less screen time than the rest of the cast, Cotillard shines as the film’s closest thing to a femme fatale.”

The “Matrix” Comparison

“[T]here’s a sort of ‘Matrix’ action movie vibe about the [marketing] campaign, and despite some wild visual moments in the film, I wouldn’t describe this as an action film at all,” Drew McWeeny wrote in HitFix.com. “There are action beats in it, but all of them are ultimately in service of the emotional journey that Dom takes in the film, and as a result, the stakes seem so much higher than they would if it was just another movie where people were chasing around some empty Macguffin. Everything in this film … cities folding in on themselves, buildings filling with sudden floods of water, gravity that stops working, reality fraying at the edges … ties back in to whatever happened between Dom and his wife Mal years ago.”

The Bottom Line

“Following up on such ingenious and intriguing films as ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Memento,’ Nolan has outdone himself,” Kirk Honeycutt wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. ” ‘Inception’ puts him not only at the top of the heap of sci-fi all-stars, but it also should put this Warner Bros. release near or at the top of the summer movies. It’s very hard to see how a film that plays so winningly to so many demographics would not be a worldwide hit.”

Are you excited to see “Inception”? Sound off in the comments below!