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Film Review: 'Inception' Marks the Return of Smart, Engaging Blockbusters


In the United States, the highest grossing movie of 2008 was “The Dark Knight,” a movie with a strong story, fascinating characters and great visual effects. The highest grossing movie of 2009 was “Avatar,” a movie with great visual effects, weak characters and a forgettable story. There was a great difference between some of the biggest blockbusters of 2008 and the blockbusters of 2009.


Now, with a solid weekend at the box office and strong reviews, “Inception” (directed by Christopher Nolan, the director of “The Dark Knight”) might mark the beginning of a return to the smart special effects-laden blockbuster. “Inception” is a smart thriller that shows that highly-anticipated blockbuster movies can have great imaginative stories to go with their eye-opening effects.

“Inception” tells the story of a team of experts who break into people’s minds to steal their secrets. “Inception”stars as Cobb, the leader of the team, who has spent several years studying how to infiltrate dreams and steal information from them.

Near the beginning of the film, Cobb is asked to enter a young businessman’s dreams, not to uncover information, but to inject an idea into the man’s mind. Cobb and his team must find a way to enter the man’s dream and deliver a thought into the man’s subconscious so that the man will wake up and make a business decision based off that idea. Along with some of his usual associates, Cobb recruits new members to the team, including a young student named Ariadne (played by Ellen Page).

Ariadne is introduced to the dream world by Cobb, who lets her into his own dream. In that scene, the concept of the film is explored in great detail. Ariadne can design mazes for the dreams and change the surroundings of a dream as it occurs. She wanders through Cobb’s dream able to quickly move streets around and create bridges simply through her own imagination. It may not be her dream but it is her world that the dream is taking place in.

The cast of this film excels in this unique and thrilling film. Alongside film veterans like Michael Caine and Tom Berenger, this film features a lot of young capable actors who make the dream world seem both real and unreal at the same time. Leonardo DiCaprio is strongly cast as the emotionally-conflicted leader of the group and Ellen Page, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt stand out as Cobb’s strong allies who use their unique skills effectively in the dream world.

As the trailer shows, “Inception” features terrific special effects. The dream worlds are beautifully created and the effects in them are often magnificent. This is a movie that is able to convey its vision of a dream world spectacularly well. Like “The Dark Knight,” Nolan is able to use special effects to enhance the story, rather than simply to replace the story.

One of the best surprises is how smart and well-developed it is. The dream world has some rules in it but they are explained well in the film. The movie has a strong sense of its elements and its purpose and never seems to lose sight of that, even though it can sometimes be confusing. It may have some obvious flaws, including an overlong climax, but this is a smart and engaging film nonetheless.

“Inception” is a thrilling unique cinematic experience that will likely be talked about for years to come. It is what a blockbuster can look like and may well be one of the best movies of 2010.

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