Christopher Nolan's latest film, a dream-weaving crime thriller shrouded in the healthiest kind of narrative complexity and inner-space hokum, is a rousing, skillful and unique entertainment - one of the more nifty and sensational action films of the last decade.
Melding multiple genres and influences into a busy assembly of gun and wordplay, the film strikes the proper balance between science-fiction geekery and big-budget Hollywood formula, perhaps too much so for more adventurous viewers.
But alas, Inception, as complex and daring as its dazzling narrative may be, is at its heart a high-concept summer blockbuster more than anything - its visuals and its crime-genre roots pulling through despite the more talkative and ambiguous message board points of is-he-or-isn't-he debate.
Yet despite the film's complexities, it's never less than completely coherent to follow on a point-to-point basis and, in fact, is a far more propulsive and focused piece of work than The Dark Knight, Nolan's ambitious, overreaching and yet wonderfully messy superhero smash-hit.
With Inception, Nolan's knack for dizzying, layered narratives, obsessively flawed characters and his steady submersion into an action-piece stager has reached its peak. It may not be Nolan's best film, but as a showman and entertainer of big ideas, it's his most fully engaging and exhilarating feature to date.
Talking points and theorizing abound upon the film's conclusion, but perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of Inception is its ability to convey its character's feelings of disorientation and bewilderment upon the audience - questions of dreams vs. reality apply to us as well as them. [A-]