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Wick's Review

Created Jul 25, 2010 12:38PM PST • Edited Mar 29, 2023 11:47PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Deep, exceptionally smart, and profoundly cinematic, Inception is arguably the second coming of Citizen Kane. Just as Orson Welles’ masterpiece redefined the conception of silver screen storytelling, so Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus expands the boundaries of cinematic art in ways that service the art without pandering to technique. Contrast this with the over-hyped Avatar, a high-toned B-movie that is little more than technical triumph.

    Inception plays like a Mission Impossible story, where a team of operatives con a rich mark into doing something against his interests. Only here the con operates across five tiers of cognition: reality and four dream levels. So where a Tom Cruise or Peter Graves MI operates as a convoluted two-dimensional chess game, Inception operates like Spock’s 3D chess set, with the playing surfaces on five levels. That’s deep.

    Other critics have noted the visual references to M.C. Escher. That only speaks to one third of Nolan’s auteurial ambition, for his movie serves as a cinematic avatar of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, complete with themes of recursion, self-reference and strange loops. Mix in mega doses of psychological sophistication and the result is an exceptionally smart movie.

    Its profoundly cinematic quality comes from Nolan’s bravura visuals: LOL outrageous, yet always in service to the tremendously kinetic story. Admirably, he delivers this visually overwhelming experience without 3D.

    Fellow ViewGuide critic Izzio correctly declares that Inception outdoes Nolan’s own Dark Knight. Whereas the latter was a derivative work, Inception is entirely Nolan’s conception, an auteur performing at the highest level of his art form. Stunning.

    Can’t wait to see it again!

    Scoring Note: I rarely award a 5 beam Perfect to a movie that I judged a tick less than Perfect in the Acting and Film categories. Here it seems justified. Perhaps Christopher Nolan had an inception performed on me.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    DiCaprio employs his peerless moviestar visage and flat delivery to great effect as the mindfucker-in-chief. Leo’s a great star who can reliably lead a movie but doesn’t seem capable of carrying one. Still, what a mug he’s got: perfect vertical linage down the center, from the dual clefts between his eyebrows to his pronounced philtrum and on to his cleft chin. The guy’s a freak of symmetry. He’s also become 2010’s King of Pain, given Shutter Island and now Inception.

    Marion Cotillard makes up in charisma what she lacks in jaw-dropping beauty. By her second scene, she’s established herself as a screen seductress of the first order. Her diction, however, is a bit difficult to understand.

    As to the rest of the primary players:

    • Joseph Gordon-Levitt: seemed like his lines should have been funnier than they played.
    • Ellen Page’s smart girl shtick seemed a bit underwritten here.
    • Tom Hardy has all the tools – including a name from central casting – to become a major moviestar. He’ll get the chance when he assumes the mantle of Mad Max in 2012.
    • Ken Watanabe impressed less here than in Letters from Iwo Jima.
    • Dileep Rao ably played the mad drug chemist.
    • Cillian Murphy is such a pretty boy, no wonder his borderline grotesque father (Pete Postlethwaite) rejected him.
    • Tom Berenger’s seen better days.
  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5


  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5

    Marion Cotillard

  6. Female Costars Great 4.0

    Ellen Page

  7. Male Costars Great 4.0

    The guys not named Leo

  8. Really Great 4.5

    Film school apotheosis: Nolan sets up every plot device, then often delivers the payoff moments later. He does this countless times, managing to keep the audience engaged if not always fully understanding the complex plot. For instance, the exponential lengthening of time across multiple dream levels doesn’t get revealed until the second reel, just prior to becoming a plot factor.

    This is a very post-post-modern film: completely amoral, it trades on settled notions of drug tripping and expansive beliefs about the subconscious. It can also be seen as an ultimate drug movie since the dream catchers hook up to IV lines to enter their dream states.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Bravura throughout, never more so than the extended climax when a van plows through a bridge guardrail, hitting the water below some 20 cinematic minutes later. Of course, at lower dream levels, the blink-of-an-eye easily stretches out to 20 minutes and beyond.

  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    “What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it,” declares DiCaprio in a whopper of a setup line.

    Nolan’s screenplay narrowly misses perfection due to the occasional clunky line and the fact that the story isn’t really about anything other than a ripping good yarn.

  11. Music Really Great 4.5

    Appropriately magnificent – albeit somewhat ponderous – Hans Zimmer’s heavyweight score integrally amplifies the film’s cinematic impact.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Visually magnificent.

    • The Escher references take clearest form with the stair scenes that go in an infinite loop, a la Escher’s Ascending and Descending.
    • The train running up the middle of a busy boulevard harks back to the tractor-trailer flipping scene in The Dark Knight.
    • The spacial deformity scenes tickled the physical consciousness. The poster above suggests these in still image form.
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.6

    Intense in extremis, albeit all in the mind.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.2
  16. Violence Fierce 1.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.0
  18. Glib 1.8

    In dreams, anything goes. Fair enough. In reality, however, people don’t share dreams, nor do they instantly get sedated to go into a dream state, later popping back into full consciousness as if nothing happened, yet with complete recall of the dream. Nor do they commandeer the First Class Cabin of a transoceanic flight, even if they do own the airline. Thus the glib CircoReality and surreal BioReality scores below.

    Inception has triggered much interest in dreaming, notably this fascinating Journal article on Lucid Dreaming. Lucid Dreaming, what a terrific term!

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.7
  20. Biological Surreal 2.6
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


Subscribe to Inception 7 replies, 4 voices
Jan 18, 2011 9:39PM

Regarding MetalJunky5000’s Review
“Nolan is the Hitchcock of our time.” Right on.

Jul 29, 2010 9:11AM

Regarding hurwizzle’s Review
Great review Wizzle. Love the "I"s: “intricate, intriguing, intense, immense, impossibly interesting, impressive, irresistible, intoxicating”, indeed!

I saw it on an old school big screen (the Winchester 22 dome), so may have to seek out an IMAX for the de rigueur second viewing.

Hey, as a musician, you’ll get a special kick out of this Inception Music Comparison video. Yet another intriguing intricacy.

Jul 25, 2010 4:34PM

I didn’t have much to add to what you guys and everyone else is saying about Inception. I came in a little under your ratings, but am no less enthusiastic about Nolan’s new masterpiece!