What a relief it is to see something new. After all the endless sequels, franchise-extensions, remakes and reboots we've been lumbered with in recent years, you start to feel like no-one is going to bother coming up with anything new, which presents an odd problem: what are people going to remake in 20 years time?!
Anyhow, Inception delivers on its promise of mind-bending action. It's smart, coherent, tense, exciting, unpredictable and rich with emotional depth. Once the rules of the game are established early on - ex-military tech is now being used by corporate spies to steal secrets from people in their dreams you say? Oh, OK, fine! - the movie takes hold, dropping you off in its dream logic, throwing you around the world, dizzying you with some excellent special effects and not letting up until the final credits. Think Eternal Sunshine of The Ocean's 11 Mind, with a bonus dash of Matrix flash (before it got shit).
Leonardo DiCaprio steps up to the promise he's been showing since The Departed, with another beefy role as the experienced dream warrior who gets hired to plant an idea, rather than steal a secret. It's like he's getting wider rather than older. Ellen "Juno" Page is a great addition to Nolan's tricksy world, adding a grounded, sarky teen level to the blockbuster antics. Tom Hardy's role moves a touch too far towards Action Dude from the cerebral, shady forger who's brought on board the team to impersonate people in dreams, but he's still great - surely a big lead role in a Hollywood film can't be far off for him? Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays DiCaprio's right hand man, another thoroughly watchable performance from him. Cillian Murphy makes a decent mark for them to target. Ken Watanabe and Michael Caine - two more Nolan veterans - add yet more weight. Marion Cotillard perhaps hams it up a little as the mysterious French femme fatale, but that's a minor niggle - and there's an argument to be made that it's an intentional device.
Going in cold to a film like this is highly recommended - so we'll stop here; it's easily the film of the summer - and a strong contender for the year's best.
Check out the comic book prequel here.