Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Cast a critical eye over the box office offerings of the past few years, and it's fair to say there's been a bit of history repeating. Remakes have abounded, from The Karate Kid to The A Team, and preview reels have been clogged with franchises - think Sex and the City, Predators and, of course, the inescapable Twilight.
Sometimes when you're inhaling the waft of popcorn and taking in the gaudy décor, you forget that Hollywood is a shrewd and calculating business, increasingly driven by strategic audience testing and market analysis.
So when news of an inventive new concept film came trickling through the rumour mill - floated by Christopher Nolan, the master behind Memento, Insomnia and the enormously successful Batman reboot, no less - the excitement was palpable.
Expectations rose with every piece of casting gossip, intensified with the odd photo still, and went into overload when the trailer finally hit the web.
Thankfully, Inception doesn't disappoint. With characteristic control, Nolan crafts a brilliant and thoroughly entertaining caper through the subconscious - part Freud 101, part Total Recall, Inception is the culmination of a decade's work for the polished filmmaker.
Essentially, the plot is as follows: persecuted fugitive Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is on the run after being wrongly accused of killing his wife, Mal (Cotillard). When approached by powerbroker Japanese businessman (Watanabe) to perform 'inception' - a highly illegal operation that involves breaking into a person's dreaming mind and planting an idea - on a rival businessman (Murphy), Cobb decides to take the job.
He assembles his crack team, including longtime colleague Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) and a brilliant young architecture student (Page) with a healthy disregard for the laws of physics.
What follows is a compelling blend of old-school science fiction and breakneck action sequences with a classic heist premise at its core. Obviously influenced by deft thrillers like Heat, Nolan uses his typically sleek style to animate Inception's labyrinthine plot, creating a richly imaginative world made all the more incredible by its unshakeable likeness to our own.
The ensemble cast inhabit their roles with ease, and without overplaying it, DiCaprio anchors the complex narrative with a strong, central performance. Murphy brings his natural aloofness to a small but pivotal role as the target of the heist, the elfin Page holds her own with the boys and Cotillard is hauntingly beautiful as the fading memory of Cobb's wife.
Tense, complex and challenging, Inception is an intelligent film that doesn't vie for audience involvement, it demands it. Director Nolan creates a slick, glossy maze - not unlike the detailed dreamscapes created by Cobb and co - to play out his dream within a dream within a dream.
Inception isn't perfect, though. Character development comes second to exposition, with a large portion of the dialogue devoted to directly explaining what is happening for the benefit of the audience.
Just like waking from a real dream, Inception's familiar yet fantastic atmosphere keeps you wondering until the final frame. See it. Then see it again.