Pay attention at the beginning, and Inception will pay you a rich dividend in sublime movie pleasure.
Inception: where dreams can come true
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
"The dream is real." Surely the Rolls-Royce of the tagline world, this particular piece of promo sent a million and one movie lovers into fanboy meltdown after it hit billboards, magazines and newspapers last year.
Inception certainly had a lot of hype to live up to when it hit cinemas But, with it's all-star cast and intricate plot, it managed to impress both critics and the public; raking in over US$60 million (Dh220m) the weekend it was released in the US, before going on to make more than $820m worldwide.
The idea for Inception originally came to Christopher Nolan in 2000, during production of his film Memento, although it would take a further decade for the British director to nurture the film to its full potential. Even so, had it not been for Nolan's recent successes with the rejuvenated Batman series, chances are the fantasy thriller would never have been given the big budget ($160m) it required.
Vastly different from the usual popcorn movies and no-brainer blockbusters that dominate the summer season, there were worries that Inception's plot might be too much of a chore for the average moviegoer to handle. As it turns out, the movie-going public know a good film when they see one and propelled Inception to the top of the international box-office, eventually making it one of the biggest-grossing titles in cinema history.
Inception introduces us to a world where the art of theft has been taken up a notch, a world where, thanks to advances in technology and science, some people are able to inhabit the subconscious of others, extracting any information they want. The process might seem cumbersome, but their reasons are simple enough - financial gain. Called extraction, the process is, of course, illegal, and performed only by a small group of highly skilled individuals, the extractors.
Leading one group in particular is the charismatic Dominic "Dom" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who, despite sharing his name with a type of salad, is one of the best and most highly regarded in the field.
Unable to return to his home and two young children after being accused of his wife's murder, he is coerced into taking on one last job by a rich business man, Saito (Ken Watanabe), who asks Cobb and his team to try something new and potentially life threatening - implanting a thought into the subconscious of a rival businessman's son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy).
It sounds complicated, and it is, but follow the first 15 minutes of the story closely and the rest will fall into place with the grace you would expect of a Nolan production.
As a matter of fact, there is nothing about Inception that does not fit perfectly. Normally, one might expect the quality of the plot of a movie with a cast made up of A-listers to be questionable, but here, their celebrity does not interfere with the story in the slightest. Nor is their presence required to compensate for a potentially weak script.
Arguably the finest actor of his generation, DiCaprio is at the top of his form as the man whose turbulent past causes problems for the team while they are in their dreamlike state. Haunted by the memory of his dead wife, Mallorie (played with a scary but mesmerising intensity by Marion Cotillard), Cobb adds further tension to an already fraught situation.
The rest of the cast are also in their element, including the Juno star Ellen Page, who holds her own among the veteran stars. Aside from DiCaprio, both Tom Hardy, who plays the cocky forger Eames, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt - sublime as Arthur, Cobb's researcher extraordinaire - are especially wonderful to watch on screen, their performances as well structured as the plot itself.
Particularly noteworthy scenes include a fight sequence in zero gravity, and the scene in which Ariadne (Page) first encounters the dream state.
Like all great movies, the soundtrack is an integral component, and one that is handled deftly by the long-time Nolan collaborator, Hans Zimmer.
At the sold-out screening I attended shortly after the movie's worldwide release, the ending provoked audible gasps from the audience, a sure-fire indication of people's attachment to the story and characters.
In a world that has become saturated with remakes and countless sequels, Inception is a breath of fresh air and should serve as a reminder that there is life in the old movie industry yet.