Normally when I toss around phrases like "best movie of the year" I'm talking about something that was released in the Fall in exactly 12 theaters nationwide that involves people in tights and corsets who speak in exotic accents about how horrible it is that classes and institutions keep us all apart as they deal with unrequited love and daddy issues while war rages. It feels unnatural to apply the term to a big budget studio action film being released in July in 2000 theaters that came in at #1 two weeks in a row. So, what am I talking about? Salt? Ramona and Beezus? Sorcerer's Apprentice maybe?
Nah, you all know I'm talking about Inception. Inception is the rarest of movies: a serious, intelligent and successful attempt at science fiction. Director Christopher Nolan does for science fiction what he did for comic book characters. He took it seriously and concentrated on things like story and character as opposed to most science fiction in film that is made by people who see it as an excuse to set the CGI department loose on an incredibly stupid script and then package the whole thing up as something that only joyless tightasses would criticize because the whole movie was meant to be fun. The amazing thing is that intelligent science fiction was achieved while also including neat special effects, car chases, gun battles and loads of explosions and it deserves a Best Picture Oscar just for that.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot although I've seen it twice and and may go see it again just too see if I can make an absolute determination about...well, let's just say certain details. I can tell you what you probably already know and that is that Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a man who has procured technology developed by the military that allows him to enter other people's dreams. He and his team use it for corporate espionage. They kidnap or at least manage to isolate for a time wealthy business titans and use the dream machine to extract their secrets which they then sell to the businessman's competitors. This all goes swimmingly until they do it to Saito (Ken Watanabe), a man who knew who they were when he saw them in his dreams and wants to hire them himself. His offer is one that Cobb cannot refuse and drives him to desperate lengths that put his team in danger.
Prominent members of the team include his main partner Arthur played by the increasingly impressive Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Arthur is the closest thing Cobb has to a best friend which, ironically, renders Cobb unable to confess some of his deepest secrets to him. The job of keeper of secrets falls to the team's newest member, Ariadne (Ellen Page). She was a college student identified by Cobb's father-in-law (Michael Caine) as someone who would be uniquely qualified for the job of Dream Architect and he was right. Wikipedia tells me she shares the name of a mythological character who helped a hero escape from the fabled Minotaur's Labyrinth and all I will say the name fully suits her as she helps Cobb battle a particularly nasty piece of his own subconscious. That's all I really want to say about the plot.
Inception has spawned a great deal of debate about what certain things meant and whether certain events even happened. If you want to, you can take everything at face value and enjoy Inception as a feast for the eyes and a high class action film but really, why the hell would you want to? There are so many mindless action films and stupid summer blockbusters that can be viewed without letting a single thought creep into your head. I'm glad there's at least one out there that not only fails to insult your intelligence but actually makes you think about and analyze what you just saw. And just think, they did all that without sexy werewolves or having grown men relieve themselves in a public swimming pool and yes, I will always hold up that scene from Grown Ups as the height of cinematic stupidity.