Inception was one heck of a ride. There were definitely layers within layers (within layers) but at the core I feel that the story was not directly dealing with the dream landscape but rather is a device by which we get to the heart of the story – a story that taps real (not imagined) human emotions such as longing, loss and guilt. At least, that is what I took away from the film.
I do not want to discuss the plot elements for fear of divulging too many details. If you have seen the trailer, that should provide an interesting entree into what you can expect from the film. Anything else I would attempt to articulate would do not do the movie justice and possibly spoil it for others.
As for the performances, everyone seemed properly cast in their roles. Leonardo DiCaprio has really come into his own as an actor and he is going to go from strength to strength. There is no mistaking that this is an ensemble cast anchored by a central character’s conflict. They all do a magnificent job in orbiting this world that Nolan has created; how could you really go wrong with talents such as Cillian Murphy, Ellen Paige, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard et al? A stand out performance for me was that of Joseph Gordon Levitt (dude from the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun). He provided more than one chuckle-worthy moment and had probably the best “action” sequence (non-CGI) in recent memory. At the end of one of the longer parts of the sequence, the audience ripped into rapturous applause.
As for the auteur, writer/director Christopher Nolan – I will not belabor you all by talking about what a genius he is, etc. I think enough has been said in that regard. Just know that this film does not disappoint and adds to the tremendous filmography that he has produced over the couple of decades.
In the end, I am recommending that you do go into watching the movie bearing this in mind – it is a story of ideas. Yes it maybe could have been presented in a less mind-bending manner but that is part of the fun – it is a thought exercise in which you are left to answer questions about the plot – are we dreaming, etc. They leave you wondering what way is up and exactly what is that line between reality and what we want to be real. And we arrive at that place exhilarated and wanting more.
*Side note: in some ways I am reminded of The Twilight Zone in particular episodes such as “Perchance to Dream,” “Shadow Play” and the like. Those are just the ones that immediately come to mind.