Does the story come together in a satisfying way? At nearly two-and-a-half hours in length, Inception asks a lot of audiences, and, at times, it delivers. The film has a fantastic premise, some gravity-defying chase scenes, and a palpable sense of tragedy underneath the veneer of visual razzle-dazzle. But it is a cold film, almost entirely lacking in humor or, more crucially, a reason to make us care about any of its characters other than Cobb. The goal of the Inception team's mission gets lost along the way, and the outcome of the corporate-espionage storyline is anticlimactic. By the time it arrives, the audience is invested much more deeply in Cobb's tenuous hold on reality, and his temptation to flee into a world that promises something he desperately wants, than it is in Saito's reasons for initiating the Inception mission.

That imbalance makes the film overwhelming—not because it's too smart, but because the film's length demands a plot that's big enough to make us care about the Inception concept. The film's premise will be catnip to certain viewers who enjoy the open-ended discussions such movies like this one can stimulate, and the film's final shot will send them out of the theater buzzing. Others will find the film's ominous, heavy tone to be ponderous, and will simply be grateful that this lengthy film, with its drawn-out finale, has ended.

Which group you fall into may depend on your willingness to give Inception more than one viewing. This critic sat near two other critics who had seen the film once before, earlier that same day, and had returned to experience it again. If the possibility of having to see a film twice in order to get a better handle on it appeals to you, then Inception is the movie for you. If not—if you think even challenging, complex movies shouldn't require more than one viewing, whatever rewards subsequent exposure to the storyline might bring—then it's best to find another alternative to Nolan's film. You won't lose any sleep over the decision.

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  • Language/Profanity:  Lord's name taken in vain; some foul language (godda--, a--hole, he--, etc.).
  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  None, except for people being drugged so that Inception team members can enter their dreams.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Kissing.
  • Violence/Crime:  Gun violence; in dreams, worlds collapse and people die through violent acts; multiple explosions; cars run into people, and a car door is flung open in order to strike a man; brawling; a man slaps a sleeping man's face; a man puts a gun to his head and threatens suicide; a man spits blood; characters are cut down by a rope strung across their path.
  • Religion:  Nothing specific, but talk about how we create reality; a subconscious dreamstate is referred to as "limbo."