Who's In It: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas
The Basics: Leonardo DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a professional corporate spy who steals information by infiltrating dreams. When a wealthy exec (Ken Watanabe) makes him an offer he can't refuse, Cobb pulls a team together to pull One Last Job. There's Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his point man. Ariadne (Ellen Page), the new recruit. Eames (Tom Hardy), the master of disguise. Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the chemist. Together, the expert crew attempts a heist of epic proportions, but telling you more will just spoil the joy of discovering Inception on your own.
What's The Deal: Inception is a film best discovered by fresh minds, so you're better off knowing as little as possible going in. That's because writer-director Christopher Nolan's multi-layered conundrum of a thriller is about the very idea of ideas and where they come from. Inception is deeply engaging on both mental and emotional levels, a film that on its face is a blend of mystery and action that unfolds like a standard heist flick -- the difference is, this heist takes place in a shared subconscious, and that subconscious world might just sneak into and envelop your own. Inception is a singular film that seeps into your brain, so much so that you might leave the theater looking at the world differently. And that kind of transformative, revelatory movie going experience just does not come along often enough.
What's Great About Inception, In Vague Non-Spoilery Terms: Solid performances all around, especially by the super-serious DiCaprio, the curious Ellen Page, the dapper Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who gets one of the coolest and most impossible fight sequences in recent memory), and the volatile Marion Cotillard, whose performance here deserves awards season notice. The impressive world-building that Nolan does here, creating massive, dreamlike cityscapes that fold in on themselves with a serpentine dream logic, mimics the feel of the real thing.
A Cerebral Thriller Set In Your Subconscious: It's got action and intrigue for miles, but Inception is, at its core, a cleverly conceived maze of ideas and perception-bending experiences designed to suck the viewer in along with its characters. (You think a dream-within-a-dream is complicated to untangle? Try keeping track of a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream.) You'll be best served if you're prepared to use those brain cells during this one, because Nolan and Co. throw a lot of ideas out for you to process -- but once you get to the end, you'll wish you could experience the thrill of discovery all over again for the first time.
I Predict Oscar Nominations For: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Marion Cotillard), Best Cinematography, Best Score (Hans Zimmer), Best Special Effects, and all of those technical categories that nobody pays attention to.
One To Watch: You may already be familiar with youngsters Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but have you met Brit actor Tom Hardy? After giving a bravura performance as a violent prisoner in last year's Bronson, Hardy brings a magnetic swagger to his role as the team's swarthy, bombastic "Forger."