The review embargo for "Inception" was officially over at 6 PM Eastern yesterday and the internet was ready with a plethora of reviews all going up at the same time. While you will have to wait a bit to read our thoughts on the film -- most of the early screenings were for west coast critics only -- the early word on this one seems to be fantastic, with the film director Christopher Nolan getting the kind of praise usually reserved for lifetime achievement awards. Critics awed by the film's high wire narrative and inventive special effects have all made a note "Inception" contains an emotional center as stirring as anything on screen. With nearly two weeks still to go before "Inception" opens on July 16th, the buzz will only get louder but if the film is even half as good as the reviews suggest, the first (and only?) must-see film of the summer has arrived:
Anne Thompson at IndieWire gets the ball rolling by calling the film a "Kubrickian masterpiece" but noting that while the film trades in some complex narrative work, its emotional core stays true: "As intricate as the script is—Nolan worked on it for a decade—the movie is not just a feat of cinematic wizardry, even though it comes close to the level of technological derring-do carried off by the likes of Stanley Kubrick. (Indeed Nolan works in repeated homages to the late great auteur beyond the obvious use of moving sets on gimbles to allow athletic Gordon-Levitt to bounce weightless and walk on walls and ceilings.) The movie also has heart. So that even if you do get confused (as I did in the James Bond snow section, filmed in the Canadian Rockies), the emotional through-line pulls you along. It’s as simple as 'The Wizard of Oz': The Extractor wants to go home."
In a five star review Nev Pierce at Empire also draws comparisons to Kubrick and is dazzled by both the brains and brawn Nolan displays throughout the film: "In terms of scale and style it is, as Nolan intended, comparable to Bond’s best excursions — yet filtered through a brain-frying, subconscious-spelunking, time-dilating structure that boldly frames action sequences around each other."
Mr. Beaks at AICN also draws comparisons to the great filmmakers, saying that Nolan now ranks with the likes of David Lean and Francis Ford Coppola: "Based on one viewing, I'm not ready to break 'Inception' down with any degree of assuredness. But I want to. God, how I want to. I haven't been this obsessed with a film since 'Primer,' which I watched somewhere in the neighborhood of four times before hazarding a review (and ultimately calling it the fourteenth best film of the last decade). What's most exciting about 'Inception' is that it finds Nolan peaking as a visual artist; he's using the extravagantly cinematic tropes of other genres to connect with the viewer intellectually. With 'Inception,' Nolan joins the company of Coppola, Lean and not too many others as a filmmaker who treats the big canvas with the respect it deserves - but with the steely verve of a chess player who can see dozens of moves ahead."
Drew McWeeny at HitFix is quite simple in his assessing the impact of the film saying, '"Inception' flattened me, and even now, more than a week after my first viewing of it, I find myself turning over images and ideas from the film almost constantly."
Justin Chang at Variety draws parallels between Nolan's approach to filmmaking to the the film itself saying: "If "Inception" is a metaphysical puzzle, it's also a metaphorical one: It's hard not to draw connections between Cobb's dream-weaving and Nolan's filmmaking -- an activity devoted to constructing a simulacrum of reality, intended to seduce us, mess with our heads and leave a lasting impression. Mission accomplished."
Kirk Honeycutt at The Hollywood Reporter though he applauds the film for its originality, says the narrative reality jumping spread over two-plus hours may leave viewers "utterly exhausted." That said, the bottom line assessment notes that the film is "A devilishly complicated, fiendishly enjoyable sci-fi voyage across a dreamscape that is thoroughly compelling."
Dustin Hucks at Film School Rejects stamps the film with an A+ noting that it goes leaps and bounds beyond what the Wachowski's did with the "The Matrix" trilogy over a decade ago: 'Inception' is what The Wachowskis wish the rest of 'The Matrix films after the first could have been; a head trip with outrageous action sequences and a strong emotional attachment to the story. 'Inception' is its own animal, but that doesn’t change that it succeeds in all departments where the rest of that trilogy missed the mark. Nolan proves again, that he’s wholly capable of bringing his unique voice and vision to the screen in a way that few writer/directors can.
While Devin at CHUD has a lot to say about the film's whizz-bang, eye popping filmmaking, he reserves his choicest words for the story itself: "What's perhaps best about 'Inception' is that it's not a trick film. A smart, aware viewer will find most of the movie's answers given to them in the very opening scene. Nolan's not trying to hide anything or pull any twists, and he's more interested in paying off emotional beats than pulling the rug out on viewers at the end."
Todd Gilchrist at Cinematical notes that the film's greatest achievement may simply be the uncompromising passion Nolan brings to the film: "Further, its sublime combination of theoretical and humanistic elements puts it in the company of films like, yes, 'The Matrix,' but more accurately dense, character-driven concept movies like 'Synecdoche, New York,' itself arguably one of the best and most important (if also impenetrable) of the last decade. But it's also the kind of movie that transcends any easy comparisons, and resists previous standards of achievement, innovation, or impact, which is why it's difficult to pinpoint the last time I felt quite so passionately about every single part of a cinematic experience. And that may ultimately be the film's greatest achievement: to consume and possess its audience with that passion, whether you're as inspired and excited as I am, or disappointed, confused or frustrated as many will no doubt also be."
Kris Tapley at InContention notes that the film's ingenuity is its saving grace smoothing over any of the movie's potential flaws: "In short, the director may still be closing in on the sweet spot in his newly traveled blockbuster career path. But 'Inception' is a movie so vibrant, so alive, so relentlessly original that it can be forgiven its transgressions in an instant. It’s an entertainment with vivid, profound ideas, precisely the kind of daring that ought to be backed by big money."
Finally, Sasha Stone at Awards Daily wonders, like the rest of us, if the film will connect with audiences and the Academy the way it has with critics: "We will have to wait a bit before calling Inception for Oscar. There are still some open-ended questions about whether critics will embrace it, audiences will flock to it, or if its “genre” is outside the scope of what the Academy yearns for. If it were me, it would be an easy call as one of the ten best pictures of the year, maybe even of the last ten."