Inception’s critical scorecard gets a boost from the last wave of reviews. Count The LA Times‘ Kenneth Turan in tight with the ‘blown away’ team:
Welcome to the world of “Inception,” written and directed by the masterful Christopher Nolan, a tremendously exciting science-fiction thriller that’s as disturbing as it sounds. This is a popular entertainment with a knockout punch so intense and unnerving it’ll have you worrying if it’s safe to close your eyes at night.
Not to belabor a point made again and again over past few days, but one’s enjoyment of the film is clearly connected to one’s ability to keep up with what’s happening. In short, Turan “gets it.”
For “Inception” is not only about the dream state, it often plays on screen in a dreamlike way, which means that it has the gift of being easier to follow than to explain… But even while literal understanding can remain tantilizingly out of reach, you always intuitively understand what is going on and why.
Helping in that understanding, and one of the film’s most satisfying aspects, are its roots in old-fashioned genre entertainment, albeit genre amped up to warp speed. Besides its science-fiction theme, “Inception” also has strong film noir ties, easily recognizable elements like the femme fatale, doomed love and the protagonist’s fateful decision to take on “one last job.”
Likewise, instead of wrestling and fuming in frustration if every bit narrative flair doesn’t immediately click into place, Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post is happy to relax, submit, and be swept up in its thrall:
Rather than trying to game out “Inception” on first viewing, it’s best to let it wash over you, and save the head-scratching and inevitable Talmudic interpretations for later.
Chances are, there will be a later: “Inception” is the kind of film that will no doubt drive scores of viewers to theaters for a second go. But the key to success in a movie as purposefully complex as this one is that you see it again not because you have to, but because you want to. “Inception” is that rare film that can be enjoyed on superficial and progressively deeper levels, a feat that uncannily mimics the mind-bending journey its protagonist takes…
Nolan exemplifies the best kind of filmmaking, unchained from the laws of time, space and even gravity, but never from the most basic rules of narrative. Even at its most tangled and paradoxical, “Inception” keeps circling back to the motivation that has driven films from “The Wizard of Oz” to “E.T.”: Cobb, finally, just wants to go home.
This aim, in its simplicity, manages to make comprehensible even the most preposterous layers-upon-layers of “Inception,” and gives what could easily have been a chilly, impenetrable exercise a surprisingly strong emotional core. At its most audacious and enterprising, “Inception” provides just the kind of fully imagined escapism that adventurous filmgoers wish movies aspired to more often. But it’s the story’s most recognizable human struggles — to let go, forgive and move on — that make “Inception” worth puzzling over, long after its most transporting sensations have washed away.
Not too surprisingly, The New York Time’s A.O. Scott falls into step with most of his Manhattan colleagues — though Scott manages to express reasonable reservations without resorting to petty swipes. Well, almost…
The accomplishments of ‚ÄúInception‚Äù are mainly technical, which is faint praise only if you insist on expecting something more from commercial entertainment. That audiences do ‚Äî and should ‚Äî expect more is partly, I suspect, what has inspired some of the feverish early notices hailing ‚ÄúInception‚Äù as a masterpiece, just as the desire for a certifiably great superhero movie led to the wild overrating of ‚ÄúThe Dark Knight.‚Äù In both cases Mr. Nolan‚Äôs virtuosity as a conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set pieces, along with his ability to invest grandeur and novelty into conventional themes, have fostered the illusion that he is some kind of visionary.
But though there is a lot to see in ‚ÄúInception,‚Äù there is nothing that counts as genuine vision. Mr. Nolan‚Äôs idea of the mind is too literal, too logical, too rule-bound to allow the full measure of madness ‚Äî the risk of real confusion, of delirium, of ineffable ambiguity ‚Äî that this subject requires. The unconscious, as Freud (and Hitchcock, and a lot of other great filmmakers) knew, is a supremely unruly place, a maze of inadmissible desires, scrambled secrets, jokes and fears. If Mr. Nolan can‚Äôt quite reach this place, that may be because his access is blocked by the very medium he deploys with such skill.
Did you catch that? “just as the desire a certifiably great superhero movie led to the wild overrating of ‚ÄúThe Dark Knight.‚Äù So it’s back to all those delusional TDK fans again. et tu, A.O.?
Let’s return to Kenneth Turan’s happier reaction:
The reason all these diverse elements successfully come together is Nolan’s meticulous grasp of the details necessary to achieve his bravura ambitions… Because he’s been so successful, Nolan, like Clint Eastwood, has been able to return again and again to the same creative team, which includes exceptional director of photography Wally Pfister, sharp-eyed editor Lee Smith and composer Hans Zimmer, whose propulsive score helps compel the action forward.
Incapable of making even standard exposition look ordinary, Nolan is especially strong in creating the stunts, effects and out-of-the-ordinary elements whose believability characterizes this film as they did his previous Batman efforts…
The pleasure of “Inception” is not that Nolan, as the song says, regrets nothing, it’s that he has forgotten nothing, expertly blending the best of traditional and modern filmmaking. If you’re searching for smart and nervy popular entertainment, this is what it looks like.