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by Peter Knegt
July 13, 2010 10:00 AM
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Big Screen | "Inception" Hits Theaters With Passionate Critical Support

Though this column has almost exclusively focused on specialty films since its, uh, inception, it seems like if there's any week to find an exception to that rule it's this one. This Friday, one of the most anticipated films of the year hits theaters, and while it might be far, far from independent in the financial sense, creatively is quite the opposite. His follow-up to the ultra-successful "The Dark Knight," Christopher Nolan's "Inception" has been finding passionate critical support leading up to its debut.

Though difficult to summarize, "Inception" is essentially a sci-fi intellectual thriller that follows Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a "dream extractor," whose day job takes him into the human subconscious. Usually, Cobb and his team find their way into the sleeping brains of important corporate players, who harbor valuable secrets that cannot be otherwise obtained. But then Cobb attempts the inverse by planting of an idea within the mind, rather than the unearthing of one. The film also stars an impressive and international array of supporting cast members, including Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine. It currently has a very rare "A" average on criticWIRE, and the vast majority of reviews second that suggestion.

"Availing himself of the resources that come with a studio's confidence, Nolan places mind-bending visual effects and a top-flight cast in service of a boldly cerebral vision that demands, and rewards, the utmost attention," Justin Chang said in his Variety review. "Even when its ambition occasionally outstrips its execution, 'Inception' tosses off more ideas and fires on more cylinders than most blockbusters would have the nerve to attempt."

"It feels like Stanley Kubrick adapting the work of the great sci-fi author William Gibson," Empire's Nev Pierce writes. "Nolan delivers another true original: welcome to an undiscovered country."

Cinematical's Todd Gilchrist continues the acclaim, noting that "Nolan, working with the sort of confidence (not to mention free financial reign) that comes from making a studio a mint on one's previous picture, crafts an amazingly sophisticated, subversive, thoughtful, and even occasionally confusing (albeit in only good ways) tale about the layers of reality in the mind that calcify and crumble when constructed from the raw materials of memory and emotion."

InContenton's Kristopher Tapley is similarly impressed: "Care like this makes a journey worth taking as Nolan weaves something close to a participatory narrative for the audience to experience rather than observe, all leading to a brave final image that will surely leave audiences discussing an array of implications. But while the director deserves plenty of credit for his dense vision, the department heads he’s recruited will hopefully not become unsung heroes of the piece."

And sure enough, there's Oscar talk resulting from all the acclaim. Anne Thompson says that "when it opens July 16, this eye-popping film will wow moviegoers all over the world - its complexities will only encourage debate and repeat viewings - and should also score well with critics and year-end awards groups. Oscar nominations in technical categories are a certainty, but 'Inception' is also a strong contender for multiple nominations, including Best Picture."

It's primary (and nearly sole) detractor is New York Magazine's David Edelstein, who goes against the grain to write that the film "manages to be clunky and confusing on four separate levels of reality."

Check out links to "Inception"'s indieWIRE page as well as other films opening this weekend, plus recent theatrical releases below. They include synopses, trailers, and a variety of criticWIRE grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Inception (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A

Alamar (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Kisses (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-


criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Dogtooth (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Agony and the Ectascy of Phil Spector (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Kids Are All Right (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Restrepo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

I Am Love (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Winter's Bone (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Cyrus (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Winnebago Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Girl Who Played With Fire (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Let It Rain (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

[REC] 2 (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Solitary Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

South of the Border (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

The Killer Inside Me (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Love Ranch (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: D+

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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