It was a curious experience. Unusually, I went alone, because this was a film that Ellie did not want to see and she had arranged for a girls' night out with friends to see a film that I did not want to see about Joan Rivers--a chalk-on-the-blackboard voice as wince-making, for me, as Sarah Palin, though in a different key. The audience for "Inception" consisted of three people and myself. Two of them, elderly and apparently a bit deaf, chose to sit in the row I had decided to occupy, and saw fit to comment rather loudly at intervals about the action on the screen. I could have moved...
No matter, the somewhat surreal quality of the the actual, theater experience, was a good match for the surreal quality of what was happening on the screen. It took me a good few minutes to get past the initial scenes, in some Asian locale, where the inexplicable dialogue between what would turn out to be the main characters took place against a background of multiple, equally inexplicable explosions and panic in the street outside. The dramatic explosions, along with an unending series of "virtual" deaths by gunfire, proved to be a staple of the movie, alternating with scenes in which, with a stretch of the imagination and a great deal of suspension of disbelief, the plot actually began to make some sense.
The idea of "inception" has to do with the penetration and plundering of other people's minds. I was never quite sure why this involved quite so much violence, but it was as an exploration of the mind and its activities that the movie did engage me and carry me along. It was a matter of moving between different levels of dream and actual experience ("reality"), without ever being quite sure at which level one might be at any particular moment. It was, as the script was at pains to remind us at intervals, a dream within a dream within a dream--or, rather more frequently, a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare. The story involved the attempt to enter the mind of the scion of a multinational corporation and implant an idea that would alter the course of human history. Along the way, we encountered the more personal--and generally Oedipal--obstacles of both the mind-penetrator in chief (Leonardo di Caprio) and his intended target.
I left unsure as to whether I had enjoyed the movie or not, and indeed as to whether it was a good movie or not. I battled mightily throughout with the sheer implausibility of the action and, as I mentioned, never quite cottoned to the necessity of so many assault weapons and explosives--unless to cater to the tastes and expectations of the computer-gaming audience. As an exploration of the mind, I think I enjoyed the quieter Being John Malkovich more. Still, it was certainly a lot of fun and games. And, as I say, by the end of it all you could put together a plot that held together and came to a cathartic conclusion that was, in the terms set up by the movie, reasonably credible and satisfying.
Bottom line: I say, see it, if you're up for having your mind bent and can tolerate a good deal of (virtual, remember!) violence.