It's easy to see how this is the product of Nolan's work in Memento. It deals with the same issues of our narrator's reliability and questions of reality. Both main characters have a tragic self-awareness that seems like a plus in the beginning of the movie, but by the end, you'll wonder if what they trusted to be true and what you trusted to be true is even true at all. Like the dreams themselves, the plot lines and characters begin to fall apart, but our Architect, Christopher Nolan, is the one pulling the strings. This is a film that moves beyond its medium and pulls you in. I'd almost say it breaks the fourth wall without even trying to.
It goes without saying that the special effects are one of the highlights of Inception. This will probably be The Matrix of our time, but in a much subtler way. As Dom says, "It's only when you wake up that you realize there was something strange." This strangeness is embraced and pulled throughout the film. However, the mazes, infinite staircases, and alternate realities these special effects create are not limited to just providing an aesthetic wonder, but they serve to symbolically reinforce many of the main issues of the film. The paradox of an infinite staircase will be itching your brain for a few hours after you finish watching.
The performances are pitch perfect. I initially thought that the characters were a bit one- dimensional and not incredibly developed. Don't be alarmed though. Nolan hasn't lost the touch that created his Batman and his Joker. I believe there are deliberate reasons for this lack of background, which will surely feed into the theorists that will begin sprouting all over the internet after this weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard provide the emotional and narrative center of the film. Being the Oscar winning and nominated actors they are, these roles are played beautifully. It's as if they don't even realize they're the ones we're all focused on.
I would've given this a 10/10 if it weren't for the excessive use of Hans Zimmer's music. I'm a major fan of Zimmer's work, but I believe music in a film is instrumental when trying to give your audience some sort of cathartic release. At the moment I needed that from the score, it had already been playing non-stop for an hour, so it really made no difference in my emotional response. That's my only complaint, but I'm a film score nerd so don't worry about it.
I'll end this now before I start confusing myself even more. It's a privilege, though, to see an auteur like Christopher Nolan working today, using the summer blockbuster as his medium. You'll leave the theater feeling as if you just "witnessed" something.