In fiction there is the concept of a learning curve. The learning curve is how much new information the reader or viewer has to process in order to be immersed in the world of the narrative. For example, a story set in the real world has a low learning curve, while Epic Fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. On the learning curve scale Inception is on the higher end. There is a lot for the viewer to process, so much in fact that it could have easily made for a terrible movie that spends its entire first act just explaining the world and the “magic system.”
Which is exactly what Inception does. The first act is specifically used to explain the world and the rules by which the dream technology works. In fact, the dream technology itself is never explained, we only get the information that we need, everything else is unimportant, and hence it is never explained. Not only that, but the movie furthers the plot at the same time that it introduces all the information that we need to understand the movie. As with good screen plays, dialogue is not wasted and accomplishes multiple purposes. We get not only motivation, but backstory, and world building.
The plot is complicated, without being too complicated. Dominic Cobb, an Extractor, someone who can go into dreams and pull out information, is caught during a job. The man he and his associates had been doing the job on finds them and offers them a job, to perform Inception on a certain individual. In other words, they would have to plant a specific idea into the target. Cobb agrees to it, as he is promised a way to return to his family who he hasn’t seen since he’s on the run from the law.
What I liked about this movie was that they take the time to give character development where necessary, while at the same time focusing on some impressive effects and choreography. Compelling characters, a focused narrative, and ambiguous motivations make Inception a movie that I’ll watch over and over, and still get something new from it.