5/10. Beautiful but completely empty, without significant emotional or intellectual substance and very little of the crucial ingredient for any thriller: suspense.
The conception was neat, and executed with much visual flair but the key elements of plot and characterisation that would have served to involve the viewer more deeply seemed to have got lost in the visual pyrotechnics and the addition of yet another dream layer to the already convoluted plot.
Most significantly from a plot/character perspective the key emotional story related to Cobb’s (Di Caprio’s) wife never convinced. In part this must be considered due to the story itself but Di Caprio’s acting didn’t help – deep anguish was conveyed by a constant pained expression indicative of a recent toe-stubbing incident. Di Caprio, one feels, is always hampered by the fact that he continues to look about seventeen – a blessing probably in any other context – but which means it is particularly hard to believe him in these sorts of roles (cf. the Aviator).
Similarly the the ‘extraction/inception’ team, though filled with talented actors, never really got the plot or character space to develop into something the viewer could care about – or, perhaps even more importantly, that the viewer could believe the team members caring about! Why is Ariadne (Ellen Page) willing to risk her life/sanity on this mission with Cobb whom she has barely met? Is Cobb’s need to rescue Saito (Watanabe) from limbo driven solely by self-interest or is there something more? What’s the background and ties between between Cobb and his right-hand man Arthur (Jason Gordon-Levitt)? etc
In summary: a film that is visually extraordinary but has got so carried away in its visuals that the basics of of plot, character and (even) suspense have been neglected – aspects that ultimately are far more important than the visuals to making a great movie.
Extraordinary continuity/plot mistake: Cobb and his wife lie down on the railway tracks for their mutual dream suicide in their thirties when, earlier, we have been told they grew old together in their dream world and we’ve been shown shots of golden oldies walking hand-in-hand. Have I missed something here?