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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Inception is a complex, original science-fiction fantasy movie from the director of The Dark Knight. It has lots of action and violence -- including guns, blood, fighting, car crashes, etc. -- as well as some slightly scary imagery. But it's very light on language ("goddamn" and "a--hole" are as strong as it gets), sexy stuff, and drinking, so teen fans of star Leonardo DiCaprio should be able to handle it. It's not an easy story to explain, but it's very easy to follow, and it includes positive examples of teamwork. Parents and teens will likely want to talk at length about the story and may even find themselves wanting to go back for a second helping.
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What's the story?
In INCEPTION, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled "extractor," able to enter people's dreams to find information. A businessman (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb to plant an idea in the mind of a competitor, even though this may not be possible. Cobb assembles a team (which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elliot Page) and prepares for the complicated job, which will require creating three dreams-within-dreams. Unfortunately, the subject (Cillian Murphy) has been trained for such invasions, and the job will be far more dangerous than planned -- and then there's the fact that Cobb's dead wife (Marion Cotillard) keeps unexpectedly turning up inside the dreams and wreaking havoc of her own. But if the team fails, they could end up trapped in a subconscious limbo forever.
Is it any good?
Inception is an intense, complex story, but it's always coherent, imaginative, and entertaining. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan has proven himself a master of time juggling; he rarely presents a story in chronological order. He often flips time or stacks time on top of itself, balancing several simultaneous storylines precariously, but with remarkable clarity.
That said, although Inception is a terrific film, it lacks a strong emotional connection with most of the characters -- the movie's roller coaster ride feel means that there's little time to stop and get to know anyone. Likewise, unlike Nolan's The Dark Knight, it doesn't really represent any current fears or desires, save for a vague fear of technology. It's really just a very intelligent, slam-bang popcorn movie. And that's absolutely fine.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Inception's violence. How did it affect you? Was it thrilling? Did the fact that it takes place in a dream give it more or less impact?
Was the movie scary? If so, what made it scary?
Why is it important to dream? What do your dreams tell you? Is it right to plant an idea in a person's head, even if that idea makes the person happy?
- In theaters: July 16, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: December 7, 2010
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard
- Director: Christopher Nolan
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 148 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of violence and action throughout
- Last updated: April 6, 2021
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