By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Intense, complex, brilliant sci-fi thriller; violent scenes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Amid the intense scenes and images, the movie offers positive examples of teamwork and helping others. A subplot involving death and grieving promotes acceptance and moving on. A more ambiguous message is sent by the main story, in which the characters try to plant an idea in someone's head against his will -- but manage to bring him a kind of peace in the process.
Positive Role Models
The main character acts for personal reasons -- to earn the ability to return home to his kids -- and has a job that's slightly on the shady side. But when he's at work, his team shows excellent teamwork, as well as selflessness when it comes to their teammates' well being.
Positive casting of trans actor Elliot Page in key role of Ariadne. Otherwise, only two characters of color in minor, non-stereotypical speaking roles. One is a wealthy Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) and the other is a South Asian British pharmacologist (Dileep Rao). While part of the film takes place in Mombasa, Kenya, local residents are depicted as faceless or as an angry mob.
Inclusion information: Non-Binary actors, Queer actors
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Violence & Scariness
Though most violence takes place in dreams and is therefore not "real," it includes guns and shooting, gunshot wounds with blood, fistfights, rioting, explosions, car chases, car crashes. Characters scream in pain when shot or stabbed. In the movie, being "killed" or committing suicide can "wake" you out of the dream. One character is shot in the head, another is stabbed, another plunges off a building to her death. Frequent suspense/tense scenes. Repeated scenes of a father reaching out for his children who are being separated from him.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The main character pines for his dead wife, whom he still sees in his dreams. They share some intimate emotional moments, but there's no kissing, nudity, or sex. Two other characters share a brief kiss.
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A few uses of "goddamn it" and "Jesus Christ," as well as "hell," "ass," "a--hole," "bloody," "bastard," "screw," and "damn." Partial use of "f--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters drink wine, beer, and champagne, but not to excess.
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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. The movie takes place in several different locations around the world but is noticeably short on diversity on-screen. Crowds in one scene in Kenya are simply used as the backdrop to action sequences. It's not an easy story to explain, but it's fairly easy to follow, and it includes positive examples of teamwork and sacrifice. Parents and teens may find themselves talking at length about the story and the notion of a dream within a dream.
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Based on 96 parent reviews
An exciting, wild, and mind bending ride!
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Gotta lean in and pay close attention
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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?
We learn that Leonardo DiCaprio's character does what he does for a living because of several kinds of loss. Talk about loss and the importance of grief and how to grieve.
How did the characters exhibit teamwork to accomplish their mission? Why is teamwork an important character strength?
- 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
- Inclusion Information: Non-Binary actors, Queer actors
- 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 4, 2023
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