Sometimes a movie gets so over-hyped and is so hotly anticipated that you’re guaranteed to be let down when you finally see it.

Inception is not one of those movies.

It’s just as mind-blowing and brilliant as the critics make it out to be. Maybe a little bit more.

Not only does writer/director Christopher Nolan know how to market a movie (remember this horribly-vague teaser that got all the buzz started, uh, 10 months ago?), he has the absolute skill and inventiveness to back it up.

With Inception, Nolan has crafted a movie so totally engrossing (and, sure, a wee bit puzzling, too) that you’ll be making plans to see it a second time even before the credits roll.

Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the leader of a team that’s hired by companies to go into people’s subconscious (while they’re sleeping) to extract dark secrets. But to say that Inception is about corporate espionage is a little like saying Casablanca is about a couple of plane tickets. Inception is also about dreams, mazes, loss, family, truth, lies, memories, and several other things I’m not sure I even understand yet.

Saiko (Ken Watanabe) is a Japanese businessman who was the target of what turned out to be a failed ‘extraction’ by the team. He was so impressed with the concept, though, that he emotionally blackmails Cobb into “one last job”, an ‘inception’– instead of stealing corporate secrets, he wants the team to plant a damaging idea in a corporate rival’s head… because ideas, as Cobb says, “are the most resilient parasite.”

But it’s not as simple as just going into people’s heads and whispering to their subconscious. The team must orchestrate an elaborate dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream scenario that’s full of so many twists and turns that your head may just literally spin.

Parts of Inception feel like The Matrix, parts of it feel like a really good James Bond movie, but all of it is totally original and unlike anything to hit movie theaters… ever. There are several moments that will have you staring at the screen in amazement, wondering how on earth Nolan came up with it. And there are other moments that will have you staring at the screen in amazement, wondering how on earth Nolan filmed it.

The entire cast is first-rate and makes a strong case for the Academy’s creation of a “Best Ensemble” Oscar. DiCaprio is stellar as Cobb, the team’s (and the movie’s) tentpole, a man who’s desperate to return home but who must first defeat his own dream-land demons (which include Mal, brilliantly played by the haunting Marion Cotillard). Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer), Ellen Page (Juno), and Tom Hardy (RocknRolla) are all perfectly smooth as Cobb’s team members, and excellent cameos abound– from Michael Caine to Tom Berenger to Pete Postlethwaite.

Half-way through 2010 we have our first real contender for Best Picture; Inception is truly amazing and makes DiCaprio’s earlier effort, this spring’s Shutter Island, pale in comparison.

From the opening scene to the stunning last frames, Inception will keep you guessing and make you think, but, perhaps most importantly, it will help you remember that there are still people out there who know how to make really good (I mean reeeally good) movies.

5/5 stars