Surely, you've seen the film we're calling "the best of 2010 so far." If not, I'll echo Koon: Clear your schedule and go see it.
It's certainly not perfect. Like so many action directors today, Nolan tries to bring the action to you viscerally, not visually, flipping, twisting and banging around the camera like a rollercoaster. As a consequence most action scenes left me dizzy and confused. Which is how you'll probably feel trying to make sense of the plot.
But the more you think about it, the more you read about it, "Inception" becomes sort of like the film version of a higher math proof: something grossly complex on the surface that's thrillingly elegant once you grasp it. But to muddy the metaphor: I'm not sure there is one answer.
Below, a breakdown of the possibilities, with spoilers obviously.
1. The top stops spinning. Cobb's not dreaming. But that's not even that important. The important thing is that he takes a leap of faith motivated love at the end as opposed to one motivated by guilt with Mal. That's what Dileep Rao, who plays Yusuf the chemist in film, suggests in an interview with Vulture. This is the least appealing theory to my mind, but it's an essential interview if you don't have a firm hold on all the mechanics of extraction and inception. Trust me, you don't.
2. The top keeps spinning. The entire film is really about an inception implanted in Cobb to free him from regret. This also comes courtesy of Vulture, though I'm sure you'll find it elsewhere. Hated by those who think "it was all a dream" is a cop-out on the highest order. Rao also strongly argues against this theory in his interview.
3. Who cares about the top, the movie is an allegory for the process of making movies, specifically the way Christopher Nolan makes movies. This one sounds stupid in short hand, but it's my favorite by a long shot. Devin Faraci at CHUD apparently got the ball rolling, but The Awl's Maria Bustillos really brings it all home.
Theories one and two leave me thinking, "it's cool someone can create something that can sustain this level of scrutiny and still be entertaining." But theory three, which doesn't so much cancel out either of the other ideas as much as it adds a layer, makes me think Christopher Nolan is a genius and "Inception" is the greatest sleight of hand filmmaking's ever seen.
What say you?