Ellen Page's character, Ariadne, voices this question during Inception--which is hands down the most original big-budget film of the year. Ariadne functions not only as an "architect" in the movie--but also the audience surrogate since she's the rookie on the team. Her question serves as one of the film's only laugh lines in a story that toys with time, reality, and dreams.
It’s a cliché in Hollywood to say “Every dollar’s on the screen.” In the case of Inception, though, you sense that every ounce of writer/director par excellence Christopher Nolan’s brain is on view. Because Inception is simply the densest, most daunting film of the year in the way that it demands mental gymnastics of its audience. Put another way, I cannot think of another movie in recent memory as logically intricate and yet as emotionally rich. In fact, Inception isn’t a movie—it’s a film.
With a running time that lasts 148 minutes, Nolan manages to make the time fly mainly due to, again, the density of the story. At its core, Inception is a reverse heist film. Instead of stealing money, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team work to insert an idea in their target's subconscious. Add to that extensive set pieces, car chases, gunfire, a love story regarding a deceased spouse, and a plummeting van cleverly used as an ersatz timepiece, and well, things get crowded.
But the fact that Nolan manages all this with great multitasking skill is a great testament to his filmmaking.
And rarely has a dead character been portrayed with such haunting allure as Mol Cobb (Marion Cotillard), Dom's late wife. Her brooding beauty casts a dark and painful shadow over her husband’s heart. Yet Dom knows that losing her in his dreams is a price he’s unwilling to pay, despite its very real dangers. She's both Dom's foil, imperiling him at every subconscious opportunity, and his drug of choice. Because she knows his dilemma: If he lets her go, he loses her yet again (a second death); if he leaves the door to his mind open, she'll repeatedly tempt him toward a horrible fate.
By film's end, you're left with two ideas: One, that you've just witnessed a masterpiece. Two, that you'll have to rent it to make sure you didn't miss something.