Inception is the sort of movie I tend to see in the theater, so I couldn’t figure out why I missed it. Then I realized it came out a month after the birth of my daughter. I guess I was busy.

What makes Inception — written and directed by Christopher Nolan –  so successful is the panache with which it brazens right past its ludicrous premise: that teams of thieves can design our dreams, and then enter our minds to steal our secrets. To its credit, the movie doesn’t bother trying to explain the pseudoscience and instead carefully explains the various rules that govern the world of dreams. The explanation is lengthy and complex, and I was sure I would forget it or get confused, but – again, to the film’s credit – the action plays out in a way where it (or most of it) make sense.

Like The Matrix, Inception teases us by questioning which world is real, and which is the dream. And like The Matrix, the dream worlds of Inception are populated by beautiful, well-dressed people who can do amazing things, thanks to some clever visual effects. Inception’s dream team journeys through layers of imaginary worlds that evoke feudal Japan, a James Bond snow fantasy and M.C. Escher-like cityscapes The thief-in-chief, Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a maestro of plundering dreams but has a messy personal history. His dreams – and all the dreams he visits- are haunted by memories of his late wife, who shows up to sabotage his capers. Her story, and Cobb’s remorse, gives the movie gravity and poignancy. By the end of Inception, Nolan has skillfully convinced us to accept the strange rules that govern dreams, so that the stakes feel real and the suspense genuine.