Of course when a movie as popular and smart as Christopher Nolan's Inception gets released you're bound to find others that will try to copy the smartly layered formula that it created in 2010. In fact -along with Limitless- Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau are just the beginning of what will probably be a deluge of post-Inception films released in Hollywood. Smart is cool again. That doesn't mean of course that these supposedly smart films are actually, you know, smart. The thing that made Inception so brilliant is the fact that it got better with repeat viewings because of its numerous layers; the more I saw it, the more I liked it. The three 2011 releases mentioned above are somewhat brainy but not landmarks by any stretch of the imagination.
In The Adjustment Bureau (★★) Matt Damon stars in a film that is much less complex than it thinks it is, you get the whole picture in one viewing and you're not really tempted to watch it again once the lights dim. Based on a Philip K Dick short story, it's a movie that is manufactured by a Hollywood system through and through. If In Inception Nolan trusted his audience to follow a complicated plot structure, in Adjustment Bureau the filmmakers seem to have simplified everything in order for people to better understand. Nolan gave no mercy to his audience, he didn't care if his movie was too complicated for them. The Adjustment Bureau's filmmakers look down on their audience and prefer to Hollywood-ize and conventionalize everything.
In Duncan Jones' followup to Moon -a great movie- Jake Gyllenhall is a dead American Soldier who's brain is used to go back to the past and find clues as to where a terrorist might be. It doesn't help he has to repeat the same 8 minutes throughout the whole film in a train, which has the said terrorist as a passenger. Have you lost me yet? Don't worry. Jones infuses his movie with enough smarts and entertainment to justify its mediocre third act. Here's a film that not only trusts its audience but rewards it with some extra high octane action in the process. Gyllenhall's Captain Colter Stevens does not really know where he is yet he keeps getting transported back in time to the same event. Think Groundhog Day meets Minority Report and you might see what Jones is aiming for here. I doubt there's a smarter, more visually appealing big studio film out there. Source Code (★★★) is the kind of layered science fiction I like best; brainy and entertaining.