Following the completion of 2002’s Insomnia, the British-American filmmaker presented to Warner Bros a written treatment for a movie envisioning ‘dream stealers’. The project was based on the idea of lucid dreaming – being aware that you are in a dream and therefore being able to control it. However, Nolan’s idea was that if others could infiltrate your mind, they could have control and influence in your dreams as well.
Deciding he needed more experience before braving a project of this complexity and magnitude, Nolan placed it temporarily on the shelf and instead worked on 2005’s Batman Begins, 2006’s The Prestige, and The Dark Knight in 2008.
The treatment was revised over six months and was purchased by Warner in 2009. The resulting film was to become one of the most critically acclaimed of Nolan’s career, and has been widely hailed as one of the greatest movies of the modern age.
Inception was filmed in six countries including Japan and Canada, with an official budget of $160 million. Anticipation for the artisan director’s next work was high, and Nolan’s reputation and success with The Dark Knight helped secure the film’s reportedly colossal advertising budget.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dominic Cobb, a professional thief who steals information by using ‘dream sharing’ technology to infiltrate the subconscious of his targets.
Upon completion of their latest mission, Cobb and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are informed by their target, Saito (Ken Watanabe), that their mission was arranged to test Cobb for a seemingly impossible job – the successful implantation an idea into a person’s subconscious, or ‘inception’.
Saito wants Cobb to convince Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) – the son of Saito’s ailing competitor – to dissolve his father’s company by planting the idea in his mind that he should do so. In return, Saito promises to clear Cobb’s criminal status, which prevents him from returning home to his children.
Cobb accepts the offer and puts together the ‘dream team’ that will assist both he and Arthur with the mission: Eames (Tom Hardy), an identity forger; Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist with a powerful sedative needed to allow the team to infiltrate Fischer’s mind; and Ariadne (Elliot Page), an architecture student tasked with designing the mental dream labyrinth that will serve as the stage for the idea to be planted.
As the team move forward with the dangerous plan they prepare to go deeper than anyone has ever gone into the dream world, discovering that it may not just be Robert’s subconscious that seeks to disrupt their mission, and that there is far more at stake than Cobb’s freedom...
With a stellar cast – many of whom who have become regulars in his work – Christopher Nolan pulled off a mission more incredible even than that at his film’s core.
For its visual effects work alone, Inception deserves attention and appreciation, yet – as always with Nolan – it is its director’s use of every resource at his disposal to draw in, mystify and challenge his audience that leads this film to be nothing less than a masterpiece.
Inception is a sublimely sculpted blend of tension, tone, character development, intrigue and plot, and one that has earned its place as one of the 21st century’s most respected pieces of cinema.
It is one of the closest things to a ‘perfect movie’ in existence. Indeed, it would be hard to conceive of better, even in a dream...