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Inception (2010)

The mind is a funny place. Ideas are born, flourish, and fade there, often without one being consciously aware of them. More so are ideas in the subconscious, the dream level, where the mind can run wild, unfettered by annoying little things like physics and gravity. You’d think an idea would be safe within one’s own mental confines, that one is in absolute control of it there – and most of all, that the idea is completely your own.

What if you were wrong?

Inception is a science fiction thriller film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan, based on an idea that he’d been simmering since before he started on the Dark Knight trilogy. It stars Leonardo “Titanic” DiCaprio, Ken “Batman Begins” Watanabe, Joseph “(500) Days of Summer” Gordon-Leavitt, Tom “Star Trek Nemesis” Hardy, Cillian “What Do You Mean That’s a Guy” Murphy, Pete “The Usual Suspects” Postlethwaite, Ellen “Juno” Page, Marion “Big Fish” Cotillard, and Michael “The Dark Knight” Caine.

Meet Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), master of a very specialized form of espionage: by entering a person’s dreams, he can steal ideas, which he then turns over to whomever hired him. He and his team each carry a totem unique to that person, allowing them to distinguish between the dreamstates and reality as the levels of consciousness become blurred. Making matters difficult of late is the fact that Cobb is being haunted by dream-visions of his dead wife Mal (Cotillard), who committed suicide and left him charged with her murder and separated from their two children. However, his next mission (the completion of which he hopes will allow him to get his life back) is to do the reverse of his usual mission: to implant an idea in a subject’s head, something which most think is impossible and Cobb says is dangerous (we don’t find out why until much later). Mr. Saito (Watanabe) wants Cobb to break up the energy empire of his corporate rival, the ailing Maurice Fischer (Postlethwaite) by planting a single idea into the mind of his son and heir Robert Fischer (Murphy). In exchange, Saito will make sure that the murder charges on Cobb’s record are cleared, allowing him to reunite with his children. Cobb assembles his team, recruiting a young architect named Ariadne (Page) to design the dreamworld labyrinths to confound the natural mental defenses of their impending subject. During her mindbending tutorial trips into Cobb’s dreamworld (during which downtown Paris gets folded in half like a soft taco), Ariadne learns how to shape the dream world, and stumbles across Cobb’s guilt over his wife’s suicide and his separation from his children.

When Fischer Sr. dies, the inception is set into motion, with Cobb’s team intercepting and sedating Fischer Jr. on the flight to accompany his father’s body to Los Angeles. The team takes him into a multilevel shared dream, with each stage designed by a different team member and taking Fischer further into his own subconscious in order to plant the seed of the idea in such a way that Fisher won’t fight it, while trying to stay one step ahead of Fischer’s mental defenses (designed to hunt down the extractors) and evade Cobb’s projections of Mal (trying to sabotage him once again).

And lots of reality-bending freaky shit happens along the way.

As the logical offspring of a three-way between A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Matrix, and Mission Impossible, Inception wows the audience with surreal dream effects, a harrowing storyline, and multiple layers of reality that might have you taking notes to keep everything straight. This is truly a trip into the subconscious, Cobb’s as well as Fischer’s, providing the perfect reality-screwing venue to dive into the shadows of each one’s mind – and most if it was done in-camera with practical special effects. It is worth noting that Nolan deliberately sat on this movie until he’d gotten some big-budget experience and street cred with the Dark Knight Saga. Meaning all that comic-book awesome was just a warm-up.

The movie also handles its ensemble cast relatively well. While the only people it truly explores are Fischer and Cobb (and by extension Cobb’s wife Mal), the rest of the Inception team have a close rapport that suggests years working together, and Ariadne, the wide-eyed newcomer, helps to guide the audience through the red-pill antics of sharing and shaping dreams.

Overall, if you’re looking for a mindbending thriller that really makes you think about what you’re seeing and explores the meaning of reality, pick up Inception. Nolan has truly earned his directing chops here.

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