This ambitious project was a big old hit—it’s also now a decade old! Where the hell did that go? Perhaps it was all… a dream.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, he was able to make the film following the vast success of The Dark Knight (2008).
Which followed other films such as Memento (2000) that cemented his reputation as a modern master of movies.
Inception was his most intellectually ambitious film up to that point. And probably still is, although Interstellar had a good old stab at outdoing it.
And what’s it all about? Well, it’s like Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams coming to life. Sort of. Ish. Just with more Leo DiCaprio.
Anyway, as we mentioned the other day this film popularised the Leo strut. Not that he does much of it during his performance.
His anti-hero of sorts, Dom Cobb, is a professional thief in corporate espionage—he and his colleague Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) infiltrate other people’s dreams.
He’s quite a haunted individual—rather intense. As the film plays out, it becomes apparent he and his deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) shared a fraught history.
However, he’s still very competent. Cobb is able to infiltrate folk’s subconscious and extract important information with massive skill, like.
So when hired by wealthy businessman Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) for an “impossible” job, he goes for it anyway.
To infiltrate the subconscious of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to implant an idea into his head—to dissolve his ailing father’s company. That’s inception for you.
Right, to do that job Mr. Cobb hires a bunch of people as additional support. Including architect student Ariadne (Ellen Page) and identity theft expert Eames (Tom Hardy).
Okay, so Adriadne can use her skills to design fancy dream labyrinths.
Into which Cobb and co. can plunge to try and convince Fischer he should call it quits in the world of business.
They take with them a unique totem, which they can check on return to reality. Because, otherwise… they could still… BE IN A DREAM! Yes, so Philip K. Dick type concepts going on there (see Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).
They also enlist chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) to create a “dream within a dream” (false awakening) setting.
Thanks to that final device, some of Cobb’s team can stay at a certain level in a dream. Whilst the others go further into sleepy boboland.
Those on certain levels then create a “kick” to wake everyone up.
Yes. It’s certainly one of the most ambitious big blockbusters we can remember over the last decade. Channeling Nolan’s interest in the nature of time and reality.
The great news is audiences went all out for it, highlighting that blockbusters don’t have to be big and dumb for people to flock to the cinema.
Its mastery as a film is you don’t really need to understand what’s going on to get it, you’re swept along by the whole spectacle.
And this is, for our money, one of the last films we saw when the CGI effects made us gawp in awe.
Although the practical effects work rather well, too, with the below demonstration of the results of one dream affecting another level.
However, Inception also demands you watch it multiple times to understand its complexities.
If you’re in it for the casual haul first time around, you’ll not have much an idea what’s going on. You need to pay attention if you want to understand the concepts.
Sure, you’ll still enjoy Inception as a casual view. But to get the most out of the experience, be very much indeed wide awake.
Fans have had fun picking the film apart over the last 10 years, looking for hidden meanings. There’s a lot to consider.
It also has a famously openended… erm, ending. With Cobb’s totem spinning away there. If it drops, it proves he’s back in reality (rather than a dream).
And… and!? Well, it appears to indicate it’s about to stop spinning. But then the camera cuts away, suggesting Cobb doesn’t care about it anymore. He’s with his kids.
Or maybe he went back 10 seconds later to double-check. Who knows?
Anyway, revisiting Inception recently we found it all highly enjoyable. A modern classic, you could say. Others would argue it’s a masterpiece.
Although Memento is still possibly our favourite Nolan film. Certainly it and Inception are right up there.
Not exactly in an intellectual mood to pick it apart, we just found it dramatic entertainment. A wild high concept idea picking open the developments of psychoanalysis over the last 100 years.
Plus, you know, there’s a James Bond type bit if you don’t care about what dreams mean. Boom! Ratta tatta tatt!
The cast is stellar, the special effects brilliant, and there’s one of Hans Zimmer’s most thunderous soundtracks to date.
Production & Legacy
Director Christopher Nolan worked with his wife Emma to develop the story idea.
Again, after The Dark Knight wowed everyone he got to go for more dramatic fair—he worked on the script for a decade.
Off its dreamlike $160 million budget, the launch of Inception in cinemas around the world went like a dream. It was a smash hit, raking in over $829 million.
The locations for the shoots are interesting, too, due to the nature of the dreamy, sleepy, sleepy stuff going on.
Nolan said he realised in the early 2000s he needed more experience filming blockbusters before taking on Inception.
He also needed one big bastard of a budget, so the sense of scale the film required was met.
Early scenes were filmed in Tokyo, but then the shoot moved to glamorous old Bedfordshire in the north of London.
That’s where the rotating set for one of the film’s most famous scenes was built.
And into went actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, where he spent many weeks getting whizzed around during takes.
Then they went off to Paris, Morocco, Los Angeles, California, and then Alberta of that there Canada.
As for the dreaming bit, well Nolan’s goal with the project was to consider what a shared dream space would be like. You’d have access to someone’s subconscious mind!
Could you plant ideas into someone’s head? Psychologist and professor Deirdre Barrett had this to say back in 2010—Inception’s dream science:
"Occasionally people have been successful at whispering to sleepers and having a bit of the content incorporated into dreams. Most attempts at this either wake the dreamer up or don't make it into the dream. But Inception posits a device—the implication seems to be drugs plus some electromagnetic stimulation—not possible now. But as to such a future device? In terms of knowing what someone is dreaming, even in the human brain, we can see with brain imaging whether areas associated with doing math, talking, moving vigorously, are likely to be happy or anxious. With rats, into whose brain experimenters sink needle electrodes, we can already see in REM sleep after maze learning, patterns of right-left turns which match the maze they just learned as if they are rehearsing it in their dreams. Technology will probably advance so that we can see much more detail of human dreams with non-invasive surface electrodes. We can already alter brain activity by pulsing magnetic input to targeted areas. So far this has been used only awake and only on areas for mood to alleviate depression and areas of motor activityto halt motor seizures. It seems plausible we might be able to make someone’s dream happier even with current technology, But it seems unlikely we’ll e!er match the level of specificity in Inception."
So, you’re told! You can’t alter someone’s brain to shut down McDonald’s. Night night.