I will say this now, without reservation and fully confident that many will agree; Inception is easily the best big budget film of the year thus far. I’ll go further and say that it’s one of the most beautiful, well written, and fully realized high dollar films of the last five years. Inception, is close to perfection.
Christopher Nolan is the reigning king of the non-linear plot, and master of deeply layered narratives that hook audiences and reel them in slowly. He salvaged the reputation of The Dark Knight on the big screen, and retooled the psychological thriller. Nolan’s body of work is compact, with seven films over twelve years — the most recent being Inception; and what an addition to the collection it is.
Inception is the story of Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a thief of the mind called an extractor who enters the dreams of high powered individuals and steals their secrets via an architect. The architect is responsible for building the world of the dreamer, convincing them their surroundings are real. Dom is assisted by his friend and colleague Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the voice of reason in Dom’s life. We’re brought into the main part of the story in the middle of an extraction, in the mind of sleeping energy company CEO Saito (Ken Watanabe). What seems to be a routine extraction turns into what the entire film ends up being; a question of what is what, when, and who is aware. Much of the groundwork is laid early on, though true to fashion, Nolan makes sure we’re not aware of it.
Dom and Arthur are at an architect-built compound, attempting to lead Saito’s subconscious through the process of tipping his hand and leading them to his greatest secrets. During this event we’re introduced to the mysterious Mal (Marion Cotillard) — whose appearance disturbs Arthur. Mal and Dom have a relationship, the details of which we’re not immediately aware. All we know, is Dom can’t trust her.
Very soon the dream is compromised, Saito aware that they are in his subconscious mind and Mal holding Arthur at gunpoint. Here we learn some rules — if you die in the dream, you simply wake up, but being injured does not have the same result, however. Dom kills (wakes) an injured Arthur, and we’re introduced to the other side of the dream. Cobb is asleep, as is Saito; both hooked intravenously to the machine that makes extractions possible. It is here, through a series of events I won’t ruin, that we learn about the concept of dreams within dreams.
Back in the real world, Saito has learned the identity of Cobb and his team, and intercepts them during their attempt to disperse to different corners of the earth. Instead of busting them, Saito has a proposition; put together a crack team of dream thieves, and accomplish something thought to be impossible — instead of stealing an idea, plant one. Saito wants his competitor, heir to a rival energy giant Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to dissolve his company and thus destroy what will soon be a monopoly. In return for succeeding, he need but make a call to erase what turned Cobb to crime in the first place — the blame for killing his wife, and his fleeing the States in response. Arthur balks, but Cobb insists it’s been done before — he takes the job. Cobb has the pull and reputation to assemble this team, but his personal demons, which happen to have the ability to physically manifest during his infiltration of a dreamer’s mind, will make the difference between success and failure with the most severe of consequences.