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A 2010 movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

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A thrilling exploration of dream logic - with incredibly rich imagery that may overwhelm its other provocations

  • Jul 16, 2010
Leonardo di Caprio (in a role and a film that bears more than a superficial resemblance to his most recent other role in Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island) plays a dream thief, hired by powerful bigwigs as a kind of corporate spy to ferret out trade secrets, not by sneaking into offices and tapping phones; rather, his job is to infiltrate the mind while the victim sleeps, and find a way to tap into his or her subconscious. He used to be the best, but now it turns out his deep-seated guilt at a past misdeed is coming back to haunt him in his dreams even as the real life consequences of his past are catching up with him while awake. It's a fascinating thrill ride - that is entertaining as it entertains some of the basic questions of philosophy, such as what is real, how we can know, and whether our thinking belongs to us. It's also the latest in a long line of films that explores the implications of the fact that half our lives are spent sleeping and at least some of that time is spent wandering worlds we may not remember when we wake up.

Cinema has always been fascinated by dreams, since the immersion within a film resembles nothing so much as a dream. The lights go out and you lean back, forgetting about your worries of the day, and find yourself thrust into the midst of a situation, that somehow, almost directly, makes sense. You find yourself meeting strangers, and yet they are almost familiar, and in moments you feel as though you know them even while you know that you have not met. Even more, like dreams the cinema somehow caters to desires and fascinations we may not have known we possessed, obsessions we are possessed by unawares.

Early filmmakers attempted to exploit this similarity between dreams and cinema, and the ease with which the audience accepts what should seem strange, once the basic logic of a situation is clear. Experimental cinema, notably works by surrealist master Luis Bunuel and poetic filmmaker Maya Deren, explored dreams directly in their films, and even while they broke the usual rules of conventional narrative cinema, and associated images, not in accordance with the principle of continuity but in accordance with a dream (and nightmare) logic, their work somehow made emotional sense, hung together in ways that defied easy explanations. The familiar difficulties in discerning the difference between dreams and waking life, at least when one is in the midst of a dream, caused Descartes to raise questions how we can be certain of anything; long after Descartes, the association of dreaming with doubt has been explored in a number of films, especially science fiction classics such as Total Recall. The tendency within such films to use dreams as a too easy resolution of plot problems by suggesting that everything we've seen may really have been a dream (usually signaled by a character waking up), has made this a cliche, that, thankfully, Nolan avoids, in part by exploring the cliche directly, and in some intriguing detail. As his film makes clear in the opening scenes, if dreams have the impact of leading us to question our waking life, then waking up at the apparent end of a dream proves nothing.

There's lots to think about here, and I imagine the Freudian philosopher Slavoj Zizek will have a field day with this one, since of course a film about dreams can't help but engage with Freud, and there are lots of Freudian elements in the film (the daddy issues, the obsession with and repression of female sexuality, the way that the repressed feminine character wields a phallic knife...). What intrigued me most about this film, though, and makes me want to watch it again (and this is one of those rare blockbuster films that probably requires a second or third watching, but at the same time manages to make sense for the most part and be exciting to watch the first time around), is its exploration of the idea of "inception" - of what it means to put thoughts into another's head. I'm especially intrigued by one of the examples in the film of a successful act of inception, and wonder whether it is really best described as a case of putting an idea into someone's head. When the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates led people to question their ideas, when he inspired them to doubt, it's an interesting question whether he'd managed what in this film is called "inception." Socrates himself claimed never to teach anyone anything, that he never put any new thoughts in their head, but claimed only to be a midwife for the ideas they already possessed. It's worth asking whether Cobb is like Socrates in this respect. In any case, even if this film didn't put any new ideas in my head, and I'm not sure it has anything really new to say, it still raised some intriguing questions, and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Definitely fun stuff.

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August 03, 2010
Fantastic review! Definitely a thought provoking and interesting film. I'd like to see it again, because i feel like there was so much to it and even more that I would catch the second time around. Thanks for sharing! I'm tweeting this so others can read it too:)
August 03, 2010
Thanks, Bethany!
July 27, 2010
saw it twice now, enjoyed it as much as the first time I saw it; I liked this movie more than you did but I can see where you are coming from. This was indeed a wild ride and Nolan deserves major kudos for this. Excellent review!
July 27, 2010
Thanks, Woopak!
More Inception reviews
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Christopher Nolan Creates a Dream Worth Watching...
   After the highly-successful “The Dark Knight” which defined the way comic book movies should be made, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to expect nothing but the best from Christopher Nolan. “INCEPTION” has generated a strong buzz ever since the trailer debuted in previews and the worldwide web; after all, this film is written and directed by Nolan himself and with his “Batman” team assisting in the film’s production, it seems like the …
review by . August 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Let me start by saying i don't watch many movies, I'm not a big sci fi buff, and as I'm getting older, maybe I'm just getting a little crotchety.  I'm very aware that by coming out and being the ONLY one Lunch who is giving Inception a negative rating, I'm opening myself up to a lot of questioning and judgment... but that's okay because I know the community will respect my differing opinion and not ridicule me for expressing it.  So here goes:      …
review by . January 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There's nothing quite like it! A Paradox!
I like to watch a movie that keeps me guessing what is happening, why it is progressing the way it is, where it is going & what is going to happen next. Inception is one such movie. It keeps the audience in suspense and guessing, anxious to KNOW what is ahead.       Dreaming is something that I had always been enchanted with all my life. It is through dreams that I see God the first time in my life! Yes, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of my dreams and the …
review by . December 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stephanie's Favourite Movies: Inception      What's wrong with this movie? Nothing, that's what. This is a perfect movie, there's nothing wrong with it. I appreciated that it wasn't pandering to the lowest common denominator like most summer blockbusters do. It actually took a few brain cells to keep up with it. Of course, you don't have to be a genius to watch it and enjoy it, but you have to be kind of smart to understand it. It's that rare summer …
review by . January 22, 2011
Inception is a rare breed of movie. Firstly, it came out in July and thus can classify as a summer blockbuster, and secondly, it does not insult the intelligence of the audience and actually takes a few brain cells to keep up with it. It's incredibly well-acted, it has an original story in a time when they are becoming harder and harder to come by, and it's a movie that will definitely be apperciated come awards time. It will probably win more awards for its technical accomplishments, and …
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
After the wild success of  The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan reached the ranks of movie making freedom that so few directors reach.  So what did Christopher Nolan do with his golden key?  Made a movie he'd been wanting to make for ten years.  Inception.  A movie where your mind is the scene of the crime.  It's big, it's complex, it's beautiful... and it's absolutely amazing.  For those who are sick of adaptations, sequels and remakes, Inception …
review by . July 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dreaming Without Meaning
INCEPTION Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine      Eames: If we’re going to perform inception, then we’re going to need imagination.    I knew there was a good reason I fought so hard every night to hold on to my conscious mind and not let my unconscious mind take over.  I’ve got to make sure no pesky extractors get in there to steal my highly …
review by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Listen to the some of the awesome Hans Zimmer soundtrack while reading:            A film like Inception only comes along once a decade, and it's no surprise it took Writer/Director Christopher Nolan over ten years to polish the screenplay into its final form. The loud and frenetic visuals in the trailer all fall into place when you see the film, which represents a masterful blend of genres and ideas, some of which have been attempted before but never …
review by . July 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
For months, just like everyone else on Earth, I've been hearing and seeing the buzz surrounding Christopher Nolan's newest film, Inception. However, due to time constraints caused by college and other personal matters, seeing the movie wasn't high on my list of priorities. Since I just got a mini vacation from college this week, I found some time to finally watch it, and I must tell you, the movie left me scratching my head. Now don't let that past sentence fool you. I wasn't …
review by . January 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
      INCEPTION      There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie when it was released and all I would hear from people was "you have see this flick". I skipped going to see it in theaters because most of the time I am let down when something is overly hyped. So like I do with a lot I waited until the DVD release to finally catch this film. I must say that I am glad I waited and let the hype factor die down because I did enjoy this movie. I also …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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About this movie


Inception is a 2010 American science fiction film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief  who extracts information from the subconscious mind of his victims while they dream. Unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life in exchange for one last job: performing inception, the planting of an idea into the mind of his client's competitor.
Development began roughly nine years before Inception was released. In 2001, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers, presenting the idea to Warner Bros. The story was originally written as a heist film, inspired by concepts of lucid dreaming and dream incubation. Feeling he needed to have more experience with large-scale films, Nolan opted to work on Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. He spent six months polishing up the script for Inception before Warner Bros. purchased it in February 2009. Filming spanned six countries and four continents, beginning in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 and finishing in Canada in late November of the same year. Composer Hans Zimmer scored the film, using parts of Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien".
Inception was officially budgeted at $160 million, a cost that was split between Warner Bros. and Legendary ...
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 16, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 148 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Syncopy Films, Legendary Pictures
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