Inception (film)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Theatrical poster
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Produced by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Ken Watanabe
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Ellen Page
Tom Hardy
Cillian Murphy
Dileep Rao
Tom Berenger
Michael Caine
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Wally Pfister
Editing by Lee Smith
Studio Legendary Pictures
Syncopy Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s) London premiere:
July 13, 2010 (2010-07-13)
United States:
July 16, 2010 (2010-07-16)
Running time 148 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $160,000,000
Gross revenue $99,235,839

Inception is a 2010 American science fiction action film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, and Cillian Murphy. The film, essentially a caper movie, centers on Dom Cobb, a thief who enters the dreams of others to obtain information that is otherwise inaccessible. His abilities have cost him his family and his nationality, but a chance at redemption and regaining his old life is promised when Cobb and his team of specialists are hired to plant an idea in a target's subconscious. The film's title refers to the task of planting an idea rather than stealing one, a concept that Cobb is seemingly less acquainted with.

Development of Inception began roughly ten years before the film's actual release when Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers. After presenting the idea to Warner Bros. in 2001, he felt that he needed to have more experience with large scale films. Therefore, Nolan opted to work on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He spent six months polishing up the film's script before Warner Bros. purchased it in February 2009. Filming began in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 and finished in Canada in late November of the same year.

Inception was officially budgeted at $160 million, a cost which was split between Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Nolan's reputation and success with The Dark Knight helped secure the film $100 million in advertising expenditure. Inception premiered in London on July 13, 2010 and was released in both conventional and IMAX theatres on July 16, 2010. The film was met with positive reviews from film critics, and grossed over $21 million on its opening day, with an opening weekend gross of $62.7 million. Since its release, Inception has brought in $82.7 million domestically, and an estimated $99.2 million worldwide.


Dominic "Dom" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) washes up on a beach and is brought into the chamber of an elderly man. The scene then cuts to a dream in the mind of Saito (Ken Watanabe) where Cobb, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and dream world architect Nash (Lukas Haas) are on an extraction mission. Dreamers sleep in close proximity, connected by a device that administers a sedative and share a dream world built on their mental projections. Pain is felt but death results in consciousness. Cobb carries a spinning top to test whether he is dreaming or awake, which spins or topples respectively. Saito is aware of the deception and is in fact auditioning the team to work for him. The mission is aborted and everyone is awoken.

Saito asks Cobb to perform the act of inception – secretly implanting an idea in the mind of a person. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito's terminally ill corporate rival Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite). The objective is to make Fischer dismantle his father's empire to prevent it from becoming a global monopoly and running Saito out of business. Cobb recruits Eames (Tom Hardy), a forger who shifts identities inside dreams, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist who develops sedatives and student Ariadne (Ellen Page), whom he and Arthur train as their new architect. In Cobb's mind she discovers that a vision of his deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) continually haunts him. Cobb reveals to Ariadne that he and Mal spent what felt to them like decades in a limbo dream world forging their lives. After waking, Mal remained convinced that she was still in a dream and committed suicide, trying to force Cobb to join her, which consequently incriminated him in her death. Cobb refused to kill himself, fleeing the U.S. and his children to avoid murder charges. In return for the mission, Saito promises to clear the charges and reunite Cobb with his children. Because the plan involves passing through multiple dream layers with the help of stronger sedatives, death will not awaken the person but send them into limbo where they will be stuck unable to distinguish reality.

When the elder Fischer dies in Sydney, Saito and Cobb's team share the flight with Robert Fischer back to Los Angeles and drug him. They enter into his dream, a rainy inner city area, and kidnap him. However, they are assaulted by his projected mercenaries and Saito is badly injured. Eames takes the identity of Peter Browning (Tom Berenger), Fischer's godfather, to try to extract information from him. The team then enters a van and sleep into the next dream level, a hotel where the team tricks Fischer into believing that the kidnapping on the first level was orchestrated by Browning. Cobb convinces him to enter Browning’s subconscious in order to find out his motives but in fact the team enter deeper into Fischer's. The third level is a snowy mountain fortress Fischer must break into to ultimately locate the idea the team is planting, but is killed by Cobb's projection of Mal and goes into limbo. Cobb and Ariadne follow him to this fourth level in an attempt to salvage the mission and are confronted by Mal. It is revealed that Cobb had planted the idea to wake in Mal’s mind and is therefore indirectly responsible for her suicide. Mal attempts to convince Cobb to stay in limbo and attacks him, but Ariadne shoots her. Fischer and Ariadne are able to return to the mountain fortress, where he reaches the intended understanding that his father had wanted him to be his own man.

A team member is left behind on each level; Yusuf driving the van, Arthur in the hotel, and Eames and Saito in the fortress, to protect those in the next level and fight off Fischer's projected mercenaries from attacking the bodies. In order to awaken from one dream, Cobb's team must experience a "kick" - a sharp, sudden jolt or a sensation of falling - to snap them back into consciousness. Their plan must be timed precisely so that one kick follows the next, awakening them from three dreams in succession, and since time is slowed in reality compared to the dream, these kicks take longer to happen. Things take a wrong turn when Yusuf is forced to start his kick early when he is trapped on a bridge with a projection of Fischer's subconscious, meaning the others have less time to achieve their goals within each layer of Fischer's subconscious than originally planned. Yusuf drives the van carrying the team over the edge of the bridge; Arthur had planned to use explosives to cause a hotel floor to collapse, but - as the physical world can influence the dreamscape and the team in the van are in the process of falling, creating a zero-gravity state - he is forced to improvise, using the explosives to propel an elevator car up its shaft so that when it reaches the top it will cause a jolt resulting in a kick; and Eames plants explosives on the mountain fortress, causing it to collapse whilst the team is inside.
Cobb stays in limbo as Saito had succumbed to his injuries, so he must find him. The film returns to the first scene in which Cobb locates an aged Saito and tells him that they need to escape back to reality. Cobb suddenly awakens to find everyone on the plane, including Saito, up and well. Saito honors their arrangement and Cobb enters the United States, reunited with his children at home. Cobb spins the top to test reality, but is distracted by his children. The top begins to wobble, but the scene cuts to black which leaves the question of whether Cobb is still dreaming.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Dominic "Dom" Cobb, the Extractor – a man who specializes in subconscious security, but steals his clients' ideas.
Joseph Gordon as Levitt as Arthur, the Point Man – the person responsible for researching the team's targets.
Ellen Page as Ariadne, the Architect – a college graduate student who constructs the world of the dream. She is apparently named for the mythical Ariadne who helped Theseus escape from the Minotaur's labyrinth.
Tom Hardy as Eames, the Forger – a sharp-tongued team member who impersonates the target within the dream world and forge an identity in a physical form.
Marion Cotillard as Mallorie "Mal" Cobb – Cobb's deceased wife, who manifests in the dreamscape beyond Cobb's control.
Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer, the Mark – the heir to a business empire and Dom's latest client and target.
Ken Watanabe as Saito, the Tourist – a businessman who employs Cobb and assists their mission.
Tom Berenger as Peter Browning, Robert's godfather.
Dileep Rao as Yusuf, the Chemist – the team member who formulates the drugs needed to enter the dream world.
Pete Postlethwaite as Maurice Fischer, Robert's dying father.
Lukas Haas as Nash, Dom's previous Architect.
Michael Caine as Miles, Cobb's mentor, teacher, and father-in-law, and Ariadne's college professor. Miles is also the guardian of Cobb's children.


Inception was first developed by Christopher Nolan, based on the notion of "exploring the idea of people sharing a dream space — entering a dream space and sharing a dream. That gives you the ability to access somebody’s unconscious mind. What would that be used and abused for?" Furthermore, he thought "being able to extract information from somebody’s brain would be the obvious use of that because obviously any other system where it’s computers or physical media, whatever — things that exist outside the mind — they can all be stolen ... up until this point, or up until this movie I should say, the idea that you could actually steal something from somebody’s head was impossible. So that, to me, seemed a fascinating abuse or misuse of that kind of technology."

Nolan had thought about these ideas on and off since he was 16 years old, intrigued by how he would wake up and then, while falling back into a lighter sleep, hold on to the awareness that he was dreaming, a lucid dream. He also became aware of the feeling that he could study the place and alter the events of the dream.He said, "I tried to work that idea of manipulation and management of a conscious dream being a skill that these people have. Really the script is based on those common, very basic experiences and concepts, and where can those take you? And the only outlandish idea that the film presents, really, is the existence of a technology that allows you to enter and share the same dream as someone else." Harvard University dream researcher Deirdre Barrett points out that Nolan did not get every detail accurate regarding dreams, but that films which really do that "... tend to have illogical, rambling, disjointed plots which wouldn’t make for a great thriller. But he did get many aspects right," she said, citing the scene in which a sleeping DiCaprio is shoved into a full bath and water starts gushing into the windows of the building he is dreaming, waking him up. "That's very much how real stimuli get incorporated, and you very often wake up right after that intrusion."

Originally, Nolan had envisioned Inception as a horror film, but eventually wrote it as a heist film even though he found that "traditionally [they] are very deliberately superficial in emotional terms." Initially, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers. Upon revisiting his script, he decided that basing it in that genre did not work because the story "relies so heavily on the idea of the interior state, the idea of dream and memory. I realized I needed to raise the emotional stakes." Nolan worked on the script for nine to ten years. When he first started thinking about making the film, Nolan was influenced by "that era of movies where you had The Matrix, you had Dark City, you had The Thirteenth Floor and, to a certain extent, you had Memento, too. They were based in the principles that the world around you might not be real."

Nolan first pitched the film to Warner Bros. in 2001, but then felt that he needed more experience making large-scale films, and embarked on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He soon realized that a film like Inception needed a large budget because "as soon as you’re talking about dreams, the potential of the human mind is infinite. And so the scale of the film has to feel infinite. It has to feel like you could go absolutely anywhere by the end of the film. And it has to work on a massive scale." After making The Dark Knight, Nolan decided to make Inception and spent six months completing the script. Nolan states that the key to completing the script was wondering what would happen if several people shared the same dream. "Once you remove the privacy, you’ve created an infinite number of alternative universes in which people can meaningfully interact, with validity, with weight, with dramatic consequences."

Leonardo DiCaprio was the first actor to be cast in the film. Nolan had been trying to work with the actor for years and met him several times, but was unable to convince him to appear in any of his films until Inception. DiCaprio finally agreed because he was "intrigued by this concept — this dream-heist notion and how this character's gonna unlock his dreamworld and ultimately affect his real life." He read the script and found it to be "very well written, comprehensive but you really had to have Chris in person, to try to articulate some of the things that have been swirling around his head for the last eight years." DiCaprio and Nolan spent months talking about the screenplay. Nolan took a long time re-writing the script in order "to make sure that the emotional journey of his character was the driving force of the movie."

On February 11, 2009, it was announced that Warner Bros. purchased Inception, a spec script written by Nolan. Principal photography began in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 for the scene where Saito first hires Cobb during a helicopter flight over the city. The production moved to England and shot in Cardington, a converted airship hanger north of London. It was there that a long hotel corridor able to rotate a full 360 degrees to create the effect of alternate directions of gravity for scenes where dream-sector physics become chaotic was constructed by production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, and cinematographer Wally Pfister. The filmmakers originally planned to make the hallway 40 ft (12 m) long but as the action sequence became more elaborate, the hallway's length grew to 100 ft (30 m). The corridor was suspended along eight large concentric rings that were spaced equidistantly outside its walls and powered by two massive electric motors. One of the film's actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, spent several weeks learning to fight in a corridor that spun like "a giant hamster wheel". Nolan said of the device, "It was like some incredible torture device; we thrashed Joseph for weeks, but in the end we looked at the footage, and it looks unlike anything any of us has seen before. The rhythm of it is unique, and when you watch it, even if you know how it was done, it confuses your perceptions. It's unsettling in a wonderful way". Gordon-Levitt remembered, "it was six-day weeks of just, like, coming home at night fuckin' battered ... The light fixtures on the ceiling are coming around on the floor, and you have to choose the right time to cross through them, and if you don't, you're going to fall. On July 15, 2009, filming took place at University College London library. The signage of the library was altered to French to imitate a bibliothèque.

Filming moved to Paris, France where they shot the pivotal scene between Ariadne and Cobb at a bistro. For the explosion that takes place during this scene, the local authorities would not allow the actual use of explosives. The production used high-pressure nitrogen to create the effect of a series of explosions. Pfister used six high-speed cameras to capture the sequence from different angles and make sure that they got the shot. The visual effects department enhanced the sequence, adding more destruction and flying debris. The next location that the production traveled to was Tangiers which doubled for Mombasa, where Cobb hires Eames and Yusuf. A foot chase was shot in the streets and alleyways of the historic Grand Souk. To capture this sequence, Pfister employed a mix of hand-held camera and Steadicam work. Tangiers was also used to film an important riot scene during the initial foray into Saito's mind.

Filming moved to the Los Angeles, California, USA area where some sets were built on a Warner Bros. sound stage, including the interior rooms of Saito's Japanese-style castle. The dining room was inspired by the Nijo Castle built around 1603. These sets were inspired by a mix of Japanese architecture and Western influences.[ The production also staged a multi-vehicle car chase on the streets of downtown L.A. and this also involved bringing a freight train down the middle of a street. To do this, the filmmakers configured a train engine on the chassis of a tractor trailer. The replica was made from fiberglass molds taken from authentic train parts and then matched in terms of color and design. Also, the car chase was supposed to be set in the midst of a downpour (to present an increased risk that the flying water might "kick" the participants out of the dream-within-a-dream), but the L.A. weather stayed typically sunny. The filmmakers were forced to set up elaborate effects (e.g., rooftop water cannons) to give the audience the impression that the weather was overcast and soggy. L.A. was also the site of the Paris workshop scenes and the climatic scene where a Ford Econoline van flies off the Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge in slow motion. All the beach scenes were shot on a public beach in the Palos Verdes area, while the airport scenes were shot at LAX.

The final phase of principal photography took place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in late November 2009. The location manager discovered a closed ski resort known as the Fortress Mountain Resort. An elaborate set was assembled on top of a mountain, taking three months to build. The production had to wait for a huge snowstorm, which eventually arrived. For environmental reasons, what appeared to be a concrete fortress was actually constructed out of spruce.

The film was shot primarily in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film, with key sequences filmed on 65 mm, and certain other sequences in VistaVision. Nolan did not shoot any footage with IMAX cameras as he had with The Dark Knight. "We didn’t feel that we were going to be able to shoot in IMAX because of the size of the cameras because this film given that it deals with a potentially surreal area, the nature of dreams and so forth, I wanted it to be as realistic as possible. Not be bound by the scale of those IMAX cameras, even though I love the format dearly". Nolan also chose not to shoot any of the film in 3-D as he believes that shooting on digital video does not offer a high enough quality image.

Nolan has said that the film "deals with levels of reality, and perceptions of reality which is something I'm very interested in. It's an action film set in a contemporary world, but with a slight science-fiction bent to it", while also describing it as "very much an ensemble film structured somewhat as a heist movie. It's an action adventure that spans the globe".

For the dream sequences in Inception, Nolan kept the computer-generated effects to a minimum and utilized practical methods whenever possible. Nolan said, "It's always very important to me to do as much as possible in-camera, and then, if necessary, computer graphics are very useful to build on or enhance what you have achieved physically". To this end, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin built a miniature of the Fortress Mountain Resort set and then blew it up for the film. For the fight scene that takes place in zero-g, he used CG-based effects to "subtly bend elements like physics, space and time". The most challenging effect was Limbo City at the end of the film because it continually developed during production. Franklin had artists build concepts while Nolan gave his ideal vision: "Something glacial, with clear modernist architecture, but with chunks of it breaking off into the sea like icebergs". Franklin and his team ended up with "something that looked like an iceberg version of Gotham City with water running through it". They created a basic model of a glacier and then designers created a program that added elements like roads, intersections and ravines until they had a complex, yet organic-looking, cityscape. For the Paris-folding sequence, Franklin had artists producing concept sketches and then they created rough computer animations to give them an idea of what the sequence looked like while in motion. Later during principal photography, Nolan was able to direct Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page based on this rough computer animation Franklin had created. Inception had close to 500 visual effects shots (in comparison, Batman Begins had approximately 620) which is considered minor in comparison to contemporary visual effects epics that can have around 1,500 or 2,000 VFX shots.


Hans Zimmer scored the film, marking his third collaboration with Nolan following Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. According to Zimmer, it's a "a very electronic score". Nolan asked Zimmer to compose and finish the score as he was shooting the film. The composer said, "He wanted to unleash my imagination in the best possible way". At one point, while composing the score, Zimmer incorporated a guitar sound reminiscent of Ennio Morricone and was interested in having Johnny Marr play these parts. He asked Nolan, he agreed and then Zimmer approached Marr who accepted his offer. Marr spent four 12-hour days working on the score, playing notes written by Zimmer with a 12-string guitar. For inspiration, Zimmer read Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter because it combined "the idea of playfulness in mathematics and playfulness in music". Zimmer did not assemble a temp score but "every now and then they would call and say 'we need a little something here.' But that was OK because much of the music pieces aren't that scene specific. They fall into little categories".

While writing the screenplay, Nolan wrote in Édith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" but almost took it out when he cast Marion Cotillard, who starred as Piaf in 2007 film La Vie en rose. Zimmer convinced Nolan to keep it in the film and also integrated elements of the song into his score.

Track Listing

All songs written and composed by Hans Zimmer
Inception: Music from the Motion Picture
No. Title Length
1. "Half Remembered Dream" 1:12
2. "We Built Our Own World" 1:55
3. "Dream Is Collapsing" 2:28
4. "Radical Notion" 3:43
5. "Old Souls" 7:44
6. "528491" 2:23
7. "Mombasa" 4:54
8. "One Simple Idea" 2:28
9. "Dream Within a Dream" 5:04
10. "Waiting for a Train" 9:30
11. "Paradox" 3:25
12. "Time" 4:35


In the spring of 2010 a viral marketing campaign was started for the film. On June 2, 2010 a manual was sent out to various companies. The manual was filled with bizarre images and text all relating to Inception. As the month went on, more and more viral marketing began to surface, including posters, ads and strange websites all related to the film. On June 7, 2010 a behind the scenes featurette on the film was released in HD on Yahoo! Movies. Warner Bros. has spent $100 million marketing the film.


Inception was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters on July 16, 2010. The film had its world premiere at Leicester Square in London, England on July 8. 2010.
Critical reception

Initially the film received positive reviews from internet reviews and advance screenings. Commentators have noted that critical consensus shifted markedly backward as reviews from larger consumer media outlets were published. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 231 reviews, with an average score of 8.2/10, and summarises the critical consensus as "that rare summer blockbuster that succeeds viscerally as well as intellectually". Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film an average score of 75 out of 100 based on 41 reviews from mainstream critics.

Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers gave Inception its first positive notice, calling it a "wildly ingen­ious chess game", and "the result is a knockout". In his review for Variety, Justin Chang praised the film as "a conceptual tour de force" and wrote, "applying a vivid sense of procedural detail to a fiendishly intricate yarn set in the labyrinth of the subconscious, the writer-director has devised a heist thriller for surrealists, a Jungian's Rififi, that challenges viewers to sift through multiple layers of (un) reality". Jim Vejvoda of IGN rated the film perfect, deeming it "a singular accomplishment from a filmmaker who has only gotten better with each film". Empire magazine rated it five stars in the August 2010 issue and wrote, "it feels like Stanley Kubrick adapting the work of the great sci-fi author William Gibson ... Nolan delivers another true original: welcome to an undiscovered country". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+ rating and Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, "It's a rolling explosion of images as hypnotizing and sharply angled as any in a drawing by M.C. Escher or a state-of-the-biz videogame; the backwards splicing of Nolan's own Memento looks rudimentary by comparison". The New York Post gave the film a four star rating and Lou Lumenick wrote, "DiCaprio, who has never been better as the tortured hero, draws you in with a love story that will appeal even to non-sci-fi fans". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film a perfect four stars and wrote, "The movie is all about process, about fighting our way through enveloping sheets of reality and dream, reality within dreams, dreams without reality. It's a breathtaking juggling act". Richard Roeper, also of The Chicago Sun-Times, gave Inception a perfect score of "A+" and noted that it is "one of the best movies of the [21st] century". In his review for the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and wrote, "I found myself wishing Inception were weirder, further out ... the film is Nolan's labyrinth all the way, and it's gratifying to experience a summer movie with large visual ambitions and with nothing more or less on its mind than (as Shakespeare said) a dream that hath no bottom". Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "Finally, its noble intent is to implant one man's vision in the mind of a vast audience ... The idea of moviegoing as communal dreaming is a century old. With Inception, viewers have a chance to see that notion get a state-of-the-art update". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan felt that Nolan was able to blend, "the best of traditional and modern filmmaking. If you're searching for smart and nervy popular entertainment, this is what it looks like". USA Today gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and Claudia Puig felt that Nolan "regards his viewers as possibly smarter than they are—or at least as capable of rising to his inventive level. That's a tall order. But it's refreshing to find a director who makes us stretch, even occasionally struggle, to keep up".

However, New York magazine's David Edelstein wrote, "I truly have no idea what so many people are raving about. It’s as if someone went into their heads while they were sleeping and planted the idea that Inception is a visionary masterpiece and—hold on … Whoa! I think I get it. The movie is a metaphor for the power of delusional hype—a metaphor for itself". In his review for The New York Observer, Rex Reed wrote, "It's pretty much what we've come to expect from summer movies in general and Christopher Nolan movies in particular ... [it] doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment to me". In his review for the New York Press, Armond White wrote, "there’s a simple-minded sappiness at the heart of this cynical vision. If anything, the time and consciousness tricks stolen from The Matrix make Nolan a bastard Wachowski brother, not a son of Kubrick. Despite its big budget ... Inception is full of second-rate aesthetics, yet when shoddy aesthetics become the new standard, it’s sufficient to up-end the art of cinema". In A.O. Scott's review for The New York Times, he wrote, "But though there is a lot to see in Inception, there is nothing that counts as genuine vision. Mr. Nolan’s idea of the mind is too literal, too logical, too rule-bound to allow the full measure of madness".
Box office

Inception was released theatrically in approximately 6,700 conventional theaters, 197 of which are IMAX. The film grossed $21.7 million during its opening day on July 16, 2010, with midnight screenings in 1,600 locations. Overall the film made $62.7 million on its opening weekend. Inception’s opening weekend gross made it the second highest-grossing debut for a stand-alone science fiction film, falling behind Avatar’s $77 million opening weekend gross in 2009. Since its release, Inception has grossed $82,735,839 domestically, and an additional $16,500,000 in foreign countries. In total, the film has grossed an estimated $99,235,839 worldwide.


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