From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Inception (film))
Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Inception is a 2010 American science fiction action film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy.

Interesting concepts in Inception are the hypnic jerk, oneironautics, oneiric (film theory), oneirology, lucid dreaming, dream incubation, impossible objects such as the Penrose stairs, and the dream argument.

"The Circular Ruins" and "The Secret Miracle", both stories of Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges are acknowledged influences on Inception, says Christopher Nolan.




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 sixteen 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."


Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) washes up on a beach and is brought before an elderly man. Cobb carries only a gun and a spinning top, which the man says he saw before "in a half forgotten dream."

A few months prior, Cobb is in the dream of a Japanese industrialist named Saito (Ken Watanabe) where he, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and dream world architect Nash (Lukas Haas) are on an extraction mission, in which an individual's mind is infiltrated through dreams and information is stolen. Extractors and their victims sleep in close proximity to one another, connected by a device that administers a sedative and a dream world built on their mental projections. Pain is psychologically experienced as real, but death results in awakening. The extraction fails, all four characters wake up, and Saito reveals that he was auditioning the team to work for him, and they have failed. Cobb decides to beat the information for the extraction out of Saito, but a mistake by Nash reveals the truth to Saito: they are still dreaming and this is part of the plan. Saito is impressed.

Nash tries to betray the team to Saito; Saito has his men take Nash away to be tortured and asks Cobb to perform "inception" — using dreams to implant an idea into the target's mind, rather than stealing them. Inception is largely considered impossible, but Cobb has done it once before.

The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito's terminally ill rival Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite). The objective is to convince Fischer to break up his father's empire. Cobb recruits Eames (Tom Hardy), a forger who can change his appearance inside dreams; Yusuf (Dileep Rao), who develops sedatives; and a student named Ariadne (Ellen Page), who has been recommended by her tutor Miles (Michael Caine), who refused the job believing that inception is impossible. Ariadne is trained by Cobb and Arthur as their architect, a role that requires building complex levels similar to labyrinths that mimic the real world. The architect must recreate extraordinary amounts of detail in the environment while the subject provides human projections. Cobb explains that the projections act like white blood cells. If the subject becomes aware that a foreign entity is tapping into their subconscious the projections will become hostile. Cobb explains precautions that extractors take to prevent themselves from becoming lost in the dream world, including carrying a "totem", an individualized object carried by extractors in order to tell when they are dreaming. Cobb carries his wife's totem, a top. If Cobb's top spins indefinitely he knows he is in a dream; if it slows down and eventually stops then he is not. Ariadne tailors a chess pawn to move the centre of gravity towards the side.

A plan is formed utilizing three levels of dreams; two dreams within an overall dream. A team member is left behind on each level to prepare the others for their entry; Yusuf will remain on level one and Arthur will remain on the second level; they will have to protect the dreamers' bodies and coordinate their waking via timed "kicks". Since Yusuf's sedatives leave the inner ear unaffected, the sensation of their bodies falling will awaken them; such falls are orchestrated at each level: explosives will level the hospital on the deepest level, explosives will blow the room the team is in up in the middle level, and the van will crash into a river. The dreamers have forewarning of an imminent kick through music they hear from the preceding level, but the kicks must be timed perfectly since each deeper level of subconscious has a slower time scale.

As Cobb is asleep connected to a machine, Ariadne enters Cobb's mind. She discovers that a vision of Cobb's deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) haunts him, sabotaging his missions. His children also haunt him — he never sees their faces and this distracts him. Cobb reveals that he and Mal spent fifty years in a limbo forging their lives. After waking, Mal remained convinced that they were both still dreaming and committed suicide to return to reality, hoping to force her husband to join her by incriminating him in her death. Cobb was forced to flee the United States and leave his children to avoid murder charges. In return for completing the mission, Saito will clear the charges and reunite Cobb with his children.

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 Yusuf's dream and kidnap Fischer, but come under attack by Fischer's projections. Saito is badly injured. The team reaches their safe house and realizes the mission may be more dangerous then they expected. Fischer was trained to fend off extractors, thus his projections are militarily skilled. Because of the level of sedatives and multiple dreams, an in-dream death will not awaken the dreamer but instead send them into a limbo dream world where their mind will remain trapped for an indeterminable amount of time. With few options and Fischer's army closing in around them Cobb and his team continue their mission. Eames impersonates Peter Browning (Tom Berenger), Fischer's godfather, to extract information from Fischer. This does not work, so they try a hostage situation, and ask Fischer for a safe combination. Fischer does not know the combination to any safe; when asked for random numbers, Fischer says 528491. The team boards the van and enters the next dream level.

They enter Arthur's dream, a hotel where the team tricks Fischer into believing that the kidnapping on the first level was orchestrated by Browning. Cobb convinces Fischer to enter Browning's subconscious in order to learn his motives, but the team actually enters deeper into Fischer's. Arthur remains to provide the kick by planting explosives that will cause the room's floor to cave in, kicking the falling sleepers.

The third level is Eames' dream, a fortress that operates as a hospital located in the mountains, which Fischer must break into to reveal the planted idea. The first kick strikes — the van hits a barrier on a bridge and begins to fall. The kick causes Arthur to fly backwards in the hotel and triggers an avalanche in the mountains. Fischer is killed by Mal, causing him to go into limbo. While Eames and Saito plant explosives in the fortress to prepare a kick, Ariadne and Cobb follow Fischer to a fourth level to salvage the mission.

The fourth level is Cobb's dystopia, and Mal attempts to convince Cobb to stay with her by making him question his reality. Cobb reveals that he was the one who planted the idea in Mal's mind to wake while they were in limbo, but it persisted even after she awoke and made him indirectly responsible for her suicide; this is how he knew inception was possible. Mal attacks him with a kitchen knife, but Ariadne shoots her. Cobb tells Mal of a promise he made to her — that they would grow old together, and that they did, but she did not remember because it was a dream. Fischer and Ariadne return to the fortress by jumping off the building, where Fischer opens a strong room in which his father is still alive. He reaches the understanding that his father wanted him to be his own man, and retrieves a will from the safe next to him using the passcode 528491. Cobb remains in level four.

Saito dies in the snow fortress as the kicks take effect. The explosives planted around the hospital complex level it, then in the hotel — where Arthur has improvised with the zero-gravity by wiring everyone together in an elevator, snapping the cables and blowing it towards the top of the shaft with the explosives — and the van hits the water.

Cobb washes up on a beach, carrying nothing but his spinning top and a gun. He locates an aged Saito, the old man from the beginning, and tells him to escape back to reality. Cobb awakens to find everyone on the plane awake and well. Saito honors their arrangement; Cobb enters the United States without incident and is greeted by Miles. When he arrives home, Cobb spins his top as a test, then sees his children's faces as Miles attracts their attention. As Cobb reunites with them, the camera focuses on the top; which begins to wobble as the film ends, leaving it unclear whether or not Cobb is still dreaming.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Inception" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools