Hollywood is sometimes called "the dream factory" and the new film from The Dark Knight writer-director Christopher Nolan takes that idea to new levels, creating a world in which dreams can be shared and ideas stolen …but not without risk to both the thief and the dreamer. Here's a look at the thought-provoking new action-drama Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
"I specialize in a very specific type of security: subconscious security."
"You're talking about dreams."
Dom Cobb operates in the shadowy world of other people's dreams. Using a combination of technology and pharmacology, he exploits a technique that brings Cobb and his team into a client's …or victim's… sleep to search out personal or business secrets.
It can be for industrial espionage to learn the plans of a competitor or for political purposes, to find 'dirt' on an opponent; but for his 'big score,' Cobb is trying something new: "Inception." Instead of taking secrets away, he and his team will plant an idea so that when the victim awakes, he will believe he thought of it himself.
"I'm just doing what I know and I'm doing what you taught me."
"I never taught you to be a thief."
"No, you taught me to navigate people's minds; but after what happened, there weren't a whole lot of legitimate ways for me to use that skill."
Writer-director Christopher Nolan launched his career with Memento and Insomnia, mysteries that delve into how reality can be in the mind of the beholder. He also explored dark recesses of the subconscious in the action hits Batman Begins and The Dark Knight; and Nolan says Inception goes on an even deeper inner journey:
"I've been fascinated by dreams my whole life, since I was a kid. I think the relationship between movies and dreams is something that has always interested me and I've liked the idea of trying to portray dreams on film," Nolan explains. "For me the primary interest in dreams and in making this film is this notion that [in] your mind, while you are asleep, you can create an entire world that you are also experiencing without realizing that you're doing that. I think it says a lot about the potential of the human mind, particularly the creative potential. It's something I've found fascinating."
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as mind thief Cobb and says Nolan's audacious mix of action and science demands the full attention of both actors and audience.
"I tried to take a traditional sort of approach to researching this project and doing preparation for it," DiCaprio says. "I read books like Freud's book on the analysis of dreams …but I realized this is Chris Nolan's dream world. It has its own structure and set of rules that apply in it."
"You create the world of the dream. We bring the subject into that dream and they fill it with their subconscious."
"How could I ever acquire enough detail to make them think that it's reality?"
"Well, dreams feel real while we're in them, right? It's only when we wake up we realize something was actually strange."
"This story structure was extremely ambitious in the fact that simultaneously you had four different states of the human subconscious that represented different dream states and each one affected the other," notes DiCaprio. "What was startling to me, considering how complicated the screenplay was, was seeing it in a visual format. That's the magic of movie making. It was a lot easier to understand than I ever thought it would be. That's a testament to how engaging movies are and the visual medium is.
"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."
Writer-director Nolan says the worldwide success of his Batman adventures, especially the 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight, gave him in the unique chance to make an unconventional studio film.
With the success of The Dark Knight we were in a position where the studio was prepared to put a lot of faith in us and trust us to really do something special," explains Nolan. "Those opportunities are very rare for filmmakers, so I felt a responsibility to try and do something memorable with it."
Along with the many 'wow' action scenes and visually stunning dreamscapes, Inception does demand attention from the audience; but co-star Cillian Murphy says he believes it can be enjoyed on many levels.
"I think people really like to be challenged when they go to the cinema and you watch it and you want to go back again and take more from it," Murphy says, "because a film like this can appeal to people who want to go for their thrills and spills and their big action spectacular and it will appeal to people who want to go and be stimulated intellectually. That's rare too."
The international cast of Inception features Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard, also Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Like the story's dreams, the locations hopscotch the globe from the snowy mountains of Canada to the coast of Morocco as well as the streets of Paris, New York and Los Angeles.