2010. Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Dreams within dreams within dreams. Or is it just one dream?
Christopher Nolan's finest film to date, Inception is a science fiction heist thriller that offers a plethora of questions and leaves the answers outside the theater, in the viewer's subconscious.
Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor. Using military technology and high grade sedatives, Dom and his fellow thieves enter the minds of the dreaming and steal secret information for corporate espionage. Dom is an expatriate, unable to return home to his children due to a murder charge. He's approached by Saito (the always solid Ken Watannabe) with an impossible job, Infiltrate the mind of corporate heir and give him the idea to dissolve his father's empire. This technique is known as Inception and has never been performed successfully as the mind fights back against foreign suggestion. Complicating the complicated, Dom's dreaming mind is haunted by the spectre of Mal (Marion Cotillard), his dead wife who always loves to show up at the worst possible times.
Still with me? Inception is a great film because it not only demands your attention, but it leaves the heavy mental lifter to the viewer. Nolan accomplishes this through several vital elements.
Wally Pfister won the Oscar for his mind bending cinematography. This is a beautiful film, but in an almost sinister way. The real and dream worlds are weaved seamlessly together (until the climax) and every scene is filled with the extremes of color. Bright whites in the snow, corporate grays for the suits, and so forth. This is supported by Jeffrey Kurland's costume design. Even the outfits are full of mystery and the presence, or abscence of certain items is important to the story and how you interpret it.
Inception was the technical juggernaut. Claiming additional Oscars for sound editing, sound mixing, and visual effects, the entire somnambulic epic is a feast for not only action purists, but for viewers who like sound to reflect the world they're inhabiting for a few hours. The hotel hallway scene is one of obvious highlight, with Joseph Gordon Levitt's Arthur fighting subliminal guardians in zero G. It's a spectacle to behold and demands multiple rewatches to fully grasp everything happening in the chaos of dream combat.
In the end, what does it all mean? Nolan's script is a rubick's cube. The central heist involves the team traversing multiple dream levels and then simultaneously "kicking" their way out. Some theories get into the complex placement of items and costuming while others write it off as style over substance. For me, this is the story of a man working through personal hubris and ultimately being satisfied with the results, whether real or imagined.
Available now for digital streaming, Inception is a wonderful film that provides the summer blockbuster main course while plying you with not so subtle hors d'oeuvres.