Inception Best Picture

  • Corporate espionage conducted in the deepest recesses of a target's subconscious is the subject of an imaginative, complex thriller from "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan. The Warner Brothers release was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won four Oscars.

By CBS producer David Morgan

Credit: Warner Brothers

  • "I know how to search your mind and find your secrets."

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, whose career of corporate espionage takes him into the dreamscapes of his targets, where he is able to extract information from their subconscious. Shared dreaming, developed by the military, has for Cobb become an avenue to accessing others' secrets - but his subconscious poses threats of its own.

Cobb and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) engage in a shared dream with a Japanese businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), from whom they must steal secrets for their client, a Saito competitor. They speak as if they are selling their services to a potential customer, but we learn that Saito is actually auditioning them for a plan of his own.

We also discover that Cobb's subconscious projections and memories can invade and disrupt the dreamscape and pose serious threats, as when the spectre of Cobb's late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), appears.

Exiting (or escaping) a dream comes by way of a "kick" to the body, which awakens the subject. When Cobb is dropped into a bath, water itself invades his dreamscape even as he comes to.

Cobb has been in self-imposed exile from the United States after being accused in his wife's death. He is also on the run from corporate interests for whom espionage is a life-or-death matter.

Cobb receives an intriguing job offer from Saito, not for extraction but inception - inserting an idea into the target's subconscious to drive their behavior. Though told it cannot be done, Cobb knows otherwise.

His assignment: Enter the mind of the son of a dying business magnate. The intent is to inject the idea that Victor Fischer (Cillian Murphy) should break up his father's energy empire - Saito's direct competitor.

Cobb demands as his price for taking the job reentry into the U.S. to reunite with his children.

In Mombasa Cobb flees as corporate agents close in.

In Paris, Cobb is introduced to Ariadne (Ellen Page), an architecture student whom he tests for her ability to design labyrinthine mazes (in which to contain a target's subconscious projections). While dreaming, she also proves adept at manipulating environments.

During her introduction to shared dreaming, Ariadne discovers how physics and gravity in dreamscapes are manipulated, as she conjures a Paris that folds into itself.

Cobb assembles his team. In addition to Ariadne and Arthur are Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist whose sedatives must enable the subjects to engage in several layers of dreams-within-dreams; Eames (Tom Hardy), a forger who can impersonate figures from a subject's subconscious; and, tagging along as a "tourist" (to ensure the success of the mission), Saito.

To gain access to Fischer's subconscious, the team arranges for the executive to share a 10-hour transoceanic flight. With sedatives applied, Cobb and his crew go to work . . .

. . . Only to discover that Fischer has undergone training by an extractor to defend himself against subconscious infiltration. Fischer's mind, Arthur declares, has been "militarized." While the armed security guards that confront Cobb's team are mere projections, their weapons seem very real - Saito is wounded.

Further jeopardizing the team are projections from Cobb's own subconscious (such as a rampaging freight train) which intrude into their shared dream world.

The stability of dream worlds is fragile - when one's body loses balance, the dream state loses its gravity. Time is also distorted.

  • This concept is brilliantly staged in a fight scene taking place within Arthur's dream - the corridor of his mind spinning as his body (actually, his dreaming body - this does get complicated) falls end-over-end in a toppling van.

Production Designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas
Special Visual Effects Supervisors: Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin
Stunt Coordinator: Tim Struthers
Editing: Lee Smith

In an even further level of dreams-within-dreams, Cobb leads Fischer into a mountain fortress in which is planted the seed of an idea that may - if Fischer's subconscious defenses do not stop it - redefine who he is and redirect the course of his life.

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Insight Editions Inception: The Shooting Script
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