In Inception, the idea of corporate espionage is taken to the next level. Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an "extractor" – someone who, through shared dreaming technology developed by the military, steals sensitive information from his targets. Along with his point man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb was trying to extract information from Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe), but things went wrong when the subconscious representation of his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) showed up and ruined the plan. It turns out that Saito was auditioning Cobb and his team to make them an offer – to try "inception", the concept of planting an idea into someone’s head and making them think it was their own idea.
Cobb – who has been a fugitive from justice in the United States in suspicion of Mal’s death – has been unable to see his two kids, and Saito’s offer to get him cleared of all charges in exchange for helping him is too attractive to pass up. Saito’s intent is to have Robert Fisher (Cillian Murphy), the son of Saito’s terminally-ill corporate rival, dissolve his father’s empire. But they can’t just plant the idea in Fisher’s head in one dream; they need to give the suggestion in a more metaphorical state, many dream-layers deep, to allow him to give himself the idea.
To help Cobb out, he recruits Eames (Tom Hardy), a forger who can change his appearance inside dreams, Ariadne (Ellen Page), a student architect to help design the dream, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist who has come up with a special formula to keep people sedated during the shared dream-state. In a sedative state, to wake up from a dream, you need to either be killed in the dream (and pain is very, very real), or woken up by a "kick" – that feeling of falling. The problem with going three levels deep – as they need to do to cause "inception" in Fisher – is that time stretches exponentially through each layer, and eventually knowing the difference between reality and the dream might be nearly impossible. Compounding the situation is Cobb’s guilt about Mol’s death, which seems to be manifesting in the form of Mol invading the dreams. Ariadne seems to be the only one to recognize the precarious situation, and as the team attempts "inception", they all run the very real risk of losing themselves within the dream.
Directed by Christopher Nola, Inception was one of the most original movies I’ve seen in a long time. One you get past the unexplained concept of dream-sharing, the story becomes very involved and engaging. DiCaprio’s performance, as a man who is torn up inside about the death of his wife and loss of his children, while trying to keep it together and lead a team through a dangerous mission, is quite solid. The visual aspects of the film are great, with stunning dreamscapes situated in reality, but having something just a little ‘off’ about them. The entire climax – intercutting between three different dreamscapes – is a tremendous achievement, aided in no small way by Hans Zimmer’s excellent score. There is a lot of subtlety to the film, and it holds up quite well on multiple viewings.