Christopher Nolan Talks Inception

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The shroud of mystery around Christopher Nolan‘s new film Inception is beginning to dissolve. That was inevitable. As the film gets closer to release, the previously well-concealed plot has to be revealed. So now we know for certain — confirming many rumored explanations of the film’s story — that Leonardo DiCaprio is “a specialist in the new branch of corporate espionage — he’s a dream thief who plucks secrets from the minds of tycoons after pumping them full of drugs and hooking them up to a mysterious contraption. The problem, though, is the land of nod can be volatile — as can DiCaprio’s character, Dom Cobb”

Want to know more? Read on, though if you don’t want to be spoiled at all, I’d just wait for the next trailer.

The LA Times visited the film’s stage set in England and has filed a report, from which comes the quote above. But first, let’s get more of the plot down. Nolan appeared at Wondercon this past weekend with an extended new trailer for the film. Devin at CHUD describes the story of the film as revealed by the new trailer and the Q&A with Nolan that followed.

As Devin describes, Leonardo DiCaprio plays an Extractor, which is essentially an agent that can insert himself into the dreams of other people, in order to pilfer ideas from their subconscious. Leo’s the best Extractor out there, and actually teachers others how to defend against Extractors. (Sort of like a dreamworld Frank Abagnale, the subject of Catch Me If You Can.) Ken Watanabe’s character seems to be under that tutelage, but he may also be a mark for Leo and a team of people that he assembles to perform, in effect, a mental heist.

CHUD and the LA Times both describe the film as a heist, with the LAT saying this could be the first “existential heist movie.”

Nolan conceived of the idea years ago, and wrote the first draft seven or eight years back. He seems to be grounding the film in pretty common experiences — how we percieve dreams, and where the boundary between dream and consciousness lies. He says “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.”

CHUD’s chief concern is that the film could be too cold, and the LAT addresses that in a roundabout way, relating that DiCaprio had a great deal of input on the script. Nolan says “It’s actually been an interesting set of conversations, and I think it’s improved the project enormously. I think the emotional life of the character now drives the story more than it did before.” So what is the final combination of elements? As Nolan says,

I originally wrote it as a heist movie, and heist movies traditionally are very deliberately superficial in emotional terms. They’re frivolous and glamorous, and there’s a sort of gloss and fun to it. I originally tried to write it that way, but when I came back to it I realized that — to me — that didn’t work for a film that relies so heavily on the idea of the interior state, the idea of dream and memory. I realized I needed to raise the emotional stakes.

The LAT references “massive scale and psychological puzzles” and paraphrases co-star Ellen Page’s praise for the fact that the film is a summer blockbuster “that evokes literature and architecture in an era when other directors seem to be tilting toward a video-game aesthetic.”

And now, the obligatory Batman reference. The LAT also notes that many Batman sets — Arkham Asylum, the Narrows, and “other Gotham City landmarks” — are still standing in the Cardington, England dirigible hangar that serves as Nolan’s stage. That’s in anticipation of the third film, and I’m glad to hear that WB has paid to leave those sets standing; love the consistency that will come from not having to re-build.

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