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Film (2010). Warner Brothers Pictures in association with Legendary Pictures and Syncopy. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Cast includes Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Leonardo di Caprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Ken Watanabe. 143 minutes. Colour.

Preposterous but sensationally successful inner-space heist movie about a team of Dream-Hacking psychological operatives headquartered in Los Angeles (see California), where they are engaged to plant an idea in a tycoon's subconscious – the Memory Edit process termed "inception" – by entering his mind through a nest of dreams four levels deep. The sleep science is pure flim-flam – Nolan has admitted to actively avoiding researching his story in real-world dream Psychology, which indeed is incompatible with most of what the film wants to do with the idea – and essentially an apparatus of validation for a radical narratological experiment in Time Distortion, as five simultaneous levels of story play out interdependently at successively denser retardations, with the deepest level ("Limbo") impossible to escape. Thrilling, spectacular, and structurally unlike anything else attempted in film, despite being almost complete nonsense from start to finish, heavily frontloaded with laborious exposition throughout its first hour, and particularly meretricious in its rhetoric of depth, it was Nolan's first formal experiment to break through into the blockbuster league of his Batman Films – helped by a very strong ensemble cast, glossy production values, some arresting set pieces, a compellingly cinematic geography of the unconscious, and a memorable if specious Solaris-inspired close echoing his earlier The Prestige (2006). A hugely risky investment for Warner's, it cost an eyewatering $160,000,000 and made it back five times over. [NL]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 14:34 pm on 27 June 2022.