Deciphering Chris Nolan’s ‘Inception’

Published 4 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:26 pm,

inception teaser trailer header Deciphering Chris Nolans Inception

So the first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Inception recently appeared online, but I’m still hearing some people say that if the trailer wasn’t stamped with “from the director of The Dark Knight” they would have little motivation to actually care about the movie.

Now granted, Inception has maintained an air of almost total mystery every since we first learned of its existence, but with the clues that have been carefully sprinkled here and there, we here at Screen Rant think there’s enough potential for this to be a breakout film in 2010. We’ll explain why, with some hi-res photos helping to paint the picture (click on any still image below for a hi-res version).

So let’s take a crack at the most obvious question – What is Inception all about?

In past coverage of the movie, we’ve learned that Leonardo DiCaprio stars as “a CEO Type” who leads a crack team of idea thieves. That is to say, DiCaprio and his team ‘enter people’s minds and/or dreams’  via a new form of technology that works by injection. They do this in order to ‘retrieve or plant’ information, which gives solid context to the opening lines of the latest trailer, “What is the most resilient parasite? An idea.”

Inception dicaprio robbery Deciphering Chris Nolans Inception

Now, you may hear that bit of summary and still be confused about what all is going on with the people fighting Matrix-style up on ceilings and walls, or the shots of entire city blocks folding over on themselves (see Trailer #1 and Trailer #2 for the scenes I’m describing).  Well, if part of Inception‘s premise is this whole “idea thieving” operation, that notion also shines a much brighter light on the film’s teaser synopsis, which described it as “a contemporary sci-fi thriller set within the architecture of the mind.”

The abstract “reality” of the mind has long been a sub-genre of movies, and the thought of Chris Nolan exploring that realm SHOULD give you goosebumps (it at least promises to be a visual feast). However, by now we know that Chris Nolan is a filmmaker who brings more than enough substance to backup flashy effects. No matter what the genre or the premise, Nolan’s films always tell a distinct and pointed story, usually in very inventive ways. Nolan has also clearly embraced (and mastered) the one storytelling advantage that movies have over books: Sharp editing.

Inception Teaser Trailer Deciphering Chris Nolans Inception

With Inception seemingly taking place both within “the architecture of the mind” and the real world (notice I said “seemingly”), you can bet your bippy that Nolan will be employing his sharp eye for editing to pack the movie with more than a few surprises and rug-pulls.

For instance: Remember that old shtick where a character keeps waking up only to realize they’re still dreaming? Don’t be too surprised if that cliche gets a slick Chris Nolan makeover in Inception. I have no idea if that is what will actually happen, but I do remember how Nolan used editing techniques to surprise the hell out of me at the end of a little movie called Memento

[NOTE: This next part is all speculative, so none of it counts as SPOILERS]

Inception folding city Deciphering Chris Nolans Inception

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what kind of themes a movie like Inception might try and convey. Judging from what we know about the premise (we know very little about the actual story, I’ll admit), one obvious potential theme of the movie is the struggle of creative innovation.

We all complain these days that things are getting too old, too outdated, or overused. It seems like the modern concern is with revising or rethinking every established system in existence – health care, environmental practices, economic structure, modes of transportation – for this ‘great future’ we always thought we’d be living in by the 21st Century (STILL waiting on those flying cars). That collective train of thought even extends to the realm of entertainment, with the great debate over Hollywood’s lack of originality (in most cases) raging harder than ever in this era of sequels and remakes.

inception mind invasion victim Deciphering Chris Nolans Inception

Well then, imagine if there was some great innovator out there thinking up a new economic system, or a self-recycling environment-friendly power source, only to have some thieving bastard sneak into their very thoughts and snatch their world-changing idea right at the moment of inception to be sold off to the highest bidder. Would there ever be an idea so great, or so powerful, that the mind-thieves themselves would try and protect it, rather than steal it?

Suddenly the possibilities for this movie get more interesting, no?

Inception stars Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine Tom Berenger and Lukas Haas. Another great mystery hanging over the film are the identities of the characters each of these fine actors will play.

From interviews or trailers we know that Michael Caine will be playing a professor that DiCaprio’s character consults about the mind-invading technology, and that Page plays some kind of character (a student?) that DiCaprio is trying to train (for what? I don’t know). As the cast reveal more about their roles in subsequent months, I’m sure well be able to glean more about the actual story of the film. For now, you’ll have to re-watch the trailers and piece together who fits where the best that you can.

inception dicaprio page Deciphering Chris Nolans Inception

Did this post spark your interest or are you still holding out until you see more?

Inception hits theaters on July 16, 2010.

Source: For more hi-res images, head over to Slash Film

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  1. This whole people only watching it only because of TDK, is complete nonsense.

    Nolans best two movies, Memento and The Prestige, had bog all to do with Batman!

  2. Must see movie of 2010.

  3. @ Jose

    Maybe.

  4. It’s true that I really want to see it because of Nolan’s name on it, but its still a very interesting trailer itself.

  5. It is about time travel

  6. Very intriguing ideas (ha) that you bring up here Kofi. If your speculative plot turned up to be even semi-true that would be epic! Major corporations stealing ideas on how to further advance civilization would be a truly powerful story. CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS MOVIE! And in regards to the “Director of The Dark Knight” thing, this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway; those of us movie geeks who know Nolan is directing are going to see Inception because we know how amazing his non-Batman films are. For the average film goer who is on the fence because the movie looks “weird” or “too out there,” having that Batman association will at least entice them to give it a shot and I hope they do. Great post!

  7. I can barely wrap my mind about what you said about the mind thief stuff and stealing to most brilliant ideas. I guess I just really am excited for this because I know that the director will deliver, and will not dissapoint.

    Now that you said that, that plot sounds brilliant and believable for a story. I can’t wait to see that go into fruition then. To just watcha story like that play out before my eyes to see how that would work would be fascinating.

  8. the architecture of the mind is not a metaphor-the buildings folding up and flooding are described in the film as how the mind thinks when the neurons are firing.It’s dreamscape minus dennis quaid. Also the logo syncopy is the same as the film logo. Syncopy was also the production company that made tdk. Given away too much already

  9. Thanks for this interesting coverage for Inception. If this movie is really as good as it seems it could be one of the must see movies 2010. It´s only sad that there seems not very much buzz for this movie among the fans. Hope this will change and people will give it a chance.

  10. I hope people give this a chance, just accept that this isnt Batman, Nolan is capable of much more than just TDK. His past films have all been excellent, The Prestige being by far the best thing he has ever done in my opinion.

    It looks like a cool sci fi film and those are few and far between.

    And there is more to Batman than just Chris Nolan, if he does the 3rd film fine, if he doesnt want to do it, let someone else have a go. Or just not make a sequel at all.

  11. Actually Sam, the Prestige did have a small tiny bit to do with Batman, since Christian Bale was one of the leads in it. :D

    But seriously, The Dark Knight is a great film, one of my favorites, but a lowly second favorite of mine out of all the ones Nolan has directed. My favorite Nolan film, and actually my favorite film of all time, is one of his first, Memento.

    I think this movie will be fantastic, you know why I think that? Because Christopher never fail Nolan is at the helm with a fantastic cast to work with. Out of the four movies Nolan has made that I’ve seen(The two Batmans, Memento, The Prestige), three of them are in my top ten favorites and the one that isn’t(Batman Begins) is still like top twenty.

  12. i might be one of the few but i hated Dark Knight. everyone in Prestige mumbled through the entire movie. so far his first film Following (if you haven’t seen it, then u are no Nolan fan) is his best BY FAR. Batman Begins was very good but now looks less and less appealing with Dark Knight hanging over it. The fact that Inception isn’t written by his brother gives the movie a chance, but i’m not holding my breath.

  13. @ aaron

    Actually I think you are wrong about Batman Begins, it may now live under the shadow of TDK, but it is a light shining out from under all that darkness. Batman Begins is an excellent film, telling a Batman story that has never been done on the big screen before, wheras TDK is using old ones.

  14. Oh Beckett, Beckett

    My friend you have got to get your facts right: BB and TDK are both revisions of a line of classic Batman stories.

    BB = Batman Year One

    TDK = The Long Halloween (the sequel to Year One) and The Killing Joke

    Read about it all here:

    http://screenrant.com/chris-nolan-batman-3-characters-villains-plot-story-kofi-19537/

  15. I think the analysis is stretching a bit, but interesting nonetheless.

    I don’t see why people are complaining about “From the director of The Dark Knight”. Original movies are freakishly hard to sell nowadays. A lot of people wouldn’t be excited for Avatar if they didn’t see “From the director of Titanic”.

    Anyways, this looks awesome. i’m glad to see an original blockbuster in this day and age.

  16. There are those of us that were fans of Nolan’s work before “Batman Begins” was even greenlit.

    Considering my fascination with all “qualitative” things Batman (most of it is trite), imagine my excitement when Nolan got the gig, but I digress.

    His work on the Batman franchise is brilliant but Nolan was a fresh and exciting director BEFORE his Bat-Movies, garnering interest from film goers who like substance and meaning in their action.

    If most directors are fast food vendors then Nolan is one of the few Iron Chefs working in film today. The bit about slapping TDK on the trailer reflects the sad fact that in spite of his enormous success people on the street still don’t know his name.

    Nolan’s name is enough for me to go to the theater. There is no one quite like him out there making movies that get both my heart and mind racing.

  17. Looks like a Memento type movie with flashy visuals. Memento is hands down my favorite Nolan film and probably one of my all time favorites. No movie is like memento and I’m sure Inception will be no different. I just love how chris nolan is a huge name now bc of TDK yet he still continues to push the envelope by making movies like this. He doesn’t just conform to what everyone else wants to see (Avatar maybe). I predict this will have a shot at best picture of 2010.

  18. I would be excited to see the film based on the trailer footage I’ve seen regardless of who the director is. It just looks really good.

  19. @ Kofi

    I wasnt refering to the comics storylines, but that of previous movies.

    Sorry my friend but you missed my point, yes elements from Year One were lifted to create BB, but what I was trying to say is that Batman’s origin story had never been shown ON SCREEN before!
    Wheras lots of TDK stuff has been seen before! And I wish they had just made The Killing Joke, or Arkham Asylum, put the psychological aspect back into Batman.

  20. Originally I only wanted to see this because of Chris Nolan and possibly Leo DiCaprio, but after seeing the trailer last night when I went to see Sherlock Holmes I got a little excited for this movie. I really just want to see what it’s about, and this post did make me want to see it more and hear more about it. “You can bet your bippy” that I’ll see this movie haha

  21. @DrSamBeckett

    I remember the first time I read “The Killing Joke” & “Arkham Asylum”. Those books just blew me away and I too thought they would make awesome films.

    I can easily imagine Chris Nolan doing those films :-)

  22. “Well then, imagine if there was some great innovator out there thinking up a new economic system, or a self-recycling environment-friendly power source, only to have some thieving bastard sneak into their very thoughts and snatch their world-changing idea right at the moment of inception to be sold off to the highest bidder.”

    That doesn't sound very original. Now if the GOVERNMENT wanted to snaffle it, then you'd have something seldom seen on film.

  23. “Well then, imagine if there was some great innovator out there thinking up a new economic system, or a self-recycling environment-friendly power source, only to have some thieving bastard sneak into their very thoughts and snatch their world-changing idea right at the moment of inception to be sold off to the highest bidder.”

    That doesn't sound very original. Now if the GOVERNMENT wanted to snaffle it, then you'd have something seldom seen on film.

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