[UPDATE: This article was written before the movie was released, to discuss the film, head on over to our Inception Ending Explained article and join the discussion!]

Christopher Nolan’s Inception has captivated audiences since its first teaser debuted in front of Inglourious Basterds. Now that you’ve had a week to take in the third Inception trailer, it is time to try to dissect the film for yourself.

At the end of 2009, we discussed the film in attempt to decipher what Inception was all about, and recently we learned more through developments including the official Inception synopsis and extended Inception trailer. Studios have a tendency to release handfuls of clips for films, drowning audiences in too much information. This is one of many reasons Inception has been a welcome relief, forcing those interested to examine and hypothesize.

The basic synopsis released in December called the movie “a contemporary sci-fi thriller set within the architecture of the mind.” Nobody truly knew how to decipher that, but we took a shot. More specifically, we tackled what themes Nolan will explore with Inception.

At first, it seemed plausible the movie would go into “the struggle for creative innovation,” as Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw put it. Knowing Christopher Nolan’s tendency to scramble a concept and put it back together, this seemed within reason. But five months later, the evidence is proving it may be more complicated than that.

We’ve learned quite a bit lately, and the picture is becoming slightly clearer, but there is still a thick haze over the facts. Before we get into the speculating, let’s take another look at the latest synopsis.

Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in an original sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible—inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming. This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime.

I wouldn’t expect too much more to be revealed between now and the release date, but this synopsis should keep people busy enough. Naturally, the best idea would be to simply wait until July 16th, but since speculation is more fun, let’s get to it.

This forum is your opportunity to sound off and come up with your own ideas, but maybe I can help get you started. I’ve had quite a few theories regarding Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight myself.

In the latest trailer, it seems Ellen Page is a student. Filming locations like Christopher Nolan’s alma mater University College London defend that. DiCaprio and Michael Caine recruit her. She clearly agrees and quickly ends up in the “dream world” with DiCaprio. We will learn about this strange ability and the world’s within the mind through the eyes of Ellen Page. I’d say her first experience will be sharing one of DiCaprio’s dreams. I say this because one shot has them both in an elevator, which rises above a beach. On that beach is a woman who looks like Marion Cotillard with two children.

I’d be interested to see Nolan’s take on how to create in the dream world. Many of us dream only about what we know, then escalate the scenario. Inception clearly touches upon the creation of unprecedented ideas within the dream state.

The beginning of Inception will probably be a crash course on the amazingly limitless mind and how to access it. But once we find out what DiCaprio and Co. are really after, things will get hairy.

The loss of his wife, likely to a murder related to his job, has led DiCaprio to risk everything to access some of the most protected minds in the world. We know Cillian Murphy plays one of DiCaprio’s “subjects.” Based on their lines in the trailer, it looks like DiCaprio will trick Murphy. The goal would be to willingly allow the team access to his dreams. Inside, DiCaprio will steal the secrets to his wife’s murder.

Those secrets will lead him on a “wild dream chase.” But as he deals with more sinister men (Tom Berenger? Ken Watanabe?), he uncovers their ability to put him in harm’s way while in the “dream world.”

I hope they don’t go the route of “if you die in the dream, you die for real.” The Matrix did that and it was fantastic. Hopefully they can create some kind of way to threaten the real world as a consequence for death in the “dream world.”

The third act is still a total mystery and I’m not sure they’ve even shown a frame of it. The intense snowy mountain chase scene looks climax-worthy. But with Nolan’s track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is only part of the first hour.

One moment in the trailer that sticks out for me is when Joseph Gordon-Levitt sits huddled in a corner of an elevator holding what appears to be a detonator. The elevator is shaking and his voiceover claims, “The dream’s collapsing.” Could he have betrayed his colleague? Or is he simply holding on in fear? It would fit nicely with the other moment where he hovers over an open elevator that holds two tied-up people. Maybe he planted a bomb and protects himself by sitting in the other elevator.

In a related moment, DiCaprio sits on a train and says, “I have it under control.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt follows it up with, “I’d hate to see out of control.” At first, DiCaprio seems shaken, but determined. There’s no question a lot of problems and unforeseen circumstances will hinder our protagonist, but when? And how?

I’m getting an Ocean’s Eleven vibe, only more intense. An alternate plot could involve a hidden agenda. DiCaprio assembles his team and a newbie (Ellen Page) to apparently invade the dreams of evil men. But when the crew finds out it was all an elaborate plan to reunite (or avenge) his wife, they want out. The only problem is, they can’t get out. They are in too deep. The scene where DiCaprio yells at Gordon-Levitt in front of a cab could be part of this potential story arc.

I leave it to you to decipher now. Either work from my predictions or come up with your own. Use the comments board to debate and discuss what Christopher Nolan has in store for us based on what we’ve been given.

Inception breaks into theaters and IMAX July 16th, 2010.