Inception Study Guide

Inception is a 2010 action-thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Nolan developed the film over a 10-year period, initially pitching the script to Warner Bros. in 2001 as a horror vehicle. The studio passed and told Nolan that he needed more experience helming big-budget productions. In the following years, Nolan directed Insomnia (2002), Batman Begins (2005), and The Dark Knight (2008) for Warner Bros., during which time he reworked the idea for Inception into a heist film. After the tremendous success of The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. purchased Nolan's Inception script in 2009, and allocated $160,000,000 for the film's production, along with Legendary Pictures.

Nolan drew inspiration for Inception from the period in American cinema in the late 1990s when action films like The Wachowskis' The Matrix (199) and Alex Proyas's Dark City (1998) combined thriller and film noir aesthetics with heady philosophical explorations of dreaming and virtual reality. Nolan was particularly interested in cinematically rendering the idea that dreams seem like reality for as long as they are occurring in the mind. The central sci-fi conceit of the film—the existence of "dream-sharing" technology—allowed Nolan to craft a script where characters are able to move fluidly and seamlessly through both real and imagined landscapes, the division between which is often blurred.

For the film's casting, Nolan recruited actors he had worked with on Batman Begins, such as Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy, as well as Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Leonardo DiCaprio. As Nolan met with DiCaprio and continued to work on the script in the late 2000s, he strove to make the emotional development of Dom Cobb—a tortured widower who participates in the scheme as a way to reunite with his children—the driving arc of the film.

Despite its difficult and non-linear storytelling, which it has in common with Nolan's previous work Memento (2000), Inception was a phenomenal success, grossing over $800,000,000 worldwide. Roger Ebert called the film "breathtaking" and "wholly original," and many critics praised Nolan's singular ability to integrate complex thematic and narratological techniques into an accessible piece of blockbuster entertainment. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won three: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.