What if you could enter into someone's mind while they dream, watch as they fill the dream with their subconscious memories and then access any information you desire from that ?
That is the starting point for the concept of the movie that is gonna feature predominantly , come Oscar night 2011. Because have no doubt of it, this is where the movie belongs. I'm not particularly worried about giving away "spoilers" for the movie, simply because I couldn't even if I wanted to.
I say "starting point" because if the above concept seems hard to imagine, you're in for a rough ride...that's just the first minute of the movie. The plot carries on and thickens palpably as the movie progresses.
Cobb ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) is a thief who enters peoples minds to steal vital information for money. Early on, you are aware that there has been a tragedy in his life, one he has not fully recovered from yet. But this time around, he is offered a different job... not to steal from the dream, but to add an idea into a person's subconscious for another's personal benefit. In return he is offered a chance at personal salvation.
Unable to resist, Cobb takes up the offer and assembles his team, which include a forger, a pharmacist ( to speeden up the sleep state ) and a young architect ( to build the world in the dream through which they must walk ). The plan in itself is a complicated one - to enter a dream within a dream within a dream to plant the idea subconsciously without the person suspecting someone's tampering with his mind.
However, as in all of director Christopher Nolan's earlier films ( Memento, Prestige, The Dark Knight ), nothing is as it seems. And that's where the problem begins for the team.
Will they be successful in adding the idea into the young man's mind ?
What is the relationship between each layer of dreams to the next and how do the changes in one affect the other ?
What exactly is the tragedy behind the relationship between Cobb and his wife ?
This is as far as I'll go... the rest is for you to watch and opine. There are just too many layers to this breathtaking movie. For the last 45 minutes as the dreams start playing side by side, I wouldn't recommend blinking even by mistake, for fear you'd miss a point that maybe vital to this storyline. You may breathe, but not too loudly, that you miss a dialogue, because this is not a movie that's going to spoon feed you details - you have to be alert to the implications of the scenes unfolding before your eyes, while also considering their impact on the next layer of dreams. Whew !!
Visually, the movie is breathtaking, with scenes of whole landscapes turning 360 degrees in the air and gravity becoming optional as per the architect's whims. A decade ago, if Matrix floored you , this will blow your mind all over again. Like Matrix, you will be forced to revisit this movie just to make sure you haven't missed a thing.
Acting wise too, all do their job well, be it Watanabe as the boss, Marion Cotillard as the wife that Cobb is haunted by and Gordon Lewitt as Cobb's friend and ally. But full credit where it's due, this is DiCaprio's movie and he rocks it... in recent years, his acting has risen manifold ( Catch me if you can, Blood Diamond, Body of Lies, Departed ) and this film firmly places him back on top of the roost after the disappointing Shutter Island.
If there were any lingering doubts about the genius of director Christopher Nolan, they can be dispelled forever with this. He has taken story telling to a new level with this. Everything comes together - his script, the visual effects, the cast, the background score. It all works.
And the result is a masterpiece of a movie. A true blockbuster for the mind.