Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team work in a highly specialised field of corporate espionage. Infiltrating their targets' dreams, they convince victims to part with highly sensitive information while they sleep.
Following a failed 'extraction' on businessman Mr Saito (Ken Watanabe), the Japanese tycoon makes Cobb an offer he can't refuse. Implicated in the murder of his wife, Cobb is unable to return home to the US to see his children, but Saito has a solution, for a price, of course. Saito wants Cobb to pull off the seemingly impossible feat of planting an idea in the mind of his main competitor's son, causing him to sell the family business when his ailing father passes away.
Recruiting new dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and in-dream shape-shifter Eames (Tom Hardy), Cobb, along with regular accomplice Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), meticulously plans the 'inception'. Unfortunately, Cobb's deceased wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) keeps drifting out of his sub-conscious and into the team's mission, putting each operation at risk. As the crew grab their target, Robert Fischer Jr (Cillian Murphy), and put their intricate plan into action, the complexities of the human mind threaten to derail the mission and cause irreparable damage to Cobb's psyche.
Christopher Nolan's dense yet thrilling blockbuster was a roaring summer success and, despite some voices of dissent, it was also a huge hit with the critics. Visually astounding and meticulously plotted, Inception is quite possibly the most cerebral blockbuster of all time, and one that lends itself to multiple viewings.
Open to myriad interpretations, its meaning will be the subject of pub debates for years to come, as will the details of the multi-layered inception mission and its tantalising (and for some, infuriating) ending.
What isn't open for debate is the film's technical excellence, which brings jaw-dropping scenes to life with a verisimilitude that's rare in CGI-obsessed Hollywood. From a city folding in on itself to a zero gravity fight in a hotel corridor, Nolan's film uses a mix of digital trickery and old school physical effects to create some of the most memorable set pieces since The Matrix.
While some critics have pointed out that the characters are largely two-dimensional, it's highly likely that this was Nolan's intention, their lack of backstory making them feel more like the fleeting, insubstantial figures encountered when dreaming. Having selected an extremely strong cast, most notably unstoppable upcomer Hardy, Nolan has no trouble selling his potentially baffling concept to the audience. With the perfectly cast DiCaprio made up to look exactly like his director, complete with slicked-back hair and goatee, it looks like Nolan really has succeeded in bringing his dreams to the screen, perhaps more literally than he cares to admit.