Director Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ breaks into dreams

July is the month when movies gets dizzy (or is it ditsy?) from the heat, and this year is no exception, with films featuring heartthrob vampires, evil aliens and the never-gets-old concept of talking dogs. But on July 16, in the middle of the usual popcorn parade, director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. will deliver "Inception," a strange thriller that has been a Hollywood mystery for months thanks to its cryptic title and the fact that the studio has guarded the Nolan-penned script like a state secret.

So it was no surprise last summer that, at a musty old dirigible hangar outside London, Nolan welcomed a rare visitor to his "Inception" set with a guarded smile. "So you've read the script -- did you understand it?" Mazes and masked intentions are the specialties of Nolan, who burst on the scene 10 years ago with "Memento," a noir riddle told in two alternating narratives presented in opposite chronological directions -- a masterpiece of watchmaker cinema that earned Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, an Oscar nomination for their screenplay. In 2008, Nolan performed an even more impressive sleight of hand when he delivered a $1-billion success with the Batman movie called "The Dark Knight," the most cerebral of superhero films and one that barely used any computer-generated effects.

"Inception," the 39-year-old director's seventh feature film and his first foray into science fiction, combines the perception riddles of "Memento" and the sheer scale of "Dark Knight" with its $160-million budget and location shoots in Morocco, France, Japan and three other countries. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a specialist in the new branch of corporate espionage -- he's a dream thief who plucks secrets from the minds of tycoons after pumping them full of drugs and hooking them up to a mysterious contraption. The problem, though, is the land of nod can be volatile -- as can DiCaprio's character, Dom Cobb, who is a wounded dreamer after the loss of his beloved wife.

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Directors, Summer 2010


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