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'Inception'

January 17, 2010

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

BACK STORY: So what exactly is this film? That's a popular question after a visually dazzling but enigmatic trailer was released (and its title doesn't exactly clear things up).

Is it an international thriller? A story of madness and lost love? Or Hollywood's first metaphysical heist movie? The answer is "all of the above," says Nolan, whose follow-up to "The Dark Knight" seems to have Ian Fleming, the Wachowski brothers and Sigmund Freud as its spiritual advisors.

"I think we've put a lot of different things into the pot with this one," Nolan said last week during a break from editing. "I grew up watching James Bond films and loving those and watching spy movies with their globe-trotting sensibility. We get to do that here not just geographically but also in time and dimensions of reality as well. We get to make a movie that's expansive, I suppose you'd say, in four dimensions."

The key part of the premise is corporate espionage by way of dream invasion, but motives and even reality are slippery in a film that toys with perception as its travels through time and space. The crew covered a lot of territory too, filming in six countries. "This is the biggest challenge I've taken on to this point," Nolan says. "We're trying to tell a story on a massive scale, a true blockbuster scale -- the biggest I've ever been involved with. We tried to make a very large scale film with 'The Dark Knight,' and with this one we wanted to push that even further."

FILM CLIP: Though Nolan has kept mum about any return to the Bat Cave, cast member Gary Oldman said in July that filming on a third installment was set for this year.

-- Geoff Boucher

NEXT: "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
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