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The Inception of “Inception”

July 21, 2010

I was not going to write about “Inception.”

I told myself, days before I sat in that seat in the theater. Days after the onslaught of critical discourse and mass reactions to Christopher Nolan‘s newest creation. Days and days of trying to avoid reading spoilers and reviews and twitter conversations. I was convinced that by the time I get to watch the film, there would have been plenty of opinions to absorb and play with, and nothing remarkably new left to say.

But, the idea is but a seed, and as those of us who have seen the film by now well know, once planted it is almost impossible to eradicate. Ironically, that is what I’m going to say happened – I somehow self-incepted into my mind the idea of thinking, writing, obsessing about “Inception,” accidentally or otherwise, long before I was invited into its world.

And here I am.

Or should I say, here we are. Welcome.

This is not a review. There will be SPOILERS. I won’t tell you what Nolan should have made or what you should have enjoyed. That is none of my business. What I want to talk about, foremost, is what I personally take away from this film.

There is no doubt that this is an awesome feat of cinematic workmanship, and a viscerally pleasurable experience that makes me think it possible to truly enjoy a summer blockbuster once again. It is a MOVIE to be seen in cinema, on grand screens, with your mates, in every sense of the word. After everything is said and done, I have no regrets for my $14 spent.

However, just as it absolutely awed me, almost compelled me, “Inception” never truly moved me.

And within that lies my biggest frustration – the extent that I journeyed with the film only to be held back at the brink of greatness. The film had so much potential – the idea of a lucid dream that can be mapped, sketched, and built like architecture, the idea of corporate espionage of the highest caliber, the idea of a man’s dark past and deep secrets that haunt his every move and prevent him from living the life he desperately longs for, all threaded through with a new technology that allows the creation of art at a level that we’ve only ever dreamed of before, literally – and the end result is a failure to make me stray, in any measurable distance in any emotional direction, from a hyper-vigorous state of mental alertness for two and a half hours.

Ok. This alone is puzzling, but not a complete deal-breaker. There are few things that I enjoy more than over-thinking, and here is an opportunity to do it with state-of-the-art special effects and dazzling cinematography in a story that talks about what’s going on in one’s head. It was a premise that I whole-heartedly embraced. A puzzle I was more than willing to delve into. Minutes into the film, I realized that this is an intellectual exercise as much as it is a visual one, a logic game colored with an alternate reality where physic-defying rules allowed amazing things to happen, and I accepted it enthusiastically and looked out for the pieces, waiting to be pushed and challenged.

But as I ventured further and further into the dream world with Mal, Cobbs, Arthur, Ariadne, Eames, Saito, Yusuf, and Fischer, I became more and more frustrated trying to navigate the game and play within its static boundaries. There were spots of bright genius, to be sure, such as the idea that time expands exponentially with the increase in depth of dream levels, and the concept that our minds are suspicious of foreign concepts and create projections that function like white blood cells in an immune system. These allow certain luxuries, like having multiple narrative climaxes simultaneously, and set certain restraints, like the fact that we can’t shift the dream world too drastically so as to alert its inhabitants of its non-reality state. These are interesting lines, and create a boundary within that the characters must make the most of what they have without crashing it all down.

In a heist movie set in reality, these solid lines bound by rules of physics would have worked just fine. However, in this hyper-reality of science fiction that Nolan invites us into, he seems to have no desire to push the boundaries of this imaginary world beyond what was established in the first hour of the film. By the time the actual heist begins, Nolan seems perfectly happy to play by the book, very excitingly, albeit, but not expanding or bending rules that has already been neatly explained. For example, the architect Ariadne builds the dreamscape, and then politely lets it be and tags along with the team to observe and ask questions. She was able to bend laws of physics and transform mirror images into solid reality on her first lesson, but when it’s show time she doesn’t utilize any of these learned skills, even when they are seconds away from eternal doom, in a remote snowy mountaintop where the only subconscious projections around are already trying to kill them and the mark already knows that he’s in a dream – perfect opportunity for some mountain-bending and avalanche defying, but that never happens. Instead we get Hollywood-style gunfights and snowmobile chases.

Aside from Page’s under-utilization, another character who doesn’t quite get to stretch his legs is the chemist Yusuf – why was he in the first dream layer at all? As the mastermind behind the sedative that is responsible for stability of the entire team’s dream state for the duration of the entire job, shouldn’t he stay awake to calibrate the levels carefully, possibly shifting them in and out of different levels of consciousness chemically, which Cobbs gave as the reason they needed him “in the field” upon their first meeting? If the job involves a simple push of a button which a stewardess can do, why doesn’t Yusuf just sell the team the concoction and stay home in his comfy bed (and save the team a cut of the profits)? Yusuf served no useful purpose in the mission except to hold up a bottle of liquid in the real world and drive a car in the first dream layer, and even then there was no reason given as to why the team needed to be in a moving vehicle while submerged into deeper dream levels. There were threats from Fischer’s own subconscious defenses, yes, but that was a surprise which the team wouldn’t have been prepared for, which by the way, is another detail that nonchalantly popped up as “unresearched,” which in an epic narrative like this seems like a lazy excuse for introducing an additional plot point.

More than the less-than-fleshed-out characters, I found myself keep on wondering about certain aspects of the narrative that were, to my shock, unexplored completely. Perhaps no more is there than Michael Caine’s character Miles – when you have Michael Caine in a film, forgive me, you don’t just use him for a 10 second introduction and an airport pickup, no matter how effective he is at either. We learned that Miles is the one that taught Cobbs the skills of dream manipulation, implying that he is a master of this craft perhaps even greater than Cobbs, and we couldn’t spare a few of 150 minutes to explore this origin of the premise that the entire film is based upon?

Another is Cobbs and Mal’s life in limbo. The film shows bits and pieces of it, but mostly of them wandering around doing unremarkable things. How do they “build” their world in limbo? How do they fare with the passing of 50 years in a world that they know is not real? Do they make friends with people from memories of their past? Can they create “new” people to populate their world-in-limbo as they can buildings? How do those relationships, with imagined people, evolve? How do the knowledge and experience of those imagined relationships affect Cobbs and Mal’s relationship? When they come back to reality, how does having psychologically lived and aged for 50 years affect a sudden restoration to a youthful body unmarked by those decades of life “lived?” Furthermore, what is limbo? And if Cobbs and Mal can consciously “kill” themselves to get out of it, why can’t Saito by himself?

How does the exponential expansion of time work? Is it precise or an approximation? And if precise, what exactly is the calculation? Because I couldn’t find any simple arithmetic that connect 10 hours, a week, 6 months, and 10 years at the respective levels. And the concept of gravity – why is it that if all other physically perceived reality can be duplicated in the dream state, gravity is an exception to that rule? The only reason I can see is that it makes a very nice zero gravity action sequence in a hotel hallway, which is a good enough reason, but shouldn’t be the only reason.

Am I analyzing this to death? Maybe. But then again that is what “Inception” asks of its audience, isn’t it? It is a film about the boundaries of reality and consciousness, and the rules that guide these boundaries, however fantastical they are, should be as complex and consistent as the world they govern. Here, Nolan gave us dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams on a silver platter, but it is a one-shot presentation, with each piece precisely slotted in place without satisfactory explanation as to why and how. The meal is enjoyable and the tastes are new, but they don’t seem to come together in a way that make complete sense. They don’t transcend.

Having skimmed through the thoughtful comments on Roger Ebert and Jim Emerson‘s blogs, I found myself identifying with both what people loved about “Inception” and disliked about it. Yes, the sets are mind-blowing. Yes, the architecture designs are fascinating from an aesthetics points of view. Yes, Marion Cotillard embodies the ideal lost love of a woman. Yes, the cast is uniformly excellent. Yes, the labryinth of layered lucid dreams is an original idea. Yes, the film is rather flat in its emotional tone. Yes, the film doesn’t accurately depict the strange nature of human consciousness. Yes, yes, yes. But, none of these reasons individually could account for why I felt the way I did about this film, and why even though I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the spectacle unfolding before me, a frustration festered and grew within me with each passing minute.

I think, to put it in one word, “Inception” lacks for me at its very subconscious level, Mystery.

Unlike The Matrix trilogy where its hero continuously evolved and broke the rules of its reality, “Inception” gave Cobbs neat clock-ticking rules that within he was allowed to race. Instead of a simple premise that holds true for the separation between reality and another dimension of consciousness, like death (“What Dreams May Come”) or time/space (“Contact”) or virtual reality (“The Matrix”), here are elaborate multi-levels, chemically-induced “dream” states whose transport between each other are never satisfactorily conceptualized (gravity, really?) or explained (how is limbo separate from another dream layer?). Nolan did not set out to create a heart-wrenching drama, but he didn’t produce a precise, consistent piece of science fiction either. I found that the very subject of his choice – dreams, lucid or not – allowed him to somehow shift between meticulous and random, and the result is a confusing, rigorous intellectual exercise that engaged me, but never compelled me, and certainly did not move me.

That is not to say that Nolan is not a gifted filmmaker, because he is. Certain scenes of the film will be stuck with me for quite a while (Gordon-Levitt without a doubt had the coolest part of the film). It is also not to say that I didn’t enjoy this film, which I did, couldn’t keep my eyes away for two and a half hours. I would recommend this to most of my friends because it will likely be the most intellectually engaging and visually provocative blockbuster they see all summer. There’s no dispute that any film that inspires this much debates and critical discourse has already earned its worth. What I am saying is that “Inception” had so much potential to be a flawless corporate heist/action blockbuster/science fiction braintease masterpiece. Here, it succeeds on the first two, but stumbles with limited imagination on the third. Nolan starts with an idea, builds upon it, expanding like a relentless virus, meticulously ventures to the brink of oblivion and, stops, just a step short of free-falling, moving greatness.

Like Eames said to Arthur in the dream world: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

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68 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2010 3:04 PM

    I, for one, really enjoyed this film, although I believe it did have its stumbles, especially in terms of Mal and Cobb’s relationship, which was a mirror of the one DiCaprio had with Michelle Williams in “Shutter Island.”

    I wasn’t as annoyed by Michael Caine’s little role as you were, but his dialogue was NOT GOOD. That was my real problem with the film: Nolan has never written good dialogue, and there’s no show of good dialogue here. Of course, there are witty lines, like the Eames-and-Arthur banter. But it’s just not very well written. Also, as my friend said, there were a few groaning clichés, like the potentially interesting father/son relationship between Cillian Murphy and Pete Postlethwaite (who is SO UNDERUTILIZED that there was basically no point to put him in the film; Caine feels like a Nolan regular that one can slip in, but Postlethwaite stuck out kind of like a sore thumb there, especially because, like you said about Caine, he’s a great actor who gets jammed into a dumb 3-line role; much like Bruce Willis in “The Astronaut Farmer”).

    Very enjoyable and astonishing intellectually, but still, as you said, not the excellent masterpiece it could have been, for a number of reasons.

    • July 21, 2010 3:05 PM

      Also, yes, Page was not very well-directed and seemed cut off a lot.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 21, 2010 3:11 PM

      Yes, the script could have been a lot more…less. Show more. Explain less.

      I guess for me whenever I see Michael Caine on screen I just want to see more of him, and for him to bestow wisdom up on me. In my frustration here, I really wished he would just come in and transcend everything somehow. I expected to see him in the end but not merely as a greeter/picker-upper!

  2. July 21, 2010 3:11 PM

    Hmmm.

    Thinking.

    XOXOX

    Grace: Why are you reading this now with all the spoilers?! Wait till after you see the film!

  3. July 21, 2010 3:14 PM

    I saw Inception last week. What I remember best about it is a late scene, just before the heros sneak into Cillian Murphy’s head, where Ariadne interrupts (someone) and says, “wait a minute–whose dream are we in now?” The audience burst out laughing, because most of them were wondering the same thing.

    The movie’s not entertainment–it’s work. It looks great and stays moving but you have to retain so much information from so much expository dialogue in so many scenes in so many realities that it becomes difficult to lose yourself in a moment. To do so would be an emotional response–perhaps a feeling of being moved, which, as you say, is hard to achieve watching Inception.

    By the way, Tom Hardy also starred in a film called Bronson (2008), which is well worth a rental. He plays an inmate in the British penal system. Like Inception, that film spends a lot of time depicting reality through the lens of an individual’s fantasy, but unlike Inception, those fantasies all terminate in common, concrete consequences for the individual. I feared, pitied or despised Hardy’s character at various points in Bronson, but I always knew that what he said and did, even if it was all in his head, had direct effect on the real man in the real jail cell. With Nolan’s movie, I was never sure. He wants us to care about the characters he puts in jeopardy, but without making it clear (at least to me) that they can even be truly hurt, much less die.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 21, 2010 3:20 PM

      I agree the movie is work, which I don’t mind, if it is seamless, consistent work, which IMO it wasn’t. I’m less opposed to the emotional tone of the film. True, it would’ve been great if it was an emotional drama as well as a brainy science fiction, but one doesn’t necessarily mandates another. I still believe a pure “thinking” film can be great it it made total sense.

      Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were my favorite parts of the film. So much spark. Their little jives with each other were the only ones that made me smile, oh, and that kiss between Page and Gordon-Levitt.

      • July 21, 2010 3:48 PM

        All of which reminds me that renting The Manchurian Candidate would cost a lot less than buying a ticket for Inception. The big kiss in that one isn’t quite so sweet.

      • Grace permalink*
        July 21, 2010 3:52 PM

        Grace: come on, that is a fine film, but putting things in perspective I still prefer a ticket for “Inception.”

      • July 21, 2010 4:29 PM

        Not me, Grace. But I see it the way Nolan might:

        X=10 minutes of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) = 30 minutes of Inception, where X is defined as stimulating entertainment ([enjoyment ÷ in-theatre analysis] x absence of iPhones).

  4. July 21, 2010 3:41 PM

    I have to say that among films I didn’t care for very much, few have provided as much enjoyment as Inception, though the enjoyment came not so much from the film itself but from discussing it with friends and from reading all the great commentary about it (your excellent piece included) on this shared dream we call the Internet. I didn’t like the film much, but I love thinking about why I didn’t like it.

    It left me cold. The characters felt not like people to me but like more gears turning in Nolan’s grand mechanism. Even the notion of dreams, replete with potential for creating something beautiful or passionate or profound, has been stripped down to a simple plot device to serve Nolan’s purposes. I found it to be a work of impressive craftsmanship but not a work of art. For a film with such a high concept, it seemed to utterly lack any sense of passion, imagination or daring, and so much of it was filmed in such an elegant but removed way that I often felt like I was looking at a furniture catalog rather than a movie.

    One thing, intentional or not, that has stuck with me as quite beautiful and profound about Inception, though, is the use by the team of the Edith Piaf song “Non, Je ne regrette rien” as the signal of the oncoming kick. Cotillard, of course, played Piaf in La Vie En Rose. This intersection suggests to me the notion of cinema as a collective societal dreamscape.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 21, 2010 3:48 PM

      Wow, what a beautiful comment. Thanks for that Carolyn. I think you hit it on the head that for a a film with such a high concept, it didn’t dare to go off the ropes. I really wanted at moments to shake that entire dream world and scream: GO FOR IT!!

      Beautiful choice of song, total agreement.

      Btw, what do you think about some comparing this to a video game? I found myself keep on referring to it with “game” and “rules” when writing, unconsciously so, and wonder if it actually does feel similar (I don’t play videogames so can’t compare).

      Love this line: This intersection suggests to me the notion of cinema as a collective societal dreamscape.

    • July 21, 2010 3:49 PM

      Nolan said in a Film Comment interview this was “totally coincidental.” It did end up as an interesting touch.

      • Grace permalink*
        July 21, 2010 9:00 PM

        Do you have the link for that interview? How does the only song choice in a film ends up being “totally coincidental?”

      • July 22, 2010 9:31 AM

        Here’s what he said (it’s not online; Film Comment only does certain things in magazine format):

        The question was:

        “And the other female character, Cobb’s wife, played by Marion Cotillard—was there meant to be a dreamlike association between Edith Piaf singing “Non, je ne regrette rien” and your casting the actress who won an Oscar for playing Piaf?”

        Nolan’s answer was:

        “Pure coincidence. I know that sounds insane. I wrote the song into the script 10 years ago. And Marion gave an amazing performance [in “La Vie En Rose”] and she seemed perfect for the part. I thought for a moment I cast her, do I have to change the song? And then I thought that perhaps it will be a nice resonance. There’s a crazy logic there, but they were very independent decisions.”
        ___________________________________________________________

        I think the song was a very good choice, for its translated title means “No, I Regret Nothing” (which has a lot of significance in the film) and the song has a nice, powerful effect.

        Grace: Thanks for typing that up. That is a good coincidence.

  5. July 21, 2010 4:36 PM

    Ah, the ramblings of a viewer after seeing Inception! The conflicted discussions we’re all having are rightfully earned and will guarantee Inception’s place in cinematic history, but beyond the immediate reactions and passionate discourse, what’s left is a beautiful, technically impressive, and emotionally hollow shell.

    Like you wrote, it lacks mystery and never once moved me. In the moment, I was transfixed and occasionally thrilled, but upon reaching its conclusion (and later discussing its intricacies), I began to realize something; This movie, like the dreams inside it, collapses upon itself once we start to explore it too deeply. For example, I could accept a universe in which dream-sharing technology exists, but the convoluted explanations regarding meta dreaming (compounded time, limbo, and inconsistencies regarding “kicking” and waking) were just too poorly presented to respect.

    If I don’t care about the characters (which I didn’t) I had better be fulfilled with the film’s universe, observations, and ideas. Inception seemed to do nothing but tease me. Though unquestionably enjoyable throughout the duration, it doesn’t withstand any following scrutiny. For a movie that centers around so many complex ideas and explanations, it certainly expects a grand leap of faith from its audience.

    • July 21, 2010 5:00 PM

      Exactly! Either convince me, or romance me so fully that I don’t care about being convinced… Nolan achieves neither here. I might have felt the same way about The Dark Knight, but for Heath Ledger’s performance, which has no equivalent in this film.

      • Grace permalink*
        July 21, 2010 5:02 PM

        Bobby I was about to reply, and then I saw the comment by Chris and all I have to say is: I concur fully.

  6. July 21, 2010 5:13 PM

    Thank you, Grace. Yes, in the ways it takes so much time laying out its rules, in its richly detailed yet somehow sterile environments, in its uninvolving, extended shootouts against faceless goons, I was endlessly reminded of mediocre videogames. Films adapted from games and games adapted from films have a reputation for being pretty bad. This is the first film that I actually thought might have worked better if it had been conceived from the ground up as a game.

    • July 21, 2010 5:51 PM

      A humor blogger pointed out another problem I had with the villains/screenplay. I’ll copy and paste his comment.

      “I hated the script. *Ahem.* Ariadne: Are those projections part of his subconscious? Cobb: Yes. Ariadne: Are you destroying those parts of his mind? Cobb: No, they’re just projections.”

    • July 21, 2010 6:51 PM

      I think films based on games face the same challenges as other adaptations from one medium to another–the difference being that, traditionally, a film based on a game had to add a great deal to its source material, whereas an adaptation of a novel, for example, required a lot of cutting. As video games have matured in artistry, complexity, and length, that distinction is lessening. But it’s still the case that many filmmakers, seeking to build a movie out of a game, seem satisfied to give us more of what the game already gave us.

      Anyway, there’s still a lot of film critics who use ‘video game’ as a pejorative, and perhaps they shouldn’t, because video games have been influenced by film more than the other way around. Bruce Lee’s Game of Death predates even the earliest fighting games, and Buster Keaton played the Super Mario-role before TV was invented. Space Invaders debuted a year after Star Wars, but by the mid-eighties, the format of games like Defender and Gradius would have reminded people far more of Star Wars, with its propulsive feel and progressive levels of threat, than of the more boardgame-like Space Invaders.

  7. July 21, 2010 5:33 PM

    I haven’t seen the movie and won’t until it comes out on DVD, if ever, but from my readings about the movie I am getting the idea that, like so many movies and TV shows that seek to explain alternate realities or obscure science, this one suffers from too much concern that people understand the concepts and rules etc. The characters then become “textbooks” whose only purpose is to explain the writers concepts. I wonder if they couldn’t spend less time doing that and more time glossing over details and leaving more to people’s imaginations. We needn’t understand the finer points of dream manipulation to feel the effect that it has on others.
    It reminds me of watching CSI where the characters inevitably break into a monologue to explain a procedure to a colleague who would obviously know the procedure already. Very irritating.
    As a psychic with experience of lucid dreaming I find it irritating that another ability/practice of the “mystical” variety is used only for profit and manipulation in a movie. People get the wrong deas about such things, and it seems the idea of the movies comes from the writer’s fears about things he knows little about.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 21, 2010 9:13 PM

      I think if details of dream manipulations that we got were not present and even less, then we’re talking about a different movie. Nolan’s narrative is based on logic and those details are important in navigating through that.

  8. July 21, 2010 7:28 PM

    Beautifully written analysis, Grace.

    For me, Inception is about this at it’s core: a painful choice, and it’s emotional pain.

    Cobb is faced with an impossibly difficult offer. To conduct an Inception – and reclaim his life, knowing that the only other time he has done this cost his wife her life and wracks him with guilt. Choose.

    My first viewing, I was hypervigilantly (I think you said) focused on the caper and the team. 2nd viewing, I was focused on Cobb’s first inception, and the guilt that he had in planting an idea in his wife’s (his love’s) mind that got them back to reality, but caused her to kill herself.

    “you are waiting for a train…to take you to a destination…you can’t know that it will…but it doesn’t matter…because either way we’ll be together forever”

    small scenes, little glimpses, in the background of the caper.

    Also, the pinwheel toy in the safe made more sense and had emotional meaning 2nd viewing.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 21, 2010 9:15 PM

      Was it emotional for you? Cobb’s storyline with Mal? Were you truly moved?

      • July 21, 2010 10:13 PM

        I was moved by Cobb’s emotional pain, yes. The relationship with Mal, and the guilt at causing her death via the first inception was the source of that pain. I was moved by her pleading with him to come back to her. I was moved by the payoff scene where they put their heads on the track to get out of limbo. I was moved by her emotional pain from the seed idea – your life is not reality and you have to kill yourself to get back, which caused her real death. I was moved by the dynamic of separation from children. Lots of emotional pain.

        Also, I suprisingly connected with Fisher Jr’s emotional pain in the 2nd viewing. Didn’t pay much attention to him first time, other than he was the mark. And rich. Probably a jerk. 2nd viewing – he’s not a jerk, and he really is in pain about his father’s disappointment. His cathartic release at seeing the pinwheel – which told him that his father really did care about him – was genuine.

        By the way, I didn’t catch the setups for the pinwheel first time. It’s in the picture that his father sweeps off the bed. “I put it there. He never acted like he knew it was there”. It’s also in a small version of that same pic in Jr’s wallet that they swipe on the airplane. Now it is manipulative of the team that they then put that pinwheel in the safe for him to find, and therefore release his hatred of his father and connective positively to the seed idea inception. Manipulative. But, his reaction to it is real and meaningful.

    • ctweibel permalink
      December 17, 2010 3:44 PM

      This movie is about the next step in spy/psy technology, using dreams lucid on many levels. I thought Inception was fascinating and like a good movie it makes you think on different levels. There were emotional moments but mostly it engages your mind. The pinwheel interested me because I had a dream last night of my brother and Dad (deceased 2009) holding up glasses of wine for a toast. Then I looked passed them and on the wall was a picture of them together but something was partially obscuring their faces. I asked outloud, “What’s the matter with that picture?” They glared at me. But when I got closer to it I could see that they were pinwheels. You see, I’m still unravelling the meanings behind the dream symbols in that movie! Ha, ha, ha.

  9. July 21, 2010 9:37 PM

    Randy hit the nail on why I found the characters bearable. The film wasn’t a character study, unlike the two previous movies in the Di Caprio Widower series (Rev Road, Shutter Island). The previous two focused more on the histrionics of the mind. Inception, on the other hand, is about professionalism. Cobb isn’t the most mentally sound person, and it interferes with his work more than to his liking. But he needs to get a job done and that’s what’s important in the worldview of the film. Leo’s performance reflected that conflict and that struggle for control.

    And I suppose that means that I just admitted that the movie may not have answered its own questions nor succeeded in its original aims. I also keep thinking about how I would view a film under a different context, which is impossible. But I like the end result.

    Another thing I keep thinking about is Mal. When it comes to other ‘dreamed’ female characters like her, she’s either perfect in the dream world and a bitch in reality. She’s both and she’s ambiguous.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 21, 2010 10:00 PM

      Randy mentions “emotional pain.” You mention “professionalism.” Would’ve been great if I saw how those two came together here. I think this is a subjective call.

      And I’ve said time and again that the cast is uniformly excellent. That was not my problem, not even once. If anything they elevated the film to where it is now. Everyone talks about Hardy, Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard (including me), but Leo was tremendous as well. I laughed outloud at the “DiCaprio Widower series,” duly noted, but he does tortured/haunted so well.

  10. July 21, 2010 9:45 PM

    I found the mystery to be in whether Cobb was truly awake or dreaming throughout. I picked up on that it could be his dream early on and I was looking for clues that it would be all inside his dreams rather than someone else’s.

  11. July 21, 2010 10:49 PM

    I agree with most of what you said about the film. I enjoyed it, but I felt the film itself set a very high bar that it did not reach.

    In particular, maybe it was the Dark City fan in me, but I was expecting more manipulation and “dream logic”. I wanted the architect to do more to change the environment while the subject wasn’t paying attention. We’re change blind even in real life, let alone in dreams, as evidenced by the “door study”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWSxSQsspiQ

    Grace: Great video. Thanks for sharing!

  12. July 21, 2010 11:40 PM

    2nd take on question: Was I moved?

    Not on first viewing. I was focused on reverse-heist caper.

    But, I saw it twice back-to-back.

    2nd viewing, I had already seen the caper. Seen the train slam into the chase scene and didn’t realize why. Seen Paris fold on itself. Etc. Seen the timescales.

    I was able to focus in on the characters more than the heist. Focus on the emotional motivations.

    Grace, see it a second time. Immediately! You’ll see what I mean.

  13. July 21, 2010 11:56 PM

    By the way, Alex over on Ebert’s Journal post answers your question on why the pharmacist went along with the team: he’s the dreamer for the first level.

    For each of the team-dreams, there is one dreamer and then the team tethers in.

    In the opening sequence, when Leo kills Levitt-Smith, the twist is that Lukas Haas is the dreamer. (also the architect)

    In the Inception dream, Yusuf the chemist is the dreamer. That’s why it’s raining when they arrive, because he has to pee. That’s why he’s driving the van and everyone else is asleep in the van. Because he can’t go to the next level because he’s the dreamer in the first level, and the one who has to provide the kick. Similarly, Levitt-Smith is the dreamer in the second level and minds the sleepers who go down to the next level, and has to provide that kick. Etc.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 22, 2010 1:24 AM

      I don’t see how that makes sense. The point keep being hammered home was that the architect builds the dreamscape, and the dreamer fills it with his/her subconscious, believing he is in reality. In the first dream level, Ariadne as the architect builds the dreamscape, and Fischer as the subject to be immersed is the primary dreamer as I defined previously. It is Fischer’s subconscious that fills the dream because that’s where all the shooting men came from. How is Yusuf the “dreamer” if he provides neither the architecture of the dreamscape or the subconscious that fills it?

      Maybe I missed a clue here or there. That peeing comment, I thought, could’ve been either a joke or an actual occurence – that somehow physical needs of the dreamers immersed in the shared dream can be symbolically illustrated somehow in the dream – as weather here.

      You see how confusing this is? Either theory would’ve been fine, but it was never clearly and consistently explained to the audience.

  14. July 22, 2010 1:24 AM

    A few answers:
    1. Limbo is different in that even if you go into it from a lucid dream state, you don’t remember that you’re dreaming (in the end, those two know exactly where they are going which is why they can still remember). It’s not an area so much as a region of dream levels from n to infinity. This is why LdC is forced to set into motion the events that cause the inception in his wife’s mind.
    2. Yusuf needed to be there because someone needed to give the rest a kick to wake them up. Also why JG-L has to stay awake. I thought the single level gravity percolation was one of the movie’s few fully realised good ideas (the rest of it was ideas for good ideas). It’s not that your mind can’t fake gravity, more like it will refuse to. But it will happily fake gravity when the level above has percolated gravity. What Nolan doesn’t explore is the implicit differentiation between levels.
    3. LdC actually mentions that they were going to create people, but I’m not sure how delusional he was at that point during the movie.
    4.

    ow do those relationships, with imagined people, evolve? How do the knowledge and experience of those imagined relationships affect Cobbs and Mal’s relationship? When they come back to reality, how does having psychologically lived and aged for 50 years affect a sudden restoration to a youthful body unmarked by those decades of life “lived?”

    Considering how clean and Hollywood-staple Nolan’s “psychology” is, the answers to these questions are that they grow in the same way as they would in the rest of the movie, but someone will suddenly say that they are more one-dimensional.

    I find this movie rather bizarre because ever since I got out of the theatre and explained the whole mythology to my friends (along with my theory that the subconscious that the characters access is the conscious mind’s projection of the subconscious created to protect the mind), I’ve been helping people out with the plot (not internet reviewers, the answers here are a one-time thing) (many of whom seemed to have missed out on these same points, so these things come out of some argumentation). Got sidetracked: why it is bizarre is that, generally, my physical friends would roll over and die if I started giving my version of a movie. ;)

    Oh, about the movie itself, I agree with you except on the intellectual puzzler point of view. It was all said out loud. I find movies like Where the Wild Things Are and Inglourious Basterds and Watchmen (recently watched in theatres examples) much more intellectually challenging.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 22, 2010 10:50 AM

      #2 makes sense. I just don’t think that’s a good enough reason in this kind of epic narrative.
      #1, 3, 4 – I appreciate your thoughts, but again, those are your own interpretations of what the film portrays. There is no solid evidence in the film that back up those explanations. These are not character studies where open interpretations are good, they are key plot points (esp. limbo) that need to be understood to believe in the dream world satisfactorily, and I didn’t get that.

      • Randy Masters permalink
        July 22, 2010 11:50 AM

        Dreamer is a separate role from architect. You get a clue to who the dreamer is by the “kicker” puts the headset on to play the music. In the first scenes, there is a young Asian man in the train car who puts a headset on Lukas Haas, who is the dreamer. Yusuf, who is the dreamer into the first level, provides the kick out of the second level by putting the headset onto GLS, who is the dreamer into the 3rd level. It’s all very clear on 2nd viewing. Go see it again!

      • July 23, 2010 2:55 AM

        4 is interpretation and extrapolation. 1 in all probability involves some amalgam of exposition and interpretation (but I’m pretty sure there’s solid evidence in the movie, considering I came upon this while working out the world of the movie). But 3 is merely a statement of fact.

        And a more general point: I agree with you that the ambiguity is not good here, but not because they are key plot points. While reading fantasy, one of the key pleasures is figuring out what’s going on; it’s like a pact between writer and reader: writer makes world well, bu reader doesn’t get it all expositioned for him.
        The problem here is that writer doesn’t build the world well, or at least makes it look like he doesn’t. I’m convinced that Nolan never explained quite a bit of his dream world to himself (which could have been a good thing, but this is a straightforward fantasy).

      • Eric permalink
        August 11, 2010 3:05 PM

        Let me try to answer #2

        They need the Chemist because they are short on staff. Given that they need 3 dreamers, Cobb can’t dream (cause he is the guide to Fisher and because of Mal) , Saito can’t dream because he is a witness (thus needs to go to the 3rd level to see inception worked), Ariadne can’t dream cause her role is the architect and she know the layout of all 3 level of dreams (evidence by her helping Cobb to find a short cut at the snow mountain) so that level Arthur, Eames and the Chemist to dream.

  15. July 22, 2010 4:52 AM

    Well done, fabulous review, you summed up my thoughts about the movie perfectly.
    Nolan is undoubtedly an incredible film maker, and Inception is indeed a compelling spectacle, but I can help thinking that if the film leaves any powerful legacy at all, it is probably only as a case study for those seeking to create the ‘mother of all Summer blockbusters’.
    Film makers take note, most of the lessons you need to learn about film making can be learned from this movie… its just that Nolan could have done with putting a few more of them into practice and onto screen for the rest of us.
    It was unquestionably unemotional, lacking in jeopardy and largely undreamlike, unless of course your dream is to make a very expensive blockbuster!
    That said, on my part it was a ticket worth buying, a spectacle worth enjoying and an evening well spent… and on Christopher Nolan’s part, maybe just a tiny opportunity missed.

  16. July 22, 2010 10:57 AM

    A friend of mine ranked Nolan’s films in order of greatness (as he saw it): Inception was first, Memento second. Which reminded me how much buzz Memento got ten years ago… everyone debated the thing… whether it made sense or not, whether there was any art behind the gimmick, whether it was brilliant or just clever. You couldn’t describe why you liked the film unless you could describe how you analyzed it. And who talks about Memento today?

    Well, no one I know.

    • ChadG permalink
      July 22, 2010 4:03 PM

      Speak for yourself. Memento remains one of my all time favorite films.

  17. Nicole permalink
    July 22, 2010 3:35 PM

    You asked another commenter if he was truly moved by the Dom and Mal storyline. I certainly was. Actually, as more details of their relationship and past are revealed the more devastated I became. By the time of their final confrontation, where Dom refers to the dream Mal as “just a shade of my real wife”, I was an emotional wreck.

    Though I’ve only seen it once, I felt that the logistics of the film were, for the most part, quite sound and the explanations from both Randy and Ronak coincide with my own interpretations (which, obviously, doesn’t mean I’m right). I do, however, agree with the other commenter who felt that Dark City was more consistent. No, not every idea was as fully realized as it could have been but the emotional aspects of the story outweighed, what I considered to be, minor hiccups.

    As for the Michael Caine character, I believe the reason he doesn’t join the team “in the field” is because, as Mal’s father, his own emotional attachment could cause him to compromise the mission as much as (or even more so) than Dom.

    Ariadne, the one who’s meant to be the architect, really has an entirely different purpose. As suggested by the Greek myth from which her character is derived, she is there to lead the hero, Theseus/Dom, out of the labyrinth/dreamscape of the Minotaur/Mal. Mal is aware that Ariadne can foil her plans for destruction which is the reason she’s especially hostile towards her.

    Finally, Grace, I’m curious to know your theories (if any) on a few things you didn’t mention in your review. What did you think of the clear inconsistency in the aging of Dom’s children from the time first flees the US, to the time he speaks to them on the phone before going on the mission, to their ultimate “reunion”. Also, given the almost sacred status denoted to individual totems, why does Dom allow Saito to handle the top when they’re both in limbo and, for that matter, why does Dom have the top at all since it originally belonged to Mal?

    • Grace permalink*
      July 22, 2010 7:11 PM

      I think the emotional reaction is a subjective call and each personal response is justified in its own right. I didn’t disbelieve the tragedy – mostly because Cotillard and DiCaprio’s great performances – but I didn’t believe it whole-heartedly either. It was the way certain shots that were framed that felt a lack of intimacy.

      Is Caine Mal’s father or Cobbs’ father? I don’t think the film ever specified.

      As for the children, I think that is a tip of hat to the theory that the whole thing is a dream. It’s ambiguous enough to be argued either way though: we don’t know how long ago Cobbs left America, it could be just a matter of months instead of years. The children could be wearing the same clothes by accident etc. But I think that’s Nolan’s way of leaving things open to interpretation. I’m not sure about the totem q. because I think the whole “limbo” idea is dicey and never satisfactorily explained.

      • Nicole permalink
        July 25, 2010 8:13 PM

        -Miles is definitely Dom’s father-in-law.
        -The inconsistency with the ages of the children is apparent when Dom speaks to them on the phone. At the beginning and the end of the film they are (according to the credits) 5 and 3 but Phillipa sounds as if she’s at least 10 and James’ arguably has the speech of a child older than a toodler. FYI the credits also list the children as being portrayed 3yrs (Phillipa) and 20 months (James) but I don’t recall seeing them in film.

  18. July 22, 2010 4:38 PM

    As I began watching this movie I kept thinking about the tightrope it was walking on. A movie about a man who can go into people’s dream? What are the odds that it will end with him waking up and saying “It was all a dream”? Maybe Cobb was dreaming the whole time and it explains why those rules seem either inconsistent, too strict, or make no sense whatsoever. He was only dreaming and that night he dreamt a world that, if he were to wake up, he would realize that it made no sense.

    Another thing that struck me is how movies themselves often have a dreamlike state. When a character says “I am going to Malaysia” he is there a minute later. Sometimes a character will show up just in time to save the hero. Time flows differently in movies and characters can think and do things that most of us would, well, only dream of.

    Perhaps that is why so many people feel underwhelmed by the story and characters. Since most of the actions takes place inside a dreamworld, we expect the world that we see on the big screen to be even more extraordinary than usual. The laws of gravity were broken, true, but who hasn’t dreamt anything wilder than that?

    • Grace permalink*
      July 22, 2010 7:15 PM

      I still can’t believe they built a massive set on top of a mountain in Alberta and waited for a snow storm, only to do a standard snowmobile chase.

  19. July 22, 2010 7:07 PM

    I have to admit, Grace, my heart quickened a bit when I saw the word “mystery” in this post. My snap reaction: Exactly!

    Look, I understand that Christopher Nolan has a certain conception of dreams, dream worlds and dream logic, and I’m not really interested in questioning it. Dreams themselves are so mysterious in nature that I don’t really think anyone has a monopoly on an understanding of how they work—despite what some of its detractors say about how Inception “doesn’t conform to the way dreams actually work” or is “too literal-minded to be very dreamlike.” I can accept it, especially because Nolan pulls off his viewpoint with such thrilling showmanship and aplomb.

    But I’m the kind of film-watcher that enjoys a sense of mystery in the movies. Life itself is so full of mysterious things, and I feel genuine exhilaration when I sense that a filmmaker grasps this universal truth and puts that on the screen, without compromise. There isn’t enough of that, to my mind, in Inception; Christopher Nolan is too busy trying to dot every “i” and cross every “t” plot-wise that in the end, I feel even Nolan’s most dazzling images—the folding town, the zero-gravity fight—loses just a bit of its luster. Until that final shot, Inception is a rather disappointingly passive experience, and the lack of emotional engagement in the Cobb/Mal subplot just makes it feel that much more arid an experience.

    That said, I am certainly open to the possibility that I’m criticizing the film for being something that Nolan never intended it to be. Perhaps so. But it explains why I can only admire this film more than I can love it, for now at least.

  20. Grace permalink*
    July 23, 2010 2:13 PM

    I realize that I’ve talked mostly about what aspects of the film that didn’t work for me, that I had no time to mention what did, and there certainly were cool parts that I’d rewatch – the zero G hotel sequence, for example, which I thought was excellently crafted (how did they shoot that?). Another favorite of mine is the concept of totems, which I thought was a simple but elegant way to distinct between the real and dream worlds, and I wish there was more focus on that (why did Page show us her totem but then not mention it ever again?).

    What are some of your favorite parts/aspects of “Inception?”

    • July 23, 2010 4:01 PM

      >The Page-Levitt kiss.

      >Cotillard’s face: a beautiful fantasy, both erotic and comforting, then suddenly too close. Mal’s an unsettling villain, especially for male viewers, because we know she could draw us in just as she does Cobb.

      >Cillian Murphy’s vaguely dickish rich kid.

      >Any five minute stretch with more doing than explaining.

      • Grace permalink*
        July 23, 2010 7:02 PM

        The Page-Levitt Kiss! Yes! So awesome.

  21. July 24, 2010 1:17 PM

    Probably just me, but I take the two of the story elements at face value:

    – That the entered the dream layers to pull off of the Inception, and then returned to reality. Therefore, the top toppled. (You can see it just barely start to wobble as it goes to black)

    – That the kids are real and that he gets home to them. The important plot issue is “I can’t see their faces”, so we know he’s home when he does.

    I focused on other elements, such as when they explain the need to have a positive-Inception, so that the seed idea will take, not a negative one. In other words, he won’t take it up as his own idea to break up his father’s company if the motivation is that he hates his father. So, they have to reverse his animosity at his father’s disappointment in him. Which they manipulate very well.

    I also, as I’ve said, focused on the first Inception. Back in the 50 years of limbo. When he finds his wife’s safe and finds her totem in there and spins it and closes the safe. So when she opens the safe again it plants the seed that “your life is not real”. Wow.

    Nicole asked earlier why does Dom have the top when it was Mals. Dom finds it in the trashed hotel room as he’s walking in. He steps on a glass and breaks it. When he bends down to look at the glass, he picks up the top from the clutter on the floor. Then he stands up and sees Mal on the window-ledge across.

    Deep stuff. But face value stuff.

  22. July 24, 2010 4:18 PM

    Hello,

    As usually, you express your thoughts in ways, us mere mortals can only dream of. I also felt Inception to be a bit cold and inexpressive, at least for the majority of the characters. That is going to haunt the movie at oscars time.
    Having said that, let me say I have nothing but admiration for Nolan and whoever gave him the money to make the film. Bold and risky move, to shoot such a complex script for such a large budget, for Summer audiences that are not used to such demanding work. In the film’s defense, let’s not forget a few things:

    This is a Summer blockbuster. I suspect there were some conditions attached to the green light for the film. Hence the endless action, shootings, car chases and explosions. Things that perhaps could have been played differently and better if there were no such restrains. Just guessing.

    The plot structure is impossibly ambitious. Despite Nolan clearly making an effort to keep it consistent within the set rules, cracks in logic are bound to appear, either by his own fault or by time limitations. It’s inevitable considering the material. Credit must be given to Nolan for not losing the audience during the film. Inception is very demanding of the audience. There are tons of exposition needed to understand the action in the dream realms. I don’t recall watching a film with such heavy exposition in the first half-time. The fact that most people seem to understood pretty much everything after they left the theaters, is testimony of Nolan’s storytelling talent.
    The downside to this is, so busy and focused on the script was Nolan, that he seem to forgot to pay enough attention to fleshing out most of the key characters. And that becomes painfully obvious from a dream cast.

    However, the film did move me with the DiCaprio – Cotillard subplot. It’s perhaps the only emotional resonance of Inception, but it’s there. What happens is that it’s buried under layers of strangeness and alien landscapes, that perhaps it’s harder to connect. In that regard, I think Nolan is successful. However, I think he also fails terribly in another point – the kids. Cobbs reunion with his kids is the core motivation for the heist, and for placing the minds of so many people in danger. The bond I felt between Cobb and Mal, was absent in the case of Cobb and his kids. When the reunion finally takes place, I’m completely detached emotionally. In my opinion, that’s the film biggest flaw. This happens because Nolan handles the kids as a plot device. The only time we see any interaction between Cobb and the kids is during a phone conversation, where they’re not even on screen. Hard to create any sort of emotional connection that way. There’s a payoff for it in the end, scriptwise, but the film ends up losing a lot more than it gains from it.

    That’s my two cents about Inception. If nothing else, it made me submit my first comment on your blog ;-)

    Please excuse my English if there was some errors in grammar. It’s not my native language.

    • Grace permalink*
      July 25, 2010 9:50 AM

      Your English is better than some native speakers. Great observations. I agree that this is an ambitious and awesome project that Nolan took on, and given the budget, I imagine he made it to appeal to the widest audiences possible, hence having to make some concessions in the meantime.

  23. July 25, 2010 6:03 PM

    So are you saying that a film about dreams lacked imagination? Oh, the irony! ;-)

    I do know what you’re getting at, though, and anyone who wants to see what stuff is possible in dreams only has to see the aforementioned What Dreams May Come, a movie that I still don’t know if I like or not, but one that at least wasn’t afraid to dream (I know I liked Inception, just disappointed that it didn’t go deeper into that subconscious world).

    Inception certainly was lacking something. My brain was engaged. My adrenaline was engaged. I’m just not sure how much my heart was engaged. I think silence may have gone a long way toward adding some emotional depth to this movie, to let us experience the wonder of these dreams, instead of having it explained to us, or having it filled with nonstop action sequences.

    It’s funny. One could accuse Darren Aronofsky, who appeared on the scene around the same time as Christopher Nolan did, of making films that were all head, no heart. Until he made The Wrestler, that is. And yet, there was an emotional core in this movie. It just wasn’t utilized enough, and though the overall concept of the film was impressive, when one leaves the theater, you basically are left with the impression of having seen a very good caper movie.

    Certainly this film is indebted to The Matrix (especially the fight in the hallway with Gordon-Levitt and the projections–hey! that would be a cool name for a pop band), with parts even outmatrixing The Matrix. But what that movie had that this one lacked was a great ending, an emotional ending, a “holy-shit-this-is-so-cool!” ending.

    Also, Cobb talking about how his wife in the dream is merely a shell of what she was in real life reminded me of another film, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

  24. July 27, 2010 2:40 AM

    So this film inspired me to take a look at dream movies that could have portrayed dreams more realistically. The thing with “Inception” is that you think your way into the dream, which means it turns out to be very mechanical and cereberal. Why can’t it be filled with strange boundaries, shifting rules, emotional depth, and cool layers?

    That’s how I found “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.” I didn’t like it at first because I found the mix of satire, dreams, attacks, and dialogue a bit confusing. Then I thought it over and realized how seamlessly we get a dream within a dream within a dream that has actual emotion: fear, surprise, laughter, longing.

    And then there was “8 1/2,” the movie Nolan appeared to be after. Well, there’s only one movie that can live up to “8 1/2,” by Federico Fellini, and that is…. “8 1/2, ” by Federico Fellini.

    BTW – the zero-gravity hotel sequence was filmed with a hotel corridor built into a giant wheel. The wheel was shaped like a cylinder and was slowly rotated, allowing the characters to fly, leap, and find themselves on the ceiling, walls, and floor. It’s really cool.

    Really want to see the movie in IMAX!

  25. KathyB permalink
    July 28, 2010 9:10 PM

    Wow, Grace, major discussion going on here. I was engaged while watching Inception, felt a need to see again at the end. I don’t usually feel that as a requirement. Haven’t done that yet, but soon.

    I don’t really enjoy caper movies all that much, but the twists made this hold my interest. Instead of cheating someone out of something, they were cheating the dream state itself. Some of the revelations along the way served to sink the hook deeper, like being able to take advantage of time stretching on other levels. The architect , Page, recognized the desperation of Decaprio’s character, and his destablizing elements. Of course she did, her job was to make it all hold together enough to make it work.

    Some movies feel like clearing screens on a video game, moving levels that way. This felt like nobody really had enough control to guarantee anything. The person most in charge, Decaprio’s character, was not in control of himself. Redemption was the goal, risk taking both the drug and the vehicle for achieving it.

    Not exactly a satisfying movie, but an experience I am glad I have had. Definitely one to share. Thank you for your inabilty to keep from writing about this movie, Grace :>)

  26. July 29, 2010 10:49 AM

    Inception certainly wasn’t a perfect film, and Nolan has always been somewhat technical in his approach as well as better at depicting the darker aspects of human nature than our positive dramatic qualities. Might be the film could’ve benefitted further from ambiguity, rather than leaving us to ponder “but how does this work?” from the standpoint of the mechanical workings he set up in the film. I’m not sure if the drama between Cobb and Mal could’ve been improved by more explanation or development, might be there’d have just been more of it. I’ve griped a little myself and heard Emerson’s take on the idea that the dreams aren’t exactly like dreams, but I kind of think this is beside the point. If you want a dreamlike movie full of mystery and with no explanation, watch the anime Angel’s Egg. Completely different. As far as Inception goes, Nolan made the movie he wanted to and his dreams serve the purpose of the plot.

    In a way I can’t help but think that Nolan has gone and created something with literally too much potential. You’re right in saying that there was more he could do (the Page character’s ability to re-design dreams in real time was certainly a squandered opportunity), but at two and a half hours of running time, talking about how much more could’ve been done just seems to indicate to me that this guy created a seed of near limitless possibility. So many people seem to think he could’ve done more, it’d be interesting to see if there actually is more in a director’s cut, but in the end, he could only do and use so much. All things considered, it almost feels a shame to limit it all to “only” 150 minutes when this material could perhaps support so much more.

  27. July 29, 2010 10:55 AM

    This is certainly the most distinctive film to appear approximately since the Matrix but with greater acting and direction. With all of the sequels and remakes, this can be a fresh movie not to get missed. Disregard THE Bad Reviews if you consider yourself intelligent.

  28. July 31, 2010 9:35 AM

    This is really great content. Thanks a lot for this. I put it on my website where you can also find latest video game and technology news and reviews . I linked back to your site and bookmarked it so I can see your new posts

  29. Nestor A Cortes permalink
    August 27, 2010 9:49 AM

    Totally agree with your view. I enjoyed the movie, but it could be much better. I think it made too many concessions trying to be a “summer action blockbuster” movie like those snow chases, bullets and fights (reminded me of James Bond type movies). Like you, I was looking for a science fiction, philosophical, braintease masterpiece, and Inception fell short of that. If they had gone with that, they would probably have used more Michael Caine

  30. Sheila King permalink
    August 31, 2010 11:25 PM

    I have to say that the first time I saw the film, I, like others here, spent much of my time focused on the caper/heist/dream aspects, which seemed complicated indeed. Still, the end of the film caught me off guard. I did respond to it on a very emotional level and had a tear or two in my eyes. I thought it was a good film, not great, and was ready to leave it at that, but something kept gnawing at me. I bought the film score DVD and it grew on me as I listened to it. I kept thinking about little bits here and there, like the Piaf song — what the heck was the meaning of that one? I finally went back and what do you know, I loved the movie much more the second time around. The emotional element kicked in, almost from the film’s beginning. Dom and Mal’s storyline provided a great spell of melancholy that made me wonder a lot more about the film’s ultimate meaning/puzzle. Yeah, I totally felt involved. Also found the underlying Greek mythology of it interesting. Ariadne, after all, helped to bring down the minotaur — in this case, Mal, Dom’s monstrous dream recreation of his late wife, constantly confronting him, taunting him and feeding his guilt. So count me among the converted Inception lovers. Nolan knew what he was doing when he made this one and it certainly does have a kick to it, if you’re willing to go with it.

  31. October 5, 2010 11:25 AM

    I’ve yet to see this movie but it’s on my “to watch” list so will get a chance to see it in the next month or so, I really liked the look of it from the trailers.

  32. Lucy permalink
    October 29, 2010 5:12 AM

    This film has to be watched more than once.
    The first viewing demands that you pay attention so as not to loose the threads of the plot and all the subsequent shifts in levels etc.
    So on the first viewing I was mostly concerned with keeping track of the storyline.

    But oh the second time! It was a completely different experience, a very emotional one.
    The second viewing allowed me to become absorbed into the heart of the film, which is almost impossible to fully see on the first viewing.

    I subsequently went back to see it another 2 times. I utterly love this film.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that when people dont understand, or arent given a cast iron plot, they can become unhappy.
    This film’s beauty is that we can interpret parts of it in ways that either please or sadden us.

    That is Nolan’s gift, a film only becomes a truly personal experience only when we are allowed to perceive it in our own way. He gives us just enough, but then gives us the freedom to wonder.

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