Synopsis: In ‘Inception,’ technology is used to enter people’s dreams and retrieve their secrets.
Release Date: July 16, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): FantasyMysteryDramaScience Fiction
A film like no other, Inception will test the boundaries of your imagination and have your brain reacting on a variety of levels. It is not perfect though, and it is highly possible to feel confused, irritated, and cheated when the credits roll. Why? As a highly marketed special effects laden movie with action and suspense it actually draws more from the heist and mystery subgenre’s with a lower level amount of action and barely any suspense or thrills to be found. This movie is not the popcorn movie of the summer many are expecting. It is big budget, bordering on high concept, but the story is far too complex to appease the casual viewer. Let’s call it a thinking movie. That works.
The main plot goes like this: Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a wanted felon in the United States and makes his living working freelance for company’s performing extraction. Extraction is the removal of thoughts/secrets from a person’s mind while they are in a dream. It is all very complicated but explained nicely so we get it (as much as you can get it that is). Cobb is hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to do something that has never been done, inception, on his biggest competitor’s son. Inception is the planting of an idea in someone’s mind during a dream BUT it must be done so they think it was their own idea. Still with me? Good. Cobb assembles a team to pull off this heist and most of the film involves the set-up of the inception. In order to not spoil it for you I will stop there. More information can be found below in the writing category.
Now back to the actual film watching experience. Inception is not a simple movie to understand and it never pretends to be one. It is full of ideas and experiences that are beyond imagination. Making it highly enjoyable if you can sit back and delve deep into your mind to draw conclusions and keep track of alternating reality’s. The dream portions especially call for this patience. Watching the interloping of dreams results in great imagery, with layers building upon each other and the reality of situations constantly being influenced by those in the dream. As interesting as it may appear it is just that, interesting. It does not energize the viewer. You are engaged but unimpressed at the same time. The film becomes more ordinary with time, limiting the introduction of newness. Boredom never settles in but complacency certainly does. To be complacent is adequate in this case because of the initial lure of the general story. It may not be enough if you are eager for a wild ride.
In this film we are dealing with a wealth of information and many small details that must be explained in order to understand how infiltrating dreams is possible. Christopher Nolan does an excellent job at setting up the science of the matter. He refrains from going into a great amount of detail, therefore not confusing an audience member with little understanding of the subject, but gives just enough so that everyone can easily suspend their disbelief and believe in a world where entering another person’s dream and manipulating their dream consciousness is possible. This is the main element to setting up the heist portion of the narrative. When the film introduces the other main part to the story, that of Cobb’s (Leorardo DiCaprio) history with extraction and the death of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), the writing makes the ultimate of errors for a mystery. Yes, there is a great mystery developed surrounding the death of Mal and why Cobb is wanted by the authorities back home. What Nolan does, when Cobb tells the story of Mal’s death, is divulges too much of the story and for any well versed moviegoer it is not difficult to solve the puzzle. Right then and there a smile crosses your face because you know just what the twist will be in the end. Your smile soon fades as you realize you still have half the film to go and there is not much else for you to ponder. Nolan does test your theory for the rest of the film, even making you doubt the inevitable ending, but when the end comes it is obvious that the great reveal was in fact revealed long ago.
Even with this key element of the plot and climax being solvable early on we cannot fault Nolan’s strong sense of imagination, creativity, and depth. Inception is an amazing construction but it is not a character driven film. It relies on the thoughts and ideas of inception, the planting of an idea in one’s mind while dreaming, to keep the viewer interested. The main character, Cobb (DiCaprio), is always at the forefront due to his connection with extraction/inception and his subconscious’ inability to separate his own dreams from that of another. He is written as a troubled soul but not with enough intensity or emotion to where the viewer ever reaches a level of empathy, or connection, with his character. Cobb is interesting, but without the whirlwind that surrounds him on the heist he is nothing. The internal struggle has been subjugated for the larger themes at play. The other characters, mere players in the game, are never offered the opportunity to become more. What holds the script together inevitably is the desire of the viewer to see what the dream world will look like and whether they can pull off the ultimate heist – that of inception. This is not perfect either as the pacing slows down the momentum and excitement the film built up around the impending voyage into Robert Fischer, Jr.’s dream (Cillian Murphy).
It is impossible to know what Christopher Nolan intended in terms of time when it came to the final dream sequences. In my analysis I have come to the following conclusion, based on many references to the changes in time while in the dream state. It is said that time moves at a slower rate in dreams. Five minutes in real life is an hour in the dream state. A problem occurs then during the dream sequence because time appears to move incredibly slow for the viewer. You are suffocating while you watch the events unfold. A mere two minutes in the dream world feels like an eternity in the real world. This choice to simulate the slower reality of the dream had dire results. Instead of incorporating the viewer into the dream, he has left us out of it and in turn alienated us from the change in time movement. This disrupts the expected movement one has come to believe in as the dream world should move at an incredibly fast pace, or equivalent one to reality, and in turn take the viewer on a thrilling ride. It never does though and all the anticipation you built up slowly evaporates as the characters move from one dream level to another and things occur slower and slower. This may have been done in an attempt to accelerate the level of suspense as you are eager to find out the fates of all the characters. If this was the intention something went horribly wrong.
After reading the above you may think this category overlaps with others, specifically directing. You are correct. With such a large scope as Inception has and the fact that it was written and directed by the same man, Christopher Nolan, it becomes very difficult to separate the two. The movie is well-written in terms of dialogue and the conceptualization scores major points for direction. In the end there are just far too many items that were overlooked, poorly executed, and just plain disregarded or ignored to warrant praise for writing, or direction for that matter.
Since this category cannot be broken up into two separate ratings, one for skill and one for meeting viewer expectations, I am forced to go with an average. The skill level is a solid 4. Meeting expectations a definite 2. The average then, a 2 overall. The reasoning is that as much as the effects are impeccably done they are more part of the production design than independent of it, as one may have been led to believe. City streets rising into the sky to form a perfect right angle above others, or anti-gravity movement of characters is marvelous to watch, but the awe factor is never reached at any point. Primarily because most of these effects occur in down time, not during action sequences. Watching two people wander thru the world of a dream and manipulate their surroundings has levels of enjoyment in it but when things appear slowly and methodically you become accustomed to them. The shock of seeing something appear quickly and out of nowhere is what makes special effects exciting. It is shocking also that given we are dealing in a dream state where the mind can move quickly and conjure images instantly that everything would appear with such a languid pace. These effects are not exciting, just mere creations of eye candy.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Christopher Nolan,,Emma Thomas,
- Producer(s): Christopher Nolan
- Screenwriter(s): Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb)Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur)Ellen Page (Ariadne)
- Story: Tom Hardy (Eames)
- Cast: Ken Watanabe (Saito), Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer, Jr.), Tom Berenger (Browning), Marion Cotillard (Mal), , , , , Lee Smith, , Wally Pfister, Guy Hendrix Dyas
- Editor(s): Jeffrey Kurland
- Cinematographer: Hans Zimmer
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