Inception

This will probably be one of the most negative reviews I’ll ever write for a film I actually enjoyed. Maybe that sounds like an absurd statement, but when you’re dealing with a film that’s been hyped as much as Inception has, anything less than a film genuinely deserving of masterpiece status (as its current 9.0/10 rating on IMDb would suggest) is bound to be disappointing. I can’t say I was exactly surprised that Inception didn’t blow me away given my reactions to Christopher Nolan’s other films (of which I feel Memento is still the best if only because it’s a perfect distillation of what he does best). In that sense, Inception hit better than par for the course. But, masterpiece? Greatest film ever (or should that be: “EVAH!!!!!111”)? I don’t think so. No, what Inception is, is an ingeniously original, thrillingly plotted, occasionally provocative action film with too many glaring flaws to be deserving of its reputation.

As for that bewildering maze of a plot, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a highly skilled “extractor” who has been trained to go into people’s dreams to steal important secrets hidden in their unconscious. When he and his team fails to get what they came for while inside the mind of Saito (Ken Watanabe), Cobb becomes a hunted man, doubly so since he can’t even return home to his two children in America. But Saito offers Cobb an opportunity; if he and his team can go inside the mind of a business rival named Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and implant the idea to break up his father’s business after the latter’s death, then Saito will pull some strings to make Cobb a free man. Cobb eventually accepts, hiring Ariadne (Ellen Page) as the architect, or the person who designs the dream, his long-time partner, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames (Tom Hardy) to be the forger, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) as the chemist to put them under with a sedative that will be strong enough and work long enough to take them three levels deep into Fischer’s mind (a dream within a dream within a dream). Just to complicate matters more, Cobb is suffering over the loss of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard) who has begun manifesting herself as a projection in Cobb’s dreams and even the dreams that Cobb enters.

Oh, sure, it’s an ingenious premise alright! Ebert said of it: “The movies often seem to come from the recycling bin these days… “Inception” does a difficult thing. It is wholly original, cut from new cloth… Christopher Nolan reinvented “Batman.” This time he isn’t reinventing anything. Yet few directors will attempt to recycle “Inception.” I think when Nolan left the labyrinth, he threw away the map.” I’ll allow Ebert this point about Inception; it is incredibly original, though attentive viewers will also note that the entirety of the actual plot (breaking into Fischer’s mind) is little more than a giant, honking MacGuffin to propel the plot forward. However, Nolan’s reimagining of dreams as (basically) computer levels that can be designed and inhabited by those on the outside world, replete with an imaginative set of rules about death (it usually just wakes you up), physics, awakening techniques (like “the kick”), etc. is, in itself, spellbinding enough to keep the viewer riveted through most of the runtime. The biggest problem with the film however, and to start right in with the censuring, out of the film’s 150 minute runtime it easily spends 1/3 of that time in exposition, explaining all of the intricacies of just how Nolan’s dream world works.

Now, I’m not a stickler for the “show, don’t tell” principle of writing, but by any reasonable standard this is ridiculous. When the premise of your film is so convoluted that you spend nearly as much time explaining how everything works as you do on characters and ACTUAL plot (actual plot defined as when something is actually happening as opposed to when people are just talking about what’s happening or can happen or will happen or has happened), then something’s disturbingly wrong. Leave it to Trey Parker and South Park to hit the point on the head when they parodied it in their episode titled Insheeption (ep. 10 from season 14) where Stan, Mr. Mackey and a sheep herder go into regression therapy for obsessive hoarding (get it? Herding/hoarding?) only to find themselves being pulled into Mackey’s dream. A team of experts are called in and start explaining how they can go into the dream and create another dream (while another “expert” stands off to the side providing sound effects), which leads Stan’s mom to finally burst out with “just because an idea is complicated and convoluted doesn’t make it cool!” Compounding the failure is that, in spite of all the exposition, the rules of the dream world still remain about as clear as mud.

But if the over reliance on exposition is the film’s Achilles’ Heel, then the paper-thin characters are the arrow shot by Christopher “Paris” Nolan that kills the film’s chance at truly reaching greatness. To make a comparison, Neon Genesis Evangelion is my favorite work of visual fiction ever (a work I truly believe to be one of the pinnacles of 20th century art). It contains a premise nearly as complex as Inception, one that literally rewrites the origins and biology of humanity inside a world where the metaphysics can tie your brain into knots. But where Evangelion succeeds is in its cast of characters whose richness and complexity matches that of the premise that makes the audience care about everything else. That’s where Inception fails. DiCaprio is essentially playing a shallower version of the character he played in Shutter Island, and in a film where the entirety of the emotion is played out through his character’s tragic past, Nolan (more so than DiCaprio) fails to make him three-dimensional or believable in the least.

Making matters worse is that the rest of the cast feels like missed opportunities. Ken Watanabe’s Saito and Tom Hardy’s Eames are infinitely more interesting characters than is Cobb and Ariadne, yet both are underexploited. Ellen Page is pretty bland in the role, but it’s hard to make such a dull character interesting. One gets the sense throughout the entire film that when Nolan finally slows down to focus on characters he can’t help but rush through those sections as fast as possible to get back to the plot (or back to explaining how the plot works). Even the music seems to suggest this: one incredibly awkward scene switches from the pounding, mounting tension of the techno beat in a planning montage back to the real world when Ariadne is sneaking into Cobb’s office to talk to him. The music from the last scene carries over, bizarrely dissipating in the middle of the next scene, almost as if the film was shot live and someone is reminding Nolan that “hey, now’s the time when we turn the music off to make things quiet and character driven!” It doesn’t help that the music is so annoyingly obvious and manipulative to begin with.

Oh, but, yeah, I said I actually enjoyed this film, didn’t I? Well, yeah, I did. In spite of these crucial flaws that would cripple most any other film, the sheer originality of the concept and the breathless energy of its execution is hard to deny or escape. Nolan’s ability to manipulate time in the dream levels (in which time travels 20x slower each level down you go (10 hours in the real world turns into 200 hours in the first level of the dream, etc.) allows for some pyrotechnic cross-editing as the action in each level is balanced with and affects the other. On a second viewing, I was especially struck by how the time spent on the deeper levels dwarfs those of each previous levels, allowing Nolan to use editing to visually and temporally suggest the temporal discontinuity between them. This makes for some of the most intense action scenes filmed in the last ten years, as the ripple effects of each world compound into the others, creating multiple levels of high-strung drama. Beyond the montage’s prowess, Nolan’s frames are frequently stunning in their geometric perfection and visual trickery (at least, for the few seconds he typically manages to hold them).

If the editing between the dream levels is prodigious, Nolan’s standard continuity editing is still lacking. He’s still thoroughly rooted in the modern shaky-cam, fast cutting school of dramatic action (what Bordwell calls “intensified continuity”), but he’s not one of the best at that technique. I first noticed his general sloppiness in his editing of action scenes on The Dark Knight, and it surprised me that so few commented on this. Unlike Greengrass, whose fast-cutting inevitably seems to crystallize the action, Nolan’s just obscures it, with intercuts frequently coming at random with arbitrary changes of camera positions. This is especially noticeable in Cobb’s first chase scene on foot that completely disorients the viewer as to his and his pursuers’ position in the space. One might say that this spatial disorientation was intentional, but it would seem to me that in a film dealing with the already temporal and spatially complex dream worlds that Nolan would at least keep the real world more relatable.

Allow me to proleptically address the complaints to the above: I understand well enough that the grand theme of Inception is the ambiguous relationship and difference between reality and dreams. The film poses the idea that, if we could be consciously aware of our existence in dreams while controlling that dream space like gods, then dreams could easily become as real as reality. It’s Plato’s Cave for the 21st Century. But how original is it, really? Didn’t The Matrix pose the same question? If we’re living in The Matrix/The Dream and can’t tell the difference between either and reality, then what makes them different from reality? The simple answer to both seems to be that, unlike in dreams, we can’t control reality simply by thinking about it. To make matters worse, I anticipated that Nolan would end the film precisely how he did as soon as the “totem” device was introduced (basically, a device that only the dreamer has access to which allows them to tell the difference between a dream and reality). I won’t spoil it, but it’s a damn-near rip-off of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Ultimately, perhaps the biggest problem with Inception isn’t in its overly complicated plot, mountains of exposition, the predictably equivocal ending, or characters, but in the fact that in a film that deals with humans and their relationship with dreams, reality, and their own mind, that Nolan shows a disappointing lack of insight into any of these things. There’s absolutely none of Bergman’s, Kubrick’s, Scott’s, Fellini’s, Bunuel’s, Hitchcock’s, Lynch’s, et. al. profundity, not to mention that of the great novelists and playwrights. Instead, Nolan uses the human mind like a playground, a stage, or even a computer on which he can program his video game. There’s no denying that the game he orchestrates is immensely fun, thrilling, and original, but it’s as equally shallow as it is entertaining. It’s a film full of humans who don’t act humanely, dreams that don’t feel like dreams, and a reality that doesn’t feel realistic. Unfortunately for Nolan, unlike Picasso, he can’t seem to find the truth in the film’s lies.

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About Jonathan Henderson
I'm a dedicated aesthete that's been fascinated with the arts since I was in my early teens. At 13 I saw my first foreign film, which ignited my passion for world cinema. I also discovered the enormous world of music out there and fell in love with everything from death metal to classical. My love for literature has especially grown in recent years, and I've taken up writing (and working really hard at) poetry. But over the past 12 years I've probably taken to film criticism more than anything, and seeing Neon Genesis Evangelion reignited my love for the arts (especially film) and took it to an even higher level. Now I write film reviews for two sites, including this one and Cinelogue. I play poker professionally, and while the world of arts and poker don't seem to converge much, I have taken the deductive and inductive logic that poker requires and attempted to apply it to all the arts as well as my criticism in an attempt to get past the jellybean syndrome ("I like blue jellybeans, you don't, and that's all we can say.").

19 Responses to Inception

  1. Kutta says:

    ‘Tis a great review and peculiarly it puts Inception beside District 9 and Avatar in the sense that these are movies that my immediate social environs reacted to in the opposite way as me, while your opinion mirrored mine.

  2. Jonathan Henderson says:

    Part of me wonders if I’m not being a bit too unfair in my reviews when it comes to all of these films. I don’t know if many would disagree that they’re all lacking in a certain artistic substance (whether you want to identify that with aesthetics or intellect or depth or whatever), but, on the other hand, they do seem to be bringing more to to the table than the average Hollywood blockbuster. But they all still seemed to be too tied down to the “must appeal to the lowest common demoninator” paradigm to really elevate them to the level of masterpieces. It’s tougher if I try to compare them to, say, classic Hollywood greats that were also more concerned with entertainment than with art. I guess where I’d give the old greats the advantage is that there was just a general higher level of craftsmanship on most levels. It just seemed like more thought was put into the writing and direction, to where, today, so much is driven by technology and the technicalities rather than the characters, structure, etc. So much today seems to be about “can we do it” rather than “should we do it?”

  3. I agree with this review wholeheartedly. What did you think of the film being in a constant climax after the 40-minute mark? Even though it was cleverly crafted it was quite obnoxious at times.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Inception « Forced Perspective -- Topsy.com

  5. Jonathan Henderson says:

    I think it’s in the general Nolan mode to constantly be giving off the feeling that everything is building to some climax. I mean, seriously, listen to the music. It’s basically nothing but a ton of rhythmic suspensions with some occasional ascending scales; that’s like music 101 as to how to build tension towards a resolution that the audience will wait for with tense anticipation. So I don’t know if it IS a constant climax, but I think that’s the tone that Nolan is trying to create.

  6. I’d love to see Nolan try and make a more subtle film at least once.

  7. maz89 says:

    Great review. I pretty much felt the same way when I first saw it a couple of months ago. It totally doesn’t deserve the rating the IMDB masses (or even Ebert) seem to be giving it.

    On the other hand, there may be more to the ending than just the “OHNOES, DREAMING STILL?!?” thrill. Okay, I know this is Nolan we’re talking about, but let’s consider the obviously predictable “twist” ending (didn’t you just know that THAT was the only reason that totem thing was being introduced?). Anyway, the ending… even if we’re unsure that the totem doesn’t fall, the children are wearing the same clothes, so Cobb is still dreaming. Once you get past its predictability, the ending does pose the question of just how messed up actual REALITY really is. The whole film is then just an elaborate set-up in Cobb’s mind, something he creates to attain closure and find peace… for who knows how f-cked up reality is. If, in his dreams, Cobbs can go so far as to admit that it were HIS actions that caused his wife’s insanity and eventual death, it does beg the question: why is he still dreaming? What could be worse than admitting to yourself that? Perhaps Mrs Cobb did pull a Mrs Laeddis and kill her kids – yet another comparison to Shutter Island!

    Maybe this is a wild goose chase on my part. To be completely honest, I didn’t find the film that enjoyable or immersive, there were just too many distractions that took me out of the film in a way I’m sure Nolan didn’t aim for. Even if my musings are what Nolan intended, I didn’t find the ride to be enjoyable. There were too many weak links, too few risks. More importantly, the whole guilt ridden subconscious manifesting itself in various forms in our dreams has already been done, and to a much, much more powerful effect (Mullholland Drive).

    I’m not a Nolan fan, but for some odd reason, I have faith in him. I just want him to stop with big budget stuff and do something more intimate, more personal and less explosive. Probably something along the lines of Memento.

  8. Ryan Silva says:

    Nolan’s pretty overt with his psuedo-psychological herp-derping but I think that’s only surface level to woo-and-awe the audience, and should by no means be seen as the crux of the film’s “intellect” for lack of a better term, or subtlety.

    I at the very least noticed some rather well placed homages to Hitchcock, insofar as the scene in Mombasa where he runs down the alleyway and the walls start to “close in on him” at a point where it stands on its own as a nice suspense-building device while not being just some diversion to be please the pretentious cineaste. Also, that whole previous sequence in the casino/bar was very reminscent of Marienbad, even though I myself didn’t like the film and I realize how it’s got a rather comfy place on our little ivory tower’s (to quote Brik, lol) shit-list.

    Also, if you take a look at the EGF thread, Planet News posted a really great article about how the “team” of Inception is Nolan’s own take on the studio system. Interesting stuff. I think that there is a ton of interesting material in Inception that probably just wasn’t suited for exploration in such a short running time.

  9. Jonathan Henderson says:

    I pretty much agree with the above two comments. As for the idea that the ending suggests that the entire film was just an elaborate dream of Cobb’s, while I had considered that, I remember dismissing the thought if only because it doesn’t really help to enlighten anything that happens in the film. What, Cobb’s unconscious basically creates a whole world where he’s an extractor and hires people to do this elaborate job so he can get back to his kids while confronting Mal? I just don’t see anything else in the film that would suggest this. You mention Mulholland Drive, and that’s a phenomenal example where everything in the dream has a profound resonance with either Diane’s waking memories, distortions, or fantasies. The same simply doesn’t apply to Inception. Also, good call on the Hitch references, Ryan; I’m a huge Hitch fan but I guess I didn’t catch them myself.

    A few links for those interested: The now infamous “Inception is a rip-off of Scrooge McDuck:” – http://comicbookmovie.com/fansites/blinkuldhc/news/?a=21055

    And here’s a more serious analysis from Kristen and David Bordwell that’s (as usual), very perceptive: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=9692

  10. Kutta says:

    I think if Mulholland Dr. embodied the idea that you can’t even find refuge in dreams, the Inception way of dreaming is perfect escapism (like, as Jimbo mentioned, being in a video game level). I’m not sure though if this implies anything.

    • Jonathan Henderson says:

      @Kutta: [[[I think if Mulholland Dr. embodied the idea that you can’t even find refuge in dreams, the Inception way of dreaming is perfect escapism]]]

      Well, Diane’s dream is an escape of sorts; she seems to structure it as a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. The dream just gets frustrated because the truth refuses to stay out of the way. The final moments certainly drag the fantasy back down to Earth (or maybe hell) though.

      @Muggy: [[[That last paragraph hits the mark so fucking hard… And, on that note, I completely lost track of this metaphor.]]]

      Hehe, I’m glad you liked my summary, and I always enjoy your metaphors and I still understand you’re saying (or, at least I get what you meant by it).

      @Maz

      I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think you can use the film’s contrivances as proof it’s a dream. It’s not like Nolan’s other films were without their contrivances (ever consider just how impossible The Joker’s schemes would have been to pull off?). I’ll grant that the real-life scene of Cobb being chased is reminiscent of the dream world (I even kinda noted this in the review; end of the 8th paragraph), but what about the OTHER parts of the real world? Cobb meeting Michael Caine, or all the scenes where the team is planning what they’re doing; why aren’t people coming after him then? No, it just doesn’t hold together.

  11. Daniel Joseph Caron says:

    That last paragraph hits the mark so fucking hard.

    Personally, I liked Inception enough that its embrace by the ignorant, unwashed masses didn’t ruin my enjoyment of it, if only because it’s so thrilling and stylish. The film struck me as a kind of flippant, surrealist drag queen, in that it’s basically an espionage thriller dressed up, with all the talk about dream and reality being big, frilly dresses, gaudy wigs and layers and layers of cosmetics. There’s still something solid and technical under the drag, but it’s trying so hard to convince you that it’s something that it’s not. The film likes to arouse you, and you humor it by letting it think that you’re confused about your sexuality, but you’re not. You know it’s a man in a dress, but you’re looking the other way, just because you’re having too much fun. Then you’ll go home, wash your hands of the freaky night you just had, with that creepy tranny, then go back to banging your hot surrealist supermodel wife; Mulholland Drive.

    I mean, that’s probably how you would feel. I wish I could fool around with drag queens more often. And, on that note, I completely lost track of this metaphor. Besides, how many of you would cheat on a supermodel with a drag queen, unless you were into that shit? Furthermore, how many of you could get with a supermodel in the first place?

  12. maz89 says:

    @Yojimbo:

    Allow me to clarify my “the whole thing was a dream of sorts” theory.

    – The whole point of revealing that the totem device doesn’t fall when Cobb finally reunites with his children (who, again, are wearing the same clothes that they’ve worn throughout the rest of the film, namely in Cobb’s memories… which kind of makes the function of the totem redundant, eh) is that Cobb is still dreaming.

    – I am in no way suggesting that the intricate world of dream-stealing that Nolan spends so much time explaining to us is also just Cobb’s imagination; no, this world exists. Cobb really is an extractor (or he might have been, whatever) and he did have a wife who he tried his little “experiment” on, thus causing her mental insanity (ie flashbacks, IIRC, are real). In the film though, he’s just trapped in a universe which he believes is real (yes, basically, he did to himself what he did to his wife) because he’s convinced himself it is. Whatever horrors lurk in the real world (esp. pertaining to his children) are never shown.

    – What Cobb, therefore, dreams up is this contrived little chase to attain the secrets of one powerful man who can reunite him with his kids with just a phone call.

    – The thing is, it’s difficult for me NOT to see the world as Cobb’s dream. The plot just feels so contrived otherwise. Was there seriously no other way for Cobb to see his children? I find it hard to believe that he simply couldn’t have hatched a plan with Mal’s father, perhaps have the kids flown to a remote location or something. Additionally, are we supposed to believe that all these skilled extractors just jump into the whole plan without considering any of the huge risks (no one even considers that the target might have trained his mind, for example, to fight extractors). It’s all just a silly excuse to raise the stakes and create more tension.

    – If you see the whole thing as a man’s attempt to reconcile with his wife and children (and feel like he earned it, for he does seem to beat insurmountable odds), it makes more sense and perhaps carries a bit more weight.

    Obviously, Mulholland Drive is phenomenal in every aspect and the hasty comparison was merely to show that, even if the above was Nolan’s intention, it didn’t quite please (nearly) as much. What’s interesting though is that Inception was a 9 year project, and MD was released in 2001. The math adds up, lol.

  13. Jonathan Henderson says:

    @Kutta: [[[I think if Mulholland Dr. embodied the idea that you can’t even find refuge in dreams, the Inception way of dreaming is perfect escapism]]]

    Well, Diane’s dream is an escape of sorts; she seems to structure it as a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. The dream just gets frustrated because the truth refuses to stay out of the way. The final moments certainly drag the fantasy back down to Earth (or maybe hell) though.

    @Muggy: [[[That last paragraph hits the mark so fucking hard… And, on that note, I completely lost track of this metaphor.]]]

    Hehe, I’m glad you liked my summary, and I always enjoy your metaphors and I still understand you’re saying (or, at least I get what you meant by it).

    @Maz

    I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think you can use the film’s contrivances as proof it’s a dream. It’s not like Nolan’s other films were without their contrivances (ever consider just how impossible The Joker’s schemes would have been to pull off?). I’ll grant that the real-life scene of Cobb being chased is reminiscent of the dream world (I even kinda noted this in the review; end of the 8th paragraph), but what about the OTHER parts of the real world? Cobb meeting Michael Caine, or all the scenes where the team is planning what they’re doing; why aren’t people coming after him then? No, it just doesn’t hold together.

  14. Stuart says:

    Inception, although on the surface a film about dreams and dreaming, is in fact about filmmaking – http://bit.ly/cV69oR

    Its true achievement is this discussion, something you cant really say about a film like Iron Man 2. I have read about comparisons with Blade Runner and I think Nolan has referred to that film being influential in a way. With that film though the argument as to whether Deckard was a replicant became a central source for hot debate and as Hampton Fancher, script writer said the question as to what was real was more interesting, what was suggested and intimated was in fact more revealing as opposed to what thing or action stood for or represented this, that or the other. Inception is fraught with implausibilities but for me that is the point and the beauty of its story. If Mulholland Drive is a worthy comparison and it is an interesting one for sure its because that too is an examination of film making, Hollywood and the dream of fame that in reality never really existed.

  15. Jonathan Henderson says:

    I’ve read some of the filmmaking theories, but I’m still not sure I buy it and that, in any case, wouldn’t make it any more thematically original or substantial than the tons of other films that have used dreams to explore filmmaking. I do agree that its ability to provoke discussion is noteworthy in this day in age, but a lot of that is due to the fact that EVERYONE (it seems) has seen it. It’s hard to generate discussion about films that only a handful of people have seen where many haven’t come to this blog to read about. 36 Fillette, another film I reviewed recently, is just as provocative as Inception in its own way, but given that it’s an old(ish), small-budget, French film it’s hard to get people who have seen it together in one place to talk about it.

  16. maz89 says:

    “Well, Diane’s dream is an escape of sorts; she seems to structure it as a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. The dream just gets frustrated because the truth refuses to stay out of the way.”

    Inception = Cobb’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. But the truth remains forever barred since Cobb has convinced himself that the dream is reality. (I realise this was quite unnecessary, but I couldn’t help myself.)

    “I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think you can use the film’s contrivances as proof it’s a dream…. what about the OTHER parts of the real world? Cobb meeting Michael Caine, or all the scenes where the team is planning what they’re doing; why aren’t people coming after him then? No, it just doesn’t hold together.”

    Well, whether or not the other parts support the theory doesn’t matter when you first have to address what the ending might mean. Is it, after all, not proof enough that it is indeed Cobb’s dream? I’m still unsure exactly what you make of it. I noticed that, in your review, you’ve highlighted the predictability of the twist but you haven’t considered its meaning in light of the narrative.

    But whether or not most of the film supports the idea, even though it clearly suggests it at the end – well, it doesn’t matter since either way it’s not going to affect my opinion of it that much. If I look at it from your end, it’s still largely disappointing (and not even worthy of a 7, imo), because all the contrivances I was willing to excuse if it was all an elaborately created dream-space that didn’t need to be 100% realistic – well, all that goes out the window (funnily enough, the contrivances didn’t quite bother me as much in TDK – I think I probably allowed them to slip, and not be an annoyance, since it was so much fun).

  17. Jonathan Henderson says:

    [[[Inception = Cobb’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. But the truth remains forever barred since Cobb has convinced himself that the dream is reality.]]]

    But the difference is in the execution. In the few, fragmentary glimpses we get into Diane’s memories at the end of the film, we realize that “the truth” (as much as we can accept these memories as truthful) is in direct opposition to her dream. Everything in her dream seemed design to reverse the reality of her situation, relationships, talents, etc. That’s why the majority of the first few hours of MD plays like an artificial take on a classic Hollywood mystery/noir with interruptions coming in the form of either the invasion of the truth or Diane’s nightmarish distortions of reality/memory. There’s nothing of that level of depth and complexity in Inception.

    I don’t know what you’re saying about the ending. I think it’s clear what it suggests. The camera CUTS before the top falls, so Nolan intentionally leaves us in suspension as to whether it’s a dream or not. He cuts too soon for us to know. Would the top have fallen if the camera stayed on it? Well, that’s the idea, we don’t know, and it’s Nolan’s way of questioning Cobb’s (and, by extension, our) reality. So, yes, it suggests the film ends while still in a dream (the children suggest this too, as you pointed out), but the theory that the entire film is a dream doesn’t hold for the reasons I’ve given. I think the real question is whether or not Cobb made it out of the Limbo where he went to retrieve Saito. If he didn’t, then everything after their last encounter in the dream world could, conceivably, be Cobb constructing the “end” of his own dream, including everyone waking up on the plane, Saito making the call, him getting to come home, etc.

    [[[But whether or not most of the film supports the idea, even though it clearly suggests it at the end – well, it doesn’t matter since either way it’s not going to affect my opinion of it that much. If I look at it from your end, it’s still largely disappointing]]]

    Well, if you’re going to adopt this attitude then you’re basically just transforming reality into your own wish fulfillment. Either the film supports the theory that it’s all a dream or it doesn’t, and Inception clearly doesn’t support that theory for the reasons I’ve given. If you’re really in search for a valid “it’s a dream” theory you have to just consider the ending and not the whole film. Whether that’s disappointing or not to you is your opinion. I think it’s fairly clear I was disappointed in much of the film while I still enjoyed its originality, and entertainment factor.

  18. Just commenting to tell everyone that this entry is already the 2nd most read on Forced Perspective (only second to the first Evangelion entry that still has more than twice as many views). And of course, this entry has far more comments than any other so far.

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