Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Cinematography by Wally Pfister
Scored by Hans Zimmer
Editing by Lee Smith
Dom Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) profession is diving into people’s dreams and extracting out valuable information from their secrets. His only wish is to go back home to be with his two children. He cannot because all evidence implicates him for the murder of his wife’s death in the United States. Saito (Ken Wantanbe), a man of power and influence, promises to have his name cleared of the charges should he accept a job to change his business competitor’s motivations at heart. The plan however involves “inception,” or planting an original thought in the subject’s subconsciousness. This is a much more difficult task than extracting information and it is uncertain whether it can be done or not.
Inception follows a structure almost identical to The Matrix. You start out in an artificial world, in which the experts of infiltrating it are first introduced. You’re brought back to the real world to learn more about these people’s specific skills and what their objective is. The task force recruits a crucial member teaching them and the audience the ins and outs of inhabiting such an alternate world. They develop the newbie’s skills through simulations and exercises until they have become an expert at their field, and then they dive back in for one very important mission. This dive is the bulk of the film.
My sincerity to those who love Inception
Inception has been a film that has frustrated me for some time now, not because I found it difficult to follow, but since the general consensus is that this is not only heralded as a very good film, but one of the absolute best. You can imagine my vexation of it when discussing it with film buffs since in my mind Inception isn’t confusing at all. It’s idea after idea that makes no sense. I’m sure it was difficult for Christopher Nolan to dream up, but it isn’t well thought out. I also will say that I like his films Memento and Following. However, I could easily have written a review maybe even three times longer than this on just how bad this film is. That isn’t an exaggeration.
Now it would be very easy for me to insult Inception and exclaim everyone who loved it as fools, but that wouldn’t be constructive. Usually such declarations are from critics who use this insularity tactic to elevate their opinions above the masses, and to solidify their thoughts as a irrefutable force to be reckoned with. I don’t need to resort to this method to prove to myself my own worth although I have done that before. Many of us have, haven’t we? I’m confident enough in my opinions to be able to admit my mistakes. One thing doesn’t necessarily degrade another, yes? At the same time however, you have to admit sarcasm is fun, and so is making a complete mockery of something foolish. So if you love Inception, please don’t feel insulted when I use such humor. I know it might be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s not directed towards you.
Before I continue, I should definitely make known why I personally watch movies. Although we all like movies for some sort of entertainment value, the motivations in what each of us find them enjoyable are very different. When I watch a film or read a story perhaps, I want to go to places that I haven’t before, because I want to learn about something that will be valuable in my actual life. For me, that’s my idea of entertainment. It is not memorable for me to witness a complex idea if it serves no purpose. Other film goes however, enjoy being taken into a fantasy world, one that does not resemble theirs. Now these are certainly not the only two reasons people enjoy cinema, but if you see yourself falling into the latter category, I’m not sure if any of my thoughts will matter to you. Nevertheless, I urge you to read on. You may enjoy my perspective.
Believe it or not I actually very much care about reviewing this film and the purpose of me writing it is not to appeal to those who hate Inception, but to those who love it. I want to make my voice heard, and I firmly believe that I have a valuable opinion to be considered. Please be the judge.
A Dream within a Dream
Inception’s main concept is displayed in the beginning of it’s story. I can accept one currently impossible idea such as the ability to dive into people’s dreams, because in Science fiction we can often learn something unusual from it. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting, “Yes I know it’s implausible, but what if?” However, the main concept of Inception itself creates questions. The last time I checked we don’t actually dream 4 dreams at once. We dream one. Now there’s no way I can be certain of this, but everyone that I’ve talked to certainly hasn’t. The film Inception also presents a flawed example of it’s concept. When they dive into Saito’s mind, and he wakes up “into a second level of consciousness,” it’s still all just one dream. When you dream of waking up from a dream, whatever scenario you were previously imagining ends. You woke up, but you’re continuing the same dream. There isn’t two dreams happening simultaneously.
Who’s brain said we use 10%?
According to a friend of mine, the famous belief that we use only 10 percent of our brain actually came from a poet; a poet…not a scientist! Now I haven’t been able to verify that, but I can certainly tell you that it’s a complete myth. It’s as easy as looking up Wikipedia, but you can of course look much further. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10%25_of_brain_myth
Dom Cobb (an expert in thought espionage) mentions this myth as a fact. He explains this to a prodigy (Ellen Page), the newly recruited architect that creates false dreams for extraction. I love how the prodigy also doesn’t pick up on this. Not only is he using a myth as means for teaching his supposed expertise, but what he suggests afterwards makes even less sense. Mr. Cobb states that in the dream world you can do anything! The second I heard him say that I was positive that Christopher Nolan pulled that directly out of his ass. Sorry… I promised not to be condescending. My apologies, and I do like some of the director’s contributions and attempts. The thought is absurd because he’s suggesting that we can use 100% of our brain or even go further. What’s obviously wrong with this is that we only use certain parts of our brain for our subconsciousness. We don’t use the parts we do during everyday activities, or how about when we’re awake!? Okay well maybe he meant you can do anything in a dream’s context, right? Then why did he mention the bit about us not using most of our brain?! It’s a terribly ill researched line. Well that’s just me nitpicking over one line. Let’s find larger ideas that the film depends on which don’t add up.
At first in Inception, a general rule is that if you die in a dream you wake up. However in Christopher Nolan’s world, when heavily sedated enough to delve into three layers of subconsciousness or more, the consequences of death are to remain trapped in a dream state. This is the precise moment my care for this movie began to fade away. I already knew that everyone besides Dom Cobb would make it out of there. I also knew this was a nonsensical complication thrown into the mix to make their every action seem more imperative. I still failed to see the importance of the mission up to this. So what if Dom Cobb goes to jail? Also, even if the man does evade charges of murder, wouldn’t Mr. Saito throw him right back into jail for putting his life at risk without telling him or the rest of the team? You bet he would have. Beating his competitor isn’t worth risking his life.
Imaginary Machine guns, AK47s, blowing sh@!t up, and tactical warfare is all intelligent!
I love how Christopher Nolan’s one explanation out of nowhere turns the rest of the film almost into Black Hawk Down. The team discover during the mission that Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the rich subject they’re attempting inception upon, has had “subconscious militarized defense training.” How stupid is this?
First of all, Donald Trump or other powerful billionaires, don’t strike me as the kind of people who are conscious of anything other than money, power, their blind ego, and yes probably the protection of it. Well, I won’t lump them all into one giant category. That’s close minded. However, the idea of anyone being alert enough to know the need to protect their subconsciousness is hilarious. I would have thought that the illegal ability to invade people’s minds wasn’t such common knowledge and it’s not something that even Intelligence experts could easily discover. If you’re powerful, I guess you have access to all of the world’s secrets and you’re aware of absolutely everything that goes on in it’s realms. Secondly, how the hell do you train your subconsciousness to a lifetime of exacting military strategics if you have no idea how to execute them in the real world? It’s preposterous. You don’t need “militarized” training to defend your subconsciousness. You just need your imagination.
We barely succeeded!
In Inception, six dream infiltrators with different skills invade 4 levels of subconsciousness. In three of them, it’s nothing but one gigantic war zone. Wouldn’t it have been far more inventive if every level was entirely different from each other? I don’t remember the last time I dreamed of warfare. What if Robert Fischer never did either? He never went “Hmmm… that’s odd. Why is everyone firing at me constantly no matter what dream I have? I totally trust this security guy of mine. He’s on the level, despite me being skeptical and paranoid enough to have undergone ‘militarized subconscious training.'”
At every level of subconsciousness at least one task force member is left behind to keep watch of those who are asleep, as they dream in a deeper level. Why is it that every single watchman encounters near impossible struggles almost jeopardizing the lives of their team? I suppose at least just one couldn’t have hidden, stayed put somewhere without being discovered? The scenarios are way too fantastic and over the top. I’d imagine everyone of them in any of those scenarios failing miserably, and that’s what would have happened nine times out of ten. Yet all 3 watchmen (4 if you include Saito), succeed… If Inception isn’t the very definition of a farce, what is?
Novice writing from an intelligent person
Almost my biggest problem with Inception is that the character’s development as well their progression is nonexistent. Besides Dom Cobb I suppose, not one character is even introduced. How can you further develop a personality if you don’t even attempt to preface who they are and what makes them unique? What’s even worse than that is that the personalities drawn up through Christoper Nolan bare no differences from each other. That’s an elementary writing flaw! I’m no writer. My vocabulary is limited, but every writer proud of their craft will tell you that if you can’t create characters different from yourself, you’re a hack!
Now it’s easy to assume that everything your brain imagines can only come from you, and that no one can write about something that isn’t themselves. However, good writers don’t just imagine themselves in their screenplays. They take people from real life and put them into their stories. They take things that they regretfully never see and add them. They use character traits completely the opposite from them to create enemies or idiosyncrasies. Or they borrow from other admired writers a similar character basis to express it through a new scenario. Sure they gather things that they like, but not everything you wish you were, is who you really are. Some writers even bring out the worst of themselves in their screenplays. They might even get really crafty, writing about how they or others could have become had they made entirely different life choices, or perhaps even have had much more bizarre circumstances. Essentially they combine elements from all sorts of different sources to make up something resembling an alien. When they’re done, they analyze the psychological make up making certain it is grounded in the real world. If it’s fishy they consider what ideas may in fact be bad, and decipher what’s good to leave in, and then they redraw the character up again and again. They’ll do it as many or as little times as necessary until they get it right.
Sylvester Stallone vs. Christopher Nolan
Now it just so happens that I coincidentally saw the movie Rocky Balboa (2006) around the same time as Inception. What on earth do they have in common? Both of them featured main characters that were unmistakably the director’s personality. I regret to make Christopher Nolan look this bad but I must. Every single character in Inception spoke precisely like Christopher Nolan does. The other characters besides Dom Cobb barely even had that many lines. Yes, every line of dialog resembled the left brained mathematical perception of our ambitious writer.
What’s worse than this, is that I could actually say with conviction that Sylvester Stallone wrote better character creations than Christopher Nolan! Now Mr. Stallone makes the precise same error in his dialog as Mr. Nolan. Every single personality in Rocky Balboa is exceedingly close to his own. The screenplay is essentially Stallone talking to himself. At very least, however, he put his heart into his screenplay, and he actually had a purpose to it even if it is as simple as “never surrender.” Now I really dislike that movie. An aged fighter’s story is very implausible, and it explores themes we’ve beaten into the ground. Furthermore whether he wins or loses it’s uninteresting. What drives me crazy about Inception though is for so many people who say “they got it,” I challenge you to explain to me what point Christopher Nolan was trying to make. What was the theme of his film? What intelligent commentary on family issues, politics, science fiction, psychology, adverting reality, coming to grips with dead loved ones, or even just a study on abnormal dilemmas did he make?
The two most interesting ideas Inception ignites shallowly skims the surface of them. What if you could live inside a dream, or a dream within a dream, or infinitely further? That’s fun. What if you could? Let’s say you do. What purpose does that serve? In inception, Dom Cobb wants to go back to his family but first must invade a person’s mind. How admirable. That’s the only purpose of the Inception mission I saw.
The second idea that I actually didn’t mind was that Dom Cobb’s love for his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), becomes his enemy in his mind as a result of her death. Emotionally she serves to hurt him rather than to help him unlike his past. This is the same theme in Memento. However this idea isn’t really explored. It’s just stated, shown to us, and goes no further. We never contemplate the more detailed complications that comes with it’s territory. His parting line with her is over-dramatic, cheesy, typical and fantastically uninteresting. Don says, “I love you more than I can bare, but I’m going to have to let you go.” I love how he claims he can’t bare it, and he speaks with calm peacefulness. My mother even happened to see this movie with me. She made the wise crack, “So what… is he talking to himself? He loves himself more than he can bare?!” Ha! That’s pretty narcissistic!
Much like Inception’s characters, those themes are just introduced at best. They aren’t explored. The end of the film finally introduces a left field detail. We are left to wonder if Dom Cobb, like his wife, would rather live in a dream world than the real one. My answer to this is why should I care? Whether he lives in a fantasy world or not makes no difference. I still don’t know who this Dom Cobb is other than his view of love has matured no greater than a fairy tale’s. A theme about a man averting reality, choosing to live his life in a dream world is indeed interesting. However, it’s a last minute idea thrown into Inception. Without surprise, it also is just introduced and never explored deeply. I can only conclude that Inception is about nothing, and every single event is intended to shock us, thrill us, and have us jumping out of our chair. I only watched it a second time to review it. I even thought perhaps I may be able to enjoy it even on a strictly fun level. I literally almost fell asleep both times. I’m an insomniac.
Conversing with Mr. Nolan
You know what I would have loved infinitely so much better than watching Inception twice? I would have much rather talked with Christopher Nolan in person, bought the man a drink, and have him explain to me Inception laws, and rule upon rule to his screenplay in person. I don’t need a film to do that. This is not a method used for an intelligent audience. Creative thinkers don’t need you to explain every last detail, but instead of a script to a substantial film, all we received were explanations to things that do not matter. The explanations literally replaced the movie.
I would have loved to speak with the director about the beginnings of his idea. I would have even gotten excited and supported him in his endeavor! I like the types of themes he’s explored in his other films. I would have challenged him in all the ways that I had mentioned. Then we could have taken all of his good ideas and made something of value, but instead I feel they have been wasted. It’s a real shame.
My good sported movie lover
Last but not least, it’s not my intention to make Christopher Nolan or other people feel stupid. What I want more than anything is for us all to think about what we are watching, and whether the content is indeed valuable. Take movie watching seriously. Have the focus to mature your viewing experiences by always challenging yourself. Even if you love comedies, take them seriously too. Question it all. What makes it funny? Are it’s laughs valuable? Did you learn something you never knew? I have most certainly made the mistake of thinking a movie is valuable when it wasn’t, or perhaps it wasn’t quite as good as I thought it was. So if you feel I’m being too harsh or if I made you feel foolish, I apologize. However, don’t get discouraged. Every single director, writer, actor, producer, cinematographer, editor, scorer, and even all the smaller jobs, as well as the audience itself make missteps. None of us are born experts, and we never will be totally either.
The most awesome dialog of Inception:
Ken Watanabe’s accent makes this bad writing even better (not that I think he’s a bad actor). I could easily point out the 5 or 6 things wrong with this dialog, but I think it stands better alone. There’s no way I could write melodrama this good.
Dom: “…If I were to do this… if I even could do it… I’d need a guarantee! How do I know you can deliver!?”
Saito: “You don’t… …but I can…
So do you want to take a leap of faith …or become an old man, filled with regret… waiting to die alone?” Dom nods as if to say Saito made an excellent point.