Posted by: Natalie | August 12, 2010

Inception

I am still a little shaky this morning – for last night I witnessed true greatness.

Christopher Nolan is not known for making wishy-washy films (Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight etc.) Filled with layers of darkness and distress, but with a breath of hope, his films stand out as some of the more poignant of my cinematic education. For this, and the incredible casting, I knew I had to watch Inception. I expected to watch a ‘good’ film. I didn’t expect to watch a film of a generation.

Inception I believe will be immortal. In fifty years time we will be bragging to young-whipper-snappers that We, our generation, were the ones who got to watch this pure work of genius on the big screen. It will be one of those films that you will always remember ‘where you were’ the night you watched for the first time (Showcase Cinema, Erdington. Classy). I can be very picky about what I spend my money on, and will usually find something to disappoint, but with Inception, I just couldn’t. I had to fall back instead to moan about how the man in front was sitting in his chair!

For anyone who has not seen the film, you may want to look away now as I ‘attempt’ to unravel the plot – just go and see it, avoid reviews and share in the delight of watching it unfold.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a man with a tragic story and an unusual talent. Along with Arthur (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt; Good job growing up by the way! Not too shabby for the former Third Rock From the Sun actor) they are able to construct dreams into which they can enter in order to probe their ‘victims’ for information. The theory goes that once inside, surrounded by their target’s subconscious, said target will unwittingly surrender information that is key to these seekers (Cobb etal). This is what is known as Extraction. Inception works in the reverse in which a seed of an idea is planted into the subconscious. However, in order to reach the deepest corners of a persons subconscious, Cobb and Arthur are able to induce further dream states until they are in a dream, within a dream, within a dream.

Ascending Descending by M.C. Escher

Now, I was in full anticipation of my brains spilling through my ears in confusion – everything ‘press’ based had led me to this conclusion (along with some verbal accounts also). But that was not the case. Steve believes that only stupid people could get confused! I think it is less insulting than that – I think those that try to find confusion will undoubtedly fall into it.

At one point in the film, Arthur is educating Aridane (My new favourite, Ellen Page – see Juno review) as to constructing a suitable dream maze. He likens stairwells to that of images by Escher. The perpetual loop. And although the story is not in a loop, rather layers of layers (or as I just tried to explain to my Mum, like a Russian doll), this resemblance to Escher’s drawings was uncanny. And similarly, if you stare too long at either and think too much about all these layers, you will loose yourself and possibly your mind. And thus the terrifying premise of the film is born.

‘Inception’ itself has only been attempted once before – to a devastating effect, but Cobb is willing to do anything to clear his name and return home to his children. This concept was dealt with tastefully and refused to fall into the trap of sentimentality. You felt for him and his cause yet it was not over laboured, it did not overshadow the immense detail of the rest of the film. Like the layers, it sat there snugly as the purpose underneath everything you were watching.

The plan is laid to collapse a business empire of a young heir, Robert Fischer, played by the unnervingly beautiful Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight‘s ‘Scarecrow). Cobb, enlists a team including an architect to build the dream’s levels (Ariadne / Ellen Page) and a forger to take on roles of those close to Fischer (Eames, played by the fabulous Tom Hardy; also known as ITV’s Heathcliff *swoons*). Together, unknowing of the true risks involved in such a feat, they enter into Robert Fischer’s subconscious and delve each dark and sinister layer.

But this ‘simple’ plan was clearly not enough for Nolan’s unchallengeable writing talents. Fisher’s brain has been trained to resist such attacks and his subconscious manifests into armed guards and soldiers that hunt down our heroes at every turn. Thus ensuing lots of wonderful action sequences. Whatever experiences the sleeping bodies encounter, directly affects the landscape and situations of the dream state they are in. For example, my favourite scene is when Arthur is fighting armed hotel staff in dream layer number two. However, in dream layer number one, he is sleeping within a mini-bus that is rolling down a hill. The affect on his fight sequence in dream two is that the hall way of the hotel is rotating – as if it is the falling bus.

I know I am not doing the best job of explaining this to you (How Nolan was able to actually write this concept down is beyond me!) but you will have to take my word for it, this tumbling fight sequence is probably one of the best I have ever seen. The pair free fall with each lurch of the bus and are propelled onto walls and ceilings whilst still trying to kill one another. It is almost dance like in its beauty, choreographed so perfectly as to have the viewer literally hanging from the edge of their seat. A stunning sequence.

But, there is even more. Cobb has issues within his own subconscious that he refuses to deal with, refuses to let go. Mainly the death of his wife for which he blames himself. In each world, this guilt manifests as Mal (Marion Cotillard), Cobb’s wife. But she is but a terrifying shell of a woman, filled with hate and spite and a determination to sabotage the mission. Her aim, or in actual fact the aim of Cobb’s subconscious (see what I mean about thinking too hard?!) is to destroy enough of Cobb so as to keep him trapped in limbo, trapped in his own subconscious, forever with her.

To try and really think about all these possibilities and truly understand them, hurts my brain. But, to get over this I have a very handy tip. Acceptance. Just accept what is happening, just flow with the story, don’t delve into what ‘hidden meanings’ there might be there about self and humanity and religion (I abhor people who ruin good films and books by doing this). Just watch it and enjoy. Then try to retell it and feel ashamed at doing such a shoddy job!

It is not a film I can write justly about, there is just way too much information and detail to comprehend. I can only imagine with every re-watch, more and more of this lustrous world will be noticed and a little more understood. It is a film that can only grow greater with each re-watch, and it is a film that can only really be appreciated and understood with seeing for yourself. No amount of review reading can ever prepare you for this event. Inception is an experience of a lifetime.

I just feel sorry for all other films to ever come. They just simply can’t compete.

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Responses

  1. Nice summary Nat!

    Out of interest, how did you interpret the ending??

    • Oh, I loved the ending! For me he was home. Had to be. But that could be the sentimental smush speaking. As much as I like tragic endings to stories, this one needed to be happy – he’d had way too much heart break for it not to be.

      But I was desperately looking for that wedding ring – in all the dream sequences, he wore the ring but not in the real world. Didn’t get to see that left hand though at the end!

      Loved it, loved loved loved it! And a tricksy ending is a definite plus!!

      Nat x

      • Definitely made me think, although I’m not so sure I reckon he was home, the kids didn’t seem to have changed. Oh well, there’s a reason to watch it again! xxx

      • Now, that’s an interesting thought . . . *ponders*. Damn, will just have to watch it again!

  2. Well, I’m glad you enjoyed the film.

    I’d be happy to deconstruct this movie for you, point by point, frame by frame, but you’ve already stated your general dislike for this sort of thing, so I’ll refrain.

    I must say I couldn’t disagree with you more about your conclusion.

    Inception simply isn’t a great movie. It’s not half-bad in parts, very much a curate’s egg though. Plodding, predictable, quite full of wincing plot holes and internal inconsistencies – it’s only a “thinking person’s” blockbuster by the absolutely abysmal standards of most summer fare.

    As I’ve said before, it’s a deep film – for shallow people. Nothing more, I’m afraid.

    When placed against the great films of the past, even the past year, it’s hardly noteworthy. I can only think it’s pure, enthusiastic hyperbole on your part to claim that it will be seen in the future in a similar light that say 2001 is today.

    Again, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Lots and lots of people did. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t confuse it for a moment with something more meaningful or bigger than it is.

    Obviously opinions may differ but I’m puzzled at your claim. It makes me wonder how much of the world’s great cinema you’ve seen. With so many better movies out there, I’d hate to think you’ve missed them.

    A dream within a dream within a heist movie – well, we’ve seen that certainly before, except perhaps the very last bit – which doesn’t add much to what is a rather simple action/confidence flick at heart.

    I think if anything, once the red carpets worth of hype is swept aside, history will not be particularly kind to Nolan’s flawed Inception. I don’t think it will be seen as his best work certainly. But only time, will tell.

    Best wishes and good luck,

    E.

    • Thank you Eric for your comment and notes, it certainly is interesting to see the other side of the coin.

      And yes, perhaps there are gaps in my basic movie history. As yet, I have not entered into a deep discussion, face to face, with anyone with regards to this film and I will openly acknowledge that I know little about cinema as a whole. This being the case I am happy to accept my shallow standing and feel justified in my opinions.

      I fear we may have to agree to disagree.

      But I do thank you for taking the time to share your own opinions and enriching this blog post. I will certainly be intrigued to know which side any following commenters fall down upon.

      Kind regards,
      Natalie

  3. I am with you, Nat. I thought the originality of film along with the execution made this a first class film and one that is firmly placed in my all-time favourites. Part of the genius of the film for me was how they took this complex construct and managed to make it perfectly (to me, at least) understandable and easy to follow. I know I will be watching this again and again.

    That said, this still really made me laugh:

    http://rosscott.tumblr.com/post/927489995/gregrutter-hey-wait-a-second-yeah-yeah

    • Thats brilliant!!!! Love it!

      That’s one of the things that really surprised me – having read so much about how confusing it is, I found it actually relatively simple to follow. Its just trying to write about it I found difficult!

      Glad we are like minded in this! Maybe we should get together for a DVD night when it comes out?!

      Thank you for the comment my love!

      Nat x

  4. I think you did a great job in your review of Inception. I thought it was a great movie, so many plots within plots; in this case dreams within dreams. It is fun to think about and kind of analyze. When I watch movies I try to look deeper into it, there is always an underlying meaning be it good, bad, shallow, deep…whatever. I too hope he was actually home in the end with his family. I like how it began and the way the ending tied it all together. I knew Aurthur looked familiar. He did do a great job growing up!!

    • Thank you for your comment!

      I think I need to edit myself a little – I love anything with complex layers and enjoy hunting the hidden meanings too. I just don’t like when people dissect to such a degree that regardless of your enjoyment level, the film/book is ruined.

      As for Arthur, I did spend most of the film going, “Is that him? No, it can’t be. But he looks just like him . . .” and so it continued. The first thing I did when I got home was to double check on IMBD – who knew he would grow up to be so talented!!

      Thank you again for stopping by, always nice to hear from like-minded people!

      Nat x

  5. I agree with your review of the movie, I thought it was fantastic and far beyond just another action movie. The visuals went along so well with the telling of the story, the fight scene you mentioned, the kick, which mimicked the feeling of actually waking up, I thought it was wonderful. I also don’t believe there to be as many plot holes as Eric describes, but then again I have noticed myself to be quite a shallow person ;p

    Then only thing I disagree with you on is the end. I don’t believe he was home…I could get into all the reasons why, but that’s not the point of the movie. It was really about believing what you want.

    Also, from a writing stand point, I marveled at the way he pulled this off. I talked about it with my boyfriend to no end, much to his displeasure, then when I sat down to my own wip I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming inferior. Sigh, I guess I have to accept the fact I’m no genius and move on, lol.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head there – overwhelmingly inferior! That is exactly how it makes me feel – not only from a writing standpoint, but in general. It is on such a scale that I was left quite literally breathless by the end.

      And I think that’s why that type of ending works – it makes people talk about it and allows you to draw your own ideas instead of just handing it to you on a plate!

      I am so pleased you enjoyed it too, and thank you so much for your shallow input 😉 It was most heart warming!

      Natalie x

  6. Call me shallow, too, then, ’cause I loved the film! I loved the effects, the acting, the synchronisation of the actions in the various dream levels, the implications, the ambiguous ending. Such a fun experience!

    As for the ending, my 14YO son and I agree that the totem was starting to slow and wobble, perhaps to fall, something it never did in the dream world.

    I’ll get the DVD when it comes out, but I’m glad I got to see those effects on the big screen.

    • Hooray for another like minded soul!

      Thanks for the comment Toni, any input always welcome!

      Natalie x

  7. I am happy to stand on the shallow side of the fence (*rolls eyes*) with you, Natalie. 😉

    I totally agree that you have to just ‘flow’ with the whole experience of watching the movie. Like most of David Lynch’s work, if you try to think to hard you just end up confused.

    Loved it, and loved your write up.

    Cheers,
    Kaz

    • Hooray for more shallowness in the world! Glad you liked the film and even more for your comment!

      Take care Kaz!

      Natalie x

  8. […] Inception […]

  9. […] actually watching them. Being something of a fan of Christopher Nolan films (The Dark Knight, Inception and Memento being absolutely stunning) I was quite excited when Steve said we had another of his […]


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