Inception | movie review

Inception is probably the first movie of 2010 that movie lovers have been legitimately anticipating—that is, looking forward to since that very first preview back in February.  Certainly I was.  Sometimes that anticipation is a bad thing, as when your hopes are dashed against a mediocre production; sometimes it makes a movie even better, when it meets or exceeds all of your expectations.  Inception isn’t quite the latter but certainly isn’t anything else.  Mostly, I think, what few preconceptions I had about the plot or scenario the movie would cover turned out to be wrong, so I can’t call it what I expected, but the movie as it exists blew me away.

The story of the film—and this is what surprised me—turned out to be one story with several layers, not several smaller arcs as they tackled different jobs or something.  No, it’s just one job, and it is a big job.  A swan song for DiCaprio’s character, who wants as payment for the job the client to use his political connections to clear him of murder charges against his wife.  What they are trying to do is not extract information (which is their usual line of work) but implant an idea that will then bloom from that subconscious/unconscious implantation via dream into the flower of a conviction from the man himself, by his conscious mind’s reckoning.  They have to create layers within layers in order to achieve this implantation, this “inception,” as they call it, and there is a risk to all of them, going this deep, that if they die in the dream they do not awake but get cast into limbo where the time dilation might well render them a lifetime before the dream comes to an end.

So here was the interesting thing about this set-up:  I wasn’t sold on the framing story, about DiCaprio trying to get home to his kids via this shady corporate spying deal, and we never saw anything about the man they were implanting with this inception to know if he was a villain or a victim.  I didn’t know who I should, in a moralistic way, be rooting for—but by the time the action started, it didn’t matter.  I didn’t care whether I was in favor of the mission’s execution; all I cared about was that within the parameters they were given, the objective was immediate and exciting and tense to watch them try and accomplish.  The flashes back through the successive levels of the dream ratcheted that tension higher and higher, as you saw each team racing within its time dilation to beat both their clock and by extension the clock driving the entire structure.

Another thing that made the story not matter—I loved this conception of the dream world.  For me, one of the only enduring ideas that stuck from my 13-year-old reading of The Wheel of Time books was the dreamworld his characters could enter, where things were like and yet not like the real world.  I have a version of my parents’ road that I know as well as their real one, but yet it exists only in my dreams.  And we all have times when we’re trying to tell someone about a dream, and we have to say things like “well, in the dream this made sense” or “then we were just elsewhere, like you are sometimes in dreams,” and this movie played with those ideas.  The world had its own physics, its own rules, and the dreamer would never notice it was odd until s/he awoke, because in that dream those were the rules.

The visuals were the final piece of this movie, and they were awesome.  From the scene early on with Ellen Page’s character changing the physics of the world and creating streets that met at right angles along the x/y plane instead of the y/z, to the sequence when they are in a rolling van in one dream and the physics of that physical change affect the next level down so as the van rolls they are engaging in this fight that ranges from the hallway floor to its ceiling, to the sudden rearing of new buildings in the landscape or their equally sudden crumbling…this movie had some awesome things to look at.  So if you’re someone who likes visuals—not special effects, which were actually used sparingly in comparison to achieving the same effect, but better, via camera tricks, but visuals—then this movie is worth seeing regardless of other considerations.

But I’ve spent all this time saying why the story didn’t matter without touching on whether it turned out to be good.  It did.  It was a bit slow to get started, and you will leave the theater still thinking about it.  There is a facile surface reading that you can take away and feel satisfied with.  If your mind can’t let go of the ideas that were incepted early in the film, however, if you paid close enough attention to note them, then you will start reevaluating everything.  I have gone through three layers of understanding so far, and this is only in the first 12 hours since I saw it.  I am planning to see it again already—I expect on a second viewing my theories will become obviously right or wrong.  But on the first viewing, this film leaves you thinking.

Chris Nolan is an excellent director, and I think he does better with idea movies rather than plot movies—for as much as I enjoyed the first of his Batman movies (I was the one person any of my friends knew who didn’t like The Dark Knight), I think they are the least of his films.  He has a great cast that he’s working with here; there were no real weak links, although Ellen Page was probably the weakest only because she wasn’t doing anything we haven’t seen her do before.  Which could easily be said of DiCaprio, too, here, except we forgive him for it because he’s just so damn charismatic to watch anyway.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt—off his 500 Days of Summer backslide and back to his better form—Cillian Murphy (doing his usual naïf thing, too), Handsome Bob from Rocknrolla (Tom Hardy), Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, and John Hurt round out the rest of the cast.

My bottom line on Inception is this:  if you thought you wanted to see this movie, you do.  And if you weren’t sure, imagine a mix of The Matrix’s reality-bending and reality-questioning and Ocean’s Eleven slick, complex heist, and The Dark City‘s mind games and Memento’s mood and fractured storyline, and you get some idea of what this movie is.  Add in a dash of Plato (“A man’s mind, once stretched to encompass a new idea, can never go back to its original dimensions”) and some hyberbolic space-time dilation, and I think it becomes obvious that you can’t go wrong with this movie.  Expect to be caught in the moments.  Expect to be made to wonder.  Expect to be made to think.  And expect to want to see it again.

26 comments

  1. AMAZING movie. Certainly Nolan’s masterpiece thus far. I am also happy to see someone else liked Batman Begins more than the Dark Knight — I did, for the themes, and the amazing scenes with Liam Neeson — but INCEPTION takes everything Nolan’s done in the past and puts it together. You also nailed it when you say you WILL want to see it again. And again. And… (Bluray release date, anyone…?)

  2. INCEPTION MOVIE HERALDS 528 CODE FOR MUSICAL TRANSCENDENCE

    Wake up or die in the nightmares of corporate espionage, greed, corruption, and armed anger. INCEPTION writer and director, Christopher Nolan, heralds “528” as the “code” through which social transformation, involving music, is achieved.

    The new Hollywood blockbuster has moviegoers nationwide curious about the source of a mysterious code used in the plot involving music played in “Room 528,” and linked to a forgotten “528” memory.

    INCEPTION, another word for creation, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, shown here entering Room 528 to defend against corporate thugs.

    Recalling the “key” to Room 528 is crucial to the movie’s plot, wherein Cobb (DiCaprio), an expert in the art of mind manipulation, extracts secrets from people’s subconscious to serve the “treacherous new world of corporate espionage.”

    The movie repeats the number “528,” a mathematical frequency, in a key phone number, on a napkin, two vault combinations, and the room wherein much of the action occurs during the film’s climax. Here, special music must be played at a precise time to “extract” the operatives from their anguish and nightmarish pseudo-realities.

    Cobb’s psychological operation in Room 528 reconnects the heir to the world’s most powerful energy cartel, Robert Fisher (played by Cillian Murphy), to his father’s memory. Fisher senior, atheistically representing the corporate alternative to God, is locked in a vault requiring the 528 code to open. Another “528-491” combination unlocks the final safe containing the greatest secret, treasure, motivation, and catharsis for the main characters that have all been struggling with the loss of LOVE.

    The idea of linking music for social transcendence with “528” and LOVE in INCEPTIONappears to have come from Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz, the discoverer of the “Perfect Circle of Sound,” and a frequent contributor to Hollywood’s screenwriters. The author of 16 books has written extensively on the subject of 528 as it relates to universal construction, healing, Spiritual Renaissance, creationism, and what Nolan terms”inception.”

    “I am honored that Christopher Nolan, reputed to be a ‘dark filmmaker,’ thinks so highly of 528Hz music that he chose to promote the frequency in, around, and through “Room 528″ at the height of the drama,” Dr. Horowitz said.

    528 engages the “music of the light,” versus the “music of the night.” The musical mathematical knowledge about 528, and its spiritual implications, is urgently needed to deal with the planet’s corporate criminals.

    Nolan wrote, “An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.” Horowitz’s idea that 528 plays the sound of LOVE, has been rewriting all the rules since 1998 with his writing of Healing Codes for the Biological Apocalypse. (Tetrahedron Press; 1-888-508-4787) From co-author Dr. Joseph Puleo, a Bible code scholar and naturopath, Horowitz learned that 528Hz frequency is the “MI” note (that stands for “MIracles”) in the original Solfeggio musical scale.

    Thereafter, leading physicists and mathematicians published proofs that “528/LOVE” is fundamental to universal construction, Pi, Phi, the Fibonacci series, sacred geometry, the circle, square, the hexagonal ring of organic chemistry, and the world of biology. Grass, in fact, grows green because of 528Hz–the color of chlorophyll. And the real da Vinci code, according to Horowitz, has everything to do with these discoveries.

    LOVE is what drives Nolan’s leading character Cobb, leading lady Mol (Marion Cotillard), and leading victim Fisher, to access their memories in order to reconcile their relationships to reconstruct their lives.

    Many people do not understand Nolan’s film for its deeper social and metaphysical meanings. Dr. Horowitz attributes a lot of this confusion to the lost memory of 528Hz frequency, believed to be central to spiritual identity and human creativity.

    Nolan’s film plays on these themes, juxtaposing violence and cataclysm with the dream of”extracting” ourselves from the corporate controlled world of mind control and general madness. The objective is to “get back home.”

  3. Great movie! Makes viewer have to think. However, one thing that the director WRONGLY resembling is the scene where the level 2 dream, where the van was rolling down the hill, and the level 3 gravity shift.

    Lets say that it takes the van a total of 30 seconds from start rolling to a complete halt. At the beginning of the movie, Cobb mentioned 5 minutes in one dream gives the other 10 hour. So that means every 1 minute on the higher level dream is 12 minutes for the lower level dream.

    So for 30 seconds, that would be 6 minutes total for the dream below.

    The thing I’m trying to point out is. The directory made the gravity shift at the level two directly shift gravity of every dream levels below. Which is incorrect.

    Every second that the van in level 2 dream rolls, that gives, level 3 dream about 12 seconds before gravity shift, and level 4 dream 144 seconds every shift.

    Also, the shifting of gravity should be linear, little by little, not all at once at 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees like that.

    Just a thought. 🙂

  4. 60 seconds equates to 120 minutes.

    30 sec’s equates to 60 minute (1 hour) as they said in the move, etc.

  5. I am definitely going to be seeing this movie ASAP! Dark Night and Memento were such intriguing thrillers; they gave me high expectations for this movie. From what I’ve been reading, it looks like it is going to live up to my expectations. Can’t wait to see what Christopher Nolan has done in this film!

  6. Take a pillow and a warm blanket to this movie. This piece of crap is written by a brain dead moron with incoherent thought process and damaged nervous system while smoking something really potent and hallucinating shit.

  7. In response to Chung: actually, the Director did have it right, in my opinion. Time can defy the construct of the dream levels. Just think about when you dream. If someone or something makes a very loud noise, you will likely here it right away, no matter how much time passed in that dream – you might even wake up. So if you have a second level or third level dream, whatever happens on the first level dream that jars you will immediately effect the lower level dreams regardless of the time construct. Even though Chung’s analysis is very sound and probably true. My own personal experience with dreams within dreams closely resembles the directors interpretation of the immediate affect of top level dreams to the lower level dreams.

  8. Inception was the most confusing movie I ever saw. My friends couldn’t figure it out and neither could other people in the theatre I spoke to. What is this talk about it being brilliant. A brilliant movie is one you can understand and isn’t jumping around from scene to scene every 5 minutes. It was a big disappointment to me.

  9. INCEPTION – Unravelling our many selves

    Chris Nolan performs magic in every frame of this brilliant pic. This is fine blending of facts about our subconscious selves with element of fiction built in by the concepts of Dream sharing, extraction and Inception.

    The beauty of the script emerges from the fact that plot and sub plots of the movie unfold themselves while simultaneously educating the viewer about the subconscious world. Educate and engage is smart formula that Nolan adapts to keep us hooked all through till the last frame. Of course this is also a great demand he places on the viewer to be extra attentive to every single detail… which does get taxing ..especially in the second half. We need to relate and connect past scenes & dialogues and at the same time paying attention to what’s happening in the current scene!!

    Well, imagining a sequel to this movie is definitely a tempting proposition. I wouldn’t rather call it a sequel but extension of experience into Super-conscious. Exploring sub-conscious in Freudian terms and ascribing the source of “genuine” inspiration to be in the depths of sub-conscious is one way to look at our interior world. Where as there have been enough experiential explorations done to discover that “genuine” inspiration emerges from Intutive mind, which is not below our waking state but above it! May be a intricate script that builds a fascinating story into super-conscious, Or trying to adapt some of the complex theories like Spiral dynamics , Integral theory as proposed by Ken Wilber… am sure will definitely give scope to interesting story to be told.

    Net – net beautiful movie , watched it already twice. Only second time did I realize that the whole plot was being told by Cobb to Siato in Limbo to remind him about honouring his agreement. Can definitely watch it again to decipher the sub plots with greater detail, as no dialogue or character or scene in this movie was redundant.

  10. Inception: A good idea un-necessarily complicated by director’s indulgence to show-off exotic locations, special effects and long drawn-out James Bond-esque action.

    Our favorite hero, Di Caprio, wasted.

    Can’t say ‘great!’ just to join the band-wagon of thinkers.

  11. zero character development. too simple plot non-enhanced with lots of booms and bangs. boring sound track.

    thumbs down.

  12. @everyone who is reading “sudie’s” post. Everything he said is true, if you take its opposite as truth.

  13. Here is my thought on the movie… Plan “Inception” on Fitcher’s mind succeeds… a pinwheel was found inside his father’s cabinet..”incepted” from Codd. A pinwheel that did not exist in the photo of him and his father. Just like he incepted a thought on his wife, who had to come back to reality with a wrong idea that nothing surrounding her is reality, Codd succeeds in making Fitcher to live with a false idea/memory about his relationship with father. This will make him to probably split the company and chose a life different from his father..

    My overall thoughts of this movie is that… it’s very intelligent and wonderfully crafted.. but dealt with a subject far too dangerous, complex and extraordinary. Just made me realize what extraordinary things you will find at deep part of people’s mind.. wounded memories, guilt, violence (gun shots, militants, gangs just symbolize the amount of people’s fear, feeling of threat and insecurity) those things lies beneath our consciousness…

  14. This movie was dull and a waste of time. Typical Hollywood over exposure to self praise.

  15. Great Concept..awwwwwful movie! I was snoring in the theater as if I were on Ambien, Morphine, Benadryl and a glass of warm milk to wash it down. I’m actually into the concept of astral projection, remote viewing, and lucid dreaming, but this movie was all over the freakin place right from the start. Nobody knew what the hell was going on. Early on in the movie various concepts were explained, but then there were tons of contridictions. 2 THUMBS DOWN FOR ME!

  16. I think it’s true… Because the movie is too complicated. The idea is cool, but Christopher Nolan can’t make it good. ^^….

  17. Did anyone see this in theatres? I wanted to go opening night but couldnt because I was sick

  18. Great movie.2 thumbs up for me.if u dont like the movie ,i guess you like simole dreams! other thing is was expecting a more intriguing and memorable movie soundtrack.

  19. Kudos to everyone involved in making this movie.

    Very interesting movie. Beautifully done. Fine acting and visuals. Elena’s movie review is appreciated. More than just entertainment, this film resonates with persons who are philosophically inclined and have some sense that we dream our lives and who appreciate glimpses of that truth and seek further understanding. I have friends who could not bother to sit through it, which is no fault of the film.

    As i watched the movie, my first thought was that, like most inventions thought to be fiction until they become mainstream, mechanically sharing dreams is probably already being done. To a degree, we do it when we sit in a theater with others. In a broader sense, we are collectively sharing a day-dream of life as we know it already. Death is a waking up and our next birth is the start of the next dream. Whole new set of characters, whole new plot, whole new scenery. What is it that connects the dreams? What connects us to each other within the dream? How does it actually work?

    Planting seeds in peoples’ minds is already being done. Extracting truth from peoples’ minds is already being done. Going deep within a dream is already being done. If we consider our current life a dream, and our night dream a dream inside of that day-dream, and sometimes at night we dream we are dreaming, that is three levels down. Dream within a dream within a dream.

    But who thinks of these things? They should be considered by thoughtful persons. It was risky of Christopher Nolan to make a film which would be misunderstood and under-appreciated by the majority of sleep-walkers on the planet. That he chose to make it anyway shows the level of his own interest and a willingness to bear ridicule of the masses to advance a few who are anxious to understand more.

    The final scene leaves us with the decision. Is Cobb currently in a dream or not? Has the whole movie taken place in a dream or not? The style of the cut from the airport to the father’s home and the children dressed same as they were in all other scenes leads me to conclude we never saw the awake state. As the film wants us to decide for ourselves, i believe that the entire movie took place in a dream. Which makes it dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Pretty fantastic.

    Now, some have concluded that making a movie with a final conclusion like this is a let-down or cheating, because by the end of the movie we naturally all wanted a successful, meaningful outcome after all the heros’ struggles. While dreaming may be entertaining, it is not important like reality.

    People generally don’t like being cheated. Yet, when it comes to accepting the illusory false identity and scenarios within the temporary dream life we are currently living, everyone holds on very tightly and no one wants to think it could be otherwise. Practically nobody becomes disturbed that we are being cheated into believing our collective dream is real. We need to find out who we really are and what our life is really like in a fully awakened, conscious state. This movie has the power to stimulate such important inquiry.

  20. Its not the movie’s fault you didnt understand it. Its your fault. Go back to watching those lame predictable films.

  21. To all the people who say they didnt understand the film. Blame yourself because its your ability to comprehend.
    I mean the jumping from scene to scene makes perfect sense to me and to those that actually understand the film.

Share your thoughts