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All That We See or Seem According to Christopher Nolan [spoilers]

Inception:

noun

1. beginning; start; commencement.
2. film that will blow your mind, directed by Christopher Nolan

I’m not going to bury the lead on this story. I LOVED Inception. Inception was everything I want out of a film. It had good acting, good effects and was cerebral enough to keep you thinking about some aspect of the plot long after it was over. [SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan – Memento, Batman Begins and The Dark KnightInception is a sci-fi, action-thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine. It takes place in a world where technology allows a shared dream state that people have learned to exploit.

After an action packed “interview”, Saito – Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins and Letters from Iwo Jima) hires Cobb – DiCaprio, and Arthur – Jo Go-Lev, as the kids call him, (Miracle at St. Anna, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra), not to steal information, which is their normal modus operandi, but rather to leave information. They are hired to perform opposite of extraction: inception.

Saito needs Robert Fischer Jr. – Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later and Sunshine) to dissolve his father’s corporation, so that Saito can purchase the energy division, thereby giving him a monopoly.

Everyone believes inception to be impossible, but Cobb is convinced that if one is taken deep enough into the dream, information can be given directly to the sub-conscious, but it must be done in the simplest form. The most concise version of the idea must be planted, and then it can be altered. The problem is that once an idea is planted, no one knows what the mind will do with it. The idea becomes something else based on the subject’s relationships and beliefs, an entity of its own.

We find out that Cobb is on the run from the authorities. Saito promises that if they succeed in planting the idea in Fischer Jr.’s mind, he will clear Cobb’s name. Cobb, driven by the desire to see his children, assembles the best team possible for the job.

Cobb seeks help from his father, Miles – Michael Caine, who appears to be well versed in the idea of dream sharing. Cobb asks Miles about any up-and-coming architects, or designers and builders of the dream world. Miles mentions that he has someone in mind and introduces Cobb to Ariadne – Ellen Page (Juno and Hard Candy). Many of the astonishing sequences from the trailer come from Cobb explaining the shared dream state to Ariadne.

You still with me?

We then get a bit of a cliché sequence shortly after that, but it is one of my favorite movie clichés when it is done well. I don’t know how you would refer to it, but I’ll call it the “assembling the team” sequence, think Ocean’s Eleven, but cooler.

The first addition to the team is Eames played by Layer Cake and RocknRolla’s Tom Hardy. Eames is a forger, someone who can alter their looks in the dream state in attempts to fool one’s sub-conscious into believing that they are someone else. Apparently, Eames is the best. Also joining the team is the chemist, Yusuf, played by Drag Me to Hell’s Dileep Rao.

From this point, the team develops the plan and we get into crazy dream-within-a-dream territory, and I don’t mean Poe, although I would say that it is quite possible that Nolan was inspired by The Raven scribe. Don’t try to figure out how time passes in each layer. Trust me. I still don’t quite have it, just take it for what it is and try to keep track of the layer and the corresponding plan, with the understanding that dream time is longer than real time. Also remember that each level increases time exponentially.

DiCaprio plays a role built for him, the damaged hero who doesn’t like to consider his shortcomings. It is his past mistakes that drive the emotional plot points. Gordon-Levitt is cool and controlled even when the situations are crazy and indescribable. Ellen Page has matured and does well in a film this big. She may have understood that this was her chance to break out of the Juno role, and I think she succeeded. My only complaint was that Watanabe was difficult to understand in a few scenes and that took me out of the moment, trying to figure out what he had just said.

Hans Zimmer’s score is intense and helps to push the action scenes into your face. Interesting fact, Zimmer worked with guitarist Johnny Marr of The Smiths and Modest Mouse on the score, and there’s already best score nomination buzz, just a few days after wide release of the film.

Christopher Nolan may have snuck into my brain and deposited the idea that Nolan is an amazing filmmaker, but my sub-conscious took that thought and developed it into “Christopher Nolan is a genius of film.”

How much would I pay to see Inception again, out of $10? $10, and I think I will, only this time it will be in IMAX.

Jay (J.C.) Fralick is the host of The Drivecast
The co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie Podcast
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16 comments

  • I feel like the most bland person alive, but once again, ZERO complaints. I loved the movie. So much in fact, that I would punch a child in the womb for making too much noise during the film. I would.

  • I LOVED this movie. Lately I’ve been determining the success of a film based on how many times I check my watch during them, but there wasn’t a single point in Inception when I got bored. I didn’t feel the length at all. Even during all that exposition at the beginning.

    I loved that it was a basic “ticking clock” thriller, except that there were four different ticking clocks. The sound mixing was also amazing…I can’t even imagine how many layers of sound went into some of those sequences. That and, as you said, the score are a sure bet for Oscar nominations at the very least.

    I did have some logical problems with it as well, all of which came on the snow level (it sounds like we’re describing a video game–”snow level” “level 3″) but I won’t go into them for spoiling’s sake.

    Great cast, great director, amazing movie. Anyone who can get an audible gasp out of an entire theater with his ending has definitely made a great film.

  • The cast was phenomenal. It may be one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a while. It truly is the type of role that DiCaprio is made for. Did you see ‘Shutter Island’? Some people have theories that ‘Inception’ could be an unofficial sequel, judging by how similar his character is both films are.
    Also, on the not understanding Ken Watanabe point, I believe that ‘The Last Samurai’ was the first film in which he spoke English, so maybe he hasn’t quite nailed it yet. I think he still gives a marvelous performance. I admire anyway who can speak more than one language, I’ve never been very good at a foreign language. Hell, I still struggle with English!

  • the worst part of this movie is the overly cliche’ relationship of gordon-levitt and the british dude. its always the we-don’t-get-along-and-say-snide-remarks-back-and-forth-but-hey-maybe-we-can-learn-from-each-other-after-all relationship.
    other than that, this movie was amazing, and was the most dizzying thing i’ve ever seen in theaters. i almost threw up a couple of times. nolan destroyed my already fried brain, but i still followed really well.

  • Phil Waller is correct in that Saito wanted to prevent the Fischer corporation’s energy monopoly. Of course, one could doubt his noble intentions, but I didn’t care about that point. What mattered to me was the whole concept and execution of inception and not the reasons for doing so.

    Also, I believe that Michael Caine’s character, Miles, is actually Mal’s father. They don’t really explain that in the movie, but that point is mentioned in some of the publicity and other articles in the new journalistic cottage industry of explaining INCEPTION.

    Thanks, Jay, for feeding my current INCEPTION-obsession.

  • I agree that the film has its issues, but I wanted to be careful for those that hadn’t seen it yet. The only one I can provide any type of explanation for is that Saito would be older because he went to Limbo first. The only explanation for the growing old together thong is that they went on more than one occasion. Would love to hear other thoughts.

  • I loved this movie too, loved it… However, I found a few inconsistencies in this movie that I will now rant about:

    In no particular order: How is is that an IV allows sharing a dream? At the very least it seems that would require electrodes on the head. Wouldn’t Fisher notice the mark on his wrist from the IV and begin to wonder? Did Fisher wake up at the same time as the rest of the team? If so, wouldn’t he wonder what was going on? If not, how come? How… See More did Cobb get into Seito’s limbo? Did dieing on “level 1″ (drowning) put him there, or was it on “level 4″ (which I thought was already limbo). If he came from level 1, what happened to him on level 4? Cobb and Mal got out of limbo by lying on the train tracks, but they were shown to be young when they did that, yet they were shown to have grown old in limbo. Why does dying in limbo release you? And since it does, why not just let the subject die of old age in limbo? Why was there such an age difference between Seito and Cobb in limbo? I can sort of see why if they both died on level 1, but that’s not clear from the film. I thought Seito died in level 3 (snow mountain fortress).

    The ending is meant, I think to be ambiguous. Did the top stop spinning or not? Yet, either way there are problems with that. If it is real, how did Cobb’s father-in-law get to the airport (in California) from France given that Seito placed the called when the plane landed? It looked as if his children hadn’t aged, yet the credits indicate ~2 years have passed for them. If he is still asleep, how did he get out of limbo with Seito, where is his body, etc?

    I hope this stirs up more controversy than necessary and we turn this into a terrible family holiday dinner by the end of the thread.

  • I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, it’s possible, considering how much there is in this film to remember, but I thought Saito wanted to Fischer to break up the company to keep Fischer from having a huge energy monopoly. Again, I’m trying to think back to that point, and I can’t quite remember for sure. In either case, it doesn’t change my perception of the movie, which is to say IT’S INCREDIBLE. Easily my favorite movie of the year so far.