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Inception (Movie Review)
cap, captain miss america

I went to see Inception yesterday morning and I wanted to write up my thoughts about it.

For people who haven’t seen it yet, it’s a movie about a team of people who go into people’s dreams to steal information. Early on in the film, we learn that the title, Inception, refers to the much more difficult task of planting information in a person’s dream. It’s not a super new idea– Neil Gaiman played with similar ideas in Sandman, and there’s a bit of the same concept in City of Lost Children, and I assume it’s much older than that, but those are the two examples foremost in my mind, but applying the concept to a modern-day action movie is pretty new, as far as I know.

From here on in, this is going to be pretty spoilertastic stuff if you haven’t see it yet, but I also don’t feel like it’s the kind of movie that can be spoiled, except for a lone single shot that doesn’t effect the plot of the film. People who’ve seen the movie know what lone single shot I mean.

People who haven’t seen it and want to remain completely unspoiled, the short version goes, I enjoyed it, but there were a lot of things I was hoping for that weren’t there, and a lot of things that disappointed me about it.

To start off, for a movie with such a unique underlying premise, the main character story arc is so completely done already that not only has it been done, but it was done by Leonardo DiCaprio in the last big suspense-type movie he was in. Character's psyche at war because he blames himself for death of love interest who had lost grip on reality and done something terrible, check. I found myself having very little interest in Cobb's character or his backstory, and since he's really the only character we get a deep look at, a large part of the movie was lost on me. Which is too bad, because I think Leonardo DiCaprio is always a superlative actor, and he wasn't disappointing in the way he portrayed Cobb, but it was just a tired character trope.

What character did I want to see more about?

Saito. I think one of the failings of the movie was that this guy seems to be a pretty good guy with pretty populist interests at stake-- he wants to break up the Fischer empire because he sees them as a destructive and exploitative monopoly-- but we never find out why he was Cobb's mark at the beginning of the movie, or who the people who had hired Cobb were-- in fact, they completely disappear after the Mombasa scene (which seemed to come out of nowhere--why Mombasa? None of the characters they were meeting were Kenyan, and it was one of those "let's randomly use African people as props for white people to jump over and knock aside" moments). And I would have liked to have known that. It would have been neat to have just made Fischer's company be the one who had hired Cobb to steal information from Saito in the first place. I know Nolan is a big Hitchcock fan and I assume he was setting up a classic MacGuffin here, but it didn't really play out...it just vanished and its absence was more conspicuous to me than it should have been.

But more than that, here's this guy who has a backstory with Cobb, and we don't know what it is. He knows about dream extraction-- how?

And then he winds up living in dream limbo for decades, and we never see any of that. I wanted to see the story of the man stuck in dream limbo, and how it changed him. I was expecting it to be a more major plot point that simply a plot to have this mysterious intro sequence-- I was thinking maybe after all those years in limbo, Saito might have decided that he'd changed his mind about Fischer, or something like that. How did he adapt to limbo? Why are there other people inhabiting his limbo, when Cobb & Mal's limbo was empty?

Mal was also problematic for me in some regards. Actually, I thought she was a really fascinating character, and Marion Cotillard was perfect, but I was frustrated that, while there were only two major female characters in the film, one of them turns out to simply be a construct of a man's imagination, and doesn't actually have much in the way of personal agency. She's the one who goes mad-- we've got the typical trope of the gaslit woman, and the woman whose mental fortitude just wasn't as strong as her husband's. I had been hoping for something, assuming the general plot was still intact, where Mal might have been part of one of Cobb's teams and she'd gotten stuck in limbo and never returned, or trapped in a dream, or that she was the inception, that she was an idea that had become so powerful that she had her own agency. I think that would have been a much more awesome premise, personally.

I also felt like Ellen Page wasn't the right choice for that role. The moments where Ellen Page is really finest for me, are the moments of raw emotionality. The best scene in all of Juno isn't any of the scenes full of witty quips, but the scene where she finally breaks down over the steering wheel of her car; the way that woman displays emotion on camera is so incredibly genuine that I felt like she was wasted in the part of the person who spent all her time watching someone else display emotion. I also didn't buy her as this precocious dream architect, for reasons which dovetail with my last criticism of the film:

The dreamscapes completely threw my suspension of disbelief. Because they were not anything like dreamscapes.

The dreamscapes were too much like real places that one could actually go to or find or see. Not only that, but they obeyed laws of physics in ways that didn't make sense-- because they were too much like real world physics. After the scene where Ellen Page and Leonardo DiCaprio go all crazy-physics-happy, they actually do very little to exploit the possibilities of dreamscapes. The only point where we see the paradoxes they make such a point of bringing up is in the scene where Arthur uses the same paradox they showed us earlier with the starcase-- nothing new, nothing completely and totally outside of the realm of possibility of everyday life. And that, for me, is the biggest draw as far as seeing a movie about dreams-- I want to see the kinds of things so impossible that only our subconscious could think them up, not a stereotypical kidnapping scenario followed by a stereotypical hotel followed by a stereotypical breaking-into-a-remote-compound. Why didn't they get rescued by giant candy canes? Why aren't there talking sofas? Why, when they lose gravity in the hotel, does Arthur have to come up with a way to drop everyone that obeys the laws of physics. It's a dream. If he wants them to fall, it doesn't matter if there's no gravity; they'll still fall. Or if they won't, why can't he shrink them and stuff them all inside a gumball machine and then feed the gumball machine enough change to drop them all out the slot? That's what happens in dreams. That's the beauty of dreams, and I didn't feel like Inception captured that at all.

The only place we see an inkling that that might be happening outside of the scene where Ariadne (haha, clever name for a woman who designs mazes) learns about dream architecture is in limbo, but like I said above, limbo isn't really fully explored the way I would have hoped.

Another thing that I didn't get was why they would have made Fischer's dreams so violent and negative. They make a big point in the movie about how positive reinforcement of the idea is the right way to go-- so why a kidnapping? Why break into a compound? Why not something more uplifting, more inspirational?

That being said, the scene between Cillian Murphy and Pete Postlethwaite where Maurice tells Robert (Haha, his name is Bobby Fischer because he's a pawn, get it?) what he said before he died is perfectly played and I just thought an excellent climax. I thought the Fischers were great characters, and Cillian Murphy was great in this. Again, like Saito, I found them more interesting than Cobb, and would have liked to see more about them and involving them.

I don't want to make it sound like I didn't like the movie, because I did. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable on the same level that I find many action movies with tight plots and stellar casts to be enjoyable, but no more, and I was really banking on this being a much more highly fantasist film than it was. That it wasn't was a bit of a letdown.

The last shot was not, though. Way to thumb your nose at all those people who've come to expect a twist ending from everything, Christopher Nolan. That was freaking brilliant.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

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I already told you what I thought about the dream set up. Do agree with the gravity thing though, could have had a more dream creative method there.

I did want to know more about the Fishers. I really wanted to know what the event with the pinwheel was.

I know! I thought the Fischers were fascinating and I really wanted to see more about them.

Oh, also, question-- Did you think the ending was a joke? Someone else just commented and thought the ending was saying that he was in a dream-- I thought that the whole point of that last shot was that Nolan cut the shot before you could tell if the top was going to fall-- it looked and sounded like it was about to spin down-- and from the way the audience cracked the hell up at it, I assumed everyone thought the same thing, that he deliberately left it up in the air as a sort of "booyah! You all thought I was going to do this thing but I am not!" joke. Which I thought was fucking hilarious, but apparently not everyone read it that way.

I'm not sure I thought it was a joke more of a, 'uh duh its going to fall, can't you hear the warbble?' But also there for those that want to see it more sinister and 'it's not going to fall.'

Sort of like, not opened ended completely but just enough if you want to see it that way.

Yeah, exactly. I thought it was very obvious that he wasn't giving one answer or the other for certain-- and I guess part of the reason I saw it as a joke was because I know that in The Prestige a lot of people thought the movie failed because they "guessed the ending" when Nolan was trying to make more of a Hitchcockian suspense, where you're supposed to know the ending from the beginning and the point is watching the character go made trying to get to where you already are. There's this whole school of moviegoers who expect everything to have a twist ending and judge movies solely based on whether it's guessable. I think there are some movies that fail if the ending is guessable (I enjoyed Shutter Island but felt like the guessability of the ending took away from the movie, and The Village is just a total piece of crap because of that aspect), but I feel like a good movie is one where you can know the ending going into the film for the first time and it will still stand up as a story. So I felt like this was his sort of little in-joke about audience reactions to The Prestige, but joke or no joke, yes, we're in agreement about that part.

I get so tired of movies that put in the twist ending just to have a twist ending. Inception was not one of those. The Shutter Island twist ending did bother me because I knew it before I saw the movie with the 'who is prisoner whatever number' and that ending was supposed to be a surprise.

I think a lot of people lately think movies aren't as good if they are able to wrap up the story. Sometimes a movie is just a movie and it can end there.

I think the thing is that good storytelling, to me, has a beginning, a middle and an end, not a beginning, a middle and a surprise. I think things that can stand on their own and don't require people to have seen every movie in the genre for the past ten years so they know what they're supposed to have been trained to expect are much stronger as artworks. And as stories.

But... the real ending in Shutter Island is about his surrender, not really about who the missing prisoner is. So to me that story did have a B-M-E, but then again I read the book, where the "surprise" is ultimately not even really a surprise at all.

Which is why I said I enjoyed the movie, but. I think it still worked as a story, but it was a bit of a letdown because I think there was too much effort put into trying to give it a twist.

And I haven't read the book, but I think the movie depended a little bit too much on that twist to make it completely satisfying to someone who guessed what was going on and didn't have the experience of reading the book. I felt like the dramatic build was a letdown because it didn't really go anywhere that I wasn't expecting, but as an audience member, I felt like it was treating me as if I was supposed to be surprised by the reveal.

Everyone in the theater with me gasped and was all WTF? at the ending. I wasn't surprised, because in a movie that plays with the distinction between dream and reality, wouldn't you expect it to question that at the end? I don't think it was meant to be a twist ending or a surprise ending at all, just an ending that makes you wonder.

Totally thought the ending was a joke. When the top was spinning in the dream (the scene where Moll locks away the spinner), the top never wavered at all; but it was starting to topple and stop when we saw it.

The audience in my theater wasn't as smart, I don't think -- at least judging from the times when sunnyrea and I were reacting to things that no one else seemed to get; but anywho - I enjoyed the movie. Though I agree with you about Leo - I wish I had seen a movie with him between Shutter Island and this one -- his character felt very, very similar to me, too.

Okay, good, so I'm not losing it! From the way the rest of the audience cracked up at it, too, I totally thought that everyone got that and it was obvious.

And yeah, the characters were way too similar. And he's such a versatile actor, he can do pretty much anything, so I feel like they should have given him something else to work with.

Just saw Inception yesterday; I also found it ultimately disappointing, though enjoyable as an experience. The way I felt was, a movie like Inception should leave you wondering whether you're awake or dreaming, is any of this real, etc. Inception totally failed to do that for me. It drew me in on a purely superficial level, which made me wonder how Robert Fischer was getting so completely taken in.

Did you see it in iMax or 3D or whatever? I got the impression that it might have improved the experience.

The punny names were also a little painful, especially once I understood that "Moll" is actually spelled "Mal"--how convenient that your crazy-ass wife's name is the Latinate root word for "evil"!

As far as the dreamscapes go, I can see why you might be disappointed that they weren't more fantastical, but the way they were done is very Christopher Nolan. It's his aesthetic, and his "thing" is that he likes to make movies without relying on CGI as much as possible. I don't know if you've read anything about how they made the movie, but I find it really interesting that the fight in the hotel hallway was all really done in a spinning hallway. I really like the "how did they do that?" aspect of it.

I also think that they set up the "rules" for how dreams work in this film, and those rules kind of explain why the dreams are so realistic. You can't change too much, or the dreamer will figure out they're dreaming. You could say that we only remember the dreams where crazy things happen. Maybe the rest of our dreams, the ones we have every night but don't remember, are about perfectly ordinary things. That's how I looked at it, anyway.

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