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.