Friday, July 30, 2010

Inception (2010)

Director: Christopher Nolan. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas. 148 min. Rated PG-13. USA/UK. Sci-Fi.

Mark my word: Inception will be considered a groundbreaking pioneer in storytelling for many years to come. The more I think and the more I read about it, the more I am baffled at how many profound levels it works on the concept of dreams, stories, cinema, reality, emotions, the human mind, and life. That's why comparing it to The Matrix would probably be a disservice to it. Even pointing out the subjects mentioned would be impossible in a 100-word review, so I'll leave any discussion up to you. Comment away, and I'll post my opinion on whatever you please.

PS: This great review may act as a good discussion starter. Watch out - huge spoilers.

Mo says:


  1. I really liked this movie, it was really creative.
    Even though they went into different dream levels from one to the deeper one, but there was a clear connection between them and movie could be easily followed, a dream inside a dream, That's so awesome to imagine,
    Looking forward to movies like this :)

  2. I don't want to talk about the end but he (Chris Nolan) left it open to interpretation, didn't he?

    Easily the best so far this year. I'm sure those sh!theads at the Academy will ignore it!

  3. Armin, my interpretation is it doesn't matter which of the two options are "correct", that's not the point; either way, the important thing is ... (I don't want to give away the ending, but you probably know what I am trying to say)

  4. Mohsen, I just read the analysis you linked to after I posted my comment, and the author's comments are very convincing.
    It was really refreshing to see, after a long time, a movie that assumes the audience is intelligent enough to think about the hidden implications of the storyline, and doesn't hold your hand to state the obvious every step of the way.

  5. Dear Armin, Dear Mohi,

    I think what you guys mention is the main question every single viewer asks at the end of the movie: what was the ending?

    The following paragraph from the review I posted goes to the core of the subject:

    "The movies-as-dreams aspect is part of why Inception keeps the dreams so grounded. In the film it's explained that playing with the dream too much alerts the dreamer to the falseness around him; this is just another version of the suspension of disbelief upon which all films hinge. As soon as the audience is pulled out of the movie by some element - an implausible scene, a ludicrous line, a poor performance - it's possible that the cinematic dream spell is broken completely, and they're lost."

    A few years ago I saw a movie by Vincent Gallo named "The Brown Bunny". Roger Ebert calls it one of the worst movies of all time, but in his review, I believe he never mentions the main reason why the movie is so terrible.

    In "The Brown Bunny", Gallo at the same time is the actor, the director, the producer and ... the cinematographer. How is that possible? Through the entire movie, the camera is static, set up someplace by Gallo as he films himself acting.

    The most idiotic thing Gallo does is that he mentions his four roles in the movie, not during the end credits, but during the opening credits! That means through the entire movie, you are conscious to the fact that this is all fake. Therefore, Gallo destroys the entire movie experience he worked so hard for (and boasted about in the opening credits).

    The basic point that Gallo (and many other filmmakers) don't understand is that we as the audience go to a movie theater at a certain time, pay a few dollars, and sit in a theater, because we "want" to be in a dream. We do not want to be woken up. We want to be in a 2-hour dream, and we want to believe this dream is reality, no matter how bizarre the imagery we see is. As soon as we are woken up from the movie dream (for any reason - bad acting, implausible movie plots, or even a cellphone call), the movie loses its value; the dream is not the reality we're dreaming it to be anymore. It's just some fake imagery.

    Why are sc-fi movies like "Star Wars" so powerful? Because by whatever trickery, the dream they propose are so convincing, you accept it as reality. The filmmaker manages to keep you in the dream for 2 hours, without you being concious of it. As soon as you see the slightest evidence that this is fake (like the human eyes of the "Predator" alien), you wake up from the dream you were enjoying to be reality, and the movie loses its value.

    In these terms, "Inception" is incredibly meaningful. Not only it doesn't matter what the ending is, it shows when we watch movies, we're not there for the ending - we want the entire 2-hour dream/reality, and not necessarily just the ending.

    That's why I hate it when I'm explaining the plot of a movie to somebody (without them having seen the movie), and they ask: What happens at the end?!

    That's not what movies are about!!!

  6. Dear Ali,

    The amazing aspect of the story (as you mentioned) was the dream-in-a-dream concept ... and also the fact that time goes slower in a dream compared to the real world - which we've all experienced.

    Also, the fact that when you're seeing a dream in a dream, and wake up from the second dream level into the first level, you sincerely believe you are in the real world, even though you're still dreaming.

    Which brings us to this point of time: is this conversation we're having the real world, or a dream? After all, we sincerely believe it's the real world, don't we?

    Other very familiar points: when you die in a dream or when you fall from a height, you wake up from the dream. These are common things we've all repeatedly experienced, but the beauty of "Inception" is that it gives these concepts a story form.

  7. Dear Mohi and Dear Armin (again!),

    I too feel satisfied that Nolan respected me enough as a viewer to be able to think and use my own brain, instead of leading the way to a contrived ending.

    Actually, for the same reason, I believe "Inception" has a very good chance with the Academy to win some Oscars this year. Look at some past Best Picture winners: “No Country for Old Men”, “American Beauty”, “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Ordinary People”, “Annie Hall” and “One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest” are all movies that have been able to make deep philosophical concepts about sociology, sufism and the human psyche accessible to the common public. The Academy has great respect for highly stylized movies that make such a connection with the public.

    Blurring the border between dreams and reality has been happening in movies forever. Look at many many European art-house movies ... but nobody watches those. On the other hand, "Inception" has had the top spot at the box-office for the past two weeks. Considering having such a convoluted script, Nolan has accomplished a very rare feat in Hollywood; and I predict he will be welcomed for it.

  8. Let's hope so (Inception wins major Oscars - not just technical awards)!

  9. @Mohsen:

    I think you should add another level to your "Mo Scale" for exceptional movies and call it "Mojo Magic" or something. Inception is obviously not just another good movie. What do you think?

  10. Excellent idea. I've felt some movies work exceptionally better than a simple Mojo. This year so far, "Inception" and "Toy Story 3" fit such a category.

    I need to prepare a new icon for "Mojo Magic". Any help, anybody?

  11. Maybe open mouth smile (as in :-D vs :-)) or one with sunglasses on while smiling?

  12. I'll email you something; let me know if it works.

    BTW, just saw Toy Story 3 (first time my daughter sat through a whole movie in the theater!)

    It was good, but not worthy of Mojo Magic.

  13. Done! Thank you Mohi, for the icon.

    (The value of "Toy Story 3", again is what "Inception" mentions: The dream is so powerful, at the end you want to burst into tears for a bunch of dolls!)

  14. Hey I wanted to ask you this. Have you seen "Waking Life" ( It's about the subject of dreams and there are a few references to dream within dreams and interpretation of the dreamer. It's directed by the Richard Lanklater (which I'm sure you know). Tell me how do you think it relates to Inception (if you've seen it) and if you've not, then see it and then let me know what you think. It was released in 2002 so I was wondering whether Nolan kinda got some of his ideas from this movie.

  15. I meant to say (*whom* I'm sure you know)....

  16. Actually, the year "Waking Life" was out I started watching it, but after 15 minutes I stopped, because I couldn't understand the point of mixing deep philosophy with computerized animation. I'm a huge Linklater fan (his "Before Sunrise"/"Before Sunset" are masterpieces), so if you say so, I guess I need to make another effort! I'll tell you the result here soon.

  17. Yes, I admit that it wasn't the easiest movie to watch while staying focused on the topics discussed but I think it's worth watching (especially now with all these conversations on the topic of dreams).

  18. The review for "Waking Life" is in!

  19. I saw the review. I'm happy you liked it.

  20. Very nice review. Great movie. You may like my next week's topic of Film as Art on my blog:

    Love for you to check it out.

  21. What a great concept! Loved the movie- As far as the ending is concerned, I am pessimistic- limbo is the verdict- can't wait for a sequel but it is going to be hard to beat the original.

  22. I dearly hope they don't go for a sequel. How in the world can they top that concept?