I wanted to write about my experience with Christopher Nolan’s Inception immediately following my first watching, but I knew that a film of this type requires a repeat viewing and a little time to process. By the way, this is going to be riddled with SPOILERS, so if you have yet to see it please read no further.
Based on the trailers I was expecting a crime drama. I thought that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character was going to betray Leo’s character and through it all Leo was going to deal with some intense memories dealing with the love of his life. It turns out that was only half true. What Inception actually is is far better than what I was expecting.
Chris Cavalieri made a good observation after my second viewing when he recognized that the movie could have easily been silly and ridiculous. After all, the concept of going into a dream with other people is outlandish. As if a dream is a tangible place that you can inhabit. Nevertheless, I never scoffed during the movie. I was never distracted by the impossible things that the movie was suggesting. Of course these people can enter into your dreams. Nolan took good care to create a believable universe for us built on rules. But at the same time he doesn’t overdo it. He tells us what we need to know. The totems and the rules of time and limbo and the subconscious etc. He lets the world exist as it is. He lets us fill in the gaps.
One concept that I really liked was that of time within dream layers. This is not too hard to accept since we often experience what seems like a very long dream over the course of a few hours. Time is not the same within our dreams. So when we are told that time goes slower (or faster depending on how you look at it) as you descend into further dream levels, it isn’t a stumbling block for the audience. In fact, it adds great depth to the plot. Now we can have characters existing in various worlds (dream layers) while moving through time at different speeds. It is a creative way to expand the scope of this universe and adds to the suspense. You have a slow motion van falling off a bridge in layer 1 as Arthur moves through zero gravity in level 2 to prepare the needed jump to wake up the people who are in level 3. Once again, this could just be ridiculous, but it works. Nolan takes his craft seriously.
A stellar cast works to make the world of Inception believable and interesting. Leonardo Dicaprio is one of our best modern actors and Jospeh Gordon Levitt is repeatedly proving himself with films like 500 Days of Summer and Brick. I loved his role as Arthur. Ellen Page has been a source of love and hate for me in the past, but I liked her as Ariadne (the name of someone who created a labyrinth in Greek mythology I believe) since she deviated from her usual wit and sarcasm. She just played a genius. I also liked Ken Watanabe as the super wealthy corporate guy. And Tom Hardy as the forger is very likable and a good actor in his own right. Marion Cotillard as Mal pulled off a haunting, seductive, mentally unstable performance. And of course Michael Cain. Always a treat.
I love that this movie makes you think.
Was it all a dream? We see the totem spinning in the end and we can’t be sure if it will fall or keep spinning. This leaves it open for us to decide whether or not he is in a dream or in the real world. But even more, it makes us question the nature of reality. Cobb’s main purpose is to be with his kids “up there in the real world”. But is the real world the real world or is it just what Cobb believes is the real world? He has released the guilt that ruled him after Mal’s death by the time he returns to his children. Only then can he look at their faces and embrace them. So whether or not it is “real”, Cobb believes that he is united with his children again. The fact that he walks away from the totem before he can see if it falls indicates that his love for his children is greater than his fear that it isn’t real. But for what it’s worth, I believe he is in the real world. Nolan just leaves it open to force us to think about what makes this world real.
Is Inception possible? For me this has to deal with the topic of free will. Where does inspiration come from? How do we form our core beliefs? Can one conversation, one verse, one word shape us without us realizing it? Interesting to think about.
What is reality? Is it based on our perception or is it a truth apart? If a tree falls…
And how could we be sure? Must we take a leap of faith?
I love how this movie gets you thinking. One of the best I’ve seen.
9 out of 10