Monday, July 26, 2010

A Dream Within a Dream Within a Dream

I've wanted to see INCEPTION since I saw the previews months ago.  Yesterday I had the opportunity.  It was a good movie.  The action was stellar, the acting was really awesome.  I still have trouble seeing DiCaprio as an adult, and had a tough time buying him as a husband with two kids (even with the stubble he looks 12), but he and Ellen Paige and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all blew me away.  And at the end of the day, Christopher Nolan came up with an intriguing plot.

Unfortunately, INCEPTION stopped just short of being great.


In my opinion, there were two major problems.  The first is that I knew within ten minutes that they were going to try to make the entire movie a dream.  In the end, when Dom returns home and gets to his family, we see the top spinning without stopping, thus letting us know that he's still in a dream.  Either he never made it out of the shared dream of the thieves, or the entire movie was a dream.  Either way, it was a lazy attempt to make us question our own reality.  The whole movie, the concept of inception, is that an idea is a virus.  It spreads without stopping, without prejudice.  Much like the idea that Dom could return home if he did something that no one else could do.  But they didn't take these ideas far enough.  They had dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams, but never explored what that meant to the thieves.  Which is why I was so easily able to figure out the "twist" at the end.  Nolan wanted everyone to see that and go, "Whoa!" but everyone in my theatre groaned when they saw that. An enjoyable movie ruined by lack of imagination at the end.

My other problem was a problem of storytelling.  They created the rules and then forgot to break them or even use them for the most part.  For example, when the character played by Gordon-Levitt was in the hotel, being chased by the projections, he used the idea of a paradox, to run up the stairs and come around behind his assailant.    But that was only one good use amongst a million other wasted opportunities.  Ellen Paige's character was supposed to be this genius, however, she was hardly used in world building.  They gave us all these rules--never build from memories, don't change too many things--but then failed to bring those back around.  The purpose of having rules is to give characters something to break.

When they were discussing the concept of time within the dream.  That time grows longer the deeper you go, I remember being blown away.  They were going to have to spend 10 years in the lowest level, yet that never came to pass.  Paige never brought any of her supposed talent to bear, she never broke the rules.  They went from one dream to another to another, and while there were roadblocks thrown up, they were of the normal kind.  It was like they set up this whole world with rules and consequences, and then ignored them.

For me, the movie was all about wasted potential and missed opportunities.  In my opinion, Nolan wasn't daring enough.

Was this a good movie?  Yes.  The actions scenes in the hotel with the loss of gravity were beautiful.  The tension created when they were all trying to sync the "kick" at the end was amazing.  But in the end, lazy, predictable writing kept INCEPTION from being great.  Nolan wanted to plant the seed of an idea in the viewers mind, and sadly failed.


  1. I actually really liked the movie. I was surprised that they didn't actually spend ten years in the last level too. But for the most part, I loved it. I was actually ending at the end because once he spun the top my mind kept going "Is it going to fall? Is it not going to fall?" Then when it didn't and everyone groaned, I dissolved into a fit of silent giggles. I couldn't help it because I was expecting both and was just excited to know which way it would go. I see a lot of your points, but I still can't wait to buy it.

  2. Elizabeth: LOL. I'm actually going to see it again with my mom. I'm hoping that further viewings will show me that I was wrong. It's not even that I didn't like it, just that its reach exceeded its grasp in a lot of ways. I admire Richard Kelly for a movie disaster like Southland Tales because he aimed high and didn't hold back. Sure, the film was a nightmare, but I could see what he was going for. I think INCEPTION simply suffered from timidity on Nolan's part. Of course, I'll likely own it too.

  3. I think the ending was ambiguous enough to say that we had no idea if he was dreaming or not. Interesting that you felt most people you saw it with thought it was a dream. I think the movie offers a lot of pleasure in debating what, exactly, happened in it, and what it was about. For example, it's quite possible that everything which happened after Leonardo Dicaprio woke up on the plane was just Leonardo remaining in the dream state but imagining a happy ending for himself after all that they had been through previously in the movie (which is kind of what I'm leaning towards).

    I think Leo's started to look his age, actually... his face is broadening.

  4. I keep hearing mixed reviews...still generally very good, but with a few detractors.

    I'm still hoping to see this one in the theater...if I can only find the time.

    Thanks for a nice review. :)


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