Inception: Movie Review

I just had the pleasure of seeing in a movie theater Inception, the 2010 film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. The screening of the film was preceded by a short documentary / commercial about Tenet, his new film, as well as about Inception itself. I found it interesting that both Nolan and his actors all said the same things about these two films: spectacular locations, great special effects, for the most part practical ones, and complex stories capable of capturing the audience. This constant repetition of these elements made me think a little about how Nolan perceives his cinema: as he himself says, he wants to create great experiences for the cinema audiences like the ones he felt when he was going to the movies to see action films as a young man (I guess there are several James Bond movies in his memory).

Inception contains all the elements that Tenet promises to contain, at least judging by the footage I’ve seen. A tormented protagonist has to come to terms with his emotions (in this case remorse), there are a lot of different locations (thanks to the trick of dreams within dreams), and the special effects are impressive. But let’s start from the plot.

Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) is a peculiar thief: he steals ideas. In this science fiction world, it’s indeed possible to enter people’s dreams and snatch their deepest secrets. The boss of a large corporation, Saito (Ken Watanabe), hires him to do something even more difficult: implant a new idea in the brain of a competitor (Cillian Murphy). Thus, Cobb forms a team of aces of this type of robbery to carry out his mission (the cast also includes Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and a thousand others, including the inevitable Michael Caine). All great, except that Cobb is a tormented person, exiled from his country and full of remorse. Will he be able to complete the mission? Who knows!

If you’ve seen the film, you know the reason behind my answer: this film is famous, among other things, for its open ending. Characters can enter dreams, and dreams within dreams, and so on, but the deeper they go the harder it is to return to the real world. And in the climax of the film our protagonists go in a dream within a dream within a dream within another dream! Cobb remains alone and it’s not clear whether he can save himself or not. But in my opinion this is not an important point to discuss: I don’t particularly care if the film has a happy ending or not. I’m interested in explaining why I think Inception is that great of a film.

Inception is huge in the sense that it hits you with loud sounds and amazing images until it stuns you. The action is very well shot, the actors are very good, the cinematography is impressive… but the movie also hits you with a lot of explanations of things that seem very complicated at the beginning but that in the end are not even that complex. You can enter dreams and time expands exponentially as you do so. And it’s important to wake up from all the dreams you entered at the same time. That’s it. And these rules are repeated a thousand times, practically the movie begins with a one hour-long hour of explanation (Gordon-Levitt’s character on;y explains things, a bit like the robot explaining things to the viewers in Interstellar, 2014).

And is this a problem for me? No, it isn’t. The vision of the film becomes a bit heavy, yes, but the thing itself doesn’t bother me too much. What I find unbearable is that these rules are continually broken by the protagonists of the film! Why create so many rules and obsessively repeat them if what we see on the screen clearly contradicts them? It seems to me that, for a movie based on a complicated plot, there are too many holes everywhere…

For example, just before the climax we are told the amount of time the protagonists have in the various dreams: ten seconds in the van, two minutes in the hotel room, and twenty minutes in the mountain fortress. Ok. It actually takes the van ten seconds to fall into the water from the bridge. But in two minutes Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets into a room, ties four people with a telephone wire found after searching for something to tie them up, gets out and goes to the elevator, he gets out of it, places two explosive charges, detonates them, and then places two more and detonates those as well? All this in zero gravity! Unlikely.

And in twenty minutes I can believe that Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy break into the fortress, okay. But then why does this very difficult thing become something that Leonardo Di Caprio and Ellen Page can do in two seconds? One moment they’re standing on a hill in front of the fortress shooting with sniper rifles, and the next moment they’re in the safest room in the fortress. Mmh … how did they get there? If it’s all a dream, is everything possible? So why all the chases and shootings?

And normally I wouldn’t want to pay too much attention to details, but if the film itself insists on highlighting all these details and rules, then it’s only fair to ask for some consistency! In Inception, in my opinion, there is no such a thing as consistency. And once the rules crumble, there isn’t much left, unfortunately. The reason behind Cobb’s torment can be understood about halfway through the film, but even that is explained over and over again at the end (this time by Di Caprio to Ellen Page).

I have the feeling that Nolan writes these scripts and thinks that they’re brilliant and very complicated, fills them with explanations, and then doesn’t realize that nothing really works. And no one has the heart to tell him because he has a lot of fun making these big movies full of practical special effects that he wants everyone to have fun with! And I can enjoy this type of movies, but more often than not they don’t make any sense: both The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) have glaring plot issues, and the same goes for Inception.

And of course Di Caprio is good at interpreting the tormented Cobb, but honestly I wasn’t moved much by his tragic story in the midst of all this chaos and deafened by Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack… In short, I’m glad to have seen Inception at the cinema, but I don’t think it’s an unmissable movie. I hope Tenet is different! Ciao!

PS: Anyway, in my opinion there’s no happy ending: Cobb’s children at the end look exactly like the ones in his dreams, so, unless he’s been in exile only a few days, the reunion be real!

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10 risposte a "Inception: Movie Review"

  1. You raise some good points 🙂

    I admit Inception is one of my favorite films. I feel this one more than think it (something that I’m hearing falls short in Tenet) but my ipso facto go to excuse in Inception is it’s the human mind their playing in thus there can be no real rules. Of course then perhaps Nolan should have just left out the entire rules things to begin with!

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    1. Thank you!

      That’s exactly my point: I wouldn’t mind being bombarded with rules’ explanations in a movie adhering strictly to those rules. Since Nolan himself cheats, then why should I bother to pay attention to so many expositional dialogues? But I agree that there are emotions in Inception, probably thanks to Di Caprio’s work!

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  2. I respect more than love Nolan’s movies – they all take themselves very seriously, have huge bombastic soundtracks, impressive action scenes, well thought out scenarios and plots that are much more complex than the average blockbuster. I like that Nolan has a central theme throughout almost all of his work — time — which means that you can recognize his personal touch. He is a blockbuster auteur. But it’s all very…cold and clinical. Wherever he tries to put some feeling into his movies, it doesn’t translate well or it’s overdone like melodrama. I like Inception quite a bit because of the set pieces, the editing and the central concept itself — but do I want to rewatch it and feel for Cobb’s ordeal? Not particularly.

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    1. I tend to agree with your assessment! And Cobb’s story is the result of Di Caprio’s efforts, apparently, as he wanted to be emotionally invested in a story. Otherwise even Inception would have been like… well, Tenet, as far as people are saying! X–D

      Personally, I think he made at least three masterpieces with Memento, The Prestige, and Dunkirk. I also appreciate a lot Batman Begins. The rest of his movies are either too complicated (mostly only apparently complicated), too full of explanations which serve no purpose, or just badly written (The Dark Knight Rises stands out in that respect).

      Personally, I wanted to rewatch Inception a second time to understand all the fuzz about it and… well, it’s just a movie which enjoyed a lot of hype ten years ago, after all.

      "Mi piace"


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