Movie Review: Inception

I just saw Inception, which was an excellent movie, but at the same time, I didn’t like it.

…what?

The acting is great.  The action is inventive.  The plot is a bit contrived. The cinematography is good as well, but beside all of these details, what makes Inception a good movie is the fact that it makes the viewer think.  In fact, the entire point of the movie is contained in the last scene.

I won’t give it away, but it is intended to make you think.

Let’s start with the acting.  I really don’t know how to detect bad acting.  Let’s skip acting.

The action…what’s funny about the action is that it’s incidental to the movie.  There is action in this movie, but it is not an action movie.  It’s strange how the characters avoid getting shot…even a bit more so than most other movies.  This can be forgiven, however.

The plot could have been more or less surreal without really affecting the quality of the movie because of the very nature of the plot itself, but the existence of the technology is not explained, nor are the motivations of the experts corralled into helping the main character.  It’s populated by shady extra governmental militant corporations and unlikely characters.  In fact, most of this movie seems to exist in the main character’s head.  And they even mention the unreality of it all at one point.

Suspicious.

Now for the cinematography.  I also don’t know how to evaluate that.  There were some pretty scenes.  I liked them.  But let’s skip cinematography, because I’m an uneducated boor.

REALLY, though, the best part of this movie is that it makes you think, constantly.  It’s about a technology that allows you to infiltrate other peoples’ dreams and steal information.  But the dream reality is just as convincing as real life…it has to be, or the dream will start to implode as the dreamer realizes it’s a dream, and his or her subconscious will begin to eliminate any intruders.  And you wake from a dream most easily when you die.

I guess the best way to reframe this movie as a philosophical exercise is exactly that, actually.  What if life was a dream, and the only way to wake from it were to die?  Would you ever know during your life?

That said, I didn’t like the movie, primarily because I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, and the movie turned out to be Shutter Island II.  My subconscious immediately abstracted it out to the problem above, and I no longer cared about the movie or any of the multiple dreams the characters inhabited…

But there’s still something missing.  Something I’m not seeing, or something that I glossed over.  I just can’t think of it…

What I’m looking for is some positive message in this.  Truth, Love, Hope, all that jazz.  Someone help me out?

  • The movie is more of a warning than a message of hope; “don't let yourself be led down a rabbit hole. Even if you escape, you won't ever be sure again.” It's what happened to Moll, it's (potentially) what happened to Cobb… except that it's still entirely plausible to read the entire movie up to the final scene when he wakes up on the plane as still being the “real” movie world. I don't think that's the case, but it's purposely left open to interpretation, which is good, because I think a movie that absolutely and definitively answered all its questions would have fallen with a dull thud on the ears of its moviegoers.

    Now, if you feel a movie has to have a positive message, I can see why this movie would have upset you. The characters are not positive people — they steal ideas from mens minds and break up a massive corporation to help ANOTHER corporation gain a foothold in the energy industry — and the situation they're in is a grim one, hampered as it is by Cobb's subconscious (either indirectly or directly), not to mention the fact that if it is all a dream, the “importance” is hard to grasp.

    (SPOILERS HENCEFORTH, BE FOREWARNED)

    And it sounds like that's what bugged you about it. “If it's all a dream, so what?” And that's where I totally could not disagree with you more (apologies if I'm constructing a straw man here). A man needs to find peace within himself. Remember how they said limbo could last lifetimes? It's possible that Cobb put himself back in Limbo after his wife committed suicide and the whole thing was constructed by himself as a maze that allowed him to achieve catharsis and resolve himself of his guilt — conveniently paralleling their plan with Fischer. But this is something we DO want to root for; we want to see a broken man be reborn, even if it is in a dream, even if it is only in a world that he's trapped in. It's certainly sad if it's all a dream, but that doesn't make the emotionality of it any less real. And if the world is as straightforward as presented, then we have a great case study of how dangerous it is to let our guilt overwhelm us, and how that guilt and fear can present itself in dangerous ways (Moll could be symbolic of how we lash out at others when we feel guilty or self-conscious of ourselves, something that definitely happens).

    Keep thinking about the movie. Actually piece together the symbolism used and what that all means. It's an incredibly rich movie, full of subtly placed ideas not just about reality and our place in it but also about how our subconscious can control us, and how it can be out of our own control. It's a movie about thought and ideas as much as it is about dreams.

    • That, I think, is what I was looking for. But, I don't think it is sad if the whole movie is all a dream in limbo…I am still left with the “so what?” feeling, since it's a dream. But more than “just” being a dream, it is a dream with all the nuances and journeys of reality. It is not “just” a dream, it is, for all intents and purposes, reality, which is equally disappointing. Why would I want to spend my time thinking about reality rather than being in it? If I want to explore metaphysics, I can. But I prefer not to.

      If I can be shown this man's emotional journey, if indeed that's all it was, why not another, more interesting or involving one? I don't have a crazy wife, children, or a machine that lets me infiltrate dreams. I don't even dream that I do, nor would I want to. If these dreams are equivalent to realities, then I want to experience a reality that I care about for its own sake, not for the sake of an exploration in metaphysics.

      I'll continue to think about it, and I'll think about seeing it again when it's on disc, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.