Saturday, 18 September 2010

Starfish Reviews : Inception

If you are reading this I'm going to assume that you have already seen Inception at least once – from this point on here be spoiler material.

'Inception' is the most recent offering from British director Christopher Nolan, the man who has previously supplied filmic gems like The Dark Knight, and of course the classic Memento. Looking at Inception as a comparison to Nolan's previous films, what I see here is one of his most unified pieces – it combines the clever writing of Memento with big-budget thrills of his later Batman movies, making a high-action thriller for the thinking film-goer (something Scorsese tried and failed to do with his disappointinglyy dull farce, Shutter Island).

A quick run-down of the plot, to refresh your minds: In a near-distant future, there is a brand of criminals known as 'extractors', with the technology to enter anothers subconscious dream-world and literally remove an idea, represented as people or objects. One extractor, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), together with a stylish team including Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Dileep Rao is given motivation by business Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform one last crime – the inception, or implantation of an idea, into the mind of his business rival Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Cobbs motivation is the promise of his past crimes being erased, and to be reunited with his children. I'll skip through the rest, as you have already seen it, right up to the end – the inception complete, Saito fulfils his promise and Cobb is indeed reunited with his children (with a nice cameo from the lovely Sir Michael Caine). The film ends on the already-famous last shot – Cobb's spinning top, which he uses as a totem to define what is reality and the dreaming (in the dreaming, the top would spin indefinitely, whilst in reality the top would eventually topple), spinning away. The shot ends before we can see if the top falls down, leading us to question everything we have just witnessed.

I will not delve too much into the full-blown analysis needed to fully construct a conclusion on the ending of Inception, as there are much better articles written completely devoted to that -

It seems that Nolan is rather enjoying this game he plays with the audience. Did the top fall over or not? Was it all a dream? Does the top even matter? I myself think the spinning top is clever ruse to distract us from other more important parts of the film, but Nolan enjoys ending on such an annoying shot that in the cinema theatre everybody begins shouting at the screen. I have two theories on the reading of the film, and both I think are highly plausible. The first one is the same as outlined in the article I linked above, that Cobb is purely trapped within his own mind, making every moment of Inception a dream. Whether Mal is dead or not is not too important. My other reading is that the initial events in the first 30 minutes or so should be read as given – Cobb is first extracting within the mind of Saito, Saito then hires Cobb for the crime against Fischer, and Cobb leaves to talk to Yusuf. Cobb enters the 'Dream-den' here, and joins these people to enter his own subconscious. It is possible that here he becomes trapped, and everything that subsequently happens is merely his own brain creating figments.

The various meanings of the film, I think, are less important than the overall themes and ideas investigated within. The plot of the film is a rather nice parallel to the interiors of film-making; the characters are themselves representations of the people required to make a film, with Saito as the director. This theme then leads to other questions raised – if the plot of Inception is a reflection of the film-making process, is Nolan trying to question the difference between a film and reality? Perhaps what Nolan is saying is that there is no real difference, if what is presented contains realistic emotion. Perhaps he is asking what is the difference between a person crying in real life and on the screen. You know yourself that at times films can evoke more emotion than real-life situation. It reminds me of Cypher from The Matrix, who reasons “You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.”

What Nolan has created here is a film that is more than a film – it is a set of ideas presented to our own deduction and thought, ideas that stick with us long after we have finished watching the film. Perhaps it is the 21st century answer to the Matrix? Only time will tell – if people are still discussing Inception five years from now, we will know this is a classic. I myself think this is one of Nolan's finest works, a film I can sink my teeth into while I wait for the final Batman film.

Related people, films, ideas etc: Hypnic jerks, Fellini, Kubrick, Jorge Luis Borge
Directing – 10/10
Writing – 9/10
Acting – 9/10
Overall - 9/10



zaraphiston said...

Looking good

Josh / Lucius said...

Wait, I was under the wrong name...

But still looks good :)

Hegi_Starbeam said...

inception was brilliant, clever, fun, exciting and having a complicatd yet followable story

one of my fave film ever, and reafirming chris nolan as one of the great dierctors

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