Inception: When Dreaming is Bad for You

inception-filmDear Reader, I regretfully must inform you that Christopher Nolan's bombastic Inception has enough startling footage with which to edit 30 exquisitely enticing trailers, but not enough to compose one comprehensible movie from.

So what is the most anticipated film of the summer like? If you recall the scene in Dahmer (2002) where Jeremy Renner as the deranged killer drills holes into his victims' heads, you'll know what watching this Freudian claptrap of a thriller is like.

You'll sit in your seat, possibly with overly salted popcorn, and immediately become bewildered. But then you'll tell yourself the creative force behind Following (1998) and Memento (2000) is always in control. Of course you'll soon know what's happening. But a half hour later exasperation will start settling in over you like a cup of cherry Jell-o firming up in your fridge. Then another 20 minutes will pass, and you'll start feeling like Timothy Leary's severed, cryogenically preserved head. Will there be any relief arriving at all?

Suddenly you'll realize there is no hope when one character asks, "Whose subconscious are we going into?" and another admits she doesn't know what's going on either.

Inception's plot, you see, is about the possibility of remolding a person's mind by subverting his dreams. And sometimes to execute this task, you must enter a dream within a dream that is within another dream. And within this dream within a dream within a dream, you can bring a gang of friends along with you. And on this nightmare journey, people who don't really exist will attack you and your pals because they know you all don’t belong in this other person's dream. And as these folks turn on you, there are a lot of guns blasting away, speedy car races, and buildings disintegrating, but little sex. No sex in a dream?

What's more confusing is that Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Dom Cobb, seems to be an extension of his deranged Teddy Daniels of Shutter Island (2010). You see, his "deceased" wife keeps popping up and his faceless children are not within his reach, and certain people think he’s a murderer, and . . .

Then there's the great Japanese actor Ken Watanabe as Saito, an ambitious executive, whom we first meet as an old man, then as a much younger man. But whatever age he is, you can’t make out 90% of what he is saying.

As for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of American greatest young actors, here as Arthur, Dom Cobb's sidekick, a piece of cardboard could have nearly given the same performance.

And Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard? She walks about to Piaf music. Mr. Nolan, please don’t remind us of better films.

Only Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and Michael Caine survive Lee Smith’s breakneck editing. Unlike with Christopher Rouse's brilliantly seamless, razor-sharp cutting about for The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), the splicing here is haphazard and exasperating.

All of which brings us to an anonymous quote: "The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don't know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened."

The main problem with Inception is that it’s soulless. - Brandon Judell


Mr. Judell is featured in the forthcoming documentary Activist: The Times of Vito Russo and has been edited out of Rosa von Praunheim's New York Memories. In the fall, he'll be teaching "American Jewish Theater" and "Theater into Film" at The City College of New York. He has written on film for The Village Voice,, The New York Daily News, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi).

Awesome Review

Nice to see some people actually get this movie...and by "get this movie" I mean, get how absurd and flimsy the whole damn thing is, not to mention the terrible writing and lifeless characters.

Watanabe, hard to understand?

Really? He was? Do you mean his accent? I thought it was pretty mild.

It's weird how I always

It's weird how I always think about this movie when I'm on the crapper.

It was almost a disgrace to its own concept. It was like unloading the perfect log an then sadly realizing you proplapsed.

Weak review

I just read your review about the movie hoping to find some background information about the plot of the movie such as lucid dreaming, etc.. However, I think what you did was to come out with some pointless comments just to write something to this website. I loved the movie, Nolan did a great job to explain the whole very complex scenario of the movie in 45 mins without making us really bored. After 45 mins, the movie just got so great that it is in my top 10 list now.


If you make people feel

If you make people feel intelligent they'll call you a genius.

Anonymous on "Genius"

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."

Suffering through this

Suffering through this abomination of a movie one couldn't help thinking; "no wonder this country went bankrupt!"

movies suck, especially summer ones

I agree with yoctoyadda's arguments. Besides the holes in the plot I realized that no one mentioned acting. Leonardo has been on auto-pilot for the last ten years, he always plays the same role. And how are we suppose to believe that 16 year old Juno is the greatest dream architect in the world, stupid casting. Ken Wantanabe is the finest actor in the movie and it seems like he was a waste. Just like the matrix the acting isn't important to people if the bangs are big, and the bucks are bigger. LOL there was actually someone who brought up the box office take to defend the movie? LOL, haven't we not learned anything? Norbit was tops in the box office one year. I am a huge movie buff, I adore them, but realizing where movies are headed, I absolutely find it disgusting. Chris Nolan a genius? Come on now! "Genius" is thrown around like a teen girl telling people she "loves them" at her prom. All these posters remind me of people that find the last movie they saw to be "the greatest ever." If the EFX get better, than each new movie is going to be the greatest. NONSENSE FILM!!!! I didn't even think Dark Knight was anything special, average film, way overrated, and so is this!

Go to film school and the profs will explain what makes sloppy filmmaking. They mentioned that the worst thing you can do to your film is end it with a dream, "it was all a dream."

2 deep

It's only a blockbuster. I wouldn't take the whole thing too seriously, just enjoy it and try not to yawn ...even if the top topples over we still don't know whether it toppled in the dream... if you want more intellectual stimulation go read zen.

Have to agree with the reviewer

Sorry to say, I have to agree with the reviewer. My wife and I walked out of this one and I, as a film major in college, feel like that's the ultimate insult to a film.

The reviewer was dead on. This movie was soulless. It had everything, but it forgot to think about one thing, "Why does the audience care about what is happening on screen?" None of the characters had any real depth, nor could I identify with any of them.

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