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).

I agrai with this AND I DONT

I agrai with this

Whoever wrote this review is

Whoever wrote this review is a RTAIDAI BAITCH. Oh he not good.

Lawl. Still more reasons to

Lawl. Still more reasons to hate it.

And I find it's not about being pretentious. But the ones who do like it have seemed to blindly defend it.

Interpretation is relative not objective.

The only flaw that in this movie, that bugged me, was in some dialogue between Dicaprio and Paige when Dicaprio said something about human beings only using a fraction of our brain capacity when we are awake. For anyone who has taken up any study psychology, you would know that this is not the case; our brain functions in its entirety at all times. Unless, of course, you are subjected to some sort of brain debilitation.

Other than that, this film has an excellent plot with excellent/memorable characters. Stop trying to be pretentious, douche bag, no it alls that enjoy hating things for the sake of seeming more enlightened than others, and just realize maybe you just don't get it. I find that anyone who goes out of their way just to exploit what they think may be negative aspects to any piece of art, are not really looking at the whole picture and are being unbelievably miopic in their analyse. Watch the movie again.

In concern to the debate

In concern to the debate about business on page 4:

Conspiracy theorism doesn't belong here at this moment. Whether or not corporations can buy out governments is not the concern. It's the fact that it was just another example of Nolan' arrogance. So many instances pop up where characters speak debatable fact, but te story dictates that you must believe them.

This movie was alltoo religious. And I don't mean that in the sense that Nolan was clever with symbolism, I mean it in the sense that just like an angry priest, people have been grabbed in the balls fer no reason. Quite horribly actually.

I guess the best way to put it would be, people have been "incepted". What a useless idea, yet the masses have proven nolans poj t. And that is if drivel is momentary justified people will believe the drivel.

Get a grip. This isn't anywhere near a unique hollywood production.

Emotion? Somber is not an

Emotion? Somber is not an emotion.

There was nothing emotional about the movie. How could you care if he found his kids or not when he was slipping in and out of reality? They all were. All that really could be cared fer somewhat emotionally was the resolve, but there wasn't one.

The plot of th movie didn't stand out because there were no plot twists. It was just a twist of the premise. This left the story predictable, boring, and quite hidden among the theory Nolan clearly thinks so highly of. People speak of originality. Where is it? The story has been done countless times and really the concept, although good intentions to start, didn't follow through.

But it was a cycle. Where the plot fell came visuals, and when the movie couldn't rely on visuals it reverted to the attempting to explain the premise. And so on and so forth in that same circle. This allowed people to forgive Nolan for his cinematic mess.

I have never seen a more drone-like, cold movie in my life. And one about dreams?


Even if this movie is hard to follow at first, why is that so terrible? If everyone had that mindset it would pretty much invalidate every David Lynch film. That being said, I was not "exasperated" whatsoever upon my first viewing of Inception, and I believe I had a pretty good grasp of the movie. And on my second viewing, that feeling was compounded. So if you still find Inception incomprehensible, well, I don't know what to say that wouldn't sound rude.

As for your paragraph beginning "Inception's plot, you see, is...", personally I don't see the point of it. You're simply re-contextualizing the plot to make it sound silly, which can be done with just about any movie, certainly any science fiction movie. It's an impotent approach and all you are achieving there is bringing your own abilities as a critic into question.

Ken Watanabe's accent, though certainly thick, is still understandable if you have at least the patience of a gnat, and a bit of a silly thing criticize the whole movie for. Would it kill you to go back and maybe listen to his dialogue once more? I'm sure that wouldn't be too much work.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance was perfectly fine, as the character he portrayed didn't call for any great performances. Arthur was just an ordinary guy, described by another character as a stick-in-the-mud but not without his own sense of humor, paired with a certain seriousness about his job that is more than understandable given the circumstances of the plot. In short he is an average guy with an extraordinary profession, who loves his job and wants nothing more than to get it done right. Nothing to complain about whatsoever, I think. I would even say that he was one of my favorite parts of the film.

As for Marion Cotillard, is that all you have? "She walks about to Piaf music"? Please. Not only does she never once appear on screen concurrent with the song "Non, je ne regrette rien", the use of which was thought of long before the casting of Cotillard, but you completely fail to appraise her performance in any way whatsoever, a performance which is at once chilling and sympathetic. As Mal is referred to in promotional materials, she did a superb job of forging a "shade" of her real life self, full of love and beauty and sorrow, tainted of course with menace as she plagues Cobb throughout the film. I would even call her one of the best "villains" I've seen for quite a while. Some recognition is called for, I do believe.

Your final comment about the film being "soulless", though, is what I find the most laughable. First off, that's an awfully abrupt way to end a review, with little to no structure at all upon which to hang it. You've simply spouted off one ill-conceived criticism after another without any conceivable theme, only to end all with a quote and "The main problem with Inception is that it’s soulless", which sounds more like a jumping off point, albeit weak, than a closer. I don't know if you simply ran out of time, but I really hope that you can do better than that. Secondly, many comparisons have been drawn, naturally, between Inception and The Matrix. What Inception has over The Matrix, I think, is emotional value. The Matrix's wow factor pretty much enveloped the movie's emotional value, but with Inception, it's absolutely brimming with it. Inception is at its core a love story, as any of its creators will tell you, and the plot and the action are bound so tightly with Cobb's emotional journey that they're essentially inseparable, which, as the movie takes places largely within the confines of the human mind, with all the troubles that come with it, I believe is exactly the point Nolan was trying to get across. Some of the very best science fiction, or any fiction really, is that which takes the most alien of subject matter and makes it feel undeniably human. I wholeheartedly believe that Nolan has succeeded with Inception, as I care about the lead characters as much or more than the ideas of dreams and reality that drew in the audiences, because the characters shape and form the dream just as the dream shapes and forms the characters. By the very last scene, when Cobb finally sees the faces of his children again, and the top spins indefinitely upon the surface of the table, if you still call Inception soulless, I might just accuse you of the same.

What was so interesting

What was so interesting about the story itself? Not really all thAt much. Nolan just has the ability to make people feel a little bit intelligent. And if people can walk away feeling like they understood something they thought was complicated, they'll walk away feeling like it was the best they've seen.

But really, it wasn't the story here. It was the layout of the story that intrigued people. But when it comes down to it, it's the story that really matters.

This wasn't a sci-fi, not even close really. And it definetly shouldn't be the best movie of 2010. It was boring, and to be honest, not very original. And pitiful action sequences didn't helpthe movie along.

Dom's wife was a psycho bitch and frankly, afte seeing Shutter Island, along with leo's part in this movie, I thought the kids were already dead. It was uninteresting and unimaginative, and Nolan thought w shakey premise and Bay action scenes could account enough fer a pointless story.

I give it 1 star, fer even daring to take a concept way behind time and making it into a movie. I give 5 stars fer the entertainment I got out of people who actually enjoyed this movie, and rode their high and mighty word to heir breaking point, at people who saw through it.

Maybe if I liked living in the corporate world and wanted to build a business empire, i might have enjoyed the concept a litte more. And maybe if they threw in some real original plot line it would have been better. There's only so many times you can twist a concept, til all you really needed was not to watch the movie, but the director's commentary.

I'm confused.

Where the hell was The Joker? I read all this stuff about how awesome The Joker was and he wasn't even in the movie. Inception sucks!

I agree

Went with a bunch of people and I was the outlier who was "meh" about Inception, and I agree with this reviewer's views and that of the New Yorker review. I didn't hate it, mind you. I marveled at its effects and visuals and the clever ending elevated it a bit, though not enough. But it was overly bombastic, too many explosions and gun play all making for dream sequences that were very undreamlike (see author's comments - I thought the same thing). These are the dreams of geeks who have played way too many 1st person shooters. I also found the premise preposterous, and it seemed to go out of its way to make itself more complicated than need be. I didn't care if one corporation won out over another, didn't care about the "incepted" character's deal with his dying dad, and didn't care if Leo got to see his kids - none of the emotional aspects of this film moved me all that much. It was too long - despite the frenetic editing. Midway through, I was looking at my watch - never a good sign. Bit of an overrated film to be honest. I'd give it 2, 2-1/2 stars but it's just not an "85" on my Tomato-meter - no way.