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).

Rewatch it if you have to

No, it really is Leonardo (aka Dom) as an old man. He's telling himself to "come back" to reality, which is the only thing that "kicks" him back all the way to the plane. Watch the movie again, if you don't believe me.

Dom? you mean Cobb?

Dom? you mean Cobb?

besides, I don't have to watch the movie again to realize that Cobb does not have asian skin or an asian accent with servants speaking JAPANESE to him. maybe YOU should watch the movie again.

You really are the moron.

The old man is not Leo.... wow.... The whole reason Dom stayed in Limbo was to find Saito and "bring him back to reality" so that he could honor their agreement and make the phone call which would allow for Leo to safely return to the U.S. and reunite with his family. Saito shot Leo, and then shot himself, thus bringing them both back to reality and onto the plane. Without Saito, the entire mission to create inception in the mind of Fischer would be pointless. He only accepted the job so that he could re-enter the US. However, the final twist where the spinning top doesn't stop keeps you guessing; Is he still just dreaming? Will the top stop and were they successful? Although I am going to go again very soon, I think YOU are the one who needs to check out this movie again. You don't get it at all.

The guy that reviewed this

The guy that reviewed this is an idiot, but you are even more of an idiot than him. Of course it is Watanabe

1. Why do you think the building with the old man is some chinese (japanese?) fortress covered in chinese decor, because its Watanabe
2. DiCaprio says "I'm supposed to remind you of something" and the old man is like oh yeah I am supposed to uphold our agreement and get you into the US (because hes Watanabe)
3. The old man obviously looks asian
5. DiCaprio tells Ellen page that he has to go get Watanabe
6. Why do you think they both wake up last
7. They show DiCaprio and Watanabe in the SAME BUILDING as their younger selves at the very beginning of the movie

You're all idiots

The old man is Di Caprio and Wantabe at the same time. You see, the thing is that none of the events depicted in the movie happened in reality. It is a dream from start to finish. First of all, it's Nolan's dream that he's sharing with us through the cinematic experience. But apart from that, everything that happens in this movie is Leonardo's dream. Or even our dream. He's not an extractor trying to implant an idea in a young enterpreneur's (Cilian Murphy) mind by going into deper and deeper levels of his subconcious. Not at all. He is some poor soul, just like everyone of us, lost in his own inner world, and trying to find his way out. All the other persons in this movie are his projections, or personifiations of some faint ideas of himself. Wantabe is honor, duty and wisdom. Murphy/Pete Postlethwaite is archetypal father-son conflict (and boy vs adult as well) and every man's burden of living up to your father's expectations. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is your yuppie, succesful-and-not-bad-looking-at-all better self, while Leo is the romantic rogue with a dark secret. And who's his dead wife, if not a voice of reason, screaming at him to get real? Just as his children are. We'd all do much crazier things in our lives if we dind't have our families to think about. Don't we all sometimes feel like we're a cop, a secret agent, a pimp, a rock star, a mathematic genius, an SAS commando on a top-secret mission in some winter-swept faraway land? Pay close attention to the Forger (Tom Hardy). He represents that part of our (leo's) mind that can impersonate anybody. Haven't you ever had a dream when you were convinced you were somebody else? Or somebody in your dream all of a sudden turns into another person and you're only surprised for a fraction of a second? That's what Nolan meant by forgery. And do you know what he meant by the the titular "Inception"? It's stealing the dreams from all of us, writing them down into a movie script and making an oneiric CGI-overdosed blockbuster, then planting this back into our minds at selected cinemas and letting the dream continue by itself. Work of genius or a fraud? Do not think for a moment that the dream is over. Just watch the open ending again. Do you think the spinning top will topple? No. We're still dreaming. You'll see in the upcoming sequel.

just an idiot within idiots

I like Craigs intrepretation that the whole thing is a dream, if that is what Nolan meant it all seems like another self indulgent pointless expensive blockbuster nightmare, to think I thought he was developing the idea of lucid dreaming......wish he dreamt up more story, more character developemnt and less nodding off car chase and matrix effects...slightly different kiettle of fish but prefer the movie momento

idiots in idiots in idiots in idiots in idiots

It's obvious that Nolan is the dreamer dreaming a dream within a dream. In this dream he dreams that people dream that he made a movie where people go into dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams. It's just most of Nolan's dream is off-screen...

Agree with wrong...

You are wrong.


wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong

I feel you are just one of

I feel you are just one of many who mistakenly feel he understands the film but doesn't. (You couldn't follow the opening scenes.) It's easy to be bamboozled by the beauty and originality of Nolan's visuals into thinking something clever is happening but this is the case of the Emperor's New Clothes.