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).

Agree...bad movie.

Agree...bad movie. Cliffhanger ending = lazy writing. Much of it lazy writing. Though the no-gravity fight scenes were worth a watch.

Don't give something a bad review

just because you are to stupid to understand it.

Anyone who doesn't connect

Anyone who doesn't connect with this movie on an emotional level is a twit. Inception is one of the best movies of our time.

The film is both visually

The film is both visually and conceptually a beautiful piece of art. Reviewers like this should be ashamed of themselves for criticizing this film while giving high marks to the worthless material that Hollywood produces in recent years. If this film is not good enough, or was too long for you then I suggest you see one of the countless 90 minute Ro-co's or action films that are available in abundance. To be honest I had worked all day and slept for only 3 hours in the past 48 when I watched this film, and I was on the edge of my seat. Ultimately the film left me in my seat with the kind of satisfied smile only a complete masterpiece is capable of inducing. I don't think I would change one thing about the film. It seems that this review is merely a sick joke of my own subconscious because in real life a film critic with "expertise" cannot possibly be so utterly, obviously, flat out wrong.

inception either the dumbest or the greatest

see inception movie is about 2 worlds one world is certain and other is uncertain,its just a tale which sets in when variables(including audience) of certain world(reality) try to enter into the world of uncertainity(dream) which has its own variables.As a viewerr we know the constrains of real world where as the constrains of uncertainity are identified by the director (Nolan ) itself.Through out the whole movie we try to understand the constrains but ..... there is a twist at the time when the constrain is introduced its applied too which creates ambiguity ,when we try to go back to the previous one we are introduced the new one (Clever Nolan, intelligent or not u r gng to definitely get challenged trying to sort out ....which in turn keeps u engaged and hence hypes your interest as the movie goes along ).Enough of nolan lets get back to movie .LETS TAKE AN EXAMPLE WHICH CAN EXPLAIN THE REACTION OF A LAYMAN TO THIS MOVIE,everyone embraces zero gravity scene including me but there is an obvious flaw to "me" but why? it goes like this if sound of music could be heard in all three layers of dream y not zero gravity is felt in all the three layers ,u see webb is falling under the laws of physics created by newton but this law holds in very next layer but in other layes it gets violated but y ???? i asked myself but soon came to conclusion may be in the third layer constrains would be different ,either i missed them or they are not introduced (in the midst of it there is another twist superbly crafted by nolan which takes my thinking to some other direction i.e changes the subject).No matter how much pride we take in being called as intelligent we love to get get Fooled (for a moment) it challenges us ,creates interest and hence moves us from one layer of reality to another this is what the movie does ,some accept they got fooled some dont its up to you.------

that's funny because

to me the movie was a revelation. It seemed pretty easy to follow.
What we have with this review is someone hoping to stand out by taking the opposite approach to the obvious...
Recognizing a great film that makes you think.
It's unfortunate that the review doesn't have the balls to recognize this in any way but instead trashes it all the way down to each and every actor. I mean, sheesh, can you step up to the plate Brandon and recognize you just don't get it and your review lacks clarity because it in effect wouldn't recognize any of the great qualities.
I mean, yes, I am legit in terms of being a smart person, but the movie plot runs on an intuitive level and its not hard to keep up. Ultimately, i think the review says more about the reviewer than the movie itself.

This movie is very stylistic, has high concepts which ultimately leave the viewer on the edge of their seats, especially when the van is about to hit the water and all three levels of the subconscious are at play.

never mind the added intensity of the deeper Cobbs goes the deeper he has to face whatever is inside of him.
Very very smart film and unfortunately a very very poor review.

Nailed It

Mr. Judell described my experience watching Inception to a 'T.' I too went thru all the stages of denial, waiting for this movie to live up to its hype. From Watanabe's inscrutability (due to his sloppy diction coach, not his ethnicity), to the stereotyped sidekicks and the dangerous femme fatale, the boring exposition, the sugarcoating of the motive (to save the world from an evil corporate behemoth) the excessive explosions--even the cheap gun joke (a phallic reference, I suppose?), i was too exhausted and frankly didn't give a damn by the time we got to the frozen tundra. I'm certain all the dreamscapes come from annals of psych 101, and there were interesting fx, but the move rings hollow; it is not an intriguing or moving story (I'm thinking of a sci fi film like AI which despite its flaws had a compelling storyline, wowser effects for its time, and a brilliant performance from Jude Law) and there were no pay offs or surprises--very little tension apart from all the gun battles. Basically this was a waste of talented actors--and of my time, not to mention my $11..

What in the World...

"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."

I understood 100% of what he was saying, as did the 7 people I watched the film with so I think it's fair to say that this critic's hearing problems do not detract from Nolan's film in any way.

"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 ."

Okay... that was confusing? There were similarities between two characters from different films?

And what was the problem with the editing? It wasn't the Bourne Ultimatum? Man, this guy can't even pay attention to what movie he is watching.

Also, I think someone else mentioned the bizarre statement that this film is lacking because there is no sex in it???? What in the world...

The entire movie was a

The entire movie was a dream- that took place in the DiCaprio character's head. Watch it again, look for the Easter eggs and clues. The exposition even points you directly to the clues. It's not a movie about a guy stealing secrets from some evil megacorp; that's just the vehicle.

Next time bother to watch the film before you review it.

Do they actually pay you for this? I actually think Inception's plot is easier to follow than your rather messy description, it sounds as if you had a child explain the movie to you rather than see it yourself. The way you reduce the explanation of the plot to blah, blah, blah and this and that, compared to how you like to get descriptive with your obscure references leads me to think that your writing has more to do with an egotistcal need to show off rather than to review a movie unbiased. With your experience no one should have to tell you that a pretentious voice, lack of valid points, and assuption that you know exactly what your reader is going to do in the audience seat makes for a lousy review.

And I'm sorry, had to ask, but did you seriously just point out the lack of sex as one of the reasons this movie sucked? There's nothing wrong with sex in a movie, but why specifically, would this movie need it? The dreams Nolan seems to be working with, rather than the fantastical dream settings others use, are the less memorable ones that seem more real, ones that some coherent information could actually be obtained from middle-aged characters with worries other than sex. Also, DiCaprio's love of his wife is well established. The expectation that this uneccessary scene would be there leads me to question your taste. "No sex" is a really immature thing to be disappointed about.

Dislike the movie all you want, I'm not offended. What I find offensive is this piece of shit you call a film review.