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).

the minimum requirement for a film critic - WATCH, don't look!

while i'm all for opinions being as diverse as moviegoers, this review makes me doubt the ability of the reviewer to fulfil his chosen role. it's just more than apparent that the reviewer refused to engage himself with the the plot and had pretty much decided that he wouldn't like it, no matter what, before it even started. it is well beyond me to take someone seriously who calls himself a critic and cannot handle abstractions or concepts beyond those immediately presented on screen. i'd advise this gentleman to stick to fare no more complex than "rambo IV" or perhaps "spartacus: blood and sand".

between acting, screenplay, filming script, set design, effects, flawless editing and the bombastic hans zimmer score, as well as having the audacity to come up with a concept so bold and execute it with near flawlessness, i'd give this movie 90%-95%. the one place it severely lacks - and this is a recurring weakness on nolan's part - is the lovestory and the female lead. the chemistry between dicaprio and cotillard is dead and forced. other than that, i haven't been more awestruck by a movie in the last 5 years - i rank it third in the nolan catalogue, after following and memento respectively.

i also appreciated the fact that the movie doesn't get too "clever" for it's own good - it's quite easy to understand what is going on at pretty much any given time. that in itself is a sign of a good movie, but the fact that you aren't thinking about anything else for the 145 minutes is what makes it excellent.

So this joke of a critic is

So this joke of a critic is trying to look cool/smart by going the other way when everyone is giving positive comments on the movie? That's stupid. This movie has a lot of depth in it and while the plot may seem simple, I like how everything ties in and the fact that it puts in using Earth's natural resources for energy makes it even better. Overall the story was deeply woven, suspenseful and there wasn't a dull moment ever. I haven't seen a movie that made me think and pay attention for a while and Inception made my day.

This douche needs to stop being so prejudiced.


Every human being has the right to have an opinion about something, and reading your review made me really happy of this fact.


Even though the movie is pretty and they being to hint at some interesting concept behind the architecture of dreams, really it just devolves into a matrix-clone with lots of gun fire, floating combat, the "Agents", even Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the reincarnation of Keanu Reave's Neo.

These are such mundane dreams as well. There is no exploration of Illusionary Dreaming or really anything outside of very real world experiences. And sure your argument could be that they are in a world built by the "architect", but then hey, its just the matrix again.

Over all I was pretty bored with the constant and numbing violence-porn, Mega-corporation espionage, and quite subservient "ready to go to my death anytime for no real reason" quintuplet of sidekicks. Was Ellen Page an architect or a psychiatrist? Because I could have sworn there was a building plan on the blackboard behind Michael Caine.

Really, just another hollywood director who got too much money and too much lee-way.

Again with the Matrix clone?

To say Inception is a Matrix clone is like saying every super hero movie is the same. I challenge anyone to be completely original. While yes the matrix is the most successful "alternate reality" film to date it certainly wasnt the first nor will it be the last (or is Avatar the most successful? Hmmmm maybe the jacket? Or Dark City... gah so many clones how can I ever tell the difference?!) so get over the comparison.

Inception was creatively done and very brave. I wasnt always a fan of Leo but he has proven the last few years that he has what it takes to become an acting legend. Great cast, great concept, great production.

PS Ellen Page's character was a little of both. Sense when is a character with some depth a bad thing?

Dark City is actually older

Dark City is actually older than The Matrix, but The Matrix is the most accessible and successful of the genre that anything after that is inevitably bound to draw comparisons.

This movie was totally pathetic and strangely unpleasant...

I'll skip briefly on what is the actual purpose of all this nonsense: Changing someone's decision about splitting up a company... Wow...

Somehow the writers sensed that this was quite weak, so they had to make it some sort of evil "superpower" monopoly issue... AND they had to add Leonardo's very phony-sounding motivation of beating an extradition arrest to see his children again... As if such issues where in the hands of private corporations...

The problem with this movie is that the rules are not clearly defined from the start, and things keep being added so that dramatic events seem just as artificial contrivances with no real cleverness beyond some very basic James Bond shooting/car chases cliches...

The action scenes are so poor and implausible I will likely find they required more cleverness from the characters in the "A-team" movie, if I ever do see that... To top it all, there isn't a single likeable character in the whole mess, and nobody distinguished themselves in this cornucopia of cliches... Thank God my dreams are not this dull...



I guess you're unfamiliar with the world we live in. Money is power, and with enough of it a private corporation can get away with anything they want to (and boy they have). Just look at say...ANY oil company. That being said, this is obviously a work of fiction, and suggesting that THAT is implausible while leaving everything else in the movie as a completely plausible plot point suggest that you're an idiot.
As for the action, I guess I fail to see how a van carrying the dreamers within their first dreaming state doing a barrel roll off the road internally affecting the physics of the next dream iteration and its action sequences is "boring" and especially "unoriginal."

Some fundamental facts of life...

You say corporations are powerful because they have lots of money: That's just the typical "business is everything" nonsense that seems to have brainwashed a lot of citizens these days...

A touch of reality: Sovereign governments PRINT the money corporations have (banks can create loans through leveraging, but there is only so much leveraging they can do: About 20-30 $ for each dollar they actually have). Do you think all but the most pathetic countries could not break up a monopoly by seizing assets?

Splitting up or not a monopoly is NOT an issue worth dying for, and the movie could have finessed by making the risk seem less at the start, then getting worse, but not by laying out the goal and the dramatic risks (an irrecoverable coma) right from the start...

My problem with the action scenes is that they require no clever solution by any of the protagonists to be resolved (they are just extremely basic shoot'em ups for the most part), as I would expect in a dream world of all places, except for the time compression itself which becomes quickly very tiresome...


The reason for Dom taking on

The reason for Dom taking on that mission and the mission's purpose are irrelevant, the film is a story based entirely on his coming to terms with the death of his wife, and the kind of psychological effects something like that can have. It is an exploration of a tortured mans psyche and his errant sub conscious, the purpose of his final mission could have been anything. Indeed, people discussing whether the entire film was a dream or not have missed the point, even if the film were all a dream, the conclusion is the same - Dom has accepted the death of his wife and the role he played in it.