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).

"Splitting up or not a

"Splitting up or not a monopoly is NOT an issue worth dying for,"
I'm not sure if you misunderstood the movie? Because there was no death risk involved at all really, and the only people who were aware of the coma risk were the chemist and Cobb. The only one who was in it for splitting up the company was Watanabe/Saito, but the others had other legitimate reasons (i.e. money, the thrill, etc.) that make sense.

Also, as a person who really really dislikes typical action movies (I actually fall asleep during action scenes because they're usually always the same), I found the new added dream-rules to the action scenes to be VERY entertaining (especially the hotel fight scene). How was that not original at all? I had begun to think it was impossible to have original action scenes, but this movie proved me wrong.

I'd also like to add that's a bit naive to think that corporations like this don't have a lot of power. What do you think runs today's society? Government? Hah (unless you're in a dictatorship of course). Money does.

Actually, you're wrong.

The Federal Reserve is composed of several privately owned banks and it has the ability to print money. You're also wrong about the business is everything idea, at least in the United States. Do you remember anything the Bush administration did? It was all pro-business, even to the detriment of workers rights and the environment. Deregulation anyone?

Federal Reserve...

Yes the Federal Reserve is said to be "independant" from political meddling, and sets the interest rates and other issues supposedly as it sees fit...

In practice it is far less independant than most Central Banks in Europe, and will massively open the faucet and lower the interest rates if the government in place asks for it, as they did recently with the various bailouts... (At the head of governement offices, many ex-private Bank CEOs are in place, which makes the public/private policy distinctions more murky in the US than elsewhere, and this certainly has hurt the efficacy of the bailout in the way it was handled)

This Federal Reserve dependance is not readily apparent because most of the time the Federal Reserve is run more rationally than in Europe, and will react drastically when the economy is suffering, thus being mostly in synch with the needs and wants of elected policy officials...

Inflation-obsessed central banks in Europe, on the other hand, are more truly independant of their political masters, and the results are the disastrously low growth Europe has laboured under for the better part of three decades now (with a brief respite in the late 90s)... An incredible example of this is the total lack of change in interest rates in the past three years throughout Europe, despite all that has happened in that time... Unbelievable...

Americans should be thankful their Fed is not isolated from reality by European Union treaties as European Central Banks are... Comparing the economic performance of Europe to that of the US is not a fair comparison, given the huge artificial burdens Europeans impose on themselves, burdens that have nothing at all to do with their greater social spending and services...

But we do digress, don't we?



I honestly think you're just attempting to be a non-conformist because everyone is raving about the movie. You're probably just upset that you couldn't come up with something as brilliant as Inception even though you're "indie."

lousy response considering

lousy response considering that a majority of the population couldn't even muster up enough money to make a quarter of this film. why would a reviewer be jealous of a director? its like a peach being jealous of a peach cobbler.

it doesnt make sense

On conformity

If disliking INCEPTION transforms me into a soul aching to be labeled a NONCONFORMIST, does enjoying the film with a relish make you into a CONFORMIST?

Colin Wilson defending me: “The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.”

Ayn Rand defending you: “There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.”

So is your argument then

So is your argument then that when a critic disagrees with the masses about Inception, he's doing so because he can't direct a film as "brilliant" as Inception? Or he is incapable of writing a review as "brilliant" as Inception is on the screen? I'm not sure what your argument is.

Anyway, most critics see and review films before the reviews for that film are out. We see the films weeks or days in advance. My review was written before I read any complete reviews.

Also, I was looking forward to being bowled over by Inception because I admire some of Nolan's work. I did feel though that The Dark Knight was overrated. It's parts were greater than its whole. The same with Inception.

Awful movie

Inception has one of the hokiest plots I've ever witnessed. Like the author of the review noted, the plot relies on one Deus Ex Machina after another to explain away the poor premise. Here's some random paragraphs in no particular order regarding things made me cringe while I was sitting in the theater watching this horrible movie.

I don't remember nor care what jargon was used to refer to the protagonists (DiCaprio, et al.), so I'll refer to them as "dream divers" or "divers" from now on. "Dreamers" are the people, targets, in which the divers are delving into. "Enemies" are figments of the dreamer's imaginations that exist to protect the dreamer from intruders such as the divers. Let's go. All of you sticking up for this movie are clearly smart people who understand the plot completely, so I'll refrain from explaining much about the story's setup.

1. The world of the dreams --the buildings, streets, cars, plants, weather, etc.-- are wholly created by an "architect" working for the divers. To allow the movie to contain some sort of conflict, the story explains that the random "humans" which populate the locales of the dreams can only be conjured up by the dreamer themselves. That means the protagonists can't whip up a doctor to save anyone who's injured on their team. Fair enough. Unfortunately, "enemies" created by the dreamer to ward off the divers show up with an arsenal of guns. Call me crazy, but last time I checked, guns are objects, not people. They attempt to explain this away with a line saying something to the effect of, "your brain creates all the little details on auto-pilot," so essentially, the protagonists are enabling their targets to kill them.

2. In the very real world you and I live in, our dreams are a place where anything can happen. Conversely, the dreams in the movie are laughably grounded in reality. Well, aside from making everything in the surrounding environment explode, bending the world in on itself, evoking bridges out of thin air, and building-in otherwise-useless optical-illusion stair cases into the dream worlds in advance which helped foil the enemies . . . THAT THEY OPENLY ADMIT THEY DIDN'T KNOW THEY'D HAVE TO FACE. Yet despite all that power, nobody bothers to evoke shields to protect from gunfire or medical supplies to aid the injured. The story explains that odd occurrences will notify the dreamer to the fact that their dreaming which discourages the architects from doing anything helpful for themselves, but crazy things like trains running through city streets demonstrate that such events are inconsequential to the dreamer so long as they don't see them. A great deal of the conflict in the game takes place out of sight from the dreamer. Sure, their brain is still dreaming this stuff, but everything else in this movie is poorly thought out anyhow, so who cares?

3. Time passes at different rates depending on how "deep" you are in dreams (i.e. dreaming within a dream, dreaming within a dream in another dream, etc.). Five minutes in the real-world feels like an hour in a dream. If you're dreaming within a dream, that five minutes can be days, and if you're dreaming within a dream in another dream, that five minutes can be years. There's no reason given as to why this is the case, but it sure does fit the events of the story like a tight glove, making for some tense dead-line related moments. That's sarcasm. This is a totally BS contrivance.

4. From a cinematographic perspective, the action is hokey. This "action" generally involves enemies shooting fully automatic machine guns mere feet away from the protagonists and unbelievably missing, while the protagonists fire off pistol rounds and sniper shots from all sorts of crazy distances and insta-kill everyone. The gravity stuff is technically very clever, but combined with the stupid time-related plot contrivance, this was clearly driven by the desire to create cool visuals at the cost of telling a story that held any amount of water.

5. DiCaprio's character's memories are accessed through a old service elevator with 16 floors, a memory on each floor. Cute metaphor, but also a completely arbitrary machination to help tell the story.

I'd go on further, but I've already wasted enough of my time on this shit.

You hate fun don't you? Go

You hate fun don't you? Go read a science book. This is a movie. Do you get mad at Star Wars because there is a dog creature walking on two legs. Good hell.

I hate movies that people

I hate movies that people are calling the most brilliant thing ever when it is far, far from it. This movie is just what you called it, fun. If people are going to call this a paradigm shift in story telling, it deserves to be ripped apart.

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