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An “Inception” Review Revisited (Last Words)

inception-poster []So… of all the challenges to my Inception review (including those comments I didn’t approve, like fanboy one-liners from “go fuck yourself,” to “you’re a fucking idiot who should have never been born” – because, really, as I’m sure you’ll all agree, those aren’t what we’d call useful responses), I still haven’t read a single comment that has convinced me to rethink what I initially wrote in my review.

Instead of addressing every response, I thought I’d post an addendum if only for clarification… and to attract further discussion if necessary.

To start, I’d say this… calling inception a “masterpiece,” or “oscar-worthy,” or “groundbreaking” is, well, the stuff that dreams are made of. In my ever-so humble opinion, there’s little in Inception that we haven’t already seen before, and maybe even done better by some of its predecessors; and this urge to lynch those who find some fault with it, is somewhat creepy actually. You do realize that one can both appreciate a work and be critical of it, right? The criticism itself should say something about the expectations of the work, and those who created it, which is a good thing IMHO.

So, let’s go through this again, shall we:

1 – Inception is “smart,” yes, but not as “smart” as it thinks, or as some seem to think it is. I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I think the basic premise is simple enough to understand. It really offers nothing “groundbreaking” in its exploration of dreams, that anyone who’s had dreams (essentially just about all of us), or who’s read a book on the matter, or seen other films that deal with dreams on any level, should already understand somewhat. Does the film get convoluted, and maybe even deceptive? Yes, it does. Might you be left with questions about all you saw and heard? Yes, you likely will. But you’d be naive not to realize that was all by design. Nolan isn’t a dummy. He knows that the subject matter alone (one that’s as universal as dreams), and what I feel was his intentional manipulation of the audience, providing no obvious conclusions, will indeed lead to further discussions, centering on the varied interpretations of the deliberately confusing material. How could it not? We’re talking about dreams and the subconscious here. The subject matter alone, as I said, is universal, and inherently controversial, almost always inspiring discussion. But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s some super-brainy piece of art, does it? Some say, see it twice? Why? I mostly got it the first time. And I’m no fool; is part of the hope here by the filmmaker and studio that we’d all be disoriented enough by the film, that we’d want to see it a second or third time, to make sure that we “got it,” or that we didn’t “miss anything,” translating to plumper box office receipts for the studio? Maybe I’ll catch it again when it’s on DVD or VOD. And how about the subtlety or lack thereof. The names of some of the characters are a little too obvious in relation to the motivations of each. For example, Marion Cotillard as “Mal?” French for “bad;” Ellen Page’s Ariadne” a Greek Goddess, also known as “Mistress of the Labyrinth;” “Cobol Engineering?” Are those inclusions supposed to somehow automatically contribute to our wonderment at just how mind-blowingly intelligent the film is?

2 – As for the film’s emotional core… The intent is certainly there with the inclusion of plot-lines that were obviously meant to tug at heartstrings (the dead wife, the children, the father-son relationship, notably); but, folks, that doesn’t directly register as an emotional core. There’s still something called execution that has to happen; i.e. the ideas still need to be translated well enough for the audience to really feel something for these characters and their plight. Everything from the dialogue (which starts with the writing), the actors bringing the characters and their words to life, the direction, the editing, the soundtrack – all those things still have to work well in unison to give the film the visceral response it so desperately seeks. In my POV, it’s not entirely successful in that regard. Those scenes really weigh the film down, in my opinion; they’re a little too earnest, even melodramatic; the film devolves into daytime soap opera territory in those moments; and I’d actually have much rather had them completely absent from the film, leaving Nolan and company to instead really develop the other more intriguing aspects of Inception. Also, in the end, what’s it all really saying? What’s at the heart of it, after all that pomp and circumstance? What did you walk away with? What did you feel (other than perplexed)? Solaris (especially Steven Soderbergh’s version), which I referenced in my review, in terms of the similarity of specific plot-lines, was far more affecting… devastating even. A suggestion for Nolan would have been to maybe start the film with the Cobb storyline (since he’s the lead protag), and really get us to understand, identify with, and appreciate the man and his foibles, before throwing us into dream-scape. I can almost imagine Kris Kelvin’s psychological fragility eventually leading him to Inception’s subconscious explorations. I’d even say that Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in Shutter Island – which is very similar to the character he plays in Inception (essentially, a man with a dead wife fluctuating between realities) – was actually more engaging to me.

3 - Regarding the supposed “groundbreaking” special effects… Maybe I just saw a different movie than most of you, but there was absolutely nothing in Inception’s visual presentation that we haven’t already seen before. Is it technically sound? Yes, it is. With a $160 million budget, I certainly hope so. It’s well-shot, it looks good, it’s visually appealing. The packaging is solid! But, from the exploding buildings within dreams, to the shootouts, car chases, the anti-gravity fight sequence… what’s so novel about those ideas? We’ve all seen buildings exploding, or falling on themselves in films before haven’t we? Car chases with shootouts? Check! The anti-gravity fight sequence? Did you all not see The Matrix movies, and all the copy-cats that came after it? Am I missing something here? There was little to nothing visually in Inception that awed me.

4 - For a film about dreams and the subconscious, it’s far too rational. All the threads are a little too fine, and the dots connect a little too neatly. There’s a perfect expository explanation for everything! Also, some of the peeks into the “undesigned” subconscious worlds are actually not very imaginative, in my opinion, with landscapes that look like they were ripped out of a James Bond movie. I think this is one area in which Nolan could have really played, and had some fun – especially as they went deeper and deeper, layer after layer, which I’d expect should lead to even more of the bizarre. And if the dots don’t instantly connect, that would have been perfectly fine with me. Those are discussions I’d rather have – the analysis of the dreams themselves, than on whether or not who was dreaming, and when, and whose subconscious we’re entering and why. There’s a moment in the film when Ellen Page’s character, the young architect/apprentice, who’s essentially meant to represent the audience, clearly confused, asks, amidst chaos, whose subconscious they were about to enter, which is, of course, followed by yet another expository explanation from DiCaprio’s Cobb, so that the audience can understand where they are. Some in the audience I saw the film with laughed in that moment. Some laughed maybe because they had the exact same question in their heads; others laughed because the explanation, like all the other explanations that preceded it, was a little too, shall we say, precious… perfect… expository… tedious even…; and still others laughed because, even with the explanation, they were still uncertain of what exactly was happening. See #1 above.

5 - I’ve read a few positive reviews from other critics, as well as the positive responses to those reviews, to see if there’s some explanation for my apathy, and I noticed a commonality. Many of them compare Inception to the crop of studio films we’ve seen released in the last several years, essentially stating that the film is a welcomed work in a sea of uninspired studio filmmaking. What they don’t seem to realize is, in saying that, the implication there is not necessarily that it’s an earth-shattering piece of art, but rather that, amongst the deluge of mediocre titles, it stands out. Well, yes – of course it will! I suppose there’s a compliment in there somewhere, but seriously, that isn’t nearly enough to crown it as some glorious achievement in filmmaking. No – it just means we agree that most studio films suck, and we’re just glad that one studio took a chance with something that isn’t a complete retread. It’s not the most ideal usage of the phrase, but, as it goes, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king“… but he’s still one-eyed, isn’t he? In a good year, Inception will likely be just another film; but when was the last time we had a really memorable year in cinema? Especially Hollywood studio cinema? It should stand on its own merits. As I wondered before, it seems that we’re all so hungry for something “original,” “different,” that we’re a little too anxious to proclaim the greatness of anything that leans in that direction. I have to wonder if the near universal approval has less to do with the film itself, and more of a vote of what we could call the expectations of a movement – a new direction for Hollywood to take, in terms of commercial, mainstream filmmaking.

6 - Lastly, to clarify, I don’t think it’s a bad film folks! I just don’t believe it to be as great a film as many seem to think it is, and isn’t this groundbreaking work it’s being labeled. Nolan even himself said in an interview with LA Weekly that, “The film is shameless in its regard for cinema, and its plundering of cinematic history.” Sure, it has its intriguing moments, but for the most part, I just wasn’t fully engaged. It seemed to want to be profound, while still being able to maintain some commercial appeal, and entertain audiences. And for a lot of people, it passed that test, given how well it’s done at the box office, and the overwhelming praise it’s received. But I think in it’s effort to be both, it ends up not really being either. Not that a film can’t be both profound and entertaining. I was actually more enlightened and more entertained by Waking Life (a film that I’d consider more groundbreaking than Inception, in how it was realized) – another film that explored the subconscious, the nature and meaning of being. I guess it’s all subjective, isn’t it?

So, in closing folks, I’ll say this: it’s really OK if you didn’t care all that much for the film, or weren’t blown away by it as many apparently were. Really, it’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with you, so don’t be afraid, and don’t let others “scare” you into thinking otherwise. I’ve got your back ;) As I started off saying, you can both appreciate a work and be critical of it. The criticism itself should say something about the expectations of the work, and those who created it, which is a good thing, in my opinion. And if you think it’s the greatest thing ever, that’s fine too!

But I’ll also say that the fact that we’re all talking about the film itself (whether in agreement or disagreement) means it’s already won, doesn’t it? And as I said in my review, it’s a step in the right direction, and I certainly hope that studios continue along this path. So, sure, if you still haven’t seen the film, don’t let me discourage you. Go out and see it! Cast your vote for better things to come. But be sensible about your expectations of it.

And that’s all I’m going to say about Inception.

The floor is yours… and if you’re going to respond, ad hominem attacks are useless.

And just to show that I’m not some Christopher Nolan hater… here’s a trailer for his debut feature, Following, made in 1997 – a film that actually appealed to me more-so than Inception did. Obviously taking advantage of Inception hype, IFC Films has re-released Following on its VOD channel today. So, check it out if you can.  I believe it’s also available as a Netflix “Watch Instantly” feature:

36 comments to An “Inception” Review Revisited (Last Words)

  • Sheesh. People actually said those things to you? Wow. Sorry about that. I thought folks understood that just because they felt a certain way doesn’t mean anyone else has to. Isn’t that the way it usually works with personal opinions?

  • Lemu

    **Sits back and grabs popcorn**
    this is going to be good.

  • BluTopaz

    I haven’t seen Inception yet, so no thoughts about the film nor your review. But I have noticed in the past few years a serious lack of critical thinking when it comes to films. A lot of folks have online ADD, and all that you have written in this post to clarify will just piss them off more because it’s just more to read. They just want to know if you rate it thumbs up or down, got-dammit. So they can quickly know if it’s a fan club gathering or lynch mob. Honest reviews make them think too much, and they take that seriously. Anyway, really looking forward to seeing Inception now.

  • jeremy

    Brush em off Tambay.

  • Darkan

    I actually walked out on the film 30 mins in. The film didn’t keep my interest. I may give it another shot though. I don’t know….

    • Cipher

      Are you serious? How could you walk out 30 mind in? You didn’t give it a chance. The movie is like 2 1/2 hours. At least give it a shot.

  • GT

    I think it’s a good thing when movies can inspire considered discussion.

    I go to the movies to be moved, so when I see a movie that leaves me with nothing, to the point that I don’t give it a second thought afterwards, it’s a real disappointment — a real waste if you think about all the man-hours that go into making movies.

    Often, the mark of a good movie, for me, is when I’m thinking about it in the days that follow. INCEPTION, for me, is a great movie.

    I agree with many of the points you make, but I feel the emotional core of INCEPTION is what separates it from other films on its scale. My opinion doesn’t hold more or less value than dissenting ones, but I did want to offer an alternate view on that particular point.

    I think that people responded to your review the way that they did because of the headline “Admirable Premise; But Ultimately Hollow”. It’s a good headline; it’s attention grabbing. Unfortunately, some people only read that as, “He didn’t like it,” and then feel compelled to trash you because they haven’t dug into the details of your critique. That fact still doesn’t justify or excuse the useless responses.

  • well, im kinda glad people pissed you off enough to write such a detailed review. I dont agree with all of your ideas and reviews as they pertain to cinema, however, i think that your thoughts on inception are quite accurate and you clearly state that even with its shortcomings the film was still a good flick in your opinion…

    I liked it as well, but any film enthusiast can see clearly that its not the groundbreaking, mind blasting, thrill ride its toted as. The hallway fight scene was different and cool, but i couldn’t for the life of my understand why the landscapes werent made more creatively. It seemed like a cop out to me. It would have added another level of interest. character development was better than most blockbusters but not enough. It could have really completed the film.

    8.5 for special effects
    7 for story
    6.5 for character development
    8.5 for originality

    a 7.5 for overall execution

  • Jon

    I think you missed the point. The point is not that Inception is a brilliantly original movie, it’s that it has used all of hollywood’s conventions and remixed them into this great mind-fuck that is as irresistable as a good Girl Talk mix. It’s brilliant in that it uses elements we all know (and could even call cliche) and turns them into its own thing.

  • Anthony E.

    Sounds like an attention seeker. Like the Dave Chappelle comedy special, “Just because I dress this way.” Sound like a pretty gal in a club with a tight small dress on crying for attention and then not wanting it…

    FIRST PROBLEM: In your inital review you stated that you read all these reviews. See these days reviews give you the entire story or sometimes even spoil the twist of certain films. So with that you already ruined about what would be 50% of the film.

    #2 You mention several films that deal with the wife who dies of suicide. Yet you left out the one that fits perfectly here. WHAT DREAMS MAY COME in which Robin Williams visits his wife in their home to save her. The other films deal with the husband accepting or coming to terms with the guilt that they feel for their loss. This on the other hand has a bit of a twist to it (not going to say and many posters are still stating they haven’t seen it) but it goes another way and it is the trapped ghost figure of his wife that comes to a realization.

    #3 The film cost $200 Million +. Dark Knight was just shy of 200 mill. This film was shot with the mind set of less CGI crap. So the special effects were mostly in front of the camera. So in order to do this they built the sets, several of them in order to give the look twisting and turning. It’s not so much as being impressed by some Michael Bay stuff. But that this is so impressive that you actually hardly notice. That fact that you don’t notice it, is the point of actual special effects, not CGI. For it too look like an effect defeats that purpose of pulling you into the film. Every CGI shot looks like CGI. Here you can’t tell and thus the effect was perfectly executed.

    #4 Christopher Nolan labeled this as his James Bond type of film and was so well done. If you want wild out there dreams please see Dr. Parnassus. The dreams for this films served a purpose as to fit the Mark of the film. The dreams were not to be absolutely elaborate and too tricky or out there with colors. Plus they are designed to be similar to the real world in order to trick and fool the Mark for their gain.

    As for the weak parts in the first review you mentioned. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was incredible and the back and forth with him and Tom Hardy was juicy. He did all his own stunts as well. Didn’t really see a fault in anything. The camera work of Wally Pfister was spot on and beyond. Hans Zimmer’s score was superb. I was a bit not 100% happy with Ellen Page’s performance but she was tops compared to who else they were to get.
    And I found the script profound, When it comes out August 1st I am picking up a copy.

    Hell in the last post you had you mentioned HEAT. That’s one of the greatest heist films if not one of the greatest films ever. And you tied it to this film. I loved it’s ambition and it’s ability to take you there. Hell you made it appear that Inception might have been the ONLY film in history to use similar themes or ideas. Every film borrows from another. Every director borrows from another. Hell every film-maker is inspired by and hence uses little techniques or tools that are similar. Scorcese borrows quite a bit and is grand in film folks eyes. At this point in film something branches out from something else. It has to. Like make sour dough, you need a piece from the original to continue to make more. Unless for pure creative those you wish to pull a Snake Plissken from Escape from LA and wipe out all of technology and clear our minds of inspiration from motivation.

    Well glad you kind of liked it. But to knock it and try to faulter the film by attempting to compare it and searching for reasons YOU felt it wasn’t great hurts it. For in the dream you were digging reality too hard. Seems like you didn’t just go with it. Give it another try but this time don’t bring a notepad to take notes and pick it apart. Just watch it as an enjoyment and not an assignment.

    • Cipher

      I’m with you on some of it but not all the dreams were tailored for the mark like the last 2 sequences when Cobb and Ariadne faced off with Mal, and then Cobb had to go deeper to pull Saito out. Those weren’t anybody’s dream. They were in Limbo.

      Also, relating to the visual effects you’re wrong about that. Read this article with an interview with the visual effects supervisor for the movie. He said that the VFX were a combo of live action and CG work, but that most of the VFX were created digitally, after the fact, and not on set in front of the camera:
      http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/07/inception-visual-effects/

  • Reg

    LOL! You people are funny with all this over a film that I don’t think is really all that worth it even though I enjoyed it. But I didn’t dwell on it much after I walked out of the theater.

    Tambay is a sly fox lol! He knows it’s a really hot film so what better way to jack for hits than by posting a critical review and doing it twice? And it’s obviously working! I’m not buying it. I think he liked it and he’s just being contrary for the fuck of it, and for the hits. Tambay is the next generation Armond White lol!

  • caleb

    Whatever dude! 187 critics out of 220 say it’s great. Your one shitty review doesn’t matter. You’re OWNED dude so so OWNED! Haha

  • Cipher

    Here’s a nice chart that explains all the layers cleanly. Spoilers alert if you haven’t seen it:
    http://blastr.com/assets_c/2010/07/inception-infographic-43071.php

  • Zeus

    I haven’t seen the film yet but will very soon. If I don’t like it, I don’t need to be lectured by some insecure fan b**ch who thinks EVERYONE SHOULD LOVE THE SAME MOVIES.

    Film is subjective. DEAL WITH IT. If you want uniformity in thought and words, move to fucking China.

    :)

  • nnkaie

    i don’t remember the last time i was so disappointed with a movie i was so eager to see: convoluted plot, disengaging protagonist and unimpressive directing…nuff said

  • M.Fantu

    Why cant Tambay actually have a thought and an idea that is his own but happens to differ from 187 other critics and it be legitimate. This is his opinion but yet he gets attacked for it? lol. Thats ridiculous.

    Heat is by far a better film than inception in every way btw.

    I dont think anyone was arguing that they needed to see more obvious CG, just that the art direction that utilized the CG could have been a little more elaborate and thought provoking in some circumstances. The color of a building or two, the shape of cars, certain technology… Its all in the details.

    I hope that Tambay isnt writing these things just for attention, but ill give him the benefit of the doubt cause even though i like the film, it really isnt “great”. Its “good”. FTW if we cant even have an opinion without being attacked.

  • Jay

    But I’ll also say that the fact that we’re all talking about the film itself (whether in agreement or disagreement) means it’s already won, doesn’t it?

    Well, not really.

    The most telling aspect of the first review is that it’s first and foremost against hype and publicity, not the film.

    I’ll rebut the points I disagree with of your current expanded review.

    What’s at the heart of it, after all that pomp and circumstance? What did you walk away with? What did you feel (other than perplexed)?

    The film hinges on the emotional connection Cobb has been burdened with for this stage in his career. The Totem he carries to anchor him while in DreamLevel belonged to his wife Mal — a psychological Möebius strip of guilt and desire that grounds him not only to the ‘waking world’, but to his overbearing guilt.

    Cobb walks away with closure. He walks away with having rescued Saito from Limbo and the chance to be with his family. No longer plagued with his twisted, hostile view of Mal (his malformed view perhaps?) and is allowed to see past his constructed interpretation of her. He is back with his children and is able to literally see their faces for the first time in years.

    The names of some of the characters are a little too obvious in relation to the motivations of each. For example, Marion Cotillard as “Mal?” French for “bad;” Ellen Page’s “Ariadne” a Greek Goddess, also known as “Mistress of the Labyrinth;” “Cobol Engineering?” Are those inclusions supposed to somehow automatically contribute to our wonderment at just how mind-blowingly intelligent the film is?

    Too obvious? Perhaps. But, no more obvious than Neo or Cypher in the The Matrix. No more than Louis Cypher in Angel Heart. I wasn’t distracted from the narrative. For me the flaw was that I didn’t remember all the characters names, which is a problem for me with complicated stories. But, I also don’t think that Nolan is trying to demand the audience see how “intelligent” the film is, but rather construct an elaborate puzzle box and the centre is a strong emotional core. If you take away the emotional component of the film, then your only left with the dazzling technique, gorgeous cinematography and strong performances.

    For a film about dreams and the subconscious, it’s far too rational… I think this is one area in which Nolan could have really played, and had some fun – especially as they went deeper and deeper, layer after layer, which I’d expect should lead to even more of the bizarre…

    Except this film isn’t about how we feel when we’re dreaming that film would be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. This is a heist film — it’s about how meticulous plans go awry due to unforeseen human faults. It’s setting is the dream world.

    Also, the dream machine (PASIV) was a military invention and as such, has extensive testing on recruits and personnel allowing them to chart what the subject will accept in a dream. Nolan’s supposition is that the PASIV device is effective because the user builds upon the psychological make-up of the dreamer. The collection of data, study and observation of the subject is integral to the process, enabling the host to construct an acceptable dream reality for the mark. They are essentially conning the marks unconscious, imprinting an ‘echo’ of his memories and constructing a landscape that is controllable (within certain parameters).

    Regarding the supposed “groundbreaking” special effects… Maybe I just saw a different movie than most of you, but there was absolutely nothing in Inception’s visual presentation that we haven’t already seen before… Am I missing something here? There was little to nothing visually in Inception that awed me.

    You’re missing something. The point of using visual effects effectively is that they are in service to the story. The effects of Inception are not about ‘spectacle’. They serve the story. The amount of rotoscoping, matchmoving, matte painting, wire removal, modeling and animation are pretty extensive, even though there weren’t over 500 vfx shots. The fact that they didn’t call attention to themselves is a major success; their job, as mentioned above is to serve the story.

    Sure, it has its intriguing moments, but for the most part, I just wasn’t fully engaged.

    And, that is a fair assessment. It doesn’t tap your vein and that’s okay. Now, is that a reaction to the film itself or the hype? Your first review wasn’t insightful, just opinionated and seemed like a bit of backlash against the hype and promotion, not the film itself. I agree that a film “should stand on its own merits” — but, it should also be reviewed on those same merits.

  • Meh!

    Long time reader, first time commenter! I finally saw it last night. My expectations were high and I walked out disappointed after all that hype, and I’ve been stewing in it since.

    First, the movie relies on the idea that Saito’s company can only survive by getting Fischer to break up his father’s company, and the only way to do that is to plant the idea in his subconscious mind, and the only way to really get into his subconscious is to take him into a dream, within a dream, within a dream, within a dream so that when he wakes up he’ll feel as if the idea to break up his father’s company was his own idea? If you can buy that, you can probably also buy into some of the film’s other half-baked ideas, like, secondly, Ellen Page’s character given the job of designing the various dream worlds for the team to operate in. There’s plenty of CGI time spent showing how she can build and change structures within a dream world, but how her models and plans go from being models and plans to operable worlds in dreams is never addressed. We’re being asked to take a big leap there. You can’t spend all that time with the set up and not demonstrate the execution of it. Everyone just sticks themselves with a needle full of a “dream juice” and the journey begins.

    Third, a lot is riding on this particular mission with Cobb once the leading “architect” in the field, that is until he and his wife got carried away with building their own private dream world, leading her to doubt her own reality. After she died his dreams became the only place he could go to see her. So now his obsession with revisiting his past memories with her in dreams is starting to not only blur his ability to tell the difference reality and fantasy, but it’s compromising his work. The only other person who knows about this is the new girl, but Cobb and Ariadne’s relationship never gets as much screen time as it needs, and is never fully developed to be believable. The movie’s various chase scenes, gun fights and explosions have the run of the over two-hour movie.

    And so, fourth, you don’t really sympathize with Cobb the way you do even with, let’s say, Heath Ledger’s Joker, which Chris Nolan also directed. The struggle to develop Cobb and his laundry list of issues while maintaining all that action leaves other potentially compelling characters like Arthur and Eames by the wayside. Instead, Joseph Gordon Levitt is given a few one-liners and then spends the bulk of the film twirling around a hotel hallway during a few minutes of anti-gravity that are intercut to last for the last half hour, as Eames pretends to be James Bond, shooting, fighting and blowing stuff up. It leaves you wondering if Nolan knows where the real story is. If the story with Fischer is just a subplot and a ploy to get us to see and understand Cobb’s deeper issues with his wife and his past, why does that plotline take over the movie with all its specifics? The battle here seems to be between plot and subplot.

    I have other qualms with the film, but I’ll end by saying that, Inception to me is a case of a director being given access to all the tools in the box and using every one without much restraint. It’s a decent flick and better than a lot of what has been out so far this year, but I don’t think it’s worthy of all the hype IMO.

    • Jay

      Sympathize with Heath Ledger’s Joker?!
      He’s a character filled with unreliable and contradictory statements. How could he be sympathetic? He’s diabolical, treacherous and cruel.

      If the story with Fischer is just a subplot and a ploy to get us to see and understand Cobb’s deeper issues with his wife and his past, why does that plotline take over the movie with all its specifics?

      It’s actually the main plot. The subplot is the issue with his wife Mal — it’s where the themes of the movie are explored and where he confronts his emotional problems.

      • Meh!

        The Joker was a sympathetic character in spite of himself. It’s all subjective. We each bring our own experiences into a movie. I empathized and felt sadness for the Joker knowing his backstory. His motivations were understood. There was a method to his madness. So you can see him as diabolical and treacherous, but I saw underneath all that. Also one could also make the argument that Batman is just as treacherous and cruel in his own way. Just because he’s on the side of “good” and we’re supposed to like him. I remember a scene in which the Joker tells Batman that both are cut from the same cloth or something like that. Like the fine line between criminals and cops.

        About the plot versus subplot, are you sure which is which? It’s another thing that is subjective. I could easily make the point that the film is all about Cobb and his conscience and the heist is a distraction. Wasn’t one of the earlier arguments that Cobb was the emotional center of the film? He’s the one we’re supposed to latch onto not Fisher. And even though I didn’t time it I’m willing to bet that almost as much time(if not more) was spent on Cobb’s guilty conscience, revisiting his wife, kids and all that jazz. So, I’m not willing to buy that the heist was the key plot line, and if it was supposed to be, I’ll refer back to my point about Nolan not being sure about what the major story plot was, because there’s too much going on that one isn’t 100% sure of where most to focus. I agree with those people suggesting getting rid of Cobb’s issues with his wife and focusing mostly on the heist. That sounds like it would have worked better IMO, because it ended up being a major distraction, if you say it was suppose to be the subplot.

        • Jay

          I empathized and felt sadness for the Joker knowing his backstory. His motivations were understood. There was a method to his madness. So you can see him as diabolical and treacherous, but I saw underneath all that.

          In The Dark Knight the Joker never gives his backstory, just a series of invented backstories to give the impression that he has understandable motives. He doesn’t. Alfred’s line “…some men just like to see the world burn…” underlines that point.

          About the plot versus subplot, are you sure which is which? It’s another thing that is subjective. I could easily make the point that the film is all about Cobb and his conscience and the heist is a distraction.

          I’m pretty sure. The emotional centre (the Cobb/Mal story) isn’t the main goal of the protagonist. He doesn’t even know that internal conflict is solvable, so he hides it — literally. The main goal of the plot is to subliminally inject an idea into Fisher’s mind and plant a seed that won’t be discovered, so that he can, in his words “go back home.”

          There is much more time devoted to the main heist plot than the specifics of Cobb’s issues — although the emotional line is extremely important to the narrative, because it’s the foundation of the story. But, the goal of the story is for Cobb to complete his contract with Saito so he can return to his kids.

          • Meh!

            I remember the Joker telling stories about how he got the mark on his face, like from an abusive father, and because of his wife. You can say he’s inconsistent but there could also be some truth to one or both stories. There were also instances where he dropped hints that could tell us something about his past life like when he says “what doesn’t kill you makes you stranger” or something like that. Also there’s Joker lore even though this is one representation of Joker. He still has a history. And both Nolan and Ledger said that Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke was an influence on the Joker in The Dark Knight. And in that graphic novel the Joker is giving a detailed history. You can’t dismiss all of that. And even if you do dismiss we can still feel sympathy for someone like him. I can guarantee you that he wasn’t born that way. Even if there wasn’t any hint at a backstory, and there was no Joker lore, the audience is still left to assume that something must have happened along the way to turn him into the person that he is. And that’s something we can all try to understand on some level. Like I said it’s all subjective.

            About the plot you say “But, the goal of the story is for Cobb to complete his contract with Saito so he can return to his kids .” So it is about Cobb, not about the heist. Cobb’s catharsis is the crux of the story not the heist. The heist is a subplot used to help us get to that goal which you stated. Cobb’s deliverance. And what I’m saying is that it didn’t work for me as is. I didn’t buy it. The emotional line as you put it was more of a burden on the heist story, if you believe it was about the heist. But that’s already been said.

            • Jay

              “…And both Nolan and Ledger said that Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke was an influence on the Joker in The Dark Knight. And in that graphic novel the Joker is giving a detailed history. You can’t dismiss all of that.”

              Alan Moore’s The Killin Joke is a great reference point, except even in the DC Comics universe every backstory of the Joker has been called into question — his origin is a huge question mark.

              But, we’re talking about the movie The Dark Knight which doesn’t reference the comics; the Joker in the movie is a wholly original creation, based on the idea of what the Joker is.

              About the plot you say “But, the goal of the story is for Cobb to complete his contract with Saito so he can return to his kids.” So it is about Cobb, not about the heist. Cobb’s catharsis is the crux of the story not the heist.

              Follow the antagonist of the story — it’s not Mal, it’s Cobb. He’s fighting his own invented demon which prevents him from doing his job. So, his internal struggle is at the crux of the story, but the main plot is for him to plant the idea into Fisher’s mind. His emotional dilemma isn’t subordinate to the mission storyline, it complicates it and in the past has sabotaged it. So, the Mal storyline, although dominant for his character, isn’t the logline for Inception, the heist storyline is. The heist is what dominates the plot.

              • Meh!

                We’re starting to go around in circles it feels. So this are my own “last words” on the film.

                Regarding the Joker, the Joker is way too iconic a character for Nolan not to realize that people watching will bring their own perceptions of the character into the the movie, based on what they know of the character (whether called into question or not), especially when he doesn’t give the character a backstory in his movie. We are left to fill in the blanks. Nolan is smart enough to know that as a filmmaker and storyteller. It’s not like he just created a brand new villain out of thin air, with no reference to an already existing and, importantly, an iconic figure. So, it’s not completely out the realm of possibility that an audience can empathize and sympathize with the character. If you didn’t that’s cool. I did.

                As for the plot vs subplot, I still believe it’s open to interpretation. There’s enough of an argument for either your interpretation as well as mine. So we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that. We’re getting into definitions now, “main plot,” “crux,” “logline,” storyline,” “plot,” “subplot.” A subplot is subordinate to the main storyline. That’s what a subplot is. So, whether it’s his emotional dilemma or the heist. And I say that there’s enough evidence there to suggest that Cobb’s redemption is the main goal of the story. But as I’ve already said, in my opinion anyway, the emotional pull of story (whether it’s the plot or the subplot or neither) weighs the film down for me. It doesn’t kill it, but it didn’t work for me all the way.

                Ok. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it :)

  • grace

    I kind of forgot about the film once I descended the escalator at the multiplex in the mall and headed for the sales rack at Pay Half. But Tambay won’t stop writing about it.

  • Anthony E.

    Cipher:
    Well the reason the limbos were not exactly up in the air was due to the fact that we had already seen exactly where these places were before.
    Cobb and Mal’s creation is where they visit last. They pass by their old house.
    Then when Cobb shows up to Saito it is the exact same location and set as to when he was tested. The limbo appears to be you are thrown into the waters and you wash up somewhere you have been prior to but only it is not. A bit out of place and falling apart as it’s not as constructed as previous.

    As for the stunts, enjoy this excellent behind the scenes and you can SEE the stunts and visual effects performed in front of the camera and yes CHI was used but to help out in certain parts.SFX: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKtbqSatEsg&feature=channel

  • Darkan

    Went back to watch the film for a full viewing. If I had never went back I wouldn’t have missed anything too spectacular. It’s a good film for a one time view. It will not be added to my dvd collection. Not the ground breaking, amazing film that everyone is so proud to take their whole family to see. America is so desperate for great filmwork that they are willing to pump anything different up to a standard in their minds as being the film to see. Inception definitely has it’s share of problems and in a nutshell I agree with what the poster Meh says about the film whole heartily. And people had the nerve to say that Inception was better than the Matrix. Ha!

  • Stagolee

    If you’re a Black actor and Nolan calls and asks if you want to be in his film, maybe you think twice (depending on the payday).

    Black characters don’t show up often but when they do…damn.

  • living peaceful

    I saw the movie and was disappointed…it just seem like a awful lot of dream mombo jumbo filler in telling a story about a man trying to get over the death of his wife and getting back to his children. No I wasn’t impress.

  • Alece

    I think AO Scott’s NY Times article ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/movies/25scott.html?ref=movies ) summed it up best, “Any movie worth seeing is worth arguing about, and any movie worth arguing about is worth seeing”
    I always love the debates here on S&A and I understand cinephiles need a forum to exchange ideas. But I think everyone is taking this a little too personal. Stop typing furiously at your desk or computer lounge (you look crazy), calm down, take a deep breath and realize that it’s not damn that serious. It’s ok to disagree about a film!

    Ok now, here are my two cents on Inception (not that anyone asked, but I’ll tell it to you anyway! :-)) I thought the film had its clever moments. I wouldn’t call it smart. The dream levels were deeper than the script but overall it was an enjoyable-sophisticated enough for the average person-thriller. Avoiding most of the reviews about the film, I came out of the theater satisfied not having higher than high hopes that this film will save cinema or criticism for that matter. But I will leave it to Armond White to save film criticism ;-)

  • I finally saw this film last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I found it highly entertaining and thought-provoking to a degree. Everyone was great in the film and Leo has redeemed himself in my eye. Anyway, for a film that has a 2 hour+ running time, it left me wishing there was more and that says a lot. Nowadays, I’m waiting for a 90 minute movie to be over with at the 30 minute mark.

    However, everyone is entitled to their opinion. We all don’t have to like the same things, that’s what makes the world great and keeps things interesting. In my opinion, this film was better than The Matrix Trilogy and easier to follow.

    Just my two cents.

    • Oh and I’ll add one more thing about your review Tambay, I actually agree with a lot of what you’re saying. There isn’t much groundbreaking going on in this film but I think what works is that everything borrowed from other sources was pulled together in a way that made it seem as if it was something fresh. At the very least it was highly entertaining. And yes, sadly, we don’t have much in the past 10 years to compare it to (please don’t bring up Avatar) except Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth which I thought merged dream-like visual fantasy and dramatic storytelling (albeit a different genre) into something truly unique and engrossing. The last two Matrix films were a dismal mess (in my opinion)and I don’t think we’ll see anything visually groundbreaking that has some sound storytelling to it until Tarsem’s ‘Immortals’ film comes out next year.

      In my opinion, the mid to late 90′s was the decade for merging technological advances with good storytelling in film. Between Luhrmann, Tarsem, Taymor and the Wachowski Brothers we got some pretty kick ass stuff.

      So anyway, yeah, I think Christopher Nolan gave us more than a solid film, maybe not out of this world mind blowing but good movie-making.

      Please forgive my late night ramble but hope what I said made some sense.

  • matt

    I think you just about summed up my thoughts on Inception exactly. Bravo.

  • GT

    Tambay: “To start, I’d say this… calling inception…“oscar-worthy,”…is, well, the stuff that dreams are made of.”

    With this morning’s announced Oscar nominations, does this mean we can wake up now?