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July 18, 2010 12:13 AM   Subscribe

Inception (WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW) (trailer) (prequel comic) (cast interviews), the new film about shared dreaming by Christopher Nolan, has shocked audiences into gasps of delight and confusion. Two days in, the film, having impressed critics, is already inspiring elaborate debates about its complex and surreal plotline, with theories and heated discussions here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
posted by shivohum (468 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll post here after I see it tomorrow (technically today, I guess) but I've intentionally avoided interviews, reviews, and even trailers so that I go in relatively blank. I'm even avoiding Twitter and Facebook so I don't risk being tainted.
posted by Hasai at 12:17 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading this post after having come home from this movie less than an hour ago. The reaction of the audience at my screening was just as described. What a fantastic film.
posted by The Gooch at 12:18 AM on July 18, 2010


(Spoilers, but they won't really make sense out of context.)

In that first discussion link, they ask why Saito is old but Cobb is not in limbo and attribute it to him being unaware that he's in limbo as the reason. My thought was simply that limbo is a further compounded/accelerated time and Saito was in limbo for a good chunk of time before Cobb joined him...

This reminded me a lot of Primer, but in a slightly less satisfying way. If you haven't seen Primer, by the way, you must drop everything and find a way to see it. Netflix had it on Instant for a good long time but it appears there no longer... Seriously, watch Primer.
posted by disillusioned at 12:26 AM on July 18, 2010


So I have heard that people are booing M Night Shamalyan in the trailers for his next movie, can anyone confirm?

(I have so much schadenfreude about the new M Night hate, since I was the only person I knew who loathed Signs and it made me feel like a crazy person.)
posted by empath at 12:38 AM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I normally make a point of not going to see movies on opening weekend because I hate the crowds, but I'll make an exception for this one and go see it tomorrow night in glorious IMAX. I'll withhold my analysis until then.
posted by falameufilho at 12:48 AM on July 18, 2010


I thought Inception was tops!
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:50 AM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


There was a big write-up about this film in the LA Times this weekend. There were all sorts of Batman references, yet "Memento" wasn't mentioned once. It's as if the studio.... forgot all about it... Wait, was I supposed to shoot someone? Or buy some ginger ale? I forget.
posted by biddeford at 12:58 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


\POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING\


The ending is a glass half full / half empty test: you see what you want, and you get the ending that you need. It's brilliant.


Nthing Primer, btw: if you need to keep your reality teetering, go watch Primer after Inception.
posted by HannoverFist at 1:43 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It matters not how great a movie is, I simply cannot sit in a theater. 90 minutes in the dark unable to walk, pause the story, look things up, or talk to a friend is a hellish eternity.

I hope the movie is great, and I hope I like it as well as I love The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly ( a high bar to be sure, but every movie maker knows that to be their goal). If they fall sort, well, too bad.

However, when the time comes I do watch it, I hope it BLOWS MY MIND! But too many supposedly great sci-fi movies start with great premises (Children Of Men, I'm looking at you) then devolve into extended chase/action sequences.

Sometimes, I just want a writer to create a scenario, then allow me to just explore the classified ads of that world. Far more telling, informative and entertaining.
posted by sourwookie at 1:59 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just got back from it- I never go to movies on opening weekend, but for some reason I really wanted to see this movie before I started seeing reviews...and holy crap was it worth it.

The ending seemed totally clear-cut to me- I thought it ended perfectly- definitely glass-half-full, and there was an audible exhale- like , whew! - from the audience at the very last cut. I guess I could see how you could think it went the other way, but it never even occurred to me.

But then again, the only part where was I confused at all was in the first 10 minutes or so- after that, it all seemed pretty obvious what was going on where- I mean, not only were the action scenes beautifully coherent, but the plot- even with all the heavy-lifting world-building it had to do- was really clear.

In fact, if I had a criticism of it, it would be that it wasn't weird enough- but it's consistent as far as the rules it sets up for how dreams work.

But if you figure that along with the metaphysics, it's also a ripping heist flick, a moving love story, and the kind of summer blockbuster where things blow up real good on a regular basis, I guess I can forgive it some simplifiction.

Caveat- this movie pressed a lot of my buttons, in re ontology, romance, and shit blowing up real good. Hence why I'm being such raving fanboy or whatever. But I do think that if you like this kind of thing, you'll like this a lot. Man, I want to see it in Imax now...
posted by hap_hazard at 2:11 AM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Absolutely fantastic movie. I re-watched The Prestige and Memento recently and while I love his earlier movies it seems that with The Dark Knight and now Inception Nolan has really kicked it up a notch. Can't wait to see what he does next.
posted by AJD at 2:14 AM on July 18, 2010


So good. The theater was gasping and laughing in pleasurable disbelief.
posted by zeek321 at 3:24 AM on July 18, 2010


The power went out in the middle of my screening yesterday, and they had some trouble getting the projector up and running again. It was funny listening to the audience speculate on whether or not the theater had been co-opted by the movie producers into further fucking with their minds.

The ending seemed totally clear-cut to me- I thought it ended perfectly- definitely glass-half-full, and there was an audible exhale- like , whew! - from the audience at the very last cut.

That's funny. I heard a big ol' D'awwww from the audience, and it sounded like people were slightly frustrated at the ambiguity. It is definitely an ambiguous ending.

SPOILER ALERT Read ye no further if you haven't seen Inception.
What threw me, and what will draw me back to see it again, is the shared totem. Cobb knew Mal's totem (a no-no) and even adopted it as his own, right? Doesn't that throw his whole reality into question?
posted by carsonb at 3:52 AM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, I kept hearing the cleverly-named Mal character as "Mom". That was weird.
posted by carsonb at 4:03 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Saw it last night. I wasn't as enthusiastic about it as many of you all, but I'm more than willing to admit that Nolan is an amazing filmmaker and this film is, by any standards, a monumental achievement. But taste is subjective and good people can and, I imagine, will argue and critique and dissect and discuss this film plenty in the days, weeks, months ahead.

I will say this, though: Tom Berenger deserves an Oscar for the year's best comedic performance.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:07 AM on July 18, 2010


Tom Berenger deserves an Oscar for the year's best comedic performance.

His look reminded me a lot of Roy Scheider's Dr. Benway.
posted by carsonb at 4:16 AM on July 18, 2010


*spoilers?*

carsonb, a shared totem would only be dangerous for the original owner (as anyone who might have gotten their hands on it could fool the original owner into buying into a false reality). Since Mal was dead this couldn’t have been an issue for her. As long as no one currently alive but Cobb new of the totem, he was in good shape.
posted by mazniak at 4:30 AM on July 18, 2010


SPOILER ALERT

I keep seeing people confused as to Ariadne and Robert jumped on Cobb's dream, or why Arthur didn't wake up on the first kick. It seemed quite clear to me that they needed a kick in EVERY level (including the one they were currently in) to wake up. The kick in level 1 was the van hitting the water, level 2 was the elevator, level 3 was the tower tipping with the explosion, and for level 4 the falling from the building. Arthur didn't wake up on the first kick because he didn't get "kicked" in level 2 at that time.

FUTURAMA SPOILER ALERT

carsonb: Yes, that got me as well. I kept imagining some scenarios, like he's stuck (in either his or her dream), and she's trying to pull him back up (and everyone else is a projection). Pretty much like that Futurama episode where Leela thinks Fry's is dead, but it turns out it's Fry that's trying to wake Leela up.
posted by qvantamon at 4:47 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, carsonb, I think you may have watched the movie with Nolan himself.
posted by qvantamon at 4:49 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I keep seeing people confused as to Ariadne and Robert jumped on Cobb's dream, or why Arthur didn't wake up on the first kick. It seemed quite clear to me that they needed a kick in EVERY level (including the one they were currently in) to wake up.

I don't think so. I think they only needed a kick in the level above where they were. At the beginning of the film, Cobb wakes up when they kick him in the tub. In the middle of the film, when they're testing the right drug to put Fisher under, they keep pushing over Arthur in his chair to check if he'll keep waking up (and he does). There has to be another explanation. There are two ways to get out of a dream: either kill yourself in the level you're in or get kicked in the level above.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:55 AM on July 18, 2010


Heh, the Arclight's a ripoff. I was way out in Brea. Weird that two screenings on opposite ends of a metropolis experienced outages on the same night though.

One other thing re Cobb's totem: didn't he explain to Ariadne how Mal's totem worked? And then—this is the part I can't recall clearly—she saw him using his totem to check reality at some point, right? The narrator's unreliable either way, but it seems to me Ariadne knew too much about Cobb for him to ever be sure of his reality.

Jeez, it's easy to get the brain in a twist with this film. That's two solid twisters from Nolan, pretty amazing.
posted by carsonb at 5:00 AM on July 18, 2010


So in one scene, Cobb talks to his kids on the telephone before Arthur knocks on the door and says "Our ride's on the roof," referring to the helicopter. The sky outside the windows in this scene is pitch black, but it's definitely daylight when they reach the roof. What's the deal?
posted by lizzicide at 5:04 AM on July 18, 2010


Jeremy Keith has just published an interesting post on the lack of specific dates, computers and brands in the film.
posted by TheDonF at 5:09 AM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


So in one scene, Cobb talks to his kids on the telephone before Arthur knocks on the door and says "Our ride's on the roof," referring to the helicopter. The sky outside the windows in this scene is pitch black, but it's definitely daylight when they reach the roof. What's the deal?

Trick photography.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:13 AM on July 18, 2010


BUUUUURRRRRRRMMMMMMMM
posted by Avenger at 5:19 AM on July 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


*SPOILER*



He knew Mal's totem, and took it for himself, after he found it hidden in the safe in her childhood house, no? I took that to be a metaphor for his shaking her faith in her own reality. Or am I misrembering?
posted by psolo at 5:30 AM on July 18, 2010


I went to see the film last night and I enjoyed it. It all kind of apart if you analyze it too deeply. Sort of like a dream.
posted by humanfont at 5:40 AM on July 18, 2010


Meh. A friend of mine is evangelizing about it on Facebook and by e-mail with the line, "It is really good. Like The Matrix good. Funny, I found it really tedious and overwrought, like The Matrix tedious and overwrought. As with The Matrix, it has some intriguing set-up and somewhere along about the second act, founders under its own mythologizing and self-seriousness ("Ariadne"? Really? I can only guess in which draft Leo's character stopped being known as Theseus.) It also shares The Matrix's wide-eyed solemn fascination with themes that I usually associate with late-night discussions among sophomores in the dorm common room. I trust that within a couple of years we will see a movie where our solar system is revealed to be just an atom in a giant's fingernail. I think Shyamalan is the man for that job.

It is too bad, because as with the Wachowksis, Christopher Nolan arrived with a nifty little quasi-film noir (Bound vs. Memento) and then launched into a big stupid iconic trilogy (Matrix vs. Batman). I really wanted to like this, but I am forced to admit that I couldn't.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:40 AM on July 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


I don't think so. I think they only needed a kick in the level above where they were.

When they're trying out the sedative and the kicks, the guy mentions that for the strong sedative they need synchronized kicks. That's why they come up with the music, as a way to make sure the person inside the dream knows to "kick" in the dream in sync with the outside kick. In the last tryout they have the music and Ariadne is also dreaming and doesn't wake up - she might have been there to kick Arthur from inside the dream at the right time.
posted by qvantamon at 5:47 AM on July 18, 2010


I was the only person I knew who loathed Signs and it made me feel like a crazy person.)

Sounds like the plot of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
posted by thejoshu at 5:50 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This was how to make a Mission Impossible film.
posted by dng at 5:57 AM on July 18, 2010


So I have heard that people are booing M Night Shamalyan in the trailers for his next movie, can anyone confirm?

As his next film has not yet even been announced, it is pretty unlikely that there are trailers to boo.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:11 AM on July 18, 2010


In the first cast interview, Leo says that to him, the entire movie is something like a big therapy session and, according to Nolan, is a character's "catharthic journey to face the truth of his past." Leo says he thought of Cobb's character as if he were addicted to dreaming, and that there was a kind of intervention to deal with that. So how does that change people's interpretations?
posted by shivohum at 6:13 AM on July 18, 2010


The best trailer I saw before Inception was the prequel to Zombieland.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:14 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


shivohum, I thought it could be something like that that. Ariadne was there with her ball of twine to help him escape the labyrinth of guilt he had trapped himself in.
posted by dng at 6:18 AM on July 18, 2010


I just saw it today, and I thought it was an incredibly well made, gorgeous movie. (I actually really liked the BUUUUURRRRRRRMMMMMMMM sound effect)

Something about it, though, just didn't work for me. After seeing Memento, The Prestige, even Dark Knight, I immediately wanted to watch them again, to pick them apart. With Inception, especially because of the ending, I don't particularly have a need to watch it again. I thought it was pretty clear

SPOILERS

just about the time that Michael Caine (who'd just been in Paris) picked him up at the airport that, wait a second, how'd we get back to the airplane, what happened with Saito? Oh, yeah, we never really remember how a dream starts... So, the top isn't going to fall. I did like the wobble in the top before the screen goes black, just to throw in some uncertainty, but since, as was mentioned above, the movie plays within the rules it sets up, they'd be unlikely to fudge the end.

Maybe it's Dicaprio? I just can't really believe in him as a leading character. He's been in fantastic films (Gangs of New York, Departed, for example) and each time, it seems like the movie succeeds in spite of him, or is lessened by his presence. This time, without another solid performance opposite him (Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson), he's got to carry it all by himself. That said, the character, I think, suits him perfectly. I tried, and I can't really picture another actor (except perhaps Jude Law) in the same role, giving the character the same depth. Hmm. Someday, I'll see it again, but not with the same enthusiasm I have for watching The Prestige.

All of that said, it was a stunning film. One of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I've seen in years.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:25 AM on July 18, 2010


Spoilers!


He knew Mal's totem, and took it for himself, after he found it hidden in the safe in her childhood house, no? I took that to be a metaphor for his shaking her faith in her own reality. Or am I misrembering?

The explanation was so quick and so vague, I only caught it the second viewing. Mal and Dom Cobb got trapped in limbo for such a long time that Mal locked away that "truth she used to know but has chosen to forget." She forgot that they were in limbo and that the real world awaited them outside. Hence the shot of her going to her childhood home, opening up a dollhouse to reveal the safe in which she locks her totem - the top that does not stop spinning inside a dream. So she willingly abandoned it, locking it away.

Dom, however, does not forget the true nature of the reality they left behind, and he struggles to find a way to convince her to come home with him. In the end, he settles upon inception, planting the idea inside her head that the world she's experiencing at any given time is not the true world. While I'm not clear on how he made that happen (maybe it was as simple as spinning the top and locking it in the safe so she'd discover it?), but you know how that worked out for them. In any case, he didn't take the totem from her until after her death.
posted by lizzicide at 6:28 AM on July 18, 2010


Saw it yesterday. Thought it was great. But during the third act shouldn't the zero g/falling have translated into every dream level? It seemed to be a fundamental inconsistency in the world of the movie.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 6:29 AM on July 18, 2010


Also, if anyone is interested in a film about dreams and addiction, check out Until the End of the World, by Wim Wenders. I'm not a fan of his direction of actors (the interaction between the characters seems forced, even fake sometimes), but the film is pretty amazing. It starts off in one direction, and then veers into a completely different story about becoming addicted to watching your own dreams. Several powerful moments, some great ideas. Definitely a product of the early 90's.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:29 AM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


AND THEN PAM WOKE UP.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:31 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


zeek321: "So good. The theater was gasping and laughing in pleasurable disbelief."

My wife yelled out, "hey, no fair" at the end. I love that it ended a little ambiguously. Compare it to DiCaprio's last movie Shutter Island which practically ended with a power-point presentation explaining everything.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 AM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just wanna say that I can't see this movie for another 3 weeks or so and there is NO WAY I'm going to read this thread. Carry on.
posted by zardoz at 6:38 AM on July 18, 2010


The theater crowd in my town almost never reacts to movies in a big way (people don't scream or cheer, laughter is usually a little restrained, etc). But the final shot, which I thought was perfectly timed, actually caused a large portion of the audience to collectively make a sound like "boh", as though they'd been holding their breath in anticipation and instead got punched in the stomach by the credits. It was very amusing.

Side-note: It is the same sound I have made after many instances of being slapped by the word L O S T.

Anyway it's really good.
posted by Monster_Zero at 7:16 AM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I liked that there were no opening credits...

...just like in a dream...
posted by Elmore at 7:30 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It was very nice to watch an action movie without the annoying directorial tricks of so many modern movies. No excessive color correction, little shaky-cam, nice long shots so that you can get a look at the scenery and none of that speed-up slow-down zoom-in swirl-around crap. I'd like to think that Greengrass, Tony Scott, Bay, Snyder, Leterrier and their ilk would watch this and learn something but it's probably not going to happen.
posted by octothorpe at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


my dreams often have opening credits

sometimes they just keep going and i realize they are the closing credits

those are called nightmares
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:42 AM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I saw it opening night with friends so I wouldn't be spoiled, and I almost never care about spoilers. I'm going to buy the DVD and I almost never buy DVDs. I may see it again in the theater, and I can't remember the last movie I wanted to do that with.

One of my friends thought the whole thing with Ariadne was that Michael Caine's character hired her to detox/deprogram Cobb, and the whole rest of the film was in that light. She bought the happy ending, but I just couldn't.

I loved it the way I loved Blade Runner, which has (in its non-voiceover, director's cut incarnations), the same sort of ending. I can see why people compare it to The Matrix, but I was picking The Matrix apart in the middle of the film. Inception I have to think about, but I can't trivially blow it apart the way I did with even the first Matrix film (I never saw the others). Not unrelated, one of the people I saw it with thought it was Gibsonian, which I can't evaluate as I weirdly haven't read any Gibson, but I really thought it was Dickian.

For scorekeeping: the only Nolan movies I've seen are the two Batman films, and I really liked the first one but kind of hated the second.
posted by immlass at 7:43 AM on July 18, 2010


So I have heard that people are booing M Night Shamalyan in the trailers for his next movie, can anyone confirm?

I don't know about that, but at my showing of Inception, the entire theater laughed at the trailer for Charlie St. Cloud. It's not a comedy. Ouch, Zac Efron!
posted by Iridic at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


AND THEN PAM WOKE UP.

"NO, DOM. YOU ARE THE DEMONS." AND THEN DOM WAS A ZOMBIE.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It matters not how great a movie is, I simply cannot sit in a theater. 90 minutes in the dark unable to walk, pause the story, look things up, or talk to a friend is a hellish eternity.

Wow, that's pathetic. And Inception is 2.5 hours! Don't commit suicide before it's over.. I know you probably want to diddle with your iPhone/Pad/Touch/Blackberry/Droid and distract yourself from the cinema in many other ways. Please watch the film in the privacy of your own home where nobody can bother you and you can interrupt the continuum whenever you want. WAY TO ENJOY A FILM! What a winner.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


SPOILERS

they ask why Saito is old but Cobb is not

The reason is that it's not intriguing for an old (unrecognizable) Leo to wake up on a beach in the first scene of the film. Nolan does not respect his audience enough to go with logic--he'd rather go with thinly veiled trickery. This is also the reason the film opens with this scene, so that when it happens "again" later on, our first thought is not to question the disparity but to say, "I remember this!" The same technique is used in Michael Clayton (exploding car scene) to get around an obvious Deus Ex Machina.

it's consistent as far as the rules it sets up for how dreams work.

It was? The only phrase that seemed more repeated than, "We can't do this because... ZOMG!" (paraphrasing) was, "Oh yes we can because of this nonsense I failed to mention earlier" 20 minutes later when they needed to do this.

The sky outside the windows in this scene is pitch black, but it's definitely daylight when they reach the roof. What's the deal?

Lazy filmmaking. There are also scenes in that shitty van chase scene where it's raining like hell and if you look 10 feet beyond the van it's sunny as all get-out.

I hated Inception. I think Nolan's gone to shit since the Batman movies with this and Dark Knight being the two most disappointing films of the past ten years. He had so much promise with those first three films and he's settling for blockbuster bullshit.

Inception breaks the cardinal rule of thriller films: it's fucking boring. The movie is two and a half hours long and the middle hour and forty-five is a bloody snoozefest. Yeah, it's a pretty snoozefest, but when I saw it, people were checking the time on their cellphones repeatedly, and looking around like "can you believe this nonsense? when will it end?". I was one of them.

The film is dull and slow-moving. Everything in the film moves except the story.
posted by dobbs at 7:54 AM on July 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


As his [Shyamalyn] next film has not yet even been announced, it is pretty unlikely that there are trailers to boo.

I think people are considering Devil his next movie, even though it's only based on a short story of his. Probably because that's the way the moronic studio is promoting it.
posted by dobbs at 7:54 AM on July 18, 2010


My brain kept me awake way too long last night trying to make sense of the film. Silly brain.

SPOILERS:

I finally fell asleep last night when I convinced myself that Nolan made a movie that can't be puzzled out. I fall into the "glass half empty" camp regarding the ending - the kids haven't aged and are still in the same pose as his dream (right?), Caine shows up from nowhere to take him home, the film cuts before showing a kick that would get him and Saito out of limbo - and once I started questioning that reality, I lost any sense of where the dream/reality split might have started.

For instance, when Cobb wakes up from the super-sedative the first time, he's interrupted before his top stops spinning. Is everything after that a deeper level of that dream (although we see too many scenes from other characters' viewpoints, so maybe not)? Or when Mal tells him his reality is too bizarre, with shadowy figures chasing him around the globe constantly, which sounds like the subconscious attacks he described to Ariadne. And if she's just a dream, that would be a nice way of explaining away the clunky allusion of her name.

But there's no definitive answer because the film, by its very nature as a film, makes it impossible to identify any reality markers. One of the telltale signs of a dream, the inability to remember how you got to your current situation, is impossible to trace in films, which jump from one important scene to another. On one hand, the characters seem to move all over the world with remarkable ease. The transition from Kyoto to Paris is as abrupt as the shift from the hotel to the snow fortress, but that's how movies work. And like dreams, this progression seem natural to us despite the lacunae. And when we recognize those gaps, we can start to question the "reality" of the narrative. So Nolan's given us suggestive hints but no clues. And I love that - it's like the antithesis of the Shamalyn twist.

On the other hand, I could have done without the endless snowmobile chases, especially since it was impossible to tell anyone apart. But I could have watch Arthur fight in the gravity-less hallway all day.
posted by bibliowench at 8:07 AM on July 18, 2010 [21 favorites]


Don't you think that's a cop-out, though, bibliowench? If I, as a moviegoer, can't put two and two together, I'd rather it be because of my own inability to grasp something complex. If there aren't enough pieces to put the puzzle together by design, then that means the filmmaker has just given himself a huge excuse to back out of any criticism. If I ask "Hey, why is that when Fisher wakes up, he doesn't notice that he had been fucked with? I mean, at the beginning Saito obviously knew that someone had been in his dreams, right? And even if it is still Cobb's dream, wouldn't he have still woken up and wondered what the hell just happened in the real life version where they do successfully pull it off?" then the answer better not be "Exactly! Excellent question! WHO REALLY KNOWS INDEED! Maybe REAL LIFE is a dream!" because that makes me pissed.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:23 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


the lack of specific dates, computers and brands in the film.

The absence of other technology drew my attention to the weird place of dream-induction within the world of the film. It's explicitly chemical; Ariadne's lack of preconceptions indicates that it's not in open or common use in America and Europe; it seems to have a large and dependent following in the third world. Remind you of anything?
"And at the same time a corresponding change took place in my dreams; a theatre seemed suddenly opened and lighted up within my brain, which presented nightly spectacles of more than earthly splendour. And the four following facts may be mentioned as noticeable at this time:

1. That as the creative state of the eye increased, a sympathy seemed to arise between the waking and the dreaming states of the brain in one point—that whatsoever I happened to call up and to trace by a voluntary act upon the darkness was very apt to transfer itself to my dreams, so that I feared to exercise this faculty; for, as Midas turned all things to gold that yet baffled his hopes and defrauded his human desires, so whatsoever things capable of being visually represented I did but think of in the darkness, immediately shaped themselves into phantoms of the eye; and by a process apparently no less inevitable, when thus once traced in faint and visionary colours, like writings in sympathetic ink, they were drawn out by the fierce chemistry of my dreams into insufferable splendour that fretted my heart.

2. For this and all other changes in my dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words. I seemed every night to descend, not metaphorically, but literally to descend, into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless that I could ever reascend. Nor did I, by waking, feel that I had reascended. This I do not dwell upon; because the state of gloom which attended these gorgeous spectacles, amounting at last to utter darkness, as of some suicidal despondency, cannot be approached by words.

3. The sense of space, and in the end the sense of time, were both powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, &c., were exhibited in proportions so vast as the bodily eye is not fitted to receive. Space swelled, and was amplified to an extent of unutterable infinity. This, however, did not disturb me so much as the vast expansion of time; I sometimes seemed to have lived for 70 or 100 years in one night—nay, sometimes had feelings representative of a millennium passed in that time, or, however, of a duration far beyond the limits of any human experience.

4. The minutest incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later years, were often revived: I could not be said to recollect them, for if I had been told of them when waking, I should not have been able to acknowledge them as parts of my past experience. But placed as they were before me, in dreams like intuitions, and clothed in all their evanescent circumstances and accompanying feelings, I recognised them instantaneously. ... Of this at least I feel assured, that there is no such thing as forgetting possible to the mind; a thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever, just as the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas in fact we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are waiting to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn.
-Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
posted by Iridic at 8:39 AM on July 18, 2010 [19 favorites]


And even if it is still Cobb's dream, wouldn't he have still woken up and wondered what the hell just happened in the real life version where they do successfully pull it off?" then the answer better not be "Exactly! Excellent question! WHO REALLY KNOWS INDEED! Maybe REAL LIFE is a dream!" because that makes me pissed.

Conversely, this is why some people (me) thought it was fantastic (and Dickian, since Philip K. Dick is all about "reality wtf?").
posted by immlass at 8:40 AM on July 18, 2010


Inception is a hamhanded movie, with Cobb providing the semi-explanations all the way through so that at least the truly arcane aspects of the premises can be revealed. The dialogue is all very unnaturalistic. Characters talk to themselves, like in Elizabethan soliloquys, as a substitute for the director actually letting the uncertainty go (like Lynch in Mulholland Dr.). All the time that viewers spend fretting and chattering over the details of the physics, psychology, and architecture of Inception just tends to distract them from the aesthetic and pretentious mess of the damn thing. I'm a big fan of Nolan (Memento, Following, The Dark Knight), but this isn't up to his level.
posted by anothermug at 8:42 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Conversely, this is why some people (me) thought it was fantastic (and Dickian, since Philip K. Dick is all about "reality wtf?").

I'm not saying that creating a puzzle without all the pieces is good or bad - I am saying that it's a cop out on the part of the creator who doesn't trust his creation enough.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:47 AM on July 18, 2010


creator who doesn't trust his creation enough

This is a big part of the problem. One never gets the sense that Nolan understands completely or convincingly in the world he's trying to sell. Instead of committing, which requires confidence and certainty, he pulls back in order to allow ambiguity to conceal his lack of conviction. The result, as one critic put it, is a film to make stupid people feel smart. Yes, that's condescending--but the film itself is condescending. Apply this technique to a film like Memento and it falls apart--there are no visual pyrothechniques to tart it up--which is why Nolan is lucky his brother (absent from his latest flick) is such a good writer--but in a film like Inception, there's nothing but sheen. Scratch it away and you're left with something very ugly. Unfortunately I don't think contemporary audiences give a shit; the film will make mad cash and further distance the director from what made his first three features so interesting: surety in a puzzling and novel concept.
posted by dobbs at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I saw the name Ken Watanabe, I was thinking Gedde Watanabe.
posted by symbioid at 9:22 AM on July 18, 2010


All I know is that this movie made me feel like I did when I'd watch movies as a 13 year old. I didn't think movies could still do that.
posted by Telf at 9:33 AM on July 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


Dobbs, I disagree strongly with your assessment of this movie. That being said, you are obviously entitled to have opinions different from my own. I am however surprised by one of your gripes.

I'm at a loss as to how you could honestly believe that:
"The film is dull and slow-moving. Everything in the film moves except the story."

If nothing else, I would say that this was an incredibly fast paced and tensely edited movie. I'd feel like you were trolling if you weren't such an established poster. I actually checked your history to make sure you weren't some sock puppet, trolling account.

I felt as if I was holding my breath for the last hour of the movie and I'm surprised that someone could dislike this movie that much. I honestly almost feel like you are pulling an Armand White on us.
posted by Telf at 9:33 AM on July 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm not saying that creating a puzzle without all the pieces is good or bad - I am saying that it's a cop out on the part of the creator who doesn't trust his creation enough.

And I'm disagreeing with you. Not every film is made for everybody. I've read some intelligent criticism of Inception (A. O. Scott in the NY Times comes to mind), but "I don't like the point being that you can't always tell dreams from reality" is just not liking the theme/premise of the movie. My complaints about The Dark Knight were more or less about my distaste for his theme and Nolan's expression of it, so I understand the disappointment involved in someone making a movie I should want to watch and yet feeling like I was having fingernails pulled out during parts of it. But, I repeat, not every film is made for everybody.
posted by immlass at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2010


The way I interpreted the shift from nighttime inside the apartment to daylight on the roof of the building was not lazy filmmaking but... it's a dream. Time of day and scenery (and weather, etc.) can all change pretty abruptly in a dream, no? They do in mine, anyway.
posted by emelenjr at 9:55 AM on July 18, 2010


I saw this last night. I felt like it was conceptually and visually awesome. However, it was full of plot holes that were difficult to catch or question because premises kept piling up that the viewer had to take on faith (which is not necessarily a problem, particularly since it has parallels to dreaming so it works in this movie). My major criticism was that the dialogue writing felt weak. You know when you watch a movie and you're reminded that the actors are acting because something feels off? That was about the first half hour of the movie for me. I started to realize that all of the characters talked in the same way, which, again, works if it's all a dream and all characters are projections of one person's subconscious.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2010


I honestly almost feel like you are pulling an Armand White on us.

I never try to be contrarian on purpose; I honestly just thought the movie was dull. I'm not alone. Pretty much every negative criticism I read said the same thing. Around the web I've read, "so slow you almost fall asleep", "nap time thriller", "sags", "easy to fall asleep and dream up a better movie than this one", "depressingly lacking in imagination".

I'm sorry my dislike of the film so jars your belief in its powers, but, truly, this is a forgettable film on pretty much every level, except maybe visually (and I do mean maybe).

The film constantly sets up rules which it then breaks. I mean... okay, I hate discussing the plots of movies I hated because I usually dismiss them and then get so annoyed by having to defend my weak remembrances that I rewatch them. I saw DK three fucking times and hated every damn one of them--and was right about every plot hole even though I repeatedly was told I was not. I even read the script as someone said it was well written but poorly filmed (they were wrong--it was shot as written).

But here, from my very quickly fading recollection of the film (and keep in mind I was keen to see it--I went to the first screening (12 noon) in my city): Page's character is an architect--hired to create the dream worlds they're going to enter for the final job. She's shown in her intro dream sequence as having an uncanny knack for the work though doesn't know the rules ("invent, don't use memories")--in fact, she's so good at it that Leo--TWICE!--comments on how good she is at it.

Later, everyone is on a plane and EVERYONE enters the first dream level (the driving van, where they're ambushed). Okay, so we're now in the world that Ellen has created. The non-driving characters are then put under again while the driver must get to the bridge, which is the geographical spot where he can enter the kick (driving off the bridge).

He is then pursued by the most incompetent batch of "military" invaders known to man. Eight million of them can't stop an unarmored van driven by a chemist. Are you kidding me? But that's not the problem. The problem is that the bridge is on the other side of town. Why?! It's a world they created and are able to manipulate at will (as we saw in the earlier segment with an actual bridge growing out of the ground!)... how does this make sense on any level whatsoever? As an audience member, why do you buy this gibberish?

Further, when the rest of the team is on the second level, which operates at "regular" speed (the speed of reality), why does the van still drive at regular speed? It's supposed to be slower, right? But it isn't because, I suppose the studio or Nolan argued, it would be boring to watch the van cover the (unnecessary) distance at slow speed... but don't worry, I'll start to follow my own rule again when the van goes off the bridge, not only because it looks cool, but because I now have to because I have so much screen time to cover before the end. Holy fuck, choose a team and stick with it. If you don't want to follow a rule, don't establish the fucker. It's the equivalent of the bomb with 3 minutes ticking down with another reel to unspool.

Another example of this is in the foot chase. It's believable as a foot chase (I'll buy that Leo can evade these people), but once you arm them, all I can do is roll my eyes. As a storyteller, why do it? Worse, as a visual story teller, why do it? It's not hogwash cinematic bullshit where the director wants to have his cake (action with firepower!) and eat it to (Leo gets away). An honest question: did you buy this chase as presented to you? I posit that if you say yes, you're either lying to me or yourself. If your answer was no, why do you buy this gibberish, and how is this any different from the trickery which surrounds this entire film? It's no different.

And why do you buy that Leo has a team of people that he's worked with repeatedly or for years or both who know absolutely nothing about him and are repeatedly referred to as experts at what they do--who are then trumped both on their knowledge of Leo and the field in which they work by Ellen, who joined the team a few days ago. Leo and whatshisface declare the mission a failure and complete when Ellen stands up and says, "But...!" Are you kidding me? What is the point of their expertise, then?

I'll grant that I may be remembering the film and rules completely wrong--I truly was bored out of my mind and thinking about many other different things--so by all means feel free to correct me and call me out for not having the strength or interest to pay attention.
posted by dobbs at 10:37 AM on July 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


We had a dodgy projector at the start of ours - a digital one, which had a crazy blue channel. After ten minutes or so they restarted it and we got to see the whole film properly, which was a relief.

The film itself is awesome, and I didn't feel the ending left any unanswered questions which needed to be answered. Admittedly I do tend to go with the opinion that it's needlessly self-indulgent for a writer to leave you wondering what's real, and actually at that point it dissolves into not being important.

If there's a sequel, then it will matter, but until then I refuse to consider it. Events during the movie, by the way, were perfectly comprehensible. They made very sure of that.
posted by mathw at 10:40 AM on July 18, 2010


I'm sorry my dislike of the film so jars your belief in its powers, but, truly, this is a forgettable film on pretty much every level, except maybe visually (and I do mean maybe).

What a stunningly arrogant statement

"Your experience of this film is invalid, the truth is what I believe."
posted by uri at 10:41 AM on July 18, 2010 [18 favorites]


Sorry, I meant it IS hogwash cinematic bullshit. :)
posted by dobbs at 10:42 AM on July 18, 2010


I'm still trying to piece together some of the odder coincidences of the film, such as how one of the characters is named Robert (Bobby?) Fischer and Ariadne's totem is a chesspiece. I think there's a clue there for a deep reading of the movie somehow.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:44 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get with the program uri. I'm known for my stunningly arrogant statements. Or, you know, you could give me the benefit of the doubt and just imagine that years ago I got tired of putting "imo" after every sentence I type on the internet.
posted by dobbs at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Spoilers ahead!!!

Saw it yesterday, loved it. Regarding the totems: I thought the most important point in protecting your own totem was not to let others touch it. In the scene where Arthur and Cobb are explaining to Ariadne what totems are, Arthur pulls out his loaded die and shows her, but is careful to not let her touch it, as only he can know its weight, texture, etc, so that someone else cannot create a convincing facsimile in a dream world. Witness what went wrong with the dream world created to trick Saito at the beginning of the film: they made the green shag carpet out of polyester, not wool. Only Saito actually knew what his carpet in the real world felt like, so that is what tipped him off to the fact that he was in a dream. Presumably, in preparing a simulation of Saito's "love nest", Cobb and his cohorts visited the location, but didn't have time to take note of the carpet's feeling. As the architect says, "I didn't know he was going to rub his face in it!"

Re: the lack of specific dates, computers and brands in the film.

I did see a Nikon SLR camera in the background, on a table in the Paris workshop where they were planning the heist.
posted by good in a vacuum at 10:46 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


emelenjr, if you're right about that, I'd like to hear other examples of this happening in the movie. Ones I may have missed.
posted by lizzicide at 10:48 AM on July 18, 2010


DiCapprio's character ultimately must choose between accepting the reality dream or not or continuing to live in a world of doubts where phantoms from his own subconscious chase him around. It doesn't matter if it is all a dream, he is no longer able to master his own destiny or his dreams because he can't get beyond the death of his wife. The movie is an escape to a world where he can regain control of his life and stop living in places imagined by others.
posted by humanfont at 10:48 AM on July 18, 2010


Man, I must have seen a different movie from anyone else. I mean, I found the last 1.5 hours entertaining, but the first hour was ridiculously clumsy. Lacking the ability to show the viewer how this dream mechanic might work, they rely instead on constant exposition. Ellen Page's character is entirely 2D, as she does little except serve as a naive viewer who gets trotted out whenever the script needs to explain something.
posted by kernel_sander at 10:52 AM on July 18, 2010


Even if you don't like it - I did, but some of my friends I saw it with didn't - you can't deny the sheer professionalism of Inception. From the art design to the sets to the costumes to the cinematography, every scene looked like money. And Nolan didn't use his Batman Begins-style shakey cam, so the viewer was able to take it all in.

Another thing I appreciated was that Inception explored the dream logic side of things, rather than having something like the visually sumptuous fantasy worlds of The Cell or What Dreams May Come. I mean, I've never had dreams like the latter two movies. Inception is like a remake of Synecdoche, New York, but instead of artistic endeavor, its about mugging people while they sleep.
posted by fryman at 10:53 AM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


dobbs: With regard to a couple of your criticisms, I think that Nolan did stick to the rules of the world as they were set out earlier in the film.

The problem is that the bridge is on the other side of town. Why?! It's a world they created and are able to manipulate at will (as we saw in the earlier segment with an actual bridge growing out of the ground!)... how does this make sense on any level whatsoever?

They explain, during the scene with the bridge growing out of the ground, that the worlds they create must be convincing, otherwise the target will figure out that they are in a dream. Thus, they have to create a convincing simulation of the Los Angeles, or else Robert (Cillian Murphy's character), will realize he's in a dream and the jig will be up. Even once he's sedated in the van, they are still planning to have him wake up later (to escape the van once it's underwater), so they can't have him "waking up" into a world with magic bridges coming up out of the ground.

He is then pursued by the most incompetent batch of "military" invaders known to man. Eight million of them can't stop an unarmored van driven by a chemist. Are you kidding me?

Keep in mind that they are not real, trained military agents/soldiers/whatever. They are projections of Robert (Cillian Murphy's) subconscious, and are there because he had received training in subconscious security, in order to prevent exactly what Cobb & Co are trying to do. This is explained soon after they enter the first dream level once the heist begins. As they are projections, they would only be as effective (at aiming their guns, driving, etc) as Robert's training had been.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wow, this stuff is subjective, isn't it. I've been trying to think of plot holes, and can't- the movie made perfect sense by its own lights. That is it's a *movie* about *dreams*. Of course all the dots are not explicitly connected- some things just happen- but they make perfect sense as far as I can tell.

What happens with Saito- they kill themselves, what else would have happened? Why is Michael Caine suddenly in LA? Well, yes, he had been in Paris, but Cobb tells his kids way back in the first act that he's going to send them presents with Grandpa, so that gets him to the US, yeah?

And the ending- the top wobbles. As far as I can remember, that's unambiguous- when he spins it in dreams, it doesn't wobble at all. It's never shown wobbling, and then miraculously recovering. It's obviously going to fall. I don't believe any ambiguity was intended there at all. That's why the ending is perfect- because he gives you *exactly* enough information to know what has to happen.

It doesn't bother me at all that people don't like this- I don't understand it, but hey whatever, like I said I have my own personal reasons for digging it- but as far as I can tell, none of the objections I've seen about the substance of the plot/continuity/structure of it hold any water at all. I actually think that it works better there than *any* of Nolan's other features- I think there are more (love the movie but think about it later and go ) 'huh?' elements in Memento or the Dark Knight than there are here.

I mean, assuming you buy the (ongoing, unfolding) rationale for how dreams work here, I don't think it cheats at all.

But hey whatevs- if you haven't seen this, I think you should- not because I'm guaranteeing that it's great, but because it already looks like the kind of thing that hits people very differently.

I keep saying that given the premises, the plot totally works. I don't know that the premises do make any sense, given how dreams seem to work for me. But then again, this is *lucid* dreaming, at least for the extractors, so *sure* they'd be able to control and design etc. But the part about it being hard to implant ideas... why would that even be? Maybe other people are different, but I never know where the hell *any* of my ideas come from, and if you told me that someone else snuck them into my dreams, I wouldn't bat an eye. But that's not the point I guess- and maybe this stuff only works for me because I love Phillip K Dick so much- the point is not whether the world makes 'sense', it's what happens within that probably-flawed construction. And I do think that this works magnificently on those terms.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:04 AM on July 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Get with the program uri. I'm known for my stunningly arrogant statements. Or, you know, you could give me the benefit of the doubt and just imagine that years ago I got tired of putting "imo" after every sentence I type on the internet.

There's a difference between criticizing plot, characters, acting, cinematography, etc. and telling people that they didn't enjoy something they in fact enjoyed.
posted by uri at 11:06 AM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is explained soon after they enter the first dream level once the heist begins. As they are projections, they would only be as effective (at aiming their guns, driving, etc) as Robert's training had been.

Yes, this is where I got the word Military from. It's mentioned as a way, presumably, of heightening the drama, but has no real bearing on anything because they're incompetent. I would suspect that any training Fisher got would be more competent than a chemist driving an unarmored van in an unfamiliar city, but maybe that's just me.

Even once he's sedated in the van, they are still planning to have him wake up later

But they have a bag over his head at pretty much all times and when he comes to, he's on the shore. He doesn't see any of the chase after sedated, nor anything after waking on the shore.

Thus, they have to create a convincing simulation of the Los Angeles,

Like with freight trains running down the middle of the street? That kind of convincing Los Angeles? Again, I posit it's "have your cake and eat it to" storyteling.
posted by dobbs at 11:08 AM on July 18, 2010


And yes, I know the freight train wasn't part of the plan. However, I still think it's relevant to criticize it. If the point was to just show Cobb's subconscious invading, why, as a filmmaker, do it in a way that would alert Cillian?
posted by dobbs at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2010


dobbs: I think the whole movie is a dream, and all the characters are projections of Leo's unconscious. I'm not saying that should forgive any filmmaking faults, or excuse plot holes, but that's my interpretation of the film. I thought it was a great movie watching experience, though obviously not a flawless film. But I do think it's a classic right out of the gates. Gotta concur with whoever upthread said Inception made them feel like they were 13 again (I haven't been so engrossed and excited by a movie in a long time), and I loved the collective audience reaction at the end: gasps, laughter, murmuring, and plenty of "what the fuck?"

I would dig a sequel that takes the world and rules established in Inception and just runs with it. Surreal, shifting landscapes, gibberish language, people flying, teeth falling out, people spontaneously combusting, Freudian sexual fantasies, Jungian archetypes of the collective unconscious. Maybe the mission is to rescue Cobb from limbo, or the mark is an adept lucid dreamer who poses a serious challenge to the dream team?

Also I really dug the Oedipus/Monomyth ideas touched upon in the film ("I will dissolve my father's empire"), and am developing a reading of the movie that sees it as a metaphor for filmmaking (dream-weavers who con their marks into letting down their defenses of incredulity and disbelief so the dream engineers can provide a cathartic emotional release).
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:12 AM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


made them feel like they were 13 again

I think that's great if that did it for you. It had the opposite effect on me--reminded me that even the filmmakers I hold hope out for are succumbing to the kind of filmmaking I cannot stand. I was so disappointed in this movie that I came home and watched The China Syndrome. That reminded me of what it was like to watch movies when I was 13. And it has nothing to do with me being around that age when it originally came out. Just... a pure, thrilling thriller.
posted by dobbs at 11:22 AM on July 18, 2010


Fisher must've really loved GI Joe. It appears his subconscious trained its Projections in firearms ala Cobra.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I would suspect that any training Fisher got would be more competent than a chemist driving an unarmored van in an unfamiliar city

The city *wasn't* unfamiliar, though; that was the whole point of having Ariadne. She built the city and taught it to Yusuf.
posted by asterix at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think the freight train was introduced by Fischer's subconscious, or by the architect's. It was by created by Cobb's, and was another artifact of him losing control (as with Mal appearing at inopportune times). You can kind of guess this near the end when you see the significance of the train to Cobb.

Further, when the rest of the team is on the second level, which operates at "regular" speed (the speed of reality), why does the van still drive at regular speed? It's supposed to be slower, right? But it isn't because, I suppose the studio or Nolan argued, it would be boring to watch the van cover the (unnecessary) distance at slow speed...

In each level, time appears to move at "normal" speed as observed by people in that level. So the van chase happens at normal speed because we are watching the action from the point of view of the chemist, who is driving. Also, as you say, it would be boring to watch an extanded car chase in slow-mo. And, keep in mind that at levels lower than the van chase level (the hotel, the snow fortress, and limbo), time moves ever more slowly as you go down, meaning that it would be completely impractical to show time moving at the correct relative speeds on each level. Remember, what seems like decades on the limbo level would be seconds on the van chase level.

Nolan switches to slow motion once the van starts falling because at that point, the van is being used as a ticking timebomb-like device. The characters on the lower levels will run out of time to work once the van hits the water, so showing it falling is a reference point for the audience. Not to mention that once the van starts falling, there is nothing else of interest to show on the van level, until the characters wake up in it.

I don't have a response for your criticism of the chase scenes: it's another movie hero evading the bad guys and dodging the bullets. What can you say about it? I agree somewhat about the lack of expertise of the other members of Cobb's team, though.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:37 AM on July 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


I loved Inception. I also loved The Matrix (and now I need to track it down and re-watch it; I'm devastated that Netflix has the second and third movies on OnDemand but not the 1st). But I gotta agree with thescientificmethhead here: I would dig a sequel that takes the world and rules established in Inception and just runs with it. Surreal, shifting landscapes, gibberish language, people flying, teeth falling out, people spontaneously combusting, Freudian sexual fantasies, Jungian archetypes of the collective unconscious. Inception, in all it's wondrous awesomeness, almost didn't feel enough sci-fi-y for me. I guess I went in wanting The Matrix 2, and didn't quite get as much.

I still loved it.

Like with freight trains running down the middle of the street? That kind of convincing Los Angeles?

As explained in the film, the freight trains were not designed by Ariadne — Robert had been trained to protect himself, and thus his subconscious was fighting them off however it could. In a normal extraction, the subject's mind fills the scene with their own thoughts, acquaintances, whatever; in the inception, Robert's mind filled it with things dangerous to the intruder. This also might explain why the driver didn't die: Robert might not have been well-trained, or perhaps his defenses were lessened since he was asleep in this level.

I don't think the freight train was introduced by Fischer's subconscious, or by the architect's. It was by created by Cobb's, and was another artifact of him losing control (as with Mal appearing at inopportune times). You can kind of guess this near the end when you see the significance of the train to Cobb.

Interesting theory. Either way, the train wasn't introduced by Ariadne.
posted by good day merlock at 11:42 AM on July 18, 2010


Fischer and Ariadne's totem is a chesspiece. I think there's a clue there for a deep reading of the movie somehow.

I figured that the chess piece was a reference to Through the Looking Glass since she literally walks through a mirror at the beginning.

From CHAPTER VIII:
'So I wasn't dreaming, after all,' she said to herself, 'unless—unless we're all part of the same dream. Only I do hope it's MY dream, and not the Red King's! I don't like belonging to another person's dream,' she went on in a rather complaining tone: 'I've a great mind to go and wake him, and see what happens!'
posted by octothorpe at 11:42 AM on July 18, 2010 [21 favorites]


I'm still trying to piece together some of the odder coincidences of the film, such as how one of the characters is named Robert (Bobby?) Fischer and Ariadne's totem is a chesspiece. I think there's a clue there for a deep reading of the movie somehow.

I'd like to see more discussion in this direction as I've a lot of faith in Mefites' ability to pick up on these things. (And to be honest, people expressing their dislike for the movie makes for pretty boring discussion.)

So I'm still leaning towards the movie being more of a dream than reality. I'm kind of playing with the idea that Ariadne was planted by Michael Caine's character, who let's no forget, was Cobb's teacher.

Leo expressed his opinion that much of the story is possibly an intervention for Cobb. If we take this literally, then things become interesting.

So what's up with the names?

Well Adriane is a suspiciously obvious reference to a character from greek mythology, who helped defeat the minotaur in his labyrinth. (Threads, mazes, blah blah.) I'm curious if this is more specifically reference to:

Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the term used to describe the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze, a logic puzzle, or an ethical dilemma - through an exhaustive application of logic to all available routes.
(Doubt it.)

There's the above mention "Bobby Fischer" which is interesting.

Mal=bad? Short for?

Now none of the other characters seem to have really obvious references. Am I missing any? I mean Arthur... Eames... They're literary/historical, but I don't see obvious connections.

Caine's character is called Miles. I also don't see anything obvious there.

Ariadne chooses a chess piece, I think it was a bishop as her totem. (Also mentioned above.)

Arthur had a die.

Is it possible that Eames had a poker chip?

Cobb had the top, which might be a reference to the diagram he drew for Ariadne.

Now none of the other characters seem to have really obvious references. Am I missing any?

Is there anything that was given away in the dialogue?

I wonder about Cobb's comment on Eames' spelling. Does this come into play? There are two scenes where we see Cobb's airline tickets. Are there any spelling errors?


So unconsciousness/dreams are a big part of this movie. What are the obvious Freud/Jung/Campbell references?

I don't see anything as simple as an Id/Ego/Super Ego break down.

There's some oedipal stuff with the Fischers.

I'm sure there's a lot of stuff I'm missing. (duh)
posted by Telf at 11:43 AM on July 18, 2010


I was so disappointed in this movie that I came home and watched The China Syndrome.

I think I can understand where you're coming from. The day after seeing Inception I was still pretty jazzed by the movie and leafed through the DVD library to find a good movie to watch. I was just about to pick out Memento when I spotted Starship Troopers and decided I wanted to be entertained rather than bored (Memento is a cool, innovative movie, but once you've seen it a couple of times...and Verhoven has made some of the most entertaining sci-fi movies ever, imo. I also considered watching Total Recall due to certain similarities with Inception. And Starship Troopers is awesome action, great special effects, hilarious satire, and thought-provoking political applications, for those with the right kind of eyes.). Will my enjoyment of Inception hold up through repeat viewings? I don't know, but I do know the bastards will be getting my money at least twice more before the flick is out of the theaters.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:44 AM on July 18, 2010


Also, the use of Non, je ne regrette nien to indicate impending awakening was amusing, as I had just watched La vie en rose with Marion Cotillard the night before. An apt song for the situation, though. Great music throughout.
posted by good day merlock at 11:44 AM on July 18, 2010


(Of course, I mean rien. My first-year French teacher would be so embarrassed.)
posted by good day merlock at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2010


Saw it; liked it. (and a Tron Legacy preview!)

Some nice storytelling flourishes -- a few unnecessary ones (when the stewardess is working for you, there's no need to risk a sleight of hand passport theft and then spiking the drink as it's handed to the man, is there?) that I just have to shake my head at and then move on.

Unsure why, if Leo didn't find Saito for decades of subjective time, and they both entered "limbo" at roughly the same time from the previous level, Leo isn't also incredibly aged at the start and end of the movie.

But well done and worth another view, for sure.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think the freight train was introduced by Fischer's subconscious, or by the architect's. It was by created by Cobb's

Yes, I meant Cobb. Still, dropping a railspike in his lap would not have threatened the "reality" of the dream but would have accomplished the same thing--however, it's not a spectacle like a freight train on the street so that doesn't wash in Nolan's world.

Also, as you say, it would be boring to watch an extanded car chase in slow-mo.

But let me ask you good in a vacuum, did you find the van chase at all thrilling? What is its purpose but to thrill and if it fails at that... why is it there? It has no function. Remove the chase, remove the military men, give him his job to do and let him do it, and all is fine. There are plenty of (more thrilling) thrillers where a guy has a job to do and he simply does it. The story ends up exactly the same way, but maybe (thankfully) a bit shorter, and there's no disbelief at the incompetence of the shooters.

And, keep in mind that at levels lower than the van chase level (the hotel, the snow fortress, and limbo), time moves ever more slowly as you go down,

Huh? I thought it was the other way around. If 10 minutes feels like a decade to me then that decade moved very quickly, no? If someone were on level one and able to watch level 3 they'd be doing things at a very high speed, not a slow speed. Otherwise they'd accomplish one minute in their time to 10 minutes of mine.
posted by dobbs at 11:51 AM on July 18, 2010


Further, when the rest of the team is on the second level, which operates at "regular" speed (the speed of reality), why does the van still drive at regular speed?

I'm sorry, this doesn't make any sense at all.

The van doesn't drive at regular speed. It drives at slow speed relative to the dreamers. The film cuts to a few seconds of what's going on in the van, portrayed at normal speed, to show you that however long things have been going on in the second or third dream, it's just been a few seconds in the first dream. Am I really supposed to believe, after all that analysis you did, that you really found this in the slightest degree confusing? Even though you didn't find it confusing that they didn't show the second dream in slow-motion relative to the third dream (except maybe as the elevator explodes)?

The rule you mention Nolan following and then breaking is one that never exists in the movie except in your own dislike of it. The convention that's established is that you see each dreamstate in its own timeflow. They break that convention twice, first while the van is rolling over down the hill and again while it's falling, for the entirely normal cinematic reason that those are very short-lived events that are dramatically important, so they get dragged out. Alternately, because in those two instances showing the van in its own timeflow wouldn't make any cinematic sense, because you'd only get two or three frames of it and it wouldn't look like anything but a bright flash.

The problem is that the bridge is on the other side of town. Why?!

(1) There is absolutely no evidence of this. The bridge might well be a couple of blocks away; you have no reason to think that it is across town except that it takes the movie an hour or so to get them there... but that hour is spread across multiple timeflows.

(2) Yusuf is driving evasively, through what has been clearly described as a maze designed to throw off the projections, so the trip to get to a bridge that's even just one block away gets dragged out because he's trying to lose the projections and get more dreamtime.

I came home and watched The China Syndrome. That reminded me of what it was like to watch movies when I was 13. And it has nothing to do with me being around that age when it originally came out. Just... a pure, thrilling thriller.

Really? The China Syndrome? The movie drowns in its own turgidity and piousness.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:03 PM on July 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Dobbs,

I guess where you and I fail to understand each other is when we talk about our enjoyment of the movie.

You seem to keep harping on the fact that the movie was boring, drawn out, or otherwise unenjoyable.

What other people are saying is that we really enjoyed the movie. I'll speak for myself when I'll say that I enjoyed in more than any movie I've seen in about 10-15 years.

I thought it was very well done, very well paced, and incredibly well realized. It was exactly what I have missed in movies for a long time.

That's it.

You've already pulled out this little gem,
"The result, as one critic put it, is a film to make stupid people feel smart. Yes, that's condescending--but the film itself is condescending."

Which essentially means that I'm stupid for liking the movie. Well fine, I'm stupid. I was tricked by Nolan into liking this horrible piece of gibberish.

But what you have to accept is that people do genuinely enjoy this movie. Sorry. I thought the van scene was thrilling, and I thought the different speeds was a fantastic device. So to answer your rhetorical question:

"did you find the van chase at all thrilling? What is its purpose but to thrill and if it fails at that... why is it there? It has no function."


The purpose was to make a sweet ass fucking whose function was to entertain me and in no way failed to achieve those goals.
posted by Telf at 12:05 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow! Sorry for the f-bomb, but even more sorry about messing up that sentence so terribly.

Should obviously read "The purpose was to make a sweet a** f***** movie whose function was to entertain me...."

I wouldn't feel bad if that mods deleted that blunder.
posted by Telf at 12:09 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mal=bad?

I kept thinking along the lines of 'petit-mal' or absence seizure. Or a headache, which is mal de tête, right?
posted by carsonb at 12:13 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


But let me ask you good in a vacuum, did you find the van chase at all thrilling? What is its purpose but to thrill and if it fails at that... why is it there? It has no function. Remove the chase, remove the military men, give him his job to do and let him do it, and all is fine.

What? No. No no no.

The first thing they do is establish that what happens in the van dream matters -- it's not just die and wake up, it's die and go to limbo, which is described as bad. What's going on matters to Yusuf because Yusuf really really doesn't want to get killed in the dream.

What's going on matters to the dreamers in the van first because if he "dies," their dream collapses. Which on the one hand means they don't get the job done, and on the other hand might maroon them in the dreamstate or send them to limbo.

What's going on in the van chase also matters because Yusuf, being as you note a chemist and not some hardened SAS type, makes it through a few scrapes, "survives," and as the last projection is there with him on the lift bridge he decides, "Fuck it. Enough. I'm driving off the bridge now, because I'm sick of risking my life or sanity." But this is way, way too soon for the dreamers in the van or the dreamers in the hotel, so they have to throw away what remains of their plan and really improvise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:16 PM on July 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


The purpose was to make a sweet ass fucking

It's fine the way it is, Telf. No apologies necessary!

(Nolan in ur colon)
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:16 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


So I have heard that people are booing M Night Shamalyan in the trailers for his next movie, can anyone confirm?

The Devil trailer was shown as if it was another M Night Shamalyan movie. And yes, the people in my theater booed when his name was shown.

Personally, I loved the movie. I loved the ambiguous ending. I have lots of problems with it too, but it was enjoyable enough that I will likely see it again in the theaters.
posted by gemmy at 12:19 PM on July 18, 2010


thescientificmethhead: I think the whole movie is a dream, and all the characters are projections of Leo's unconscious... [I] am developing a reading of the movie that sees it as a metaphor for filmmaking.

I've been thinking along similar lines since around the middle of the movie. (No need to mention that this will contain spoilers at this point, right?)

I'm thinking of the movie at the first level of dream. There are a lot of parallels between the dreams, and the movie itself (and/or moviemaking in general). Some of these parallels are more hokey and cliche than others.

The first parallel: The architect builds the framework of the dream, but the dreamer fills in the details and populates the dream. This is pretty close to (cliche?) descriptions of writing. The writer describes general settings, and gives particular details only when important; otherwise the reader will fill in the details with her imagination.

Second: Dreams are populated by projections of the dreamer's unconscious. The script is populated by projections of the script writer's imagination.

Third: Violence in the dreams isn't real, nobody really dies. Violence in a movie isn't real, nobody really dies. If we believe in dreams-as-analogs, any unrealistic aspect of the violence in the dreams can be excused as analogous to unrealistic movie violence.

Fourth: We are dropped into a dream in the middle of the action, without knowing how we got there. The movie began in the middle (well, end) of the action, without knowing how Leo got there.

Fifth: In a dream, we need a "kick" to get us out of the dream. The "kick" has to come in reality, or the level closer to reality if we're in a dream-within-a-dream; it can't come within the dream itself. Now, imagine the scriptwriter writing this movie, immersed in the world of his creation. A kick within the script doesn't pull him out of this immersion -- it's part of the script. But someone kicks him in real life and suddenly he's jolted back out of his imagination. It's the same for the audience (not all of us, judging by this thread). We're immersed in the movie. Violence within the movie doesn't jolt us out of the movie, but if someone sitting next to us gives us an elbow, suddenly we're back in the theater, listening to people behind us loudly munch on popcorn.

So those are the parallels I can think of right now.

The particular choice for movie ending could make sense in this movie/dream parallel, to. Is Leo in reality at the end? Well, yes and no. Yes, because as someone mentioned, the top begins to wobble, and it didn't do that in any of the dreams. On the other hand, he's a movie character; there's no way he can be in reality. And ending the movie right at this moment gives the audience a little kick, to get them back into reality. Which is exactly what happens. The movie ends, we wake up from the movie world, back into reality.

(There's a problem with this last point about the top, though. It drops earlier on in the movie, so What, the movie was reality enough before but not now? Well, the best time to make the distinction between movie reality and reality-reality is right at the end, at the moment we move from the movie back into reality.)
posted by Someday Bum at 12:19 PM on July 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Telf, I think you think I'm trying to convince people they didn't like the movie or that they shouldn't like the movie. That's not my goal. I'm trying to understand why people like it because I find it wholly unlikeable. Obviously, people have different tastes in movies. A gazillion people liked The Dark Knight. I didn't. I'd like to know why--so when I've discussed that movie with people, I've brought up what I consider its many plot holes and the thing that seems to be universal in peoples' responses to me is that they don't care about the plotholes. They admit they're there but that they were swept up in the action well enough to not notice them while they were watching. I find that very odd.

The purpose was to make a sweet ass fucking whose function was to entertain me and in no way failed to achieve those goals.

That's fine. I accept that. However, when I enter the thread and offer my own (apparently unpopular) summation, it's questioned whether I'm a troll or contrarian on purpose.

I'll accept that you find the film entertaining if you'll accept that I find it to be the opposite. Others' bafflement that I could find the film boring is equal to my own that they'd find it exciting. My questions about the storytelling may come across as insincere but I assure you they're not.
posted by dobbs at 12:20 PM on July 18, 2010


Fair enough. Horses for courses. So who's seen Valhalla Rising?
posted by Telf at 12:24 PM on July 18, 2010


Inception was brilliant. But not as a movie.

What was brilliant about Inception was the meme that was spread well ahead of the movie. You all know what I mean - because the meme was so successful.

The meme that was spread told us that Inception was edgy, high-concept ... cerebral.
Most people wouldn't get it. There was much worry about whether the film would be successful because perhaps people wouldn't understand it.

Brilliant.

No one wants to be the idiot that says they didn't get it. Didn't get it , not because the plot was full of holes (why, it was only a dream after all) or the character development was essentially nil (edgy) or the background story was essentially a Deux ex Machina disguised as existential angst.

Let's not question why people can share dreams just by having a wire hooked up to the crook of their arm (their arm for christ's sake!?) or why the technology works exactly the same even when a dream machine gets connected to your dream arm.

Let's not question any of that. Because if we do then we become one of the many who we we were all so concerned about who just wouldn't get it.

Bravo.... bravo. The Emperor's new Clothes has become the Film Directors new Plot.
And the critics are now afraid to comment that the film is essentially naked because no one these days can afford to lose their edge.

Brilliant marketing.

Let me summarize this film for you:
Stuff blows up. Lots of chase scenes. Long fight scenes reminiscent of the Matrix. Shit happens. Why exactly the shit happens is left for us to interpret. Plot? Not really, this is "high-concept". High-concept in this case means that theuy did it with DeCaprio instead of Van Damme.

I thought I went to see a truly thought provoking movie but it turned out to be only a dream
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:25 PM on July 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


A couple of questions/observations if anyone's still looking at the thread:

1. What do people know when they enter Limbo? How do you get out? Does killing yourself work?

There seems to be a lot of inconsistencies on how Limbo operates.

It seems that if you die in Limbo, you get out, because Ariadne pushes Fischer off the building and then jumps and they both get out. And Old Man Saito picks up the gun and (presumably, since we don't see it) kills Cobb and himself.

But this doesn't mesh with what we're told about Limbo, which is that it's a wild dream state you can be lost forever in. If you can just kill yourself and get back, how is it different than any other dream level? Why couldn't Cobb and Mal have killed themselves and gotten out when they did that experiment when they were young, instead of being stuck for 50 years? Why couldn't Saito have killed himself immediately upon entering Limbo instead of growing old?

One thought is that when you enter Limbo you immediately lose the ability to tell between reality and the dream world. But this doesn't seem true because Ariadne and Fischer seemed to still know they were in Limbo upon arrival. Also, when Cobb and Mal first went to Limbo in the past, they seemed to be aware that it was a dream. He describes them feeling like they were gods, could do anything, etc. It didn't sound like they were confusing dream and reality. The way he told it it sounded like they didn't understand the nature of dream time (he explicitly says this), and so were there for so long that Mal got confused and forgot reality by locking her totem up. But Cobb seemed to have still known Limbo was not reality; he was trying to convince Mal to leave, and ultimately had to trick her.


2. How did Cobb know Saito was dead while in Limbo?

Cobb and Ariadne save Fischer. Cobb then says he has to stay and get Saito....but Saito didn't die until after both Cobb and Ariadne went into Limbo. How did Cobb know Saito was dead? Cobb knew he was badly hurt and dying, but not dead. He should have had no way of knowing if Saito was in Limbo at all.

3. Why didn't the zero-gravity effect of the van falling in Dream Level 1 affect the hotel in Dream Level 2 but not the snow fortress in Dream Level 3?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:25 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The first thing they do is establish that what happens in the van dream matters -- it's not just die and wake up, it's die and go to limbo

I know it matters, but I don't care about it. I don't think that's my fault. I think it's the fault of the filmmaker. His job is to make me care. Instead, I think, "Ho hum, another chase. Millions of bullets that don't do damage. Incompetent bad guys. Didn't I just watch this 30 minutes ago but on foot?" My point is that if you must rely on a trope as played out as these, please, just skip it. Instead, give us some other reason to suspect he might not make it. Make him incompetent. Make him tardy. Make him bleeding profusely. Make him all three. Or, just let him do his task. I don't know as it's not my job to make the film, it's my job to get wrapped up in it. But... I couldn't. And I feel that I couldn't because of lazy storytelling; spectacle instead of substance.
posted by dobbs at 12:35 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've brought up what I consider its many plot holes and the thing that seems to be universal in peoples' responses to me is that they don't care about the plotholes. They admit they're there but that they were swept up in the action well enough to not notice them while they were watching. I find that very odd.

I think that you may go to movies for different reasons than many (most) other people. Personally plot holes don't usually bother me all that much as long as they are not too insulting and explained with a minimum of hand waving. Inception had enough good ideas and a plot that moved fast enough that I bought it while I was siting in a nice air conditioned theater for two and half hours.

And for that matter, none of your plot holes really bother me now. The central theme that an idea can be more dangerous than cancer or guns is a really neat one to hang a movie on and I really like what Nolan did with that concept.
posted by octothorpe at 12:37 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


A couple of questions/observations if anyone's still looking at the thread:
You know what's really interesting?

Those questions and answers that you posted (part of a larger Q&A)are being spread throughout the web verbatim on quite a few sites.

I'm guessing by the same marketing team that convinced so many that the movie was too "cerebral" for most.

.... and the marketing goes on ... thanks for playing Sangermaine.
The hype continues.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:41 PM on July 18, 2010


Still, dropping a railspike in his lap would not have threatened the "reality" of the dream but would have accomplished the same thing--however, it's not a spectacle like a freight train on the street so that doesn't wash in Nolan's world.

Yes, it is spectacle, but also remember that Cobb isn't in control of his subconscious (nor is anyone else). For the same reason that Mal keeps appearing inside dreams when Cobb is trying to work, the train shows up and threatens the mission (assuming I'm right about its origin; this is just my interpretation). It's more evidence that Cobb is losing it. Cobb didn't knowingly pop a freight train in there on a whim. You're right though, Hollywood will choose a train in city traffic over a railway spike in the lap most days, although either would have served the same function.

But let me ask you good in a vacuum, did you find the van chase at all thrilling? What is its purpose but to thrill and if it fails at that... why is it there? It has no function.

I found it to be pretty standard summer blockbuster car chase -- so no, not particularly thrilling, as far as movie chases go. It was there to add tension (as ROU_Xenophobe explained upthread), and to keep the audience in touch with that what was going on in that dream level. Of course, Nolan could have just have not had bad guys with guns, and had Yusef park the van and read a newspaper while the others are sedated, but that wouldn't be as thrilling or tense as a car chase. However, at numerous points in the movie I found myself wishing they would shorten the chase/fight/shootout scenes and get on with it, so I agree with you there.

Huh? I thought it was the other way around.

I see what you mean, and I think I chose my words poorly, but my point was that with all the different dream levels moving at different speeds, it would be impractical to have a film moving at four different speeds. What is important is that we understand that these relative time differences exist, not whether they are actually being portrayed completely accurately.
posted by good in a vacuum at 12:43 PM on July 18, 2010


SPOILRARRRS!!!

Cobb didn't need to go to America to be with his kids, he could have paid for them to fly to him. Of course, the movie would have ended after 10 minutes.
posted by Elmore at 12:56 PM on July 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


Saingermaine: I think that the van falling manifested itself different on different dream levels. On the hotel level, it was zero g, but on the snow fortress level, it was the avalanche. Unless I'm misremembering, and the avalanche actually coincided with the van rolling down the hill.

I agree with you about the inconsistencies with limbo. It seems that people who go there knowingly (i.e. by being sedated, as Mal and Cobb did together, and as Cobb and Ariadne do later to rescue Fischer and Saito) are aware that they are in limbo, whereas people who go there as a result of dying (as Saito and Fischer do) are not. Or something. Presumably, Saito could have killed himself at any time to escape, but didn't as he thought that it was reality.

I'm not positive about how Cobb and Ariadne knew that Saito was dead. Didn't Eames walk into the room where Saito was making his last stand and see his body? My memory is fuzzy on this point. If so, perhaps he then told Cobb and Ariadne before they went to limbo.
posted by good in a vacuum at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Poet_Lariat,

Wow, really? Can you link me to where they are posted "verbatim"? Because they were copied and pasted from a post I made on reddit yesterday. I guess I'm Internet famous now?

Thanks for being a dick, though. It's refreshing to get asshole answers to genuine curiosity.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:05 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, it is spectacle, but also remember that Cobb isn't in control of his subconscious

Except we're not watching Cobb's subconscious. We're watching what Nolan puts in front of us. The beat for the scene was to set up that Cobb's subconscious was manifesting itself. There are any number of ways that Nolan could have communicated this. Spectacle triumphed regardless of how it "broke" the "rule" of keeping the world normal for Fisher's benefit. Of course, if it actually DID threaten Fisher's deception, I'd be all for it, but that would have presented Nolan with an unwinnable challenge.
posted by dobbs at 1:09 PM on July 18, 2010


How did Cobb know Saito was dead?

He didn't -- he said, "Saito must be dead by now" (or similar). Meaning that his injuries were clearly fatal and it was always just a matter of time.
posted by nev at 1:14 PM on July 18, 2010


Poet_Lariat being a gigantic twat aside, this earlier comment struck me:

"Not unrelated, one of the people I saw it with thought it was Gibsonian, which I can't evaluate as I weirdly haven't read any Gibson, but I really thought it was Dickian."

I also came away with the feeling that the movie was very "Gibsonian". It could have come straight out of Burning Chrome. It didn't feel "Dickian" because, like other posters here, I thought the movie was fairly ham-handed with a lot of flash and seeming "depth" but not much actual substance. There was very little actual thought or exploration of what the movie presented as questioning the nature of reality. The movie was a gimmicky, fun heist movie and little more, which was disappointing. I expected more from Nolan.

This isn't to knock on Gibson, because I love his work. It's just that this works so much better as a cyberpunk hacker story. Nolan managed to make a movie about dreams that is utterly un-dreamlike. In fact, I'd say the dream aspect is entirely irrelevant to the plot. The way it's presented is so mechanical and predictable it seemed more like they were talking about a computer program.

A team of super-hackers using modified military brain-hacking technology to pull off a feat of corporate espionage for a Japanese executive against a rival so the desperate, jaded expert console cowboy can get his name cleared of a crime he didn't commit is pure Gibson.

The "dream world" Nolan set up feels more like what The Matrix should have done, while The Matrix felt more like what Inception should have been like. In The Matrix, once you realized the false nature of your world you could learn to control and alter it in almost any way you wanted...like a lucid dream. In Inception, the worlds have strict, mechanical rules that are essentially laws of nature whether or not you realize you're in a dream; only the creator of the dream can make drastic changes to the world...like a computer program.

On preview:
He didn't -- he said, "Saito must be dead by now" (or similar).

Did he? I recall differently, that he explicitly says "We have to find Saito" without the line you suggest, but I could be wrong.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:23 PM on July 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


Spectacle triumphed regardless of how it "broke" the "rule" of keeping the world normal for Fisher's benefit.

This also doesn't make any sense. Cobb's subconscious doesn't need to care about preserving the illusion for Fisher or for getting the job done.

This rule -- everything in the van-dream must be a convincing illusion for Fisher -- is another rule that you're creating out of whole cloth just to show Nolan is breaking it.

Obviously, the stuff that they designed was to create a convincing illusion for Fisher. But there is no reason at all to expect that things that weren't designed, things that are actively fucking up the job, have to maintain the illusion for Fisher.

To get at it as you stated it earlier:

If the point was to just show Cobb's subconscious invading, why, as a filmmaker, do it in a way that would alert Cillian?

Because that way it adds tension to the scene, even if it didn't work for you. If it was just a red rose appearing on the dashboard, so what? That's not going to mess up the dream, so who cares?

Going back to other complaints that also don't make any sense:

He is then pursued by the most incompetent batch of "military" invaders known to man. Eight million of them can't stop an unarmored van driven by a chemist. Are you kidding me?

No, what he's pursued by are the embodiment of reflexes and urges. Distinctly subhuman autonomic processes, mere tiny portions of the mind of Fisher while his attention is more or less wholly devoted to another place entirely (the hotel-dream and snow-dream). They're no more competent or incompetent than a macrophage, and presumably about as easy to outwit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:27 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I get what dobbs is saying about the military guys and how ridiculous they are. Here's what would have made more sense and been just as interesting: Fisher was apparently trained to ward off extractors, so his subconscious knows what to do when it sense trouble, right? Well, wouldn't it make more sense to train your subconscious to shoot YOU and or at least give YOU a kick to wake YOU up from your dream, rather than having to hunt down and kill a bunch of random people in your dream, none of whom you know are the bad guys or the good guys. Just: something is wrong, someone is here who shouldn't be here, quick, somebody kill me so I wake up. So the drama/conflict is in the fact that all these random people are trying to kill Fisher, and they have to protect Fisher from his own subconscious, because they can't let him wake up. But of course, now that he's sedated, there's another reason why they can't let him die - they don't want him to die and go to limbo. This would logically make more sense, and it would improve the drama of the film, because instead of a bunch of random guys shooting all willy nilly and missing everybody, they're only out to kill one guy, and the good guys can more easily protect one guy than having everyone be a target. Of course, then you don't get Saito shot which is an important subplot - well, no, actually, you could have him shot inadvertently.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:36 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I also came away with the feeling that the movie was very "Gibsonian". It could have come straight out of Burning Chrome.

My husband (who is familiar with Gibson) said it lacked a key element of Gibsonian cyberpunk: nobody on the team doublecrosses the rest of them, except the original architect betraying them to Saito. You could argue Cobb not telling anyone except Ariadne, when forced, about Mal could be a doublecross, except Arthur clearly knows something is wrong already and a bunch of the details, since he handles some of the exposition duties.

It didn't feel "Dickian" because, like other posters here, I thought the movie was fairly ham-handed with a lot of flash and seeming "depth" but not much actual substance. There was very little actual thought or exploration of what the movie presented as questioning the nature of reality.

Dick's books--not the movies based on them, the actual books--are downhill ski runs in exactly the same way that Nolan ran down the hill with Inception once things got started. Nolan spent some admittedly clunky exposition telling you how the dream world works, but the reality-busting was what he showed you in the final scenes. It may work better for you as a cyberpunk hacker story, but it worked better for me as a mindfuck a la Ubik, or the tail end of the various director's cuts of Blade Runner (which Dick approved of). Dick was a brilliant conceptualist but his writing and plotting left something to be desired in many of his books.

The trappings of Inception, except for calling it "dreamspace" instead of "cyberspace", are pretty cyberpunk, but that's because cyberpunk won and that's what we think undescribed near-futures look like now. That doesn't make it thematically cyberpunk, though.
posted by immlass at 1:53 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This rule -- everything in the van-dream must be a convincing illusion for Fisher -- is another rule that you're creating out of whole cloth

Well I can't argue B and not B. I argued that not altering the city to help the driver get to the bridge (or keep the bad guys away) broke a rule established earlier (that the architect can manipulate the world while in it) and was countered by good in a vacuum who said that that wasn't possible because it would make it clear to Fisher that he was being attacked (even though, to my mind, the military men are already indications that he's being attacked). Now you're saying that's not an issue. Which is it? It can't be both.

They're no more competent or incompetent than a macrophage, and presumably about as easy to outwit.

Then why manifest them as military men with guns?! Don't blame the audience because the filmmaker took a well established film device and meant it to be something else. Further, when in the training video you're given the distinct impression that these people want to tear the invader apart. And they're unarmed. Again, the filmmaker doesn't get the benefit of threat without the actuality of threat. Do you hold him to no foundation whatsoever?
posted by dobbs at 2:00 PM on July 18, 2010


The defense is working on a subconscious level - being trained just means instead of civilians you get military. Like white cells and super white cells? You can't train your white cells to listen to you, you can only enhance them (number, power, etc).

That's my take.
posted by jstarlee at 2:05 PM on July 18, 2010


No one wants to be the idiot that says they didn't get it.
Except for you, brave soul. Good for you!

Anyways... man, I have to admit I feel a little dirty being an unpaid (seriously guys!) apologist for a fucking 200 million dollar h'wood extravaganza... and hey, maybe if he'd made this back before Batman for a 10th of the budget, it would have pleased folks more somehow... BUT:

Maybe there are some inconsistencies with how limbo is handled, but I'm not sure about that. When Cobb and Ariadne go after Mal to get Cillian Murphy back, I don't think that's supposed to be limbo- it's more like a dream of Cobb and Mal's limbo. The two of them are going there consciously, not dying into it, and Mal- well, she's not real at all, is she? So she's not in limbo either. (and the tension, for me, where it seems like it becomes clear to her that she *isn't* real - is an important part of the emotional through-line of the movie. 'course, if you don't buy that throughline to begin with, I suppose the rest of it is all kinda pointless.)

But so anyways, that would mean that Saito was the only one who had actually *fallen* into Limbo- and who no longer knew he was dreaming- so I figure that's why he'd aged, and neither Cobb nor Ariadne or Fischer did. Because he was either in a different place (that Cobb apparently had to die to get to, although I don't think that's entirely clear) or at least he was the only one who'd ended up there without remembering how. Hence why he hadn't just killed himself already.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:06 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well I can't argue B and not B. I argued that not altering the city to help the driver get to the bridge (or keep the bad guys away) broke a rule established earlier (that the architect can manipulate the world while in it) and was countered by good in a vacuum who said that that wasn't possible because it would make it clear to Fisher that he was being attacked (even though, to my mind, the military men are already indications that he's being attacked). Now you're saying that's not an issue. Which is it? It can't be both.

The more severe the attack (on the dream) is, the more powerful the defense becomes I believe. In the comic pre-quel

[comic prequel spoiler alert!!]

in the comic pre-quel Arthur caused a diversion but as soon as the defense (police officers) realized that something more serious is going on, they left Arthur alone.

Also maybe only the architect can alter the landscape? But how did Arthur create the paradox in the hotel? Maybe as long as one has architect background or enough dream-venturing experience he/she can do it and the chemist can't?
posted by jstarlee at 2:14 PM on July 18, 2010


Now you're saying that's not an issue. Which is it? It can't be both.

Of course it's an issue for the dream.

That's the point.

The dreamer who's holding the dream in his head shouldn't make big alterations because it alerts the subject's unconscious to the fact that it's in a dream.

That doesn't mean they can't. Only that doing so is likely to jeopardize the job. You're conflating impossible with counterproductive or foolish. And, to be clear, you're conflating them; I cannot imagine someone sincerely reading good in a vacuum's comment to mean that it is in any sense impossible to do so; it's a clear description of why doing so is inadvisible.

Then why manifest them as military men with guns?!

I don't get it. Why not? They're mental agents that defend the subject's psyche. I mean, sure, they could manifest as flowers, or as giant piles of dog feces floating silently in the air and rotating slowly, or as zombies, or as the color green. But having them manifest as what look like Secret Service agents or similar makes immediate cinematic sense. That seems like a reasonable way for someone's mentality to visualize its protective agents.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:25 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Trying to dissect meaning out of this film is like attempting to extract gourmet value from a Swanson's TV dinner. It's just not there.

The genius of Extract is that WE'VE been planted with the idea - that this movie has some merit, some cinematic value. The idea has taken such root that some are now parroting the post-release marketing hype seen o other websites and believing it to be their own.

But the film is without substance. It is the flimsiest form of fantasy - without substance , plot or believable back-story. We come out of the film with with no answers at all , no real insight into the characters . All in all it was like a two and a half hour perfume commercial. What the hell did it all mean?

Who WAS Ellen Page's character? What do we really know about her other then she likes to build dream worlds. So convenient that she turns out to be exactly what DiCaprio's character needs to continue on his journey to ... where exactly?

As one MeFite pointed out earlier the movie was based on the flimsiest of plotlines : the need for DiCaprio's character to see his children again - when in fact a round trip ticket could have solved that problem and game over. The rest of the movie was similarly without real thought or substance.

In Extract we're "treated" to about an hour of car chases , fight scenes, Bond-like ski chases and Matrix-like effects. And what we end up with is the Star Trek plotline we all know and hate: it was all just a dream.

Did it ever really happen? Dis I ever really spend 11 bucks to see this piece of crap that I was told would be so different that only the best and the brightest would really be able to get it.

I get it. And I want my 11 bucks back.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:27 PM on July 18, 2010


immlass

Good point about the lack of a double-crosser.

I agree that it wasn't thematically cyberpunk, but it did have the trappings, which is more of what I meant. The movie certainly didn't really have the typical cyberpunk themes.

hap_hazard

People point out the "dying vs. voluntary entry" distinction with Limbo, and it's a good point, but I'm not sure it entirely works for two reasons:

1. If it's true that where Cobb and Ariadne go is not Limbo but is some kind of construct of Cobb's, why is Fischer there? Fischer died, so he should have gone to Real Limbo. He wouldn't be in the realm Cobb and Ariadne enter. Cobb and Ariadne were going after him, and since he died and went to Limbo, why would they enter a separate construct instead of Real Limbo where Fischer was?

2. Ariadne and Fischer get out of the crumbling city place by leaping off of a tall building. Yet this causes them to awake back in Dream Level 3, the Fortress. But we're told that because of the heavy sedatives being used, death in the dream doesn't result in awakening at a "higher level" like usual, but in going straight to Limbo. That was the whole threat of Limbo that's hanging over everyone and why they couldn't just kill Saito or themselves to escape any time they wanted. So if the crumbling city was just a construct of Cobb's and not really Limbo, when they jumped out of the building Ariadne and Fischer should have gone to Real Limbo because they died in the dream under the sedative which was still in effect. But they didn't, they woke up, which appears to be what happens when one kills oneself in Limbo.

On preview:
Poet_Lariat

The idea has taken such root that some are now parroting the post-release marketing hype seen o other websites and believing it to be their own.


Christ, did I run over your dog or something? Please knock off the jabs. Some people want to discuss the movie. You clearly think it's pointless, so why do you keep commenting here?
posted by Sangermaine at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


But how did Arthur create the paradox in the hotel? Maybe as long as one has architect background or enough dream-venturing experience he/she can do it and the chemist can't?

He didn't. She created. Arthur just lead the bad guy to it.

The more severe the attack (on the dream) is, the more powerful the defense becomes I believe.

Hard to get more severe than a freight train coming through downtown.

That doesn't mean they can't. Only that doing so is likely to jeopardize the job.

I honestly feel that we're arguing the same point but you're not following it out to its conclusion.

a. You don't want to fuck with the dreamscape as it threatens the job.
b. so you don't fuck with the dreamscape and it's therefore very difficult for the chemist to do his task.

but

1) when the dreamscape is fucked with (the train)
2) there are NO consequences for the job

The argument that Cobb didn't intentionally put the train there ignores the fact that Nolan intentionally did just that... and then reaped the benefits (visual spectacle) without paying the price (story complications resulting from the spectacle).

If the purpose of the train beat is to show the beginning invasion of Cobb's subconscious on the dreamscape (or are you suggesting that *in the story* it serves some other purpose), then why, as a storyteller did Nolan choose to not portray that beat in a way that doesn't undermine the rule he'd already established? The answer, to my eyes, is that he knows that audiences don't give a shit--they'd rather see car crashes and explosions than thoughtful, well-crafted storytelling. Do you agree with this presumption? If not, please explain your take.

I don't get it. Why not? They're mental agents that defend the subject's psyche.

Because by arming them the implication is that they are an actual threat when, clearly, they are not. What is the purpose of the dialogue to explain that they're militarized or trained if it serves no function to the story? If they're just a bunch of angry gnats... I mean, really?! To my mind, had the pedestrians revolted (as they had during the training segment) but en masse due to the train, it would have been interesting. No rule would have been broken, no ridiculous cinematic trope would have been trotted out, and dozens or hundreds of people chasing the guy in the van, unarmed, would have been more interesting, unique, and thrilling. It would have also been a more even a match. But Nolan went for the obvious and the lazy and, to me, unbelievable.
posted by dobbs at 2:45 PM on July 18, 2010


Sangermaine-
But did Fischer really die? It seemed like he didn't- that Mal abducted him. And being a projection, she would have taken him to one of the places she knew- not limbo, but one of the places in (basically) Cobb's subconscious, where she still (somewhat) lived.

And, again, did Ariadne and Fischer really 'die' from leaping off that building? Maybe that was just the 'kick' they needed?

I'm kind of spitballing here... I guess I can't make a good-faith rational argument about this stuff, all I'm really saying is it seemed like it made story-sense. Dream-logic... and hey, that makes the whole movie unassailable, right?

No, of course not. That sort of argument applies to, say Inland Empire or The Fall (the movie, not the band, although, hey. maybe...) But on the other hand, I don't think this movie was ever trying to be like, say, Primer- where you could sit down and practically reverse-engineer the central MacGuffin if you watched it enough times.

I'm not going to try to argue with anyone (anymore) about plot-logic- at least not 'til I've seen it again- because I think it's really not about obsessively connecting dots, as much as it is about artistic process, the nature of memory, how we know what's real, and all that phildickian jazz. And if a person doesn't find it interesting thematically, then probably no amount of explanation/apology is going to change things for them

Not going to argue except to insist that the ending is not ambiguous at all. Not only does the top wobble, but you see their faces, which never happened in his dreams either. UNAMBIGUOUS!
posted by hap_hazard at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2010


a. You don't want to fuck with the dreamscape as it threatens the job.
b. so you don't fuck with the dreamscape and it's therefore very difficult for the chemist to do his task.

but

1) when the dreamscape is fucked with (the train)
2) there are NO consequences for the job


Oh. I took that as the usual INCREDIBLY RISKY THING HAPPENS BUT IT TURNS OUT OKAY that entertainment is full of. It was important for Cobb's subconscious to break in in a way that was dangerous, but that didn't actually cause harm.

Because by arming them the implication is that they are an actual threat when, clearly, they are not.

Ken Watanabe disagrees.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would have also been a more even a match. But Nolan went for the obvious and the lazy and, to me, unbelievable.

A characterization I would apply to the entire movie. To paraphrase a Rotten Tomatoes critic , Nolan's dreams appear to be directed by Michael Bay.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:54 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh. I took that as the usual INCREDIBLY RISKY THING HAPPENS BUT IT TURNS OUT OKAY that entertainment is full of.

But ROU, then it's just whim. Do you want stories to be decided by whim? Do you want plot and consequence to be whatever is easiest for the storyteller? Where's the benefit (or fun) in that?

Further, it's not an incredibly risky thing for the characters as it's nothing they control. It's only risky for the filmmaker. Can you cite examples of this in other movies that actually work?

It was important for Cobb's subconscious to break in in a way that was dangerous, but that didn't actually cause harm.

Why was it important for it to be dangerous? In fact, I'd argue the opposite. It should have been completely inconsequential, almost missed, and quickly dismissible so that it could build to danger at the end when he's with his wife. I mean, if Nolan had made Chinatown there'd have been a scene 20 minutes in with Cross fondling Evelyn's breasts instead of the thoughtful setups that occur throughout Towne and Polanski's version.
posted by dobbs at 3:06 PM on July 18, 2010


Dick's books--not the movies based on them, the actual books--are downhill ski runs in exactly the same way that Nolan ran down the hill with Inception once things got started.

Yes. This. This movie was Dickian in that it had an interesting concept at its core but its execution was inconsistent and confusing and it felt like established rules got broken or bent without any explanation of how, and there was some brilliant but mysterious brunette floating around making trouble by beguiling the hero and screwing up the action. Watching it was just like reading a middling PKD novel - and there were many, many middling PKD novels - you spend the first 30 pages thinking, dang, this guy has got something here - and then it starts rushing into avenues you find non-fruitful and spending too much time on bullshit and then you hit the last 30 pages and suddenly Phil realizes, shit, I've got to think up some way to resolve all this, and you spend the next 25 minutes in utter chaos, and then in the last 5 pages there's a "twist ending" that belonged on a much more coherent story than the one you just read.

In a way, this was Inception's greatest achievement in my mind - it was an annoyingly faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel that Dick didn't actually write.

Luckily for me, I love PKD, and once I figured out that was its real trick I made my peace with the 150 minutes I spent in the theater Friday night. My recommendation is very, very hesitant, but if you've made it through a PKD novel that you've found to be a bit rubbish and went on to read another one, you'll probably be willing to see another of Nolan's movies after this.
posted by little light-giver at 3:10 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


when the stewardess is working for you, there's no need to risk a sleight of hand passport theft and then spiking the drink as it's handed to the man, is there?

The drink spiking didn't make much sense, but engaging the target by returning the passport would make sense if you would want to establish some baseline of trust. It probably played some role in soothing the subconscious when Mr. Charlie was pulled out in level 2.
posted by ryoshu at 3:18 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nolan's dreams appear to be directed by Michael Bay.

This seems to be the core of a lot of objections (not necessarily in this thread) to the movie. I recognize that there are plenty of people who disliked it because it didn't live up to their expectations, but if the objection is "it had some philosophical pretensions and was also a special effects/action blockbuster", well, so what? Somebody made a movie you didn't like? Nolan's supposedly a smart filmmaker, so I suppose he's betraying something somehow by wanting to make a movie that has lots of guns and explosions. Personally I'd like to see more intelligent blow-em-up films; there's no reason why a movie can't do both.

I like watching things blow up, and I like caper movies, and I like the themes Nolan was working with (dreams and reality). The movie worked for me. If it didn't work for you, good luck finding a movie you enjoy sometime this summer.

if you've made it through a PKD novel that you've found to be a bit rubbish and went on to read another one

I've made my way through about 25 and expect to eventually read them all, so take my love for this film with that grain of salt.
posted by immlass at 3:19 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ken Watanabe disagrees.

Yes, exactly. The secret service guys chasing the van are at the same level of "dangerous" as are all movie bad guys of that type: the audience is meant to accept that the hero(es) could possibly come to harm at their hands, yet won't (because they are the heroes), except as it serves the plot. Pretty much every action movie ever made has this conceit; what would be the point of watching a movie like Die Hard if Bruce Willis could be killed in the first 5 minutes?

dobbs: I now understand what you mean about the train, and I agree with you on the need-for-spectacle angle. With a little handwaving ("Well, as long as Fischer doesn't see the train, he won't notice that something's off"), it's the sort of thing I can manage to shrug off and still enjoy the movie as a whole. I realize the movie doesn't have every last loose end tied off, but I still had a great time watching it, and would watch it again.
posted by good in a vacuum at 3:24 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally I'd like to see more intelligent blow-em-up films; there's no reason why a movie can't do both.

Of course I strongly disagree with your presumption that this movie was in any way meant for "intelligent" people. It was no more meant for "intelligent" people than is a 30 second spot for the latest fragrance . It has all the style but lacks any of the substance that a movie like "Primer" , made for a fraction of this monstrosity's cost, had.

There's a reason why Fellini didn't do car chases and why Hitchcock never made a "Transformers" movie . It's not needed. It's a cheat. It's banal.

Now I enjoyed "Raiders of the Lost Ark" as much as anyone. But it never pretended to be "cerebral". It never pretended to be anything other than what it was - and it was a masterpiece of what it was . Unlike Inception which was all sizzle with not an ounce of steak in the final product.

And I must agree with you that this summer's outlook for finding an enjoyable movie is likely very bleak.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:50 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just got back from an IMAX screening of the film, and thought it was all kinds of brilliant. I decided to come here to get my plate-of-beans quota for it, and I have to say I'm disappointed that so many of the people criticising the film seem to be devoid of any imaginative powers whatsoever.

In a film about dreams, where intuition and inventiveness are paramount, surely it's reasonable to permit the film license over its own presentation? It's not at all unreasonable for Ariadne to become a better architect than Cobb in such a short space of time; she is, after all, on the team for her extremely high intelligence, performing a job that demands said intuition and inventiveness. The rules (such as they were variously unbreakable and flexible at times) were relatively simple and clearly defined: dreams need to be convincing for the subject; ideas must seem to the subject to be of their own making; and secrets are hidden and protected instinctively by the subconscious. Within these rules, the power of the architect's imagination was given free reign. Nothing in the film violated any of these precepts (for instance, bridges are not plausible construction elements in the centre of urban areas).

What's worse than such empty nitpicking is the quite frankly completely fucking moronic observation that Cobb could just buy his children a plane ticket to France or wherever to see him. He's in both a legal and self-imposed exile from his home country because of his guilt over what he did to his wife, and his activities outside here aimed at returning to them underpin both his journey and the plot. He wanted to see them, but every time he saw them he was reminded of his guilt — a guilt he had not yet come to terms with, and so avoided looking directly at them. The distant memory was much the same as his conception of Mal — he was only capable of rendering a shade of her, but couldn't capture her full complexity, and realised that he had to let her go. In the same way, just seeing his children wasn't enough (if it was, he could've saved money on the imaginary plane tickets and just used Skype, for crying out loud). He needed to see them without being weighed down by the guilt he felt; otherwise, he would merely have been interacting with ghosts and hiding from the fundamental truth he was unable to face.

Yes, he could buy them a plane ticket. Yes, Luke Skywalker could have posted R2-D2 to Ben Kenobi and become a semi-successful farmer on Tatooine. Yes, Jason Bourne could have just called the police and been declared a missing person. Yes, Vito Corleone could have just decided a life of crime wasn't really for him and been a devoted family man instead. Why didn't they? Because that would be Shitty Filmmaking, and Boring As Hell To Watch.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 4:15 PM on July 18, 2010 [31 favorites]


"What's worse than such empty nitpicking is the quite frankly completely fucking moronic observation that Cobb could just buy his children a plane ticket to France or wherever to see him. "

It's called "suspension of disbelief" and it's the most basic, if indeed not the most quintessential, element of story-telling.

When the basic premise and motivational factor, the main character's "inability" to ever see his children again, is so obviously wrong the ability to suspend disbelief and fall into the story fails as well.

But it's not just that of course. That plot hole was just one of a multitude of things that just were plain wrong. We're told the lead character is being mercilessly hunted down for his failure to deliver to an all powerful corporation. Except he isn't. He's apparently free to travel the world wherever he wants to go . We're told that if a character dies they will forever be lost to "Limbo" where they will inevitably go insane. Except they don't go to limbo and no one goes insane. We're shown a magical machine that, when hooked up to one's elbow, can allow one to share dreams with someone else. Except you don't need the machine really because just dreaming about the machine is apparently good enough to share a dream.

On and on and on.... and if Nolan believes that an hour of car chases and walking on ceiling special effects is going to distract us from all that .... well he may well have made a rather cynically well placed bet there.

It's not a matter of lack of imagination on the part of the moviegoer but rather a lack of attention to detail and carelessness on the part of the story-teller that's to blame here. When anything can apparently happen (and anything apparently does) why should I care what happens at all?

If this guy can't figure out that he can bring his kids to him then am I expected to believe that he can pull off the heist ? If there is any one scene that characterizes this movie it is the unexpected train wreck at the beginning of first tier. Where the hell did THAT come from ? What's THAT doing here , laments one of the characters.

Indeed.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:37 PM on July 18, 2010


I saw it last night. I walked out thinking, "That was the greatest movie I've ever seen."

I may have to give it a little more distance to get the "greatest ever" tag. But damn, that was a great movie.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:47 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's not at all unreasonable for Ariadne to become a better architect than Cobb in such a short space of time

I don't think anyone said that was a problem. The problem they have with this character is that she met Cobb 5 days ago and has only been on two expeditions (the training one and the one where she sneaks into Cobb's dream) and yet she knows FAR more about Cobb than Arthur or anyone else who has supposedly worked with him many times and known him and his wife for years. Further, she knows more about the process of what these men do even though they're experts in their field and she's a noob. Her qualities as an architect have *nothing* to do with her understanding of the process that enables her at film's end to speak up and trump Cobb and his partner when they declare the heist complete and a failure.

Page's character is Ms Exposition. That's her main purpose, far more important than her qualities as architect. In fact, her talent as architect are rendered moot the second they enter her dream world because the whole reason she was brought on was because to use Cobb for this oh so important job would be to permit his subconscious free reign. In the form of the train, it's immediately present, and then there at the climax. So again, it's lazy filmmaking as all Nolan is doing is saying A when he gets B. She's necessary for these reasons (but not really because she's a failure at it) but I really just need someone to pop up every 15 minutes and explain wtf is going on.

This is the equivalent of a heist movie in which they hire a marksman because he's the only one who can hit target X at X distance and when the time comes, someone else just steps in and makes the shot successfully. It's a cheat and a blatant one at that.
posted by dobbs at 4:48 PM on July 18, 2010


The problem is that the bridge is on the other side of town. Why?! It's a world they created and are able to manipulate at will

This complaint reminds me of this comic about the Matrix, cows and an endless field of grass.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:57 PM on July 18, 2010


3. Why didn't the zero-gravity effect of the van falling in Dream Level 1 affect the hotel in Dream Level 2 but not the snow fortress in Dream Level 3?

Because the hotel is the product of one dreamer's mind, and the snow fortress is the product of a different dreamer's mind within the previous dream. The things happening one level up affect only the creation of the world beneath it. Go one more level down and it's a different person's dream.

That's the one thing that threw me -- who's dreaming what and who is merely visiting the dreams. I don't know if it's internally consistent; I'll have to see it again.

But that's irrelevant to me, to be honest. Great fucking move.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:03 PM on July 18, 2010


This complaint reminds me of this comic about the Matrix, cows and an endless field of grass.

Except there are no cows in the Matrix.

My complaint is founded on the filmmaker setting something up (Page being uncanny at manipulating the dreamworld during her initial run) which is never paid off even though paying it off would have been to the heroes' benefit. If it wasn't meant to be paid off, why's it there in the first place? Oh yeah, it looks neat.
posted by dobbs at 5:06 PM on July 18, 2010


If you're the kind of person that watches a movie like this and only wants to talk about plot holes, then I think maybe you are shallow and unimaginative.

Guess what, it's not really possible to go inside people's dreams. Once you allow an impossibility into a story, then it sets there, like the hole in the middle of Escher's Art Gallery. You can make that hole as arbitrary large or small as you like, but no matter how you try to work around it, there's still going to be a hole in the center of your story.

Now, I suppose one could see a print of Escher's Art Gallery in an Art Gallery and go -- "Can't anybody see this? There's a hole in the middle of the fucking picture -- this is shit. Why do you all enjoy this picture, there's a fucking hole in it. Are you all stupid?"

I would submit to you that you've kind of missed the point. The hole is not the point and finding the hole doesn't make you smarter than anyone who enjoys the picture despite the hole in the middle of it.

The movie isn't about dreams anyway, it's about love, and addiction, and trying to hold on to the things we love, and the things we enjoy, instead of living in the present.

----------

So that out of the way, did anyone else notice the Douglas Hofstadter influences? Particularly the idea of pushing and popping, the double mirror effect, and the Escher Staircases? Even the idea of having a lover's soul trapped in your mind seemed to be from Le Ton Beau De Marot.

The mirror sequence seemed to imply that there are turtles all the way down, that there is no bottom level of dreams, and no top layer of reality. In the movie, or in real life.

It may be trite to say that life may be a dream, but it really might be, and sometimes it's okay for artists to point that out. We need to be reminded sometimes.
posted by empath at 5:10 PM on July 18, 2010 [17 favorites]


Other considerations aside, I thought it was worth watching just for Arthur's zero-gravity Judo choke.

One day, someone's gonna lose their shit on the ISS, and another astronaut is gonna think: "Wait! I saw this in a movie once!" and will totally knock them out with space judo, saving the entire crew.
posted by edguardo at 5:11 PM on July 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, I think the point is that it doesn't matter whether he is dreaming or awake. He's deciding to live in the dream that he's in, and stop worrying about it. He doesn't wait to see if it stops. He's living life as he sees it. There is no reality. There is only where you are. And death is no escape.
posted by empath at 5:16 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Was he wrong to ask his wife to kill herself in their dreamworld? Why or why not? What was wrong with living in the dream?
posted by empath at 5:17 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As one MeFite pointed out earlier the movie was based on the flimsiest of plotlines : the need for DiCaprio's character to see his children again - when in fact a round trip ticket could have solved that problem and game over. The rest of the movie was similarly without real thought or substance.

1. It was clear from when the kids called Cobbs, that Grandma wasn't letting the kids near him. Hell, she didn't sound pleased about the phone call.

2. The movie wasn't about just Cobb wanting to see his kids, but also coming to terms with his guilt over his wife's death. He was the best at what he did, he did an inception, but he did it on his wife and it wound up killing her.

The problem they have with this character is that she met Cobb 5 days ago and has only been on two expeditions (the training one and the one where she sneaks into Cobb's dream) and yet she knows FAR more about Cobb than Arthur or anyone else who has supposedly worked with him many times and known him and his wife for years.

*sighs*

Michale Caine's character clearly establishes that she's better than Cobb. Cobb clearly establishes she's incredibly talented. Did you even watch the movie before you decided you didn't like it?

Ellen Page's character functions not just as an exposition tool but also as therapist to Cobb in a way. She's smart, smarter than him, so he lets his guard down a bit with her. He can hide from everyone else, but not from her.
posted by new brand day at 5:21 PM on July 18, 2010


Except there are no cows in the Matrix.

Only people, but only because that's what the machines decided to do. Watch the Animatrix -- the machines didn't need people, specifically. They just wanted to fuck with humanity.

Actually, the machines don't need anything. "Combined with a form of fusion..." the first movie says. Well, if you have fusion, why do you need the closed system of people being cannibalized to feed other people? You'll run out of people pretty quick that way. Just use your fusion power to build a tower that reaches above the cloud layer. Or use fusion power to build wave-powered generators -- the humans didn't drain the oceans or move the moon, did they? Or just drill down to the magma layer, like the humans did.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:28 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a reason why Fellini didn't do car chases and why Hitchcock never made a "Transformers" movie . It's not needed. It's a cheat. It's banal.

If this were true, and I don't believe the last three sentences are objectively true, it's impossible to make an intelligent blockbuster action film. I don't understand why anyone who feels that way would bother to see Inception, much less spend hours in a thread dedicated to discussing it.

did anyone else notice the Douglas Hofstadter influences?

Other than the Escher staircase, not until you mentioned them, thanks.

He doesn't wait to see if it stops.

That was my take on the ending, although I have a strong opinion about what the top objectively did.

on preview: Actually, the machines don't need anything.

The whole human battery thing was what broke my suspension of disbelief in The Matrix completely. I understand people feel that way about Inception, but it worked for me in a way The Matrix just didn't.
posted by immlass at 5:38 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a reason why Fellini didn't do car chases and why Hitchcock never made a "Transformers" movie .

Yeah, but Hitchcock filmed tons of chase sequences.
posted by empath at 5:42 PM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Was he wrong to ask his wife to kill herself in their dreamworld?

No.

Why or why not?

Asking her to kill herself wasn't wrong, it was the manner it which he did, ala inception, planting a thought in her head. But it went wrong in a way he couldn't imagine, which ultimately caused her death.

What was wrong with living in the dream?

It's selfish. Putting your loved one through the process of having to hospitalize and/or care for your body while you're off in dream land is reprehensible. They never consented to that emotional trauma.
posted by new brand day at 5:49 PM on July 18, 2010


It's selfish. Putting your loved one through the process of having to hospitalize and/or care for your body while you're off in dream land is reprehensible. They never consented to that emotional trauma.

They lived a lifetime in just a few minutes of being asleep, remember. No one had to care for anybody.
posted by empath at 5:52 PM on July 18, 2010


They lived a lifetime in just a few minutes of being asleep, remember.

Oh, based on the wording of your original statement I thought you meant they would live forever in their dream. Yeah, if they're hoping in and out of dreams and reality, I don't see and issue with it.
posted by new brand day at 5:58 PM on July 18, 2010


Let's not question why people can share dreams just by having a wire hooked up to the crook of their arm (their arm for christ's sake!?) or why the technology works exactly the same even when a dream machine gets connected to your dream arm.

Let's not question any of that. Because if we do then we become one of the many who we we were all so concerned about who just wouldn't get it.


Who gives a fuck? For what it's worth I've dreamt about telephones before and they worked just like they did in real life.

Your attitude is condescending to think that there's some great unwashed mass who likes things just to not reveal their obvious stupidity. But not you. You have the purity of vision to be able to see Christopher Nolan's wang through his invisible finery. Congratulations.

I don't have a problem with not liking the movie. I did, but I can see why you wouldn't. I do have a problem with insisting that it was marketing that made me like it and not my own analysis of the movie.

What arrogance.
posted by codacorolla at 6:05 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Asking her to kill herself wasn't wrong, it was the manner it which he did, ala inception, planting a thought in her head.

There's quite a bit to swallow in the central premise of the story. I mean, you want a suggestion from the subconscious? So long as the victim doesn't realize he's been hit with this shared-dream state, anything said by a dream character would, a dreamer might reason, originate from the person dreaming, and perhaps be taken as a clue to some deeper motivation or purpose. The intruders know they're not "projections", but the dreamer doesn't.

But anyway, a good film. I don't think I'm going to expose myself to much more beanplating before it ruins the desire to see it again.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:08 PM on July 18, 2010


The reason is that it's not intriguing for an old (unrecognizable) Leo to wake up on a beach in the first scene of the film. Nolan does not respect his audience enough to go with logic--he'd rather go with thinly veiled trickery.

Huh? Saito went in before Leo, so of course he aged. It's clearly established that as you go do a level, the perception of time changes geometrically.

The problem is that the bridge is on the other side of town. Why?!

To give the dream one level below time to work

As an audience member, why do you buy this gibberish?

1. It's not gibberish and 2. I want to enjoy myself at the movies.
posted by new brand day at 6:12 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought Inception was OK, but some part of me would rather have spent that 2 1/2 hours playing Psychonauts.
posted by flechsig at 6:12 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's quite a bit to swallow in the central premise of the story. I mean, you want a suggestion from the subconscious?

The point is that Cobb broke into her safe spot and manipulated her sub conscious in a place she thought was safe. She had no defenses there, so of course the idea took hold and grew and grew and grew. His intentions were good, sure, they just went horribly wrong.
posted by new brand day at 6:15 PM on July 18, 2010


It's interesting just how many parallels there are to the plot of Memento.

spoilers for Memento follow:

* Both involve a man who killed his wife accidentally and is dealing with the guilt of that act.
* Both involve a man who has lost his sense of what's real and what's not.
* Both involve a self-deceptive choice to live in fantasy rather than reality.
* Both involve a beginning sequence that loops back and feeds into the end sequence.
* Both involve an illness/condition where it's unclear how much of it is voluntary and how much forced.

Also, Leo in his interview describes the narrator as unreliable. Anyone have a sense of where the movie might show that unreliability?
posted by shivohum at 6:21 PM on July 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


For someone with the handle empath, you don't seem to understand other people very well:

If you're the kind of person that watches a movie like this and only wants to talk about plot holes, then I think maybe you are shallow and unimaginative.


It's not either-or. You can enjoy a movie for its creativity and vision and artistry and still consider the plot and consistency.

Guess what, it's not really possible to go inside people's dreams. Once you allow an impossibility into a story, then it sets there, like the hole in the middle of Escher's Art Gallery. You can make that hole as arbitrary large or small as you like, but no matter how you try to work around it, there's still going to be a hole in the center of your story.

This is just stupid, and I think you know that. The point isn't that plots must be objectively realistic, that only things that could happen in reality should happen, but that films should be internally consistent.

If you introduce something magic/non-real and give rules for how it works, then stick to those rules. Is that so ridiculous and shallow? No, it's just part of good writing, especially if your story is constructed around the situations these rules cause. If they had said in the beginning that dreams are wild and unpredictable or something like that, it's one thing. But they laid out very clear, precise rules about how things work in dreams. Don't tell the audience rules that you later break. That's sloppy writing.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:23 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, the machines don't need anything. "Combined with a form of fusion..."

I think it's pretty obvious that the humans were meant to be acting as CPUs, not batteries, but the Wachowskises didn't think they audience would get that, so they went with batteries instead.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:30 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you introduce something magic/non-real and give rules for how it works, then stick to those rules. Is that so ridiculous and shallow? No, it's just part of good writing, especially if your story is constructed around the situations these rules cause. If they had said in the beginning that dreams are wild and unpredictable or something like that, it's one thing. But they laid out very clear, precise rules about how things work in dreams. Don't tell the audience rules that you later break. That's sloppy writing.

Since you say it's possible to construct a movie built around an impossible premise which doesn't have any plotholes, please provide an example. I'm sure it will take 5 minutes for me to find gaping plotholes to point out.

And yes, I think it's shallow to insist on logical consistency in a movie about dreams.
posted by empath at 6:35 PM on July 18, 2010


I think it's pretty obvious that the humans were meant to be acting as CPUs, not batteries, but the Wachowskises didn't think they audience would get that, so they went with batteries instead.

This makes so much more sense than batteries, and I've always made that exact mental replacement in my head when watching the movie.
posted by empath at 6:36 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since you say it's possible to construct a movie built around an impossible premise which doesn't have any plotholes, please provide an example. I'm sure it will take 5 minutes for me to find gaping plotholes to point out.

Plotholes related to the workings of the magic system itself? Any of the Lord of the Rings movies. You seem to be confusing plotholes in story with mistakes in the system they establish (ie, something they establish early on as never happening happens or something they say works one way ends up working another). You could have a magical system that's in a shitty movie. You could also have a director who just forgets the rules he sets up. It's just laziness. It's odd that you think it is impossible to simply follow the rules you establish in the beginning. Just remember what you said at the beginning, and stick to that. If you do not wish to be bound by what you said, then don't say it. I'm not sure why you find this concept so crazy to you.

And yes, I think it's shallow to insist on logical consistency in a movie about dreams.

But that's the point. It's not a "movie about dreams". It's a move about a dreams that work as Nolan wanted them to work, because he made the movie. He established the rules. He says that dreams in his work operate in a very specific way. All that's asked is for things to work as was established. As said, this would be different if it was established that dreams are inherently wild and unpredictable things, but we're explicitly told that they are not. They have very mechanical rules.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2010


Was he wrong to ask his wife to kill herself in their dreamworld? Why or why not? What was wrong with living in the dream?

While I really liked Inception a lot, I was kind of baffled by the idea that anyone would want to live with one person for 50 years in such a bleak-looking, depopulated world, no matter how deeppuretrue their love was.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:09 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Plotholes related to the workings of the magic system itself? Any of the Lord of the Rings movies.

Why didn't Gandalf just have the giant eagles fly them to Mount Doom?

I can think of a dozen plotholes in the first movie alone. It's riddled with inconsistencies and stupid character choices. Obviously they don't bother you, because I guess you were vibing on the themes and characters in the movie. I guess my point is, all movies have plotholes, and speculative fiction and fantasy especially have plot holes you can drive a truck through. They only bother most people if they don't enjoy them for other reasons.

Pointing out plotholes is the absolute laziest, lowest form of criticism.
posted by empath at 7:12 PM on July 18, 2010


While I really liked Inception a lot, I was kind of baffled by the idea that anyone would want to live with one person for 50 years in such a bleak-looking, depopulated world, no matter how deeppuretrue their love was.

I don't think it was abandoned and bleak when they were living there.
posted by empath at 7:13 PM on July 18, 2010


I was kind of baffled by the idea that anyone would want to live with one person for 50 years in such a bleak-looking, depopulated world

As it said in the movie, they were like gods. 50 years of literally playing God, with someone you love (think of the sex) isn't a bad way to pass the time.
posted by new brand day at 7:22 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why didn't Gandalf just have the giant eagles fly them to Mount Doom?...
I can think of a dozen plotholes in the first movie alone. It's riddled with inconsistencies and stupid character choices.


No, as I said, you are confusing story plot holes with holes in the system. Show me holes in the world/magic system established in the movie. For example, something they establish early on as never happening happens or something they say works one way ends up working another. Show me where they establish, say, that hobbits can never do X, and then they later do X. Things like that, because that's what I'm talking about.

I'm just saying it's possible to establish how a magic/non-real system works, and stick with it. The objections raised are that Nolan in some cases didn't stick to the rules for dreams he established. This has nothing at all to do with the story. I'm just saying you can establish an internally consistent non-real system. I'm actually puzzled why you think this can't be done.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:27 PM on July 18, 2010


One can go on and on and on ....
Near the end of the movie, when everyone wakes up in the plane, everyone remembers what happened in the dream, right? They know they were successful. The Asian guy remembers to make the phone call for Cobb.

So why doesn't the businessman's son remember that he's just been dreamjacked and maybe look around first class and you know, DO something about it. Call his security - whatever. He's been through this incredible dream experience and HE is the only one that doesn't seem to remember it? WTF?

NOTHING in this movie makes sense. It's not internally consistent. No one behaves like a real human being would. Motivation is lost to over an hour of gang banging car chases and special effects.

The reason people are having a hard time figuring out this movie isn't because it's "cerebral" - its because it's a piece of crap. Good looking crap to be sure but crap nonetheless.

And we were all sold on the "avant-garde" meme and some are defending it like an expensive piece of crap car they had bought. The movie was mediocre at best. The marketing was a work of art.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:53 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's been through this incredible dream experience and HE is the only one that doesn't seem to remember it? WTF?

It doesn't make sense if the person being Incepted remembers that they've been manipulated.

It worked the same way with Cobb's wife.
posted by new brand day at 7:58 PM on July 18, 2010


The reason people are having a hard time figuring out this movie isn't because it's "cerebral" - its because it's a piece of crap. Good looking crap to be sure but crap nonetheless.

And we were all sold on the "avant-garde" meme and some are defending it like an expensive piece of crap car they had bought. The movie was mediocre at best. The marketing was a work of art.


Who are these people who somehow convinced you that a 160 million dollar summer movie with Leonardo DiCaprio was gonna be frigging Tarkovsky or something?
posted by neroli at 8:04 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who are these people who somehow convinced you that a 160 million dollar summer movie with Leonardo DiCaprio was gonna be frigging Tarkovsky or something?

Convinced me ? I don't think so.

But google two words "Inception" and "cerebral" .
Look at the result list carefully.
See the meme?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:10 PM on July 18, 2010


Michale Caine's character clearly establishes that she's better than Cobb. Cobb clearly establishes she's incredibly talented. Did you even watch the movie before you decided you didn't like it?

Did you read what I wrote? Caine's character establishes that Page is better than Leo AT ARCHITECTURE. You understand that, correct? He's talking about architecture. She has never done the dream shit before. This is clear to you also, correct? So, later when she's in only her 3rd thingy why does she know how the NON-ARCHITECTURE stuff works better than any of the experts? See, Leo and the other guy announce the job is over when Watanabe dies. But she then informs them of what they're not understanding about the thing she's a noob about (which ISN'T architecture). This is a problem.

The movie isn't about dreams anyway

&...

And yes, I think it's shallow to insist on logical consistency in a movie about dreams.

Congrats, you've got the consistency of a Christoper Nolan character!

Since you say it's possible to construct a movie built around an impossible premise which doesn't have any plotholes

The premise isn't impossible. I don't think people are arguing that (I'm certainly not). They're arguing that the film betrays its premises. Repeatedly.

Why do you believe that expecting artists to follow their own rules a stupid thing? Escher didn't have a "no hole in the middle of the drawing" contract with his viewer.

Look, if my premise is that a guy can fly and he's an exception in this world because of it, and then in the movie other people start to fly or when surrounded by bad guys he *doesn't* fly, then I've betrayed my premise.

If I establish, as a storyteller, that it's important for the world I'm taking my kidnap victim to to be indistinguishable from reality, then I do not, as a storyteller, get to make locomotives run down main street during rush hour without the consequences I'd promised my audience and not get called on it. Or, if the answer to this is "Well, the kidnap victim was already sedated in the van (I don't recall if he was or not) and therefore the protagonists get to manipulate the dreamspace all they want," then there's no reason for there to be a chase for the van because the architect can just create a bridge out of nowhere for the van to drive to its destination--or eliminate the distance between point A and B by now using the new rule that "it's okay if the guy's not conscious on that dream level".

It's basic storytelling and has nothing to do with the genre.
posted by dobbs at 8:16 PM on July 18, 2010


Are we thinking of the same Hitchcock? The one who made 3D movies, asked audiences not to reveal plot twists, made box office hit after box office hit about cross dressing killers, massive bird attacks, and oh, recovering information from dreams? Alfred Hitchcock was an extraordinary talent but he was certainly not a misunderstood starving artist bohemian. Dig him up, give him 120 million and he'd make the best goddamn transformers movie you've ever seen.
posted by condour75 at 8:32 PM on July 18, 2010 [14 favorites]


*to make the best transformers movie, you're pretty much just outdoing Michael Bay, so it's probably an understatement.
posted by condour75 at 8:34 PM on July 18, 2010


Poet Lariat: will you come to bed and dream? Just a minute honey.....
posted by lalochezia at 8:48 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


to make the best transformers movie, you're pretty much just outdoing Michael Bay, so it's probably an understatement.

Surely you mean outdoing Orson Welles as a carnivorous, mechanical planet.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:48 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I establish, as a storyteller, that it's important for the world I'm taking my kidnap victim to to be indistinguishable from reality, then I do not, as a storyteller, get to make locomotives run down main street during rush hour without the consequences I'd promised my audience and not get called on it.

The consequences of altering the dream reality are being attacked by the subconscious of the victim. They were already being attacked as soon as they entered that dream, so it didn't make any difference.

Next plot hole?
posted by empath at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Poet-Lariat,

Your point is boring and incredibly sophomoric. Just go ahead and call us sheeple then get back to underlining your Chomsky or Adorno or whoever.

Couching the same trite argument in references to Fellini doesn't make your point any more interesting or compelling. It does make you look like a fairly big douche though.

I'm sorry that you feel so incredibly cheated by this movie that you've spent more time moaning about it than you did watching it.

Look I'm sorry this movie wasn't a life-changing epiphany that allowed you to reach the next level consciousness. I'm sorry that it wasn't one long cerebral orgasm.

By even comparing this film to Fellini, or Bergman, or Truffaut etc you are only being obtuse. This film wasn't trying to be a some auteur's master piece. Because let's be honest, only about .0001% of undergrad film studies majors real actually enjoy watching those movies over and over again. (Not saying they don't have merit by any means, but they're not popcorn flicks are they?)

Nolan completely achieved what he set out to do. This was an incredibly well-made movie and is obviously so much better than most movies that come out every year. You can act as if this movie is in the same group as GI Joe, or Transformers. (Well you could, but then you'd just be acting like an idiot.)

Look you've made your point about 8 times now and it hasn't changed. Let me use bullets so you can stop rehashing it:

•Only people fooled by a nefarious viral marketing campaign like this movie.
•It's empty like a perfume advertisement.
•If you like this movie you're dumb, unlike me who is smart and brave enough to point out that you are dumb.
•Also, I am very smart and do not like this movie.
•This movie wasn't the best movie ever, therefore it was one of the worst.

Cool. Now you can just cut an paste one of the points whenever you want to comment. You're welcome.
posted by Telf at 8:55 PM on July 18, 2010 [22 favorites]


I really, really liked this movie.

See it in IMAX if you can.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:59 PM on July 18, 2010


All I gotta say is, I hate Christopher Nolan's prior art pretty much unreservedly; as a result, I ignored just about everything about Inception. I was going to listen to DiCaprio on Fresh Aire Friday, but my supe interrupted me to talk about Comic-Con for half an hour and I missed it.

According to the end of this thread, I only really liked this movie because the marketing I never saw made me do it. Now that's a mindfuck someone ought to pitch to Nolan's production company.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:00 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, Mr. F notes that he would've fuckin' killed for a Hitchcock Transformers film.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:02 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus, dobbs, with the locomotive- nobody present in the scene is 'directly' manipulating the dream to make that happen. It is a message/intrusion from Mal- which is to say from Cobb's subconscious.

It's already been established that she can, will, and does show up in dreams he's in- none of which he's architecting- she/that part of him is OUT OF CONTROL, is the point. In the very first scene, she shows up unwanted in the midst of the team's audition and drops Cobb out the window, then shoots whatsisname. Are you going to complain that that was also a GLARING FLAW because it conflicted with the characters' desires?

I'm seriously unable to fathom your objection to this. The characters shouldn't want this to happen, based on their stated intentions? EXACTLY- it's a problem for them- in fact it's a major goddamned plot point, not some deal-breaking inconsistency that Nolan somehow either failed to notice or thought you'd be stupid enough to fall for.

Again: the thing you're complaining about? That it's a bad thing for the characters? IS WHY IT'S HAPPENING.
posted by hap_hazard at 9:03 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


They were already being attacked as soon as they entered that dream, so it didn't make any difference.

I already said this.

IF they're already being attacked and altering the dreamscape "makes no difference," then why doesn't the architect alter the dreamscape further to help them achieve their goal and get the van to the bridge safely?

This is pretty much the exact question I asked earlier in the day.

It is a message/intrusion from Mal- which is to say from Cobb's subconscious.

I already said this, too.

Again: the thing you're complaining about? That it's a bad thing for the characters? IS WHY IT'S HAPPENING.

NO. That's my complaint. It isn't bad for the characters but it is supposed to be. There are no consequences for this action though we've been told there would be. That's exactly what myself and others have been arguing: that Nolan establishes a rule, a cause and effect, a law, whatever you want to call it, REPEATEDLY, throughout the narrative only to later break it without consequences.
posted by dobbs at 9:11 PM on July 18, 2010


Continuing to alter the dream world would make the attacks worse. It doesn't mean they can't do it, and it doesn't mean that they instantly die if they do it. Ariadne turns Cobbs test dream upside down and she barely gets dirty looks. Compared to folding Paris in half, I think running a train down the middle of a street is fairly mundane.
posted by empath at 9:21 PM on July 18, 2010


The impression I got from about the whole dream altering thing is that you want to be somewhat subtle to evade detection, because once the subconscious wants you out, there's no amount of world changing that's going to rescue you.

Which isn't to say that you'll die instantly for it. Only that once you start doing it, your time is limited. I kind of thought of it as wanted levels in GTAIV. Once you start getting stars, you need to start thinking about escaping, not getting bigger weapons, because the cops will always have bigger weapons.
posted by empath at 9:26 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


PS, this comic from Reddit is probably relevant.
posted by empath at 9:29 PM on July 18, 2010


Yeah, I've just been reading through this and I'm seeing Primer mentioned a lot and I don't care if this makes me a mouth-breathing luddite for saying it but Primer was fucking boring.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:06 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, in case it got lost in the original FPP. Roger Ebert nails it, as usual.

So skilled is Nolan that he actually got me involved in one of his chases, when I thought I was relatively immune to scenes that have become so standard. That was because I cared about who was chasing and being chased...

The movies often seem to come from the recycling bin these days: Sequels, remakes, franchises. "Inception" does a difficult thing. It is wholly original, cut from new cloth, and yet structured with action movie basics so it feels like it makes more sense than (quite possibly) it does.

So I'm totally going to pull an appeal to authority here, but he gave it 5 stars, was he duped as well?
posted by Telf at 10:06 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


dobbs said :
That's exactly what myself and others have been arguing: that Nolan establishes a rule, a cause and effect, a law, whatever you want to call it, REPEATEDLY, throughout the narrative only to later break it without consequences.

I suspect that ,for some, the basic elements of storytelling consist of big explosions, car crashes and ten second scene cuts. That's the kind of culture we live in and let's not forget that this directors biggest accolade was for a fracking Batman movie.

Internal consistency you say (waves hands) ... Whoa there buddy - that's wayyy too high concept!

I have to admit that at the end of the movie - i actually applauded along with the rest of the audience at the little bit with the spinning top. Cleverly done. But then , a few hours later I actually thought about what I had just seen and realized that none of it made any sense.

It was like junk food for the eyes, it felt so good going down but an hour later, when my ears stopped ringing from the explosions and my eyes went back to seeing the world in longer then 10 second cut away scenes , I realized that I had just taken in an eyeful of crap. None of it made any sense. None of it had any meaning. Empty of any nutrition. Junk food for the eyes.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:13 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I'm totally going to pull an appeal to authority here, but he gave it 5 stars, was he duped as well?

Actually he gave it four stars, but who's counting. Not sure if you're asking me or not but I never said anyone was duped. I often agree with Ebert, but not always; same can be said for most critics. Are you suggesting that every film Ebert likes is great and every film he pans is not? I don't look to Ebert for validation of my own thoughts on a film and really wasn't aware that people did. He's a critic and a pretty damn good one, but that doesn't make him an "authority". Hell, Rex Reed hated the movie. (I don't generally read Reed or respect him but he's been a critic since before I was born... is he an authority as well?)

I do find it interesting that Ebert doesn't mention which chase he's referring to (there were 4 or 5 in the film).

Anyway, I'm done with the thread. Best of luck to future participants. :)
posted by dobbs at 10:36 PM on July 18, 2010


Dobbs,

Whoops. Yeah what I meant to say is that he gave it his highest number of stars, which is a 4-star ranking. (Unless I'm wrong about this?)

In case you are still lurking, I wasn't referring to you in the my last post. I think that with the exception of your very first post in this thread, most of your points were valid things to question. (Though I disagree with your interpretation of the time dilation and the train.) Over all though, I think most of your comments were at least pertinent.

My reference to "authority" was a tongue in cheek jab at myself for using the appeal to authority fallacy when arguing.

I was actually pulling Ebert out to essentially say that he knows a lot about movies, probably more than you or me. He really enjoyed the film and thought it was something special, so for the posters who are presenting themselves as experts in film/director history, get off your high horses. (Again not really aimed at you, though the tone of your first post was a bit pedantic.)

I'm going to assume the chase scene must have been the van, or the three parallel chase scenes that included the van. Since he's talking about Fisher's unconscious mind, that narrows it down a bit.
posted by Telf at 10:49 PM on July 18, 2010


1. Poet_Lariat, I'm sorry to be personal and rude, but shut up. Your complaints are purile and poorly articulated.

2. dobbs, although I agree with most of your complaints, I think you ought to step out of this thread, because you're doing yourself a disservice arguing in what is clearly becoming a "someone on the Internet is wrong" thread.

3. "Inception" does a difficult thing. It is wholly original, cut from new cloth...

What? Take the plot from Primer, the setting from the Matrix, and add a healthy dash of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and you have a "wholly original" movie? One in which things that needn't be obfuscated deliberately are? One in which about an hour of (admittedly very, very beautifully shot) scenes are completely irrelevant to the plot? One in which the vast power of the characters to shape the dreamworld is used to spice up the trailer and that's about it?

I came out of the movie in a state of shock, because it's honestly one of the coolest, most unabashedly badass movies I've ever seen. However, it's also one of the most pretentious and insulting ones. It's a movie that makes stupid people feel smart and smart people feel stupid. Now, I'm not saying that if you enjoyed it, you're stupid. I enjoyed it. I'll probably see it again, both to be wowed by the spectacle and to solidify in my mind all the reasons it's such a truly terrible film.

However, I do think it insults the viewer's intelligence. The last shot of the film is the best example of this:

SPOILERS

If Nolan wanted that shot to be ambiguous, he succeeded completely: it wobbles, but it doesn't fall. If you take the wobble, then it's unambiguous that Cobb's back in reality. If you take the not-falling, then it's unambiguous that he's in a dream. However, people take it both ways! Hence, it's ambiguous! BUT! it's not ambiguous on purpose! If he'd wanted it to actually be ambiguous, he should have cut to black as soon as Cobb stood up with his kids in his arms, the totem completely forgotten. The slow "look over here, look over here" tracking shot back to the top was just moronic. I know he spun the top, I know he didn't look. Don't fucking pull this amateur hour stuff on me. I swear, in a packed theater, I was one of maybe a dozen people who didn't gasp at the cut to black. If he wanted to make it clear that it was a dream, keep a steady, unnaturally spinning top. If it's clearly reality, have a satisfying thud as the top hits the table. But this wobble, wobble, CUT crap is just that, crap.

I'm not gonna post in this thread again, so feel free to attack anything I say as you see fit, but after reading this thread, I'm all the more convinced that Inception is a lazy summer blockbuster clumsily foisted as a thinking-person's action film, although a gorgeously shot, composed and choreographed one. Really, one of the best thrillers I've ever seen. Just, one of the worse movies I've seen.
posted by cthuljew at 10:52 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, has anyone noted yet that what happens at the end is that Cobb has locked away that "truth she used to know but has chosen to forget"? By looking away before he can see whether the top falls or not, he's abandoning his knowledge that he's in a dream. Maybe because he's tired of the struggle, maybe he's addicted like the people at the dream parlor or maybe it's safe for him now that he's given up his guilt over Mal's death. Or all of the above.
posted by smartyboots at 11:05 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


cthuljew,

I think that's actually a pretty awesome assessment. There wasn't a big ah-ha moment for me in this movie. It's not like when I was 14, watching the Matrix and my teenaged brain realized what was "really" going on.

This movie was just well done for what it was. It was a very effective thriller. (Though I wouldn't say it was one of the worst movies, maybe one of the most manipulative.)

I am starting to lean more towards the idea that Cobb's problems with reality run much deeper than the first viewing implies. On another board someone posited that Mal had also performed inception on Cobb, the idea that his world wasn't real.

I'm starting to like the idea that all the characters in the movie were actually archetypes/projections of Cobb.

My reasoning is that Cobb probably didn't start his espionage until after Mal died. It wouldn't make sense that other characters except for Miles/Caine knew her. (Am I wrong on this?)

I really feel like all of the movie had a dream like quality for a reason. I mean the chase scene where he meet Eames seems intentionally surreal.

The travelling or lack there of. The entire Saito character. I really think this movie will reward future viewings, much like Blade Runner.
posted by Telf at 11:07 PM on July 18, 2010


I really, really feel like the infinite mirror scene implies strongly that there is no upper layer of 'reality'. It's all dreams.

Also, I seemed to notice throughout the movie sounds playing in the background that didn't seem to match what was going on in the screen, like sound was bleeding over. Especially the sound of the dream machine, in scenes where people were not supposed to be sleeping.

Lastly, if time increases exponentially as you go on, it only takes going 8 layers deep or so before you start getting into cosmological time scales passing in the span of 5 or 10 minutes of real time. You could build entire universes and watch them die.
posted by empath at 11:21 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


cthuljew-
I think maybe we're mostly all at the agree to disagree stage. I don't feel like I have a stake in it except that it really rocked my world, and a lot of the reasons people give for disliking it strike me as, um, basic misunderstandings? Of course I might be wrong about that- I'm really kind of blown away by the diversity of opinion about what even happened in the movie.

But the top wobbled- why on earth is it ambiguous? If a top wobbles like that, it's falling over, full stop. There's nothing in the movie to suggest that the top behaves differently in that way in dreams- it doesn't miraculously recover from wobbling, it just never wobbles at all. I feel like Nolan wasn't trying to be ambiguous at all- he was trusting the audience to grasp it, and he cut it exactly when it was clear what was going to happen, not a second sooner.

I guess my point though is- I get that a bunch of people really like this movie. And they're fairly adamant that there's something there- whether it's great or whatever, it's pretty kickass, and they want to talk about it.

But what I don't get is the people who insist that not only did the movie suck, but that there's something wrong with everybody who liked it, that we're all somehow duped...

Really? Anybody really wants to go there, to accuse every person everywhere who liked it of, I dunno, ignorance? Or falsely implanted opinions or something?

That's just stupid. Not liking the movie is fine- go nuts, hate it, whatever. I haven't felt that strongly about a movie since Dogma, and I still figure Kevin Smith owes me $10. But if that feeling leads you to want to insult everyone who disagrees with you? Well, I don't know what's going on there but I doubt there's much point engaging it in a discussion about a movie.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:27 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


But the top wobbled- why on earth is it ambiguous? If a top wobbles like that, it's falling over, full stop.

It wobbled and recovered. I think that was because nolan wanted to draw your attention to the fact that it DIDN'T stop. It's such an obvious Lady or the Tiger ending that I don't see how anybody can try and make it unambiguously one or the other.
posted by empath at 11:41 PM on July 18, 2010


I don't think it's a glass-half-empty thing so much as it is one of those figure-ground pictures with the vases/faces. It went definitively the one way when I saw it. Maybe that's because I needed it to end that way somehow, although as I've said I don't think there's anything else in the movie that supports the opposite conclusion.

So I can see the ambiguity, I can make it flip over, once I consider it for a moment, but I don't feel it at all. And that's why I should probably close this browser tab, because its boiling down to "because I'm just sure, that's why" and the vehemence of my conviction takes me aback some.

I'll say again that I think it's kind of awesome, just the diversity of really strong opinions people have about this movie. I look forward to seeing it again, with all of this in mind.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:59 PM on July 18, 2010


Poet_Lariat: you keep saying that everybody that liked the movie is simply brainwashed by all the hype, the "memes," etc. This argument is really weak. Most of the people that I know (including myself) were pretty much on a blackout before seeing the movie-- I had no idea what it was about, no knowledge of the plot (other than it had something to do with dreams and the trailer had some weird, physics-defying shit in it). So I came to it, as did most of my friends, Tabula Rasa. I (and pretty much everybody I've spoken to) think it was a really well made movie. QED.

***
Anyway, I thought the movie was (despite a confusing ten minutes in the beginning when I couldn't hear some dialogue) internally consistent, and indeed, after having skimmed this thread, I cannot find one argument against consistency that I didn't immediately have an answer to. In fact, most of the inconsistency arguments suggest to me that the people who have made them (here and elsewhere) really ought to see the movie again, and pay closer attention. Most of the answers are there, and if you listen and make some simple connections, everything is pretty clear.

In terms of the "oh, you can share a dream with other people with a little machine and some anaesthesia, that's stupid" argument, I can agree that it's a little facile, but, jeez, if you lie sci-fi or spec-fi, you gotta pick your battles w/r/t your willing suspension of disbelief. Dilithium crysatals? Tardises? Precogs? Synthetic humans? MAGNETS howdotheywork? You see where I am going with this . . .

I understand that people are different. Some liked the movie and others didn't, and I have no problem with someone saying that they didn't like a movie for whatever reasons. I do think that some of the people that didn't like it didn't understand it though. Which is fine. It's not my job to convince you or anyone else the merits of a movie they didn't "get."

One thing I will say, though, is that, while I love movies that induce mindfucks, and this one did not disappoint, I did find it to be a bit predictable. That is, I was mouthing words of dialogue before they came out of character's mouths, and I was able to predict where the movie was going, almost from scene to scene. That said, the movie left me with many questions (about the deeper ideas) and I want to see it again.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:21 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cannot wait for Slavoj Žižek to get his sweaty hands on this one. Wake me up when he weighs in, please?
posted by Chichibio at 12:35 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I cannot find one argument against consistency that I didn't immediately have an answer to.

I just got out of the theatre. Man, what a movie.

The only thing that bothered me a little bit as I walked out was the ending with Cobb & Saito. There are some things I don't understand, like why did Saito age so much while Cobb didn't (they died at the same time, underwater in the van, right?). It also confusing to me is that it appears that sometimes limbo is used to describe a state of being unaware of one's surroundings (i.e. Saito got older because he was "in limbo") versus an actual place (i.e. Cobb saying: I have to go visit limbo to rescue Saito).

But putting that all aside, I was surprised by how easily Saito was talked into taking the "leap of faith." I mean, here's a guy that lived 50 years in limbo, "filled with regret.. waiting to die alone.." and one short conversation later, he offs himself? This is the same leap of faith that Cobb was unwilling to make, even as he watched Mal plunge to her death? Wasn't the illusion of limbo so powerful to Mal, that Cobb had to "incept" the idea to her that the world was not real, just to knock her out of it? And then we have Saito, who just seems to get it, after a few short words and the presentation of Cobb's totem.

And up until this point, weren't we under the impression that both Cobb & Saito were under heavy sedation, which meant that if they were killed in a dream state, they would die in real life? Are we to assume that Cobb timed the double-suicide so that it would occur after the sedation had worn off?

Something I'm tossing around in my head right now is that maybe when they went to visit the Indian chemist and they wen't downstairs, and Cobb tried the sedative - maybe he never really woke up from that? I would like to believe that Cobb's understanding of what is real/not real is not entirely accurate.
posted by phaedon at 12:56 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


We cannot know anything if the totem wobbles or falls. It spins indefinitely due to Cobb's desire for it to continue spinning. But his control over the dream world is fallible as demonstrated by the presence of Mal and the train.

We probably all agree if it continues to spin then he's in a dream and "willing" it to spin. But if it stops spinning he's either in objective reality (no magical control) or subjective reality by which I mean he's in his dream but has accepted it as real enough so his subconscious is overriding his "will" to keep the top spinning.

I'd also say a third party could force the top to fall. Others characters know about the top, Saito (he was spinning it in limbo), Ariadne (I think she saw it in the warehouse), and even possibly Yusuf (the scene where Cobb splashes water on his face and spins the top on the edge a sink may have been seen through the eyes of Yusuf).

The others never need to touch it or alter its density or its feel. They do not need to replace it. They only need to alter its behavior, which in a dream they apparently are able to do.

---
IMHO the train did have a consequence, it increased the severity of the attacks by the subconscious. The attacks (and Saito being shot) forced them to severely cut short their time at all levels.

---
What bugged me was the elevator scene. I thought I saw him blow up a counter weight which then somehow (in zero g) caused the elevator to start moving. What? If he wanted the elevator to move why not just hit the up button?

Also just accelerating in an elevator would provide a sensation of gravity, but what he wanted was a feeling of falling. My head hurts just thinking about this but wouldn't simulating falling require acceleration without any pushing or pressing on the body?

---
When they're in the first level of the dream and realize that if they die they'll end up in limbo. Then why didn't they dream up magical invisible bullet shields? One guy conjured up a grenade launcher when needed to "think bigger". (This is also why i think people other than the architect of the dream can alter things).

---
When Cobb was on the phone to his daughter did her voice change abruptly from child to teenage and back again?

---
I figure Cobb wasn't as aged as Saito in limbo because they entered it at different times.

---
I found it kind of leading when the film was spending less and less film time at each level deeper in the dream (where they had more and more time available to them). I thought for a second maybe it was hinting at an alternative interpretation involving a reversal of some explanations. The deepest level of Cobb's elevator was his reality where his wife offed herself, while the top level of Cobb's elevator was the beach in Saito's limbo. It's interesting but it falls apart. The elevator just reversed the down/up order of the dream levels, nothing more, right..? No hinting that everything is subjective, one person's limbo is another's reality.
posted by ecco at 1:36 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Caine's character establishes that Page is better than Leo AT ARCHITECTURE. You understand that, correct? He's talking about architecture. She has never done the dream shit before. This is clear to you also, correct? So, later when she's in only her 3rd thingy why does she know how the NON-ARCHITECTURE stuff works better than any of the experts? See, Leo and the other guy announce the job is over when Watanabe dies. But she then informs them of what they're not understanding about the thing she's a noob about (which ISN'T architecture). This is a problem.

Not seeing it. Leo was an architect, yet then moved on. It's not for me to imagine that someone who is better, faster architect can also pick up other aspects of the dreaming quickly. Plus there's the "from the mouths of babes" thing i.e. the new team member seeing what the pro's, used to working in a particular way, can't.

Nolan establishes a rule, a cause and effect, a law, whatever you want to call it, REPEATEDLY, throughout the narrative only to later break it without consequences.

I don't get what you're saying. They had a nice smooth plan. Train interrupts it, bad guys attack, Saito gets shot, forcing them to improvise to avoid him dying so he'll still remember to make the call if they can finish the job.
posted by new brand day at 3:39 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


For me, that limbo is the same place for everyone was the only real problem. When Saito dies on Dream Level 3, shouldn't he go to his *own* limbo? (As limbo is composed of each of our raw subconscious, "un-constructed dream space?") Of course, how Cobb and Mal wound up in the same limbo isn't really explained either. I suppose the setting can lean on the fact that they are all hooked up to the same machine in base reality to handle that, though.

The only plot point that bothered me while I watched it was when Ariadne tells Cobb about the shortcuts through the third dream level. Cobb doesn't need to be told about those, thus alerting his leaky subconscious--he just needs to have Ariadne tell the other team members. She even says it's a bad idea for him to know. But he demands the specifics, only to have her relay the information.

The train and the bridge made perfect sense to me (although only later, for the train.) As others have pointed out, Cobb knew the significance of seeing the train downtown immediately upon entering the dream. That he hid it from the others, blaming it on Prince, is an example of his unreliability as a narrator.

The final shot was a bit of a groaner, but I knew it was coming as soon as how the top worked was explained. I think it's meant to be ambiguous--but with a certain expectation that the top is going to fall (mirroring the directorial intent that the audience will hope Cobb is home but not be entirely sure.) Although, the children do not appear to have aged which makes me still wonder a bit.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:41 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem they have with this character is that she met Cobb 5 days ago and has only been on two expeditions (the training one and the one where she sneaks into Cobb's dream) and yet she knows FAR more about Cobb than Arthur or anyone else who has supposedly worked with him many times and known him and his wife for years.

It was established pretty early on that Arthur was loathe to take risks — he was cautious during extractions and was deeply uncomfortable with the idea of inception. However, this professionalism led him to instinctively trust Cobb. Also, that same professionalism would likely have precluded him intruding on Cobb's private dreams, as much out of personal boundaries as anything else. Ariadne doesn't have these same inhibitions — she's only know the team for a matter of days, and immediately recognises Cobb's psychological torment as growing and actively dangerous rather than simply a peripheral annoyance, and it is this same freedom of perspective enables her to come up with a solution when Mal kills Fisher. That was the only thing that really tested my credibility meter, and I chose to chalk it up to Cobb and co. becoming slightly myopic about the level they were on and forgetting about the exponential complexity of operating within three dream levels.

Calling her ‘Ms. Exposition’ is unnecessarily sarcastic. Films need exposition. If you have a wide knowledge of literature and cinema, you can recognise the symbolic importance of their totems (the spinning top spinning for as long as Cobb and Mal's shared reality did; the dice that deals Arthur a hand, though one loaded in his favour; the chess piece with which Ariadne plots a methodical path to a goal). For many of the audience, these are merely tools of the trade. Her naïveté and lack of preconceptions about dreamscapes requires that she asks these questions. Some of the audience may have already figured it out, but the information needs to be conveyed to everyone else somehow. Expecting the minimalist dialogue and cryptic glances beloved of emotionally crippled arthouse cinema isn't fundamentally unreasonable, but surely you can accept that for a film to exists on multiple layers, as this one does, a few compromises have to be made.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 4:14 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


First of all, irt limbo and so forth, it's possible that Cobb and Saito, in Saito's limbo, decide to kill themselves to kick back up to the next few levels. But how much time has passed in real life? Seconds? At the most, maybe a minute or two? So the sedation is not wearing off. Not at all. Cobb and Saito kill themselves with the intention of kicking back up to the next level but because they're under such sedation, they go even lower than limbo? And that's the world we find Cobb in at the end of the film - it's like this super base level of just happy thoughts and good times and fond memories. Which doesn't make sense with how the other characters react to dying/falling in the third and lower levels - Ariadne and Fisher - but it does make sense with the rules set up by the film. Anyways. The person above who said that the film ends unambiguously with the top falling over? Yeah. So why didn't Nolan explicitly let the audience know? Why would he jerk around the audience like that? Is the film a work of art or a riddle? You can say that you know that it's definitely supposed to be real life at the end, and a hundred people will say, hey now, so he wakes up in the plane, everything went perfectly, Caine picks him up at the airport, he goes to his perfect house with his perfect kids, just as he remembers them, everything is amazing . . . LIKE IN A DREAM! Nolan definitely wanted the ending to be ambiguous which, as I and others have said above, was a cop-out and showed a lack of confidence in his own work. Maybe he was just trying to cram too much into one film. I think here's an example of where maybe the prequel or the sequel (and there will be one, surely) may be better than the original. I hope so, at least.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:15 AM on July 19, 2010


I slightly groaned in my head when I saw the wobbly spinning top ending too. But wouldn't it equally be a case of typical-neat-Hollywood ending if the top just fell over and it was all rainbows and unicorns? Ditto if it just kept spinning (OMG HE WAS DREAMING ALL ALONG). It's interesting — a few people here have said there were groans at the end. In the cinema I was in, there was actually nervous laughter, as if people were relieved that Mal didn't appear behind him and cut his throat (or whatever). I'll admit that my first instinct was to be pissed, but I actually ended up happy because it sets up “the prequel or the sequel”. :D
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 4:49 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the cinema I was in, there was actually nervous laughter, as if people were relieved that Mal didn't appear behind him and cut his throat (or whatever)

My theatre, but 60% had happy laughter, which I took as people getting the implication that Cobbbs could be in reality or dreaming and the audience was pleased the idea was telegraphed in a non-crappy manner.

Me, I keep wondering about Fischer Jr, with this new idea in his head. How will that idea grow, what actions will he follow and even if the does follow the actions of breaking up the company how will that impact the world, which Cobb inhabits.

Unless of course Cobbs is dreaming and it doesn't matter to him, hee hee.
posted by new brand day at 5:01 AM on July 19, 2010


What was brilliant about Inception was the meme that was spread well ahead of the movie. You all know what I mean - because the meme was so successful.

I haven't finished reading the entire thread, but I wanted to comment on this. My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and the only thing we heard of it was:

1. Saw a poster for it on the way to see Toy Story 3, and the poster was literally the word Inception, with a picture of some characters. Nothing else.
2. My sister sent me a text message and said "Inception was amazing!"

I'm getting increasingly annoyed at people suggesting that those who enjoyed the movie only did so because they're stupid or missed plot holes. I'm especially bothered by dobbs for suggesting this while at the same time clearly misunderstanding the time stretching device and how it works in the movie.

I'd suggest that critics in this thread at least take people seriously and not suggest that their experience with the movie is invalid.
posted by odinsdream at 5:48 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those who think the end is not Cobb's dream: How do you explain that the children haven't aged? He was out of the U.S. for at least a year - probably much longer. It seems like this puts the end firmly in the dream camp.
posted by odinsdream at 6:19 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, even if the top fell over, Cobb could be dreaming. He could just want it to fall over and it would. The way I saw his totem is that he uses to determine if he's still dreaming. In a dream, he wills it to spin endlessly and it does. So he knows he's dreaming. IRL he wills it to spin endlessly and it doesn't therefore he knows he's not dreaming. So at the end, the top is spinning for a very long, unnaturally long time, then it wobbles. So perhaps he was dreaming but instead of willing the top to keep spinning he's like eff it, this is pretty sweet, I'm going to let that top fall and just not worry about whether this is a dream or not.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:26 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just go ahead and call us sheeple

Clearly I wasn't the only one struck by how much this read like an Apple thread in places. Next we'll be hearing about the 300% premium on ticket prices or whatever.

Also, somewhere upthread somebody asked why Fischer wasn't trained to kill himself to dump himself out of dreamstate. I don't know if that was ever answered, because it doesn't really deserve an answer, but in case nobody did: you really don't want to to convince your subconscious to kill you, ever. In a movie full of people doing things in their subconsciouses that they knew were bad ideas, I'm glad Nolan didn't use that one.
posted by immlass at 7:04 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay then your subconscious should be trained to give you a kick to wake up. No wait an army of commandos makes more sense you're right.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:07 AM on July 19, 2010


I think the ending is real. What tells us it's real is that we see Dom's children's faces. Dom could never see their faces before because he hadn't seen them before he fled the country, and it wasn't available to his mind to create them. What the movie shows us is that Dom has become trapped in the events surrounding Mal's death, and can't imagine anything else. He's able to let Mal go when he's in Limbo, and able to return to his family as a result. The reason for the cut-away shot of the top (which I didn't love, by the way) is to show that he no longer needs the totem. He's done with dreaming, and he's ready to live in reality. You could probably use that same scene as evidence the other way around (just like the top can be read either way), but I guess I'm choosing the happier ending.

I liked the movie, but it's not without its flaws. They're the sort of flaws that are easier to ignore in something like Ocean's Eleven, but harder to ignore in something as polished as Inception.

The things I didn't like...

I agree that Ellen Paige's character serves as an information dump to put the viewer into the world of the movie. This makes the first half of the movie a little cumbersome. The second half made up for it, but I did feel my attention wandering in those early scenes.

I wish that reality had been bent a bit more. I understand the reason that the movie gives (that the dream worlds have to be believable to keep the mark playing along, and to stop the projections from growing more violent), but I still... This mostly refers to the snow-fortress setting, which seemed like a let down for the last stage of the layer cake that the team has built. Plus, just from an entertainment perspective, the snow machine chase didn't do much for me. In general I liked the other archetypal action scenes, but I sort of zoned out that part.

The dialog was unnatural, at least in the first part of the film. There were some charming parts (Arthur kissing Ariadne was terrific), but it was mostly just servicable.

The things I did like...

Mal was terrific. Probably the best part of the film for me. Her character was actually frighteningly *ahem* malignant, and the scene where Ariadne discovers her in the dream hotel room made my hair stand on end a little.

It goes without saying, but the visuals. Nolan is terrific at blending CGI with reality and making it almost seamless. The extended shot of the falling van was a great way to build tension, and pretty much everything in the second-layer hotel dream (zero-G fighting) was perfect. When the projection dives at Arthur and gravity comes back, slamming him into the wall? That's exactly how you would think it would look. Those scenes are where the movie works the best... sort of like how whenever the Joker is on screen is when the Dark Knight works.

As has been mentioned before, the way that technology is handled is a great leap beyond the average film where technology figures at all. The team uses technology as tools that they're familiar with, not as some fetishized object to shine and glimmer for the audience's benefit. The low-gloss, military-grade quality of the dream machines, and the nearly complete absence of other modern devices are a great touch.

Overall it was a satisfying way to spend 2 and a half hours. Not mind blowing, but a very well made film. I expected a bit more, perhaps, but I walked away happy. I'll probably see it again.
posted by codacorolla at 7:19 AM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Okay then your subconscious should be trained to give you a kick to wake up. No wait an army of commandos makes more sense you're right.

I was under the impression that Extraction, being illegal, was mostly done with a sedated patient. In fact I'm pretty sure that there's direct evidence for this.

Sedation, as they cover in the much hated exposition, makes it impossible for you to be "kicked" in any sense but a physical jolt, like falling into a bathtub.

This means that forcibily removing invaders is the only option, or realizing that you're dreaming and snapping awake that way. The way that it's explained in the movie is that optimally you're trained to recognize extraction (although a skilled extractor makes this impssible by wrapping you in enough layers to confuse you). Sub-optimally you forcibly remove the alien force. Projections also get more powerful as they become more convinced that you're dreaming.

The problem with training people to kill themselves is that this fucks with people's minds, and may carry over to reality. In fact that's sort of the whole point of the movie, in the way that's what Dom does to Mal. It's a bit stronger with Dom and Mal, as inception is used to do it, but still probably a bad idea regardless.

Every objection I read it just seems like people were dead set against enjoying the movie and ignored the painstaking explanations that Nolan offers. That's the major fault of the movie, in my opinion, that it explains too much.
posted by codacorolla at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that Extraction, being illegal, was mostly done with a sedated patient. In fact I'm pretty sure that there's direct evidence for this.

Yes, they specifically say that killing yourself in your dream while sedated will drive you mad.
posted by empath at 8:04 AM on July 19, 2010


Inception’s Dileep Rao Answers All Your Questions About Inception
posted by ryoshu at 8:09 AM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was under the impression that Extraction, being illegal, was mostly done with a sedated patient. In fact I'm pretty sure that there's direct evidence for this.

Direct evidence, yes!

Like the first scene where Saito isn't sedated.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:19 AM on July 19, 2010


Yeah, but that was voluntary.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on July 19, 2010


For those who think the end is not Cobb's dream: How do you explain that the children haven't aged? He was out of the U.S. for at least a year - probably much longer. It seems like this puts the end firmly in the dream camp.

Oddly enough I just took that as writer's convention, i.e. they're the same so the audience gets closure on seeing those kids, in those clothes, finally turn and face the camera. Having old kids we aren't familiar with doesn't have the same emotional impact.
posted by new brand day at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2010


Yeah, but that was voluntary.

Was it?

At the end of the day it doesn't much matter, these little quibbles we may have (or I may have) about how certain parts of the film played out. The filmmaker gets to make the rules, even if I find them lacking. So be it. What did the film mean, in the end? Was it just a fun heist movie, like Ocean's Eleven or a James Bond flick, or was it supposed to be MORE THAN THAT? I think a lot of the criticism from people in this thread is the fact that it was not MORE THAN THAT. There was nothing there. Which is fine and many filmmakers (including Hitchcock) made great, suspenseful, taut, entertaining films without a whole lot of there there. But Nolan seems to think he's got to add something else to the mix, something capital P Profound, and that is what a lot of people have issue with. What is the film about? What does it tell us about human nature? What does it reveal about the human condition? Omigod what is really real is it real life or our dreams does it even matter dude ur blowing my mind. At the end of the day it's a good, enjoyable film, but it's not a great film (imho) because it's not the sum of it's parts - it's a pretty little invention, constructed beautifully and impressive as hell, but ultimately it's just full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I predict that this is not a film people will be discussing in three, four, five, ten years.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:38 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Direct evidence, yes!

Like the first scene where Saito isn't sedated.


You're right, perhaps. I can't exactly remember the details of that. I think that what actually happened is that their extraction failed on account of Mal, bringing them to the first dream level (the second, that they start in, is Saito's mansion at the black tie party). This brings them to the scene at the riot, where Saito isn't sedated... but then again it's not real either. Saito realizes that the carpet is wrong, and shit starts going south. They're back on the train, where the extraction really was taking place and... I can't quite remember. He was sedated on the train? I seem to remember him not waking up when the boy they'd hired to be their kicker takes the headphones off. The team gets off at Kyoto before Saito can wake up and have them arrested, or whatever.

Regardless this strikes me as a minor point. I don't task the director in a Sci-Fi film with countering every externallity that might be presented by a viewer. You could go on forever with a premise as far from reality as Inception's is. If the movie wasn't good enough for you to suspend disbelief, then whatever, do what you feel, but very few fantastical stories operate without any plot holes that can't be found with enough picking.
posted by codacorolla at 8:38 AM on July 19, 2010


Oddly enough I just took that as writer's convention, i.e. they're the same so the audience gets closure on seeing those kids, in those clothes, finally turn and face the camera. Having old kids we aren't familiar with doesn't have the same emotional impact.

Nolan may be patronizing but he's not THAT patronizing.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:39 AM on July 19, 2010


Inception’s Dileep Rao Answers All Your Questions About Inception

HAHAHAHA:

So how do Leo and Ellen Page get to limbo?
They open up a suitcase and they lie down on the floor, and go under. It's a limbo party now — who can go lower? — because Ken Watanabe is on his way down there soon, too.

Nolan may be patronizing but he's not THAT patronizing.

Perhaps, but I find it neat that I'm filling in those details myself.

He was sedated on the train?

I thought he was sedated on the train, remember he wakes up and look at his wrist, where the drug injection line was.
posted by new brand day at 8:44 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Upon reflection, you're right about Saito doing it voluntarily. They were sort of operating under the guise that they were offering him a demo of why he should hire them to protect against extraction, but it was really just a ruse to get the Big Secret Thing for Cobol.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2010


I thought he was sedated on the train, remember he wakes up and look at his wrist, where the drug injection line was.

Those were just the marks from hooking him up to the dream-sharing machine. I don't think they would have sedated with him needles - like with Fischer, if they wanted to sedate him they just would have used something in his drink.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:48 AM on July 19, 2010


Ah, I got it. was thrown by them taking off after they were done, but makes sense for powerful businessman not to be seen with them.
posted by new brand day at 8:59 AM on July 19, 2010


One more thing that didn't sit right with me at first... When Leo goes into the hotel room on his anniversary and has the conversation with his wife that leads to her suicide, why was she on a ledge in a different building across the alley? That bugged me for a bit, then I realized it's dream logic. Which leads me to believe that was a dream, his wife did not kill herself but instead woke up and it's still a dream at the end and the entire move takes place in Leo's still sleeping head.

I really loved this movie.
posted by Mcable at 9:03 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah, I got it. was thrown by them taking off after they were done, but makes sense for powerful businessman not to be seen with them.

Well. Not exactly. It makes sense because Saito agrees to do it initially because he thinks it's a demo - once the team is inside, though, they flip the script on him. Instead of it just being a demo, they are actually trying to do the extracting. So, even though they're unsuccessful, the team members have to wake up and scram before the guy they are trying to extract the Maguffin from wakes up.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:04 AM on July 19, 2010


But Nolan seems to think he's got to add something else to the mix, something capital P Profound, and that is what a lot of people have issue with.

Nolan made a Philip K. Dick type film that's better than most of the actual Dick adaptations out there. Maybe the sorts of things Dick had to say thematically about reality and unreality (dreams or drugs or whatever) don't resonate for you, but they do for a lot of people. I like stories where the theme is shown rather than told; I felt like I got something out of the movie. You clearly didn't.

I'm going to repeat for the umpteenth time: maybe this movie wasn't for you.
posted by immlass at 9:10 AM on July 19, 2010


Another piece of evidence for sedation being the norm is that when they're planning the heist there's a conversation to the effect of...

"We need better sedation?"
"We can't just use the stuff we always use?"
"No, we need to go deeper"

I'd have to watch it again to be sure, maybe I'm misremembering, but I thought that was the entire purpose of tapping the chemist for the job.
posted by codacorolla at 9:11 AM on July 19, 2010


Oddly enough I just took that as writer's convention, i.e. they're the same so the audience gets closure on seeing those kids, in those clothes, finally turn and face the camera. Having old kids we aren't familiar with doesn't have the same emotional impact.

This seems unlikely because unless we're supposed to believe he's dreaming, it's a pretty big time indicator in a movie that doesn't have a lot of passage-of-time indicators otherwise. For instance, while it's obvious that Cobb has been out of the states for awhile, it's not clear whether awhile means a year or a decade.

The fact that the age of the children is literally the exact same as when he left is a big deal, big enough that I doubt it's just to comfort viewers.
posted by odinsdream at 9:19 AM on July 19, 2010


When Leo goes into the hotel room on his anniversary and has the conversation with his wife that leads to her suicide, why was she on a ledge in a different building across the alley? That bugged me for a bit, then I realized it's dream logic.

I also noticed this. Either it's a C-shaped walkway, and she's walked all the way around so that he can't physically get to her before she jumps, or it's definitely dream logic. The interior of the room behind her looked a lot like the original room, but that isn't definitive either.

I seem to remember she mentioned leaving a note, and she gestures towards and behind him, into the room he came from, which may put it more in the C-shaped walkway camp.
posted by odinsdream at 9:22 AM on July 19, 2010


Saw this last night, thought it was fucking great.

Naturally there will be snarky crap on the internet picking holes in it, but I really don't give a toss.
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


...she's walked all the way around so that he can't physically get to her before she jumps

Yeah this. She constructed an elaborate plan where Cobb only had the choice of jumping or being blamed for her death. If he could physically reach her, he could have grabbed her off the ledge, hence the room across from their suite.
posted by new brand day at 9:26 AM on July 19, 2010


That interview provided by Ryoshu covers some interesting topics. Dileep Rao comes off as a bright guy and the interviewer asks sharp questions.

Rao emphasizes something that empath alluded to up thread, sounds seem to be a good indication as to whether something is real or not in the context of the movie.

It's interesting because Rao says:
But you're saying it's like some sort of crazy-ass psychotherapy session where the whole thing is a constructed narrative of massive complexity only to distract Cobb so that he will achieve his change? I mean sure, you could totally say that that's what it is. In a way, that's what we're doing to Fischer, so it's not unfounded.

Which seems to dismiss exactly what DiCaprio said in two of his interviews for the movie.

I'm going to go see the movie again in Imax this week. I'm making a list of things to look for:

• Weird aural shifts. People have claimed that the voices of the children shift during the telephone conversation.

• Evidence of deeper dream states. Or evidence to support the "It's all a dream theory."

• Any strange clues in the text/names of buildings. I've heard rumors about Cobb's plane tickets shifting in details.

• Other examples of inceptions. IE Mal planting things into Cobb or Ariadne planting things into Cobb.

• Any evidence that Michael Caines' character, Miles, plays a behind the scenes role.

• Any evidence to support that the entire cast are just archetypal projections from Cobb's mind.

What are some other things to look out for?
posted by Telf at 9:31 AM on July 19, 2010


One thing that bugged me during the Mal hotel scene was the direction that Leo gestured in. When he was asking her to come back inside, his motioning was actually beckoning her to jump off the ledge. This coupled with the strange parallel layout of the hotel makes me think it was a dream.
posted by Telf at 9:35 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it comes down to this. When you exited the theater, did you ask yourself "What is the puzzle and how does it work?" or did you ask "Why is the puzzle there and what does it mean?" If you asked the first question, you liked it. If you asked the second question, you didn't like it.

And the answer to either question?

That's easy. The answer to both is Tom Berenger.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:37 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


*SPOILERS FOR SHUTTER ISLAND*











If it is all an elaborate attempt to deprogram Cobb and give him peace after his wife's death, then it's basically the same movie as Shutter Island, but with a different premise.
posted by codacorolla at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are some other things to look out for?

I'd love to go a second time, but I think I'll wait for it on Netflix. If you're going back, one thing I'd love to look for is a reference that was made early on in the teaching scenes between Leo and Ariadne. He's explaining that the levels need to be large enough so that the players can hide from the constructs.

I'd look for people in the "base reality" scenes that might be players if it were a dream. Perhaps Michael Caine's character, if we're going with the "Cobb therapy session" idea. He might be observing from a hidden location.
posted by odinsdream at 9:42 AM on July 19, 2010


codacorolla: Agreed. Odd how similar the two movies are. And, for what it's worth, I preferred Shutter Island. Thought it was a great, flawed film that was entertaining as hell.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:42 AM on July 19, 2010


Oh, and another thing that I noticed and would love to get confirmation on: In the theater where we saw the movie, in many of the quiet scenes there was a low bass rumble sound, a droning. I chalked this up to another movie in the building, but it could be an audio leak from an upper level. I remember this happening in otherwise quiet scenes, where it didn't have any obvious relevance.
posted by odinsdream at 9:43 AM on July 19, 2010


Well, Shutter Island kind of sucked hard once it tried to present one of the dumbest, oldest twists in the book as some grand revelation, and managed to annul the nice job it had done building things up before that, but yeah, the similarities are rather striking.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on July 19, 2010


I'd have mad respect for DiCaprio if he kept making the same movie over and over with different premises, and then made a meta-movie where he actually figures out he's an actor and is using movies to get over the death of his dead wife.
posted by codacorolla at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2010 [26 favorites]


crap, I think I have to go see it again and take notes.
posted by new brand day at 9:57 AM on July 19, 2010


Also, I'd only ever seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander. Imagine my surprise-- dude can act!
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:02 AM on July 19, 2010


Those were just the marks from hooking him up to the dream-sharing machine.

Interesting how off-handedly they address the tech. They don't bother with 'trodes, etc., nor even pretend to get into it. Wise.

At first put off that they didn't rely on more traditional dreamsigns (most commonly, inconsistent readings of time and written messages), but quickly realized that the premises they've brought to the story wouldn't permit them, because an "architect" could create stability where a dreamer creating and perceiving at the same time has trouble doing so IRL.

Really liked the premise that building a secure location motivates the dreamer to put their secrets there. Very nice.

And glad to see this thread has settled more into discussion rather than attack/defence of the movie (which always contained discussion, but all the pleasure goes out of it, frankly, when dealing with fanboys/"haters").

But in response to an earlier response, no, Saito hitting limbo first doesn't explain the decades of subjective time, since the differential between two levels shouldn't be so great that Leo's entrance is anywhere close to that much later. Though it does make you wonder -- if you hit limbo from level 1 rather than, say, level 3, what's the passage of time differential relative to RL? (since Leo spent so much time in limbo before) If the differential is already immense -- it's not just another level -- then ok, that might do it. Though I tend to agree with one of the above posters -- they really couldn't stand to wreck their opening with two old unrecognizable old men meeting, whether or not it would be consistent with the storyworld.

Overall: a little (but only a little) Dreamscape and The Cell, a little Brainstorm, a little Strange Days, a little Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the Matrix, and Dark City. Worth another look or three.

And on preview:
I'd only ever seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander.

He's always Tommy Solomon to me. Though that's a cue for me to mention how surprised (though sometimes bored) I was that they threw a physics puzzle into the middle of this brain-in-a-vat philsophy-actioner.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:10 AM on July 19, 2010


For those who think the end is not Cobb's dream: How do you explain that the children haven't aged? He was out of the U.S. for at least a year - probably much longer. It seems like this puts the end firmly in the dream camp.

1. What details from the film indicate how long he'd been out of the country?

2. We never saw the kids faces until the very end. What makes you think they didn't age?
posted by 23skidoo at 10:24 AM on July 19, 2010


2. We never saw the kids faces until the very end. What makes you think they didn't age?

Okay, fair enough. How about: why were the kids represented as playing in the yard wearing the exact same clothes and sitting in the exact same positions as in the rest of Cobb's dreams? Either he was dreaming or it was a perfect manifestation of his dream which, as I said before, is pretty patronizing on the part of Nolan if he wanted us to think it was RL.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:28 AM on July 19, 2010


...is pretty patronizing on the part of Nolan if he wanted us to think it was RL.

Interesting, I think the "it was all a dream" is pretty patronizing.
posted by new brand day at 10:35 AM on July 19, 2010


One comment on the kid's ages: The phone conversation he has with them doesn't jibe with the visual age of the kids. The son looks way to young for a detailed conversation like he has on the phone, and the daughter is showing hints of early teenage angst. At first I chalked this up to "He's been out of the country a long time", but when he sees them again at the end of the movie, this was another clue to me he was still in a dreamworld.
posted by Mcable at 10:35 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


...is pretty patronizing on the part of Nolan if he wanted us to think it was RL.

Interesting, I think the "it was all a dream" is pretty patronizing.


So now you see why I didn't like it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:36 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The appearance of the kids was enough to set off my own mental loaded die, but what really got me was the timing.

Leo avoids looking at the faces of his kids in the various dreamstates/visions he has. He’s holding out for RL. Now he thinks he’s there, and he sets that top spinning to be sure. But Caine, magnificent doofus, calls the kids and Leo looks up despite himself and sees their faces – before he’s established where the heck he is.

This reminded me instantly of the semi-regular occurrence of people reporting meeting unfamiliar dream characters IRL – and the standard analysis that, tenuous as dreams are upon waking, it’s a simple matter of the mind to fill in the details and believe this is who you dreamt. The audience is never shown the kids’ faces. We don’t know what they really looked like then or look like now. And the moment our protag goes to verify his experience before these, potentially imagined, details are filled in – boom, that moment is spoiled.

Of course, it could also have simply been a way to ensure that the spinning top remains the final image of the movie. *shrug*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:00 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm. And creation of a fortified place/structure motivates a dreamer to put what they treasure into it. Is the U.S. Leo's Fort Knox?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:08 AM on July 19, 2010


2. We never saw the kids faces until the very end. What makes you think they didn't age?

I'm virtually certain we see their faces once earlier. They certainly haven't grown any larger--they're the same size and in the same outfits that we see in their dream incarnations. Kids that age grow fast. Hard to believe he's been gone for more than a year if one were to go just by that. My sense, however, is that the indeterminacy is intended.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:32 AM on July 19, 2010


Wow, you guys are really hung up on the kids' age thing.

It's a movie that starts with a flash-forward -- Cobb on the beach, meeting the old Saito. We establish that our story-telling device will include a fluid timeline in the movie's first 30 seconds. The movie then flashes forward, back, sideways, diagonally ...

Therefore, could it not be that, when we see the kids, we are just seeing yet another flash-forward?

Look, there's analyzing a film and then there's trying to find problems with it. Don't tromp on it with your muddy nerd boots.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2010


Look, there's analyzing a film and then there's trying to find problems with it. Don't tromp on it with your muddy nerd boots.

Eh? “Leo is still dreaming” is not a “problem” with the movie; it’s an intriguing alternate interpretation. You’re one of those “Deckard can’t be a replicant!” people, aren’t you?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2010


You’re one of those “Deckard can’t be a replicant!” people, aren’t you?

No, more like, I'm one of those people that never said the original-with-voiceover Blade Runner sucked giant donkey dick. I thought it was good.

Now, I thought the director's cut was better, true. But I didn't want to crucify anyone at Warner Bros for forcing the voiceover on it the first time around.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:04 PM on July 19, 2010


2. We never saw the kids faces until the very end. What makes you think they didn't age?

I'm virtually certain we see their faces once earlier. They certainly haven't grown any larger--they're the same size and in the same outfits that we see in their dream incarnations. Kids that age grow fast. Hard to believe he's been gone for more than a year if one were to go just by that. My sense, however, is that the indeterminacy is intended.

Meh, I'm virtually certain we don't see their faces until the end. I'm also virtually certain that they never give any evidence that he's been gone for more than a year.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2010


I think the kids not aging has a ton of significance. A lot of people seem to be suggesting that it is evidence that he is in a dream or limbo at the end (i.e. it is not logical for the kids to not have aged, therefore he must be in a dream).

But how about the opposite? Maybe Cobb spent the entire movie of the movie leading up to this moment in limbo, and he finally snaps out of it in the end, where he is rejoined with his children, and in that world, a very small amount of time has passed, which explains why they look the same as in his memories. The whole movie, up until the end, was Cobb's limbo.

Cobb's character, after all, is consumed by regret throughout the movie. We get a taste at the end that Saito shares a similar fate, in his own limbo, only half-remembering things, and regretful. Aren't Cobb's memories of his children sort of the same deal?

What gets really interesting is if you posit that Cobb is in a limbo within a limbo when he finds Saito, and when he gets killed there, only then does he snap back into reality. It is, after all, rather convenient that the same flight that they intercept Fischer on is also the same flight that reunites Cobb with his kids. Is this simply an alignment of interests, or perhaps a dream within a dream?
posted by phaedon at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


CPB: With-narration is certainly an easier first ride. Though it makes me wonder what it's like to see the director's cut of Blade Runner as your first viewing, since I can't possibly know. I mean, I'm in a relationship with a woman who thinks Apocalypse Now is a movie at least partly about endless dinner parties on a French plantation. But I didn't hate the theatrical release, either, nor did many I think. I mean, if everyone had, a DC would have gone unnoticed, no?

And excellent linked piece by Ryoshu, above. If accurate, dismisses the Saito vs. Leo age explanation proferred upthread, but offers two possible explanations that work much better in its stead, I think.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:14 PM on July 19, 2010


Phaedon: that's not a bad idea, but the movie addresses this.

Dom being on the flight that reunites him is part of the plan. If he fails, Saito doesn't fix things for him, and he lands in America then he gets arrested and goes to jail. Jail, where not even escape into dreams is possible (as Cobb can no longer dream). On a face level reading of the movie this doesn't happen. Cobb is cleared, his passport checks (also: worth noting that at the passport scene is the only time modern technology is really hinted at, evidence towards it being real imo), and he continues on to his children.
posted by codacorolla at 12:15 PM on July 19, 2010


Or, you know, Mal could have been right. Either as she meant it, or as a maya/moksha thing (which I couldn't help but think of when her story was being explored).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:24 PM on July 19, 2010


I'm not totally sure what you're driving at, codacorolla, but here's another thought. Isn't it fair to say that, based somewhat tangentially on my theory, Mal and Dom had the kids before they entered limbo together? (Maybe this is obvious to everyone already.) That is to say.. the kids were left behind. Being reunited with Mal and being reunited with his children actually represent two opposites of the spectrum (one being reality and one being limbo - it's never be reunited with Mal and the kids.)
posted by phaedon at 12:27 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I just meant that's why Dom was on the same flight that reunited him with his kids. I think it's actually stated that the kids were born before they entered their paradise together (which they were only in for a few days, or whatever). I think that's definitely the choice he has throughout the movie - either stay with his fabrication of Mal, or actually get back together with his living children.

Depending on how you interpret the last shot he's either in reality or in limbo, but he ultimately chooses being with his children.
posted by codacorolla at 12:31 PM on July 19, 2010


Telf, add this to the list of things to look for during the next viewing.

I thought odinsdream nailed it by pointing out the lack of aging in the children. There seems to be consensus that the kids were wearing the same clothes at the end as they were earlier. So the children didn't age right?

Well the full cast list for Inception lists 4 actors for the two children at different ages.
Claire Geare ... Phillipa (3 years)
Magnus Nolan ... James (20 months)
Taylor Geare ... Phillipa (5 years)
Johnathan Geare ... James (3 years)
So were they older in the end or not?

Where are the four child actors in the film?
posted by ecco at 1:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


Yeah, but it's like your saying that since something is outwardly explained, it could not possibly have a deeper meaning.

In the helicopter, Saito offers Dom a "leap of faith" with him to be reunited with his kids, this may be a clue that what he is really offering him is an opportunity to return to reality - much like Dom offers Saito the "leap of faith" to come back, so we can be young men together. You would say that Saito was rescued from limbo, would you not?

So I don't think it's a stretch to say that this is what Saito is offering Dom as well. It is possible that Saito has entered Dom's limbo to rescue him. But the only convincing way to do this is through the Fischer mission - a carefully-architected scenario playing out in Dom's mind that is designed to bring him out of his limbo and reunite him with his kids.
posted by phaedon at 1:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before I post this, I'd like to say that while I am bean-plating it, I am doing so because I'm genuinely confused by what, to me, is the clear fact that in the movie the kids are the same age in the flashbacks as they are at the end. I really enjoyed the movie, and I'm not asking this question as a part of "OMG PLOT HOLES!!11" - I'm asking it from an analytical perspective, which I think is fair. I don't think it's a plot hole - I think it was an intentional choice and my question is, what do we learn from this choice?

... they never give any evidence that he's been gone for more than a year.

I'll grant you that it's extremely difficult to pin down anything concrete. I think this is a very interesting fact in itself. We don't have any good indicators of time passage in the "base level" (which I'll use to refer to what's presented ostensibly as "reality").

We do have some circumstantial evidence of time passage, though, including:

1. Cobb's partners know him well, especially in the context of his life after Mal died. They are aware of his issues and how they impact his work. They have known him in this state long enough to notice how his performance is degrading over time.
2. Voice of children on the phone - this one is inconclusive, but I mention it because it's a marker of a kind.
3. Michael Caine's character interacts with Cobb as though he's been struggling for a good chunk of time.
4. Cobb has worked on one job for sure, but he's presented as a professional who has performed multiple jobs. Obviously his job experience would overlap with when Mal was still alive, but it's hinted that he's been out of the country for enough time to do at least a few illicit jobs. He's considering going underground in South America in the beginning of the film for a good chunk of time.

As I said, all of these are circumstantial - none of them give us a good way to pin down an exact passage of time, but I take from all of them that it's been at least one year. Minimum. That's the smallest amount of time I can reasonably consider it would take to gather his team and organize for the number of tasks he's shown as having accomplished.

All this to say, the kids haven't aged at all, definitely not a year. At the age they begin, it would be obvious if they'd aged a year.
posted by odinsdream at 1:44 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cobb's partners know him well, especially in the context of his life after Mal died. They are aware of his issues and how they impact his work. They have known him in this state long enough to notice how his performance is degrading over time.

They also know that his "issues" arise in a specific context: dreamstate. If Mal started showing up the field, I think they would notice. And if Cobb started seeing her in his apparent waking state (and just not telling them), he -- and we -- might have reason to doubt his sanity, or if he's still asleep, but this never happens, amidst all the other ambiguities laced throughout the film.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:57 PM on July 19, 2010


If Mal started showing up the field, I think they would notice.

Mal took Aurthur hostage in the beginning.
posted by new brand day at 2:02 PM on July 19, 2010


Ok, "field" was imprecise. If the level they apparently all consider RL (whether or not that's in Cobb's mind) featured Mal, this would be a rather conspicuous cue, no?

Of course she's in Cobb's various dreamstates. It's the absence of her elsewhere that's likewise conspicuous. Nolan could have played off an appearance there -- say, only to Cobb -- as mere delusion, to confound the issue further. But he didn't.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:05 PM on July 19, 2010


I think it's pretty obvious that a lot of time has passed since Cobb last saw his kids. I don't really see how you could argue otherwise. As others have mentioned, what, he became the world's go-to dream-thief overnight? Please. And then even after the necessary time that that would have taken, they spend quite a lot of time planning their job on Fisher. You think Ariadne built three intricate dream worlds in a week?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:06 PM on July 19, 2010


Take a movie like Blade Runner (mentioned above) . Ten years after it first played it was still being regularly shown at art houses and audiences still came, watched and discussed. Why? There was substance. There was acting. There was story. Twenty years afterward, people still purchased the re-cut DVDs

Now take Batman Begins. Fun stuff. Who will come to see it ten years from now?
No one.

I predict that Inception will go the way of Batman Begins. In the end people will realize that there was really nothing there to begin with (despite the intense and brilliant marketing campaign that is still on-going).

People look for meaning i things like this. We look for meaning everywhere. It's what brains do. Real stories give us a framework on to which we can attach our personal meaning. In inception we spend 2 and a half hours watching some guy go through the process of letting his past relationship go. But we do it with explosions and zero gravity effects. And we're told up front that the story is a lot deeper than that - only it isn't

So the nets are now ablaze with people looking for the meaning (led by a not so subtle astroturfing campaign) and analyzing a poorly written and poorly plotted story for the hidden meanings. But there are no hidden meanings. The many inconsistencies were not clues to a greater meaning - they were just sloppy story telling.

Two years from now no one watches this movie.
But that's not really what Hollywood strives for anymore is it?
Mission accomplished.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:21 PM on July 19, 2010


he became the world's go-to dream-thief overnight?

I realize that probably nobody gives a shit about me and my limbo theory, so I'm gonna calm down after this, but I think this "dream-thief overnight" thing sort of supports my theory that what Dom treats as reality is actually a dream.

Other stray thought here - Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos who helped Theseus escape the Minotaur by giving him a ball of string that would allow him to escape the maze.
posted by phaedon at 2:22 PM on July 19, 2010


Now take Batman Begins.

No, it bored the shit out of me, particularly the climax.

The Dark Knight rocked however, though the climax there was a bit much so swallow. There's only so much you can do with 50 year old icons I suppose.
posted by new brand day at 2:43 PM on July 19, 2010


The Dark Knight was well excecuted meandering garbage that happened to be wrapped around a good central performance... a very different kettle of fish. I'm glad that Nolan gets to make stuff like Memento or Prestige as well.
posted by Artw at 2:46 PM on July 19, 2010


I loved Inception. Can you recommend any _books_ that would be similar?

(and yes, Ubik has already been recommended)
posted by Artw at 2:46 PM on July 19, 2010


Poet_Lariat, exactly what the fuck are you trying to convince us of? You've established that you think this is a vacuous shell of marketing hype numerous times. Plenty of people, myself included, have given you concrete details about how we were exposed to zero marketing and still enjoyed the movie. Give it a rest already.
posted by odinsdream at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Take a movie like Blade Runner (mentioned above). Ten years after it first played it was still being regularly shown at art houses and audiences still came, watched and discussed.

Nobody was fitting Blade Runner for its much-deserved "masterpiece" status a mere three days after its release. At the time, most people were thinking, "Dude, Han Solo sure is making some weird career choices."

Blade Runner didn't get traction as a masterpiece until a) the existence of the director's cut became widely known; b) you started seeing its visual influence on other current-L.A.-is-a-modern-dystopia films; c) Harrison Ford jumped from 'interesting genre actor' to 'world's most bankable star'; and c) no other film lapped it in terms of the richness and cohesion of its visuals.

---

A little different spin, submitted for discussion.

Inception shows the significant influence of The Matrix in terms of action movies tackling philosophical, existentialist themes. I once said that The Matrix would go down as one of the most influential movies ever, and this is another example.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Antoine else think of the Amy's Choice episode of Doctor Who?

Come to think of it, What If Stephen Moffat Made an Action Movie? is a question I'd love to see answered but never will.
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's kind of interesting to think that it's already been about 10 years since the Matrix. I'm not sure if I could say that Inception is more mature than The Matrix. I think a lot of the differences in aesthetics are obviously attributable to the writers/directors. In this case Christopher Nolan is an impeccably dressed Brit known for wearing a blazer even in scorching heat. The Wachowski brothers have expressed interest in bondage and cross dressing. (I guess it would be more accurate to say that one of them is transgendered.)

That comes across in both films. The goth-industrial feel of the matrix clashes with the sartorial sophistication of Inception. I mean the cast is seriously well dressed in this movie.

I don't think it's a 1999 vs 2010 thing. Gattaca shares more in common visually with Inception than with the Matrix.

More importantly, Inception doesn't try have that bong rip moment of revelation. Where you're all, "Dude what if like reality itsn't real and we're all just brains in a vat you know? Like Plato's cave and all that? Whoa."


As Nolan said, he essentially wanted to put a new spin on the heist movie. Which I think he did successfully.
posted by Telf at 8:36 PM on July 19, 2010


Heh. I did describe it to someone as being a bit like if the Gattaca folks made The Matrix.

Also I hadn't really twigged that Nolan is British. From level 3 one suspects he has a really great Bond movie inside him.
posted by Artw at 8:50 PM on July 19, 2010


I was thinking the same thing. In one of his interviews, he describes this as his Bond movie. He actually references Her Majesty's Secret Service as an influence, which is an odd Bond film to emulate. Was really impressed with the acting and physicality of both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy, neither of whom had really made it on to my radar.

I think either of those guys could go on to some interesting work. (No, GI Joe II doesn't count.)

New article about interpreations of the movie up at Cinematical. About half way through, seems worth posting.
posted by Telf at 9:33 PM on July 19, 2010


I think it's pretty obvious that a lot of time has passed since Cobb last saw his kids. I don't really see how you could argue otherwise. As others have mentioned, what, he became the world's go-to dream-thief overnight? Please. And then even after the necessary time that that would have taken, they spend quite a lot of time planning their job on Fisher. You think Ariadne built three intricate dream worlds in a week?

How to Argue Otherwise, Thank You Very Much:

1. How about Cobb became the world's go-to dream-thief while Mal was still alive? Or before he even met her?

2. Ellen Paige m.c.eschered a dream world with apparently NO training whatsoever, so we're shown that she's pretty darn good. Also, time moves much slower in dreamworlds than in real life: if she's making these worlds while IN them, then a week is like 20 weeks. Or 400 weeks. There's nothing to suggest that architecting a dreamworld has to take months and months.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:30 PM on July 19, 2010


1. How about Cobb became the world's go-to dream-thief while Mal was still alive? Or before he even met her?

How about he didn't? Vis-a-vis the movie?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:45 AM on July 20, 2010


He then sees Mal through curtains reflected in the mirror. It's presumed that this is one of the early signs that Cobb is losing his grip on what's real and what isn't

Oh snap -- Nolan did go for that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:40 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If there is any one scene that characterizes this movie it is the unexpected train wreck at the beginning of first tier. Where the hell did THAT come from ? What's THAT doing here , laments one of the characters.

it's the train that ran over him and his wife. the scene that is alluded to several times before we find out it's significance. duh.
posted by andywolf at 6:02 AM on July 20, 2010


They actually put a train chassis on top of a tractor trailer for that scene. That was such a great WTF moment.
posted by new brand day at 7:01 AM on July 20, 2010


Nobody was fitting Blade Runner for its much-deserved "masterpiece" status a mere three days after its release. At the time, most people were thinking, "Dude, Han Solo sure is making some weird career choices."

Hard to remember but Blade Runner bombed at the box office originally and didn't even recover it's production costs. It took a few years for it to start getting cult status.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, I came in this thread seeking a thoughtful discussion, and came away learning that dobbs doesn't like it because it didn't star Faye Dunaway, and that Poet_Lariat thought it was one of Mike Judge's weaker efforts.
posted by mkultra at 7:31 AM on July 20, 2010


The problem they have with this character is that she met Cobb 5 days ago and has only been on two expeditions (the training one and the one where she sneaks into Cobb's dream) and yet she knows FAR more about Cobb than Arthur or anyone else who has supposedly worked with him many times

it's entirely plausible that someone who just a met a person would notice how fucked up that individual is and those that have been around for a long time would miss it. i see it all the time at the emergency room i work in. cobb's an addict in a sense and part of his job is to lie. not to mention the fact that everyone he works with are guys, who don't usually delve into each others emotional state all that much. not to mention she actually took the steps to find out what is going on with him by sneaking into his dreams.
posted by andywolf at 7:33 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think either of those guys could go on to some interesting work. (No, GI Joe II doesn't count.)

Gordon-Levitt has made two great crime films. Brick, which is film noire in high school, and The Lookout, where he plays an amnesiac trying to solve a crime.

In the recent Neuromancer thread someone mentioned he'd make a good Case, and I agree.
posted by codacorolla at 10:20 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, he probably would.

BTW, I got an elbow dig from my wife half way through the show, and she leaned over to whisper excietedly "Hey! It's the 3rd Rock from the Sun guy!".
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on July 20, 2010


It's kind of interesting to think that it's already been about 10 years since the Matrix. I'm not sure if I could say that Inception is more mature than The Matrix. I think a lot of the differences in aesthetics are obviously attributable to the writers/directors. In this case Christopher Nolan is an impeccably dressed Brit known for wearing a blazer even in scorching heat. The Wachowski brothers have expressed interest in bondage and cross dressing. (I guess it would be more accurate to say that one of them is transgendered.)

Both the Matrix and Inception are descended from Dark City. All of these films take place in the shadow of Dark City. Not so much the plot, but with the notion that geography and architecture are functions of perception and psychology rather than of space, and the inseparability of that psychological geography from life (or the narrative).

(The city of Dark City is a spiral - the maze that Ariadne draws that finally convinces Cobb of her skills, after failing with three rectilinear designs, is a spiral.)

Dark City is to science fiction what the Velvet Underground was to rock.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:57 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck Dark Shitty.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on July 20, 2010


Funny, reading this thread. I had concluded that Cobb had decided to rescue Saito, but then ended up deciding to stay in limbo himself. They don't show how the next sequence begins (i.e. waking up: did he shoot himself?), which goes along with the rule that you can't remember how a new dream is initiated. It hadn't occured to me that the whole film may have been a dream. Also, did anyone notice how Michael Caine told Cobb near the beginning of the film to "come back to reality"? Either that's revealing, or Michael Caine is being a reaaaaally insensitive, given that he seems to know how Cobb's wife actually died.

That stuff about the children aging, though? I saw it last night and there were no real hints about the passage of time, apart from the fact that Cobb had to have had enough time for the two jobs: (1) the Saito audition, and then (2) the Fischer inception. I'd guess about a year or less has passed.
posted by eagle-bear at 11:08 AM on July 20, 2010


JGL's Lucentio was pretty great too in Ten Things I Hate About You.
posted by carsonb at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2010


Fuck Dark Shitty.

Damn Art,
I really liked Dark City. Or I did 10 years ago, not sure how it holds up now. I'm looking over the rest of Proyas' work and I'm not too impressed though. I just remember it being so atmospheric.

Pastabagel,
You think Dark City is the starting point for this? That doesn't seem right, but I can't think of any earlier examples. I could vaguely point to Warren Ellis' character Jack Hawksmoor who first appeared around 1996 and become more popular with the release of the authority in 1999. I want to say that this was touched upon by an earlier Anime, but I can't come up with anything concrete. Maybe you are right.

Interesting that Dark City, The Matrix, and Inception were all writer-director jobs. I guess they'd have to be.

I'd like to see Chris Nolan take on The City and The City. Mieville is abviously obessed with cities, but I think TC&TC is his first book which could actually be made into a movie. I would have picked the Cohen Brothers at first, but now Nolan seems like an obvious choice.
posted by Telf at 11:26 AM on July 20, 2010


I guess Grant Morrison's series, The Invisibles, has a bit of this. I'm still missing the big example. It's somewhere in my head.
posted by Telf at 11:31 AM on July 20, 2010


Inception borrows its look and one of its many conceits from Dark City, sure, but it owes a greater debt to films like Dreamscape, Jacob's Ladder, and eXistenZ.
posted by mkultra at 11:42 AM on July 20, 2010


I don't know that it was a direct influence, but I saw Paprika last week and it's got some interesting things in common with Inception.
posted by immlass at 11:48 AM on July 20, 2010


I'd like to see Chris Nolan take on The City and The City. Mieville is abviously obessed with cities, but I think TC&TC is his first book which could actually be made into a movie. I would have picked the Cohen Brothers at first, but now Nolan seems like an obvious choice.


I was thinking about that too. I wanted to like the book, but felt that it fell apart into "blah" exposition-fest at the end. A film adaptation might even work better. Nolan might be a good pick, but I'd hope he'd get someone else to write his dialog.

I don't know that it was a direct influence, but I saw Paprika last week and it's got some interesting things in common with Inception.

Definitely. They're both stories about how people can become lost in fantasy. I felt that Paprika was more about society and Inception was more about the individual. I also felt that in Inception the dreams were more of a neat way to make a heist movie, and Paprika was a bit deeper in content.
posted by codacorolla at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2010


The closing credits resolve the ambiguity, (un?)fortunately: there are credits given for the actors playing the children in Cobb's memory (aged 3 and 5), and when he sees them again at the end (5 and 7). They've grown up. He's back in the real world. The top wobbles because it falls over.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:22 PM on July 20, 2010


Also, not one single reference in over 300 comments to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Clearly similar visual effects in both movies, to say nothing of the delving into subconscious.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:26 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The closing credits resolve the ambiguity, (un?)fortunately: there are credits given for the actors playing the children in Cobb's memory (aged 3 and 5), and when he sees them again at the end (5 and 7).

Wow. Well, that doesn't have to resolve the ambiguity. Cobb could be dreaming them two years older. It does make me wrong about them being the same kids, though. (Assuming the credits list different actors for each age.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:30 PM on July 20, 2010


The closing credits resolve the ambiguity. There are credits given for the actors playing the children in Cobb's memory (aged 3 and 5 - these are the children that are filmed), and the actors playing the children in real life (5 and 7 - these are the children he speaks to on the phone).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:04 PM on July 20, 2010


And, as I said, how do we know that he isn't dreaming them older? They'd need actors either way. Furthermore, do we know if the older two might be voice actors only? Wouldn't they be credited the same way in either instance? (Or do VO only credits come later?)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:06 PM on July 20, 2010


Or were you suggesting that the re-use of the younger pair indicates he IS dreaming at the end? Arrrgh.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2010


Are you talking to me? That's what I just wrote.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2010


I don't even know anymore. I'm going to go mumble in the corner now.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:08 PM on July 20, 2010


Yeah. BinaB is making a statement of CERTAINTY where there is clearly only ambiguity. The end tells us nothing.

And as I said earlier, even if the top fell, it still doesn't mean he's not dreaming - he merely chooses to let his top fall in his dream. I wish Nolan would have just shown it one way or the other. Cowardly to cut it when he did. If he let the top fall we could still argue over whether it was all a dream or not. Instead it's combing the credits for the ages of the actors. Awesome. When I make a super amazing movie, I sure don't want people talking about the depth of the experience, I want them quibbling over actor's ages.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:10 PM on July 20, 2010


Also, sounds like some crossover/inspiration with The Dream Master (by Roger Zelazny)
posted by symbioid at 4:52 PM on July 20, 2010


"Inception" was a great ride. If you're expecting it to make perfect sense on some philosophical level then you need to just stop watching movies altogether. It was a wonderful exercise in creating expectations and scenarios, and then twisting them. Exploding snow fortresses and gunfights just added some spice.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:47 PM on July 20, 2010


Inception: If you don't like it, you can giiiiiiiit out!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:05 PM on July 20, 2010


BuddhaInABucket:Also, not one single reference in over 300 comments to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Clearly similar visual effects in both movies, to say nothing of the delving into subconscious.

Great comparison there! Both movies dealt with similar themes. But whereas Eternal Sunshine contained characters you could feel for , I found that in Inception , I didn't have much emotional investment in the major characters.

Eternal Sunshine explored the durability of Love even beyond memory itself and Inception mostly explored cool special effects.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:37 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm going to have to watch Eternal Sunshine again. I didn't really get anything out of it and disliked the main characters but it keeps coming up on best of lists so I feel like I should give it another chance. On the other hand, I saw Charlie Kaufman give a talk after a screening of Synecdoche and he seemed like a bit of a self-involved jerk who thinks highly of himself.
posted by octothorpe at 7:16 PM on July 20, 2010


not one single reference in over 300 comments to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

I mentioned it something like 150 comments ago.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:20 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm going to have to watch Eternal Sunshine again. I didn't really get anything out of it and disliked the main characters but it keeps coming up on best of lists so I feel like I should give it another chance. On the other hand, I saw Charlie Kaufman give a talk after a screening of Synecdoche and he seemed like a bit of a self-involved jerk who thinks highly of himself.

Are you not allowed to think highly of yourself when you've just created the best film of the decade?

I just saw Inception and I think tonight I'm gonna watch Synecdoche again because I haven't seen that film in at least a few weeks which is too long. Inception was "good" in the pejorative sense. It followed every rule of the blockbuster, included about an hour and a half of unnecessary scenes designed to appeal to all of the people who've come here talking about how appealing those scenes were, but that's okay. Not every film has to aspire to greatness. Especially not when it's Chris Nolan, whose only addition to higher-concept filmmaking was making Memento, which is an instant test to see if people like thinking during movies or if they merely like being told that they're thinking. (Memento was a great blockbuster too, but it's intellectually insipid, and I use it along with Donnie Darko to tell who's worth avoiding in film classes.)

I'm pissed off at it, and I suspect a lot of other people are, because Nolan used dreams as his subject matter, and then proceeded to make a cerebral movie with no heart and no wit that made a lot of pretenses to being a film actually about the nature of dreams. That's David Lynch territory. This movie's ending is like what Mulholland Drive could have been if Mulholland Drive had been made by somebody who wasn't one of the greatest living filmmakers. And it's Charlie Kaufman territory, too, only Kaufman doesn't merely take a shallow concept and use it to sell a blockbuster. He goes deep, deep down, deeper with every movie, so that while Synecdoche wasn't as technically money as Inception, its shots were vastly more intelligent. Difference in philosophy as filmmaking. I just wish Nolan would stop dealing with the "high-concept" and making popular movies that convinced watchers they were remotely smart. I wish he'd take a leaf out of Soderbergh's book and make movies that are clever, technically superb, and don't once lie to the viewer about the kind of movie they're seeing.

But it's not worth arguing. Inception is still in theaters and if we talk about it here we'll deal with the crowd of people who're convinced that just because it's big it necessarily has to be great. That's how I felt about The Dark Knight and Avatar; it's a common response. I respect it and don't see the point in arguing with people still in the throes of fandom.

However! Anybody here who fucking DARES to mention Inception in the same breath as the name of M. C. Escher is gonna get slapped with a steel glove and skewered with a lance. Escher may be dead but that doesn't mean you can rape his corpse.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:51 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


No Rory, he made a heist movie that involves dreams, not a movie about dreams. It's a damn fine heist movie.
posted by new brand day at 7:58 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are you not allowed to think highly of yourself when you've just created the best film of the decade?

Yea, I know that's what Ebert said but I don't buy it. Synecdoche was about 2/3 interesting and 1/3 unwatchable; the later scenes with his wife and with his daughter were so hate filled that I felt bad for the actors having to do the scenes.
posted by octothorpe at 8:01 PM on July 20, 2010


I suspect it could never live up to the original Bjork video.
posted by Artw at 8:05 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, yeah, all of your analysis this and analysis that... the big takeway I get from this thread is that

It's not like when I was 14, watching the Matrix

Telf is now on the list of people I want to punch in the face.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 PM on July 20, 2010


Ouch. That original comment was supposed to be a jab at myself if it makes you feel better.

The full quote being, "There wasn't a big ah-ha moment for me in this movie. It's not like when I was 14, watching the Matrix and my teenaged brain realized what was "really" going on." So really just making fun of myself as a 14 year old.

See also:
More importantly, Inception doesn't try have that bong rip moment of revelation. Where you're all, "Dude what if like reality itsn't real and we're all just brains in a vat you know? Like Plato's cave and all that? Whoa."

Unless what your saying is that you really really love the Matrix and I shouldn't poke fun at it for its dorm room philosophy. In that case, fair enough.

Anyways, I'm not really recommending the movie, but What Dreams May Come should probably get a nod as well. Husband goes to dream-like limbo/hell to save his wife who committed suicide.
posted by Telf at 9:58 PM on July 20, 2010


What I'm saying is that you were 14 when the Matrix came out.
posted by Justinian at 10:21 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh, you mean that you are old. I was wondering what the hell that was about.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh!!! I get it! Sorry about that one. Were the 60s as cool as they sounded in my history classes? The Nixon dude seemed like kind of a dick.
posted by Telf at 10:28 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I dunno, the 60s is for the really old people, not the getting-old-but-not-quite old people.
posted by Justinian at 1:06 AM on July 21, 2010


Metafilter: giant piles of dog feces floating silently in the air and rotating slowly
posted by stinkycheese at 1:41 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most interesting explanation I've read: NEVER WAKE UP: THE MEANING AND SECRET OF INCEPTION.
posted by new brand day at 5:39 AM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Rory Marinich: Inception is still in theaters and if we talk about it here we'll deal with the crowd of people who're convinced that just because it's big it necessarily has to be great. That's how I felt about The Dark Knight and Avatar; it's a common response. I respect it and don't see the point in arguing with people still in the throes of fandom.

And yet, here you are, dropping your patronizing condescension on those who would dare to like it. Save it.

Rory Marinich: I use it along with Donnie Darko to tell who's worth avoiding in film classes.

Perhaps someone will similarly use that gasbag of a comment to make a similar assertion about your classes.
posted by mkultra at 5:52 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This movie really seems to make people flip their dick-switch to full blast.
posted by codacorolla at 7:16 AM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


My dick-switch goes to eleven?
posted by Justinian at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2010


I liked it. I thought it was a good heist film with a nicely twisty premise. It reminded me of a William Gibson short story (especially The Winter Market), though Gibson would have permitted himself a more leisured pace. I'm not entirely sure what my opinion of it will be in the end, but I definitely need to see it again so that I can form any kind of durable opinion of it. It may fall apart in repeated viewings or it may solidify (or do both, like The Dark Knight did for me). I don't think it's the kind of movie you can really keep in your head during the first watching. I suspect that there are a lot of red herrings that are there to distract the viewer from the "tell." Though of course I may only think that because Nolan made The Prestige.
posted by Kattullus at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2010


new brand day,

Yup. That link nails exactly what I've been thinking in my head. Both of the main points in that article essentially sum up what I was leaning towards. This is a movie about making movies. I felt very strongly that the main characters represented some kind of archetype, and even the "real" sequences are obviously dreams. Mombasa most especially.

The only difference its that I pegged Arthur (Sounds like "Author", I was being simplistic.) as the writer and Ariadne as the producer, but almost all the other roles fit with my personal explanation.

Thanks for posting the link, that was much more articulate than anything I would have written.
posted by Telf at 2:30 PM on July 21, 2010


The greatest dream cities in science fiction and fantasy
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on July 21, 2010


Primer was fucking boring.

Yes!!! Great first-effort independent film, novel take on time travel plots, and sufficiently complex that I had to google explanations of the (at least) nine different timelines. But the hype-erbole is overstating the case, me thinks...a review on the wikipedia article for the film called Primer the most original thing to come from the Sci-fi genre since "2001." And the reviewer wasn't Armand White!

So were they older in the end or not?

Where are the four child actors in the film?


The younger kids were in the beach memory in Cobb's memory prison/elevator shaft.

As a LOST fan one element shared between the show and Inception stuck out at me as a potentially ripe-with-meaning artifact of the pop culture collective consciousness: a man (who followed his father's career path) flying from Sydney to L.A. with his father's casket-enclosed body in the cargo hold.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 2:49 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


According to some comments I've seen around the web, the kids at the end ARE different and older and their clothing is somewhat different.

I think I'm going to need to see this 2 or 3 times while it's in the theatre.
posted by new brand day at 2:52 PM on July 21, 2010


That's what the Warner Bros. are hoping you'll do.
posted by Chichibio at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2010


I'm happy to do whatever Warner Bros. would like to me do, yes.
posted by new brand day at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which one has more clout with you? I'm guessing Jack. Man's got charisma.
posted by Chichibio at 4:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just read the CHUD analysis linked above. Matches my observations upthread i.e. whole movie is a dream and a metaphor for filmmaking.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2010


Apparently comparisons with Fellini aren't unfounded, DiCaprio himself compared Inception to 8 1/2. And Someday Bum was right on comparing the Architect to the Screenwriter. From the Chud article:

The heist team quite neatly maps to major players in a film production. Cobb is the director while Arthur, the guy who does the research and who sets up the places to sleep, is the producer. Ariadne, the dream architect, is the screenwriter - she creates the world that will be entered. Eames is the actor (this is so obvious that the character sits at an old fashioned mirrored vanity, the type which stage actors would use). Yusuf is the technical guy; remember, the Oscar come from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it requires a good number of technically minded people to get a movie off the ground. Nolan himself more or less explains this in the latest issue of Film Comment, saying 'There are a lot of striking similarities [between what the team does and the putting on of a major Hollywood movie]. When for instance the team is out on the street they've created, surveying it, that's really identical with what we do on tech scouts before we shoot.'
posted by thescientificmethhead at 4:45 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this was posted already, but I thought you might find this chart helpful.
posted by spec80 at 5:23 PM on July 21, 2010


While I'm not clear on how he made that happen (maybe it was as simple as spinning the top and locking it in the safe so she'd discover it?), but you know how that worked out for them. In any case, he didn't take the totem from her until after her death.

It's way more subtle and clever. She locks away her totem, as you say, so that she'll forget it's a dream. Cobb opens the safe and starts it spinning, and then closes and locks the safe again. She never looks at it again, but they're in a shared dream space. "On the shores of their subconscious." Somewhere in the back of her mind, that top is always spinning. Even when she wakes up. That's why she's unable to believe in her reality.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Chichibio: "That's what the Warner Bros. are hoping you'll do."

They actually made a good movie, people should support it and maybe they'll make more.

I'm not sure I really believe that but it's worth a try
posted by octothorpe at 6:21 PM on July 21, 2010


Finally saw the movie tonight and loved it.

One interesting bit of parallelism I haven't seen anyone note yet:

When Mal is in the apartment window beckoning Cobb to jump, she asks him to take a "leap of faith" so that they may finally wake and grow old together. Later on, when Saito is in the helicopter offering the inception job, he also asks Cobb to take a leap of faith by accepting the offer, so that he does not end up dying old and alone, full of regret. Finally, towards the end of the movie, Cobb asks Saito to take a leap of faith with him, so they can wake and be young again.

It seems really hinky that a phrase so pregnant with meaning is invoked for similar reasons separately by two unrelated characters (Mal, Saito) who are supposed to be in real life at the time. I think it implies that both scenes are in fact dreams, or at least that one is a dream which is echoing the other, real-life scene. Perhaps suicidal Mal was right: killing herself really did wake her up, the whole movie was just a self-therapeutic exercise in Cobb's personal limbo, and the "real" Saito of the helicopter is merely a projection echoing her final plea.

It also kinda recalls Shutter Island's use of the children as a sort of mental talisman that DiCaprio seeks in order for catharsis but cannot quite realize.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:51 AM on July 22, 2010


Also, reading Dileep Rao's explanation of limbo, I think that there are some interesting implications of the afterlife. If a virtually limitless amount of subjective time can be experienced in limbo while only seconds pass in reality, then perhaps the afterlife is similar -- an infinite subconscious dream that one falls into as the brain dies. Maybe Mal passed into such a state when she killed herself! Maybe Cobb is dead the whole time and this is his personal afterlife! It adds a lot of intriguing possibilities.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:56 AM on July 22, 2010


Rhaomi, that's interesting re: "infinite subjective time" as that's one of the points of Tipler's Omega Point Theory. He posits the Big Crunch end of the universe (which I believe is now not believed to be the case), and that in the final bit of time, "god"/omega point will become self aware and simulate a heavenly resurrection of all that has come before, and it will feel subjectively like eternity, but is really only ~10^-43(?) of a second.
posted by symbioid at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2010


So, symboid: couldn't we be in Omega Point right now?

Dun dun DUN!!!!
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:49 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, yes that is a metanarrative possibility.

Actually one idea I personally entertain, based on this idea is "your life flashes before your eyes" when you die. What if this is literal, not a mere "flash" but subjectively seconds before you die, you relive your own life (and each memory-self relives it's own lives in an infinite chain of beings) and here we are merely reliving our lives.

And that is why we have deja-vu.

*pass me another J, please*
posted by symbioid at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2010


Nolan is a juggalo. Inception is just another ride at the Dark Carnival.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


And that is why we have deja-vu.


See also: Eternal return. Or the idea that time is not linear as we usually conceive of it, but is "a wave propagation traveling in all directions simultaneously." - Bucky Fuller.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I pondered eternal return (using finite units of particles with finite space-time) then read about it in... The Physics of Immortality (keeps going back to that) and was like WOW!

If we're talking about waves of time, then... heh, you've got Terence McKenna and Timewave and retrocausality and holy crap where will this conversation go?

Maybe how I perceived eternal return is different than it's meant (at least according to Buckminster's description)?
posted by symbioid at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2010


The Guilt-Inducing Ghost Wife Haunts the Movies
posted by Artw at 2:44 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


My bad: eternal return/recurrence is a cyclical view of time. Big Bang -->Expansion-->Retraction-->Big Crunch-->Big Bang, etc."Now, however long a time may pass, according to the eternal laws governing the combinations of this eternal play of repetition, all configurations which have previously existed on this earth must yet meet, attract, repulse, kiss, and corrupt each other again..." But Timewave/retrocausality is in the same line of thought as Fuller's quote: as we open up/look into the future we simultaneously open up/look into the past.

Damn this was a good movie.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 4:52 PM on July 22, 2010


My apologies if someone discussed this already... but in the scene where Mal and Cobb are lying on the train tracks, what does Mal shout out at the very end?
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 6:16 PM on July 22, 2010


It's the answer to the "riddle" that Mal goes through repeatedly. It doesn't matter because they'll be together.
posted by Justinian at 6:53 PM on July 22, 2010


Why didn't Dom tell Mal that he had incepted her?
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:08 PM on July 22, 2010


Why didn't Dom tell Mal that he had incepted her?

Maybe this is simplistic, but I think that conversation would have been a few degrees more awkward than explaining to someone why you slept with their mother.
posted by Telf at 10:02 PM on July 22, 2010


Wait, the character was called "Mal"? Like from Firefly? I thought it was "Moll" the entire film. How the hell was he pronouncing Mal to sound like Moll?

Why didn't Dom tell Mal that he had incepted her?

"You know that wonderland where we lived like gods for 50 years, that's better than real life? You didn't really want to leave, I made you want to leave."

Uh, yeah.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:40 AM on July 23, 2010


"You know that wonderland where we lived like gods for 50 years, that's better than real life? You didn't really want to leave, I made you want to leave."

Well, it's more like "I made you confront what you were hiding from yourself." I understand there's no nice way to say this, but when someone is about to jump off a ledge, maybe some awkwardness can be tolerated.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:59 AM on July 23, 2010


Guys, good news. We can stop arguing over whether or not Inception was any good. Stephanie Zacharek, the happiness-devouring dementor-harpy who feasts on childhood dreams and excretes schadenfreude, reviewed Inception. She didn't like it, which means it was excellent.

So now, that Armond White and Stephani Zarachek have firmly cast their votes, we can safely say that Inception probably will be remembered as an important and influential movie.
posted by Telf at 6:31 AM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm going to write the New York Post requesting they get rid of Armand White. His "reviewer" schtick would actually be very funny if it was on the Onion or a blog, but there are too many movie critics who would like to see their work in print to have that joker being published.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:04 AM on July 23, 2010


The Criterion forums have had a 613 post long thread bitching about Armand White for almost five years now.
posted by octothorpe at 12:12 PM on July 23, 2010


Great movie, but the snow scene is straight out of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2010


Wait, the character was called "Mal"? Like from Firefly? I thought it was "Moll" the entire film. How the hell was he pronouncing Mal to sound like Moll?

They're pronouncing it like the french word for bad, which does kinda sound like moll.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:18 PM on July 23, 2010


I'm going to write the New York Post requesting they get rid of Armand White.

You mean the NY Press?
posted by empath at 7:24 PM on July 23, 2010


Just saw Inception, and it was pretty darn good.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2010


I just got back from seeing this, and I thought it was excellent. A little long, as others have noted, but not so much that it bothered me, and the visuals more than made up for it.

Based on one viewing, my interpretation is that Cobb was still dreaming at the end. Too many of the early scenes in "reality" were dreamlike, especially the part in Mombasa, and some had audio (like the sound of the watch fast-ticking in the white room before they taught Ariadne to dream) which further suggests that the "real" scenes might not have been on the uppermost level of the dream stack.

That said, I think the point of the ambiguous ending is rather clear. What matters is not whether the top stops spinning, but that Cobb doesn't stay to find out. He spent the whole movie obsessing over the top, and now, the one time when it really matters, he doesn't care. He's finally free of his own inception, the thing he "once knew but had hidden away" -- your reality is not the true reality -- and so he is subjectively free, whether the inception was objectively true or not. On the meta-level, I think the Lady and the Tiger ending was meant to be another inception: after a movie which deliberately blurs the line between dream and reality, you can't simply make the audience believe that Cobb's final reality was real, or not real. You can only plant a tiny seed, and then let each viewer convince themselves one way or the other.
posted by vorfeed at 11:34 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the ending (along with the rest of the movie) is Christopher Nolan's way of doing an inception to us, the audience. Because at the end there, with Cobb ignoring the top, isn't that what we do every day? We think this is reality, but can we prove it? That's the seed the movie plants in our heads.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:15 AM on July 24, 2010


So I haven't really watched a lot of blockbusters at the theater the last years, but just a few minutes into this one, I started noticing the characteristic palette. It was so heavily used the first 20-ish minutes (when they're in Saito and the first architect's dreams) it was almost ridiculous.

As has been mentioned above, I was struck by the scene where Mal jumped; I thought it was a bit strange that she was sitting in the window of what seemed to be a different building, and Cobb's gesturing for her to go back inside by motioning towards the gap (from her perspective) - it was almost like he implicitly tried to get her to jump (but that's probably overthinking it).
posted by Bukvoed at 12:42 AM on July 24, 2010


Also, I'd only ever seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander. Imagine my surprise-- dude can act!

Hear me now: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the finest actor of his generation. Watch Mysterious Skin. Not a great movie (and disturbing to some, I'd wager) but a hell of a performance.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:19 AM on July 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, you know what, there's a lot of smart people on MetaFilter. That's why I hang out here. I respect the base intelligence level of MetaFilter enough that if a large portion of Mefites really enjoy something, I have to assume that there's something there even if it doesn't appeal to me. If you really think you're than much smarter than everyone else on MetaFilter, you may be smart but you sure are ignorant.

Those of you posturing as so high above the herd of sheeple Mefites may want to think about checking yourselves. You might be wrong, and even if you're right you're being a dick.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:29 AM on July 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great movie, but the snow scene is straight out of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The music for that part was totally James Bond-esque too. Although I thought that whole dream layer was more like a Modern Warfare level than a James Bond film.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:30 AM on July 24, 2010


nestor_makhno: "Great movie, but the snow scene is straight out of On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

Nolan says that was his favorite bond movie.
posted by octothorpe at 10:04 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Although I thought that whole dream layer was more like a Modern Warfare level than a James Bond film.

I had a bit of déjà vu with 2001 when Fischer opened up the vault on that level and walked into the big grid room.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:14 AM on July 24, 2010


The snow layer was confusing, but it helped a bit that all the projections seemed to have slightly darker decorations on their camo suits.
posted by ymgve at 12:12 PM on July 24, 2010


> The snow layer was confusing

I noticed that as well. There were moments when it wasn't clear if it was Eames who was doing the shooting or getting shot. I think that might've been intentional--the line between friend and foe was blurred on that level because they were already deceiving Fischer on the hotel level to think that they were projections of his own mind.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:17 PM on July 24, 2010


There's a certain sensibility to the notion of building a Bond-esque setting to play the trump card in manipulating young, handsome, rich, globe-trotting subject. It's more fantastic than a kidnapping or certainly a hotel, but it's also flattering to a sort of childish adventurism that Fischer more than the average kid growing up might have legitimately fantasized about.
posted by cortex at 1:11 PM on July 24, 2010


No, as I said, you are confusing story plot holes with holes in the system. Show me holes in the world/magic system established in the movie. For example, something they establish early on as never happening happens or something they say works one way ends up working another.

In the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the ONE Ring makes anyone who puts it on his finger disappear. Clearly estalblished with gollum, Bilbo and Frodo as part of the "magic system". But when we hear the story of how Isildur has the presence of mind to cut off Sauron's finger, Sauron is completely visible even though he is wearing the ring. So there is that.

Saw Inception last night. While my husband felt the kids had not aged and were wearing the same clothes, I didn't feel it was possible to tell because we hadn't seen their faces. But when the girl turns to look at the camera at the end of the film? That's the 5 yr-old actress, not a 3 yr-old.

I thought the movie was definitely thought-provoking, well-imagned and beautifully filmed.
posted by misha at 4:01 PM on July 24, 2010


Fodder for the "apparent reality is just another dream in the mind of guilt-stricken, children-missing Cobb" is the odd thematic consistency in the tokens we're shown—a top, a die, a chess pieces, all fundamentally toys and game pieces. Unable, by his dream reckoning, to reunite with his children, he projects an innocence onto his imagined comrades in the form of the tokens he imagines them to keep as a form of compensation.

Or to run in a different direction, Mal/Cobb's token is more innocent than the rest, a spinning top the most guileless sort of play a child could engage in. Arthur's die, Ariadne's bishop, Eames' poker chip (on the theory—I haven't seen this talked about much—that he palms a chip when cashing in because that chip is in fact his totem) all represent games, agency, the insertion of control and decision-making into the process of play.
posted by cortex at 5:10 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


But when the girl turns to look at the camera at the end of the film? That's the 5 yr-old actress, not a 3 yr-old.

A lot of made of the two sets of kids used, with some implying that this automatically means that the kids at the end are older. But there are other scenes with the kids, like when they're on the beach with Mal. In those scenes the kids are clearly younger.

The kids in his memories are the same, with slight differences in their clothing, leading me to think it was just a continuity error with the scrip supervisor or some such. The size and shape of the kids are the same though.

Cobb made his choice, defined his reality. Who are we to say he's dreaming?
posted by new brand day at 7:27 PM on July 24, 2010


> Or to run in a different direction, Mal/Cobb's token is more innocent than the rest

I hadn't thought about the significance of the totems. Maybe it's more that they are each a reflection of each individual's style. Cobb's is the top since its motion or lack thereof is what really signifies the overall dream. Ariadne's chess piece represents calculation and set patterns of movment since she was a precise architect. Eame's (if it was this) poker chip represents his style of taking risks without knowing if they will pay off. Arthur's weighted die represents that he appears to be taking chances, but has actually already determined the outcome.

At any rate, it will be interesting to hear Nolan's commentaries on the DVD.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:39 PM on July 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hola, I just saw the movie tonight and scribbled the below on facebook. Needless to say, haven't read this thread.

* * * * *

Saw INCEPTION, which left me thrilled and ambivalent. Carbonated brainbubbles & primitive essay machine below.

1. The movie combines my favorite things: cognition as organizing structure and fantastic menswear! Plot's modeled after my peeps: Francois Schuiten, Borges, Bioy Casares, and most of all Resnais. (It's not original but synthetic.) In fact, Inception's a lot like my book if you redacted the intimacy, fizz, and melancholia. This isn't vanity. Self-loathing only makes me more aware of its flaws!

2. On the other hand: action movie epistemology boring, cheesy Escher middlebrow idea of space, too much literalism, no offscreen space, see-it-a-mile-away ending (both Saito & final scene), and a problem endemic to structuralism/contextualism--everything becomes macguffin, meaning/motivation deficit. Not actually that complex (cf. Sontag on Resnais's Muriel: if you watch 2nd time, you'll see you didn't miss anything). The final conceit (low-resolution dream = why my movie about psychology possesses groan-inducing psychology!) is cheap and better models Nolan's approach to art: why use narrative to model own adoption of intellectualization as a low-level defense mechanism? And to quote his last movie: why so serious?

3. What's more interesting. Myth of efficacious teamwork; are spy/heist movies really about HR and job performance? Trope spy/heist troupe reconfigured as "creatives." Cute plotting not bc of dream-on-dream action but bc endless exposition is disguised as spectacle. Like Matrix, Inception really about global capital: Africa as global south vs omnipotently wealthy Orient + Antonioni-meets-Mad-Men suits as model for elite rule (rather than conspicuous consumption via Esquire consumerism) + Japanese mogul phone call > American rule of law + corporate space as externalized fungible self-replicating maze. Ultimately cynical: doesn't matter if Fischer or Saito win: dynastic oligarchs control the world anyways! Would be more interesting if hinted at Leo's (and it's always Leo, not Cobb) wife's repressed Thing. Most curious psychological moment: what is object of Saito's repression?
posted by johnasdf at 9:15 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


BUUUUURRRRRRRMMMMMMMM

BUUUUURRRRRRRMMMMMMMM

BUUUUURRRRRRRMMMMMMMM

BUUUUURRRRRRRMMMMMMMM

rrrrrrrrrssssssssshhhhhhhhhh!

posted by Rhaomi at 9:31 PM on July 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Cobb: We need to dissolve this certain company. It just so happens that the founder is about to die. You're a forger right?
Eames: Yup. I forge documents.
Cobb: OK then. Let's forge us up a fake last will and testament that breaks the company up.
Eames: Sure thing.
Cobb: Man this is incredibly easy.

Fin
posted by yeti at 5:50 AM on July 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think "Forger" meant that Eames was good at looking like other people in dreams. He "played" Browning and the blonde girl.
posted by milestogo at 6:24 AM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a bit hard to forge a will that breaks up the company the deceased founded, particularly when the son would fight. That ties up the company and founding for years in court. The beauty of inception is that it would circumvent all that.

But just to have to fun with the "wouldn't this be easier if..." idea:

If the movie really is really a heist job, wouldn't it have been better to incept Maurice? Why is that idea never explored?

Wouldn't it have been easier if they designed a bank vault on the snow level, rather a paramilitary base? Of a para military base with secret tunnel the team knew about?

Wouldn't spiking Fischer's meal or drink while he was at a hotel be easier and less risky?


Why would Saito hire Dom if Saito was able to figure out he was in a dream within a dream? That's seems counter productive to the idea of making things seem real that inception takes place.

Hmmm, how did the heist job come together. Dom and Aurthur were supposedly hired by Kobol Engineering to steal secrets from Saito's mind. Yet Saito was actually auditioning them. Does Kobol even exist and if it does, did it hire Cobb and Aurther or did Saito set up an elaborate ruse? On the heist level, it makes sense for Saito to audition talent, at least taken as a heist flick. Or Saito the real pro, ala Gafff in Blade Runner, to incept Cobb? If so, that's means the train and him getting shot were planned, designed to force Cobb to go deeper at the end? If so, what was the point of incepting Cobb? To make him wake up, 'cause we never do? To make him choose between his wife or kids to relieve guilt over her death? If so, then who hired Saito, Michael Caine's character? And did the job fail, i.e. Cobb never wakes up, merely leaves out a happy life with his kids?

My favorite meaning though is the idea of the movie being a metaphor for movie making and movie viewing, with Fischer as the audience. The team give him a completely fake, but the less really and emotionally fulfilling experience, yet in process "steals" some of his money. Oh, if only they had made that scene in 3D
posted by new brand day at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2010


I thought the snow level was also a reference to the movie Spellbound.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:59 AM on July 25, 2010


misha, I am pretty sure that Sauron controls the ring and can choose to be visible while wearing it because it's his creation which he controls. Nobody else has power over the ring.
posted by prefpara at 7:40 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like many others have stated, the biggest problem I had with Inception was the end. Not the top not falling or whatever, but once it cuts to black why the hell did they not play Deam Weaver!? It's like HELLO, the movie was about dreams! Kick some fucking Dream Weaver over the credits and let's rock out! Fuckin' amateur hour!
posted by ND¢ at 10:21 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few people here have said things like:

The way it's presented is so mechanical and predictable it seemed more like they were talking about a computer program.

I give you: inception.c
posted by painquale at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


You mean the NY Press?

Shit. Now I have to send the New York Post a letter of apology.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2010


Although I thought that whole dream layer was more like a Modern Warfare level than a James Bond film.

Snow fortress level gave me potent flashbacks not to OHMSS but the Goldeneye 64, and the Siberia mission levels: baddies in snow suits, sniper rifles, infiltrating snow base, etc.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I finally saw it today. I enjoyed it a lot, more than I have Nolan's other recent films. My first question is this: if the reason it was raining in the first dream was because Yusef needed to pee (and thus made me realize that I too needed to pee, damn it), then does that mean it stopped raining because Yusef peed himself in the airplane?
posted by homunculus at 4:58 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Yusef and his need to pee even real?!
posted by new brand day at 5:01 PM on July 26, 2010


Based on one viewing, my interpretation is that Cobb was still dreaming at the end. Too many of the early scenes in "reality" were dreamlike, especially the part in Mombasa, and some had audio (like the sound of the watch fast-ticking in the white room before they taught Ariadne to dream) which further suggests that the "real" scenes might not have been on the uppermost level of the dream stack.

I'm leaning towards that interpretation too.

Is Yusef and his need to pee even real?!

I don't know, but mine is. Excuse me.
posted by homunculus at 5:05 PM on July 26, 2010


homunculus: yes. When the subconscious baddies began chasing and shooting at Yusef in the van he wet himself and it stopped raining. That is why he looks so ashamed when Cobb sees him by the baggage carousel.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:27 PM on July 26, 2010


I knew it!
posted by homunculus at 8:28 AM on July 27, 2010


I saw it last night and although I'm not willing to read all these comments (and I apologise if it's been mentioned already) but the lack of damage to people in the line of fire (other than the main protagonists) is breathtaking/ridiculous and caused me to suspend my disbelief to an unacceptable degree (despite it being a dream).
posted by unliteral at 8:29 AM on July 27, 2010


Caught this film yesterday; on the "publicity made me like it" point, I had heard nothing about this film until I caught this mefi post; I got part way through the comments (not really taking in any spoilers), googled it, and decided it was the kind of film I'd like to see.

I loved it, but it's the kind of film I always love.

There's so much weird criticism of the plot in this thread, it's kind of baffling how people can get so many things just plain wrong. Not that it's a perfect film, but a lot of the crit in this thread is just so far off the mark.

He is then pursued by the most incompetent batch of "military" invaders known to man.

I didn't find this jarring in the least. The target has had some training to protect him from extraction, which has introduced this "military". They are not real people, they do not have any independent thought. They are exactly like the gnats you mention. We're in a world where inception isn't something that's attempted, as it appears to be considered impossible. He doesn't have training to help him prevent inception. It makes sense to me that the training he received was all about hammering any invaders with gnats to prevent them from doing anything more than circling in a van and going off a bridge. The world of the dream is and is not a fully realized place; dream logic in is place, and it's fairly easy to convince the target. (Personally I'm very easy to convince in dreams.)

The problem is that the bridge is on the other side of town.

I'm fairly sure the first "set" is designed to last a certain amount of time, and evade the inevitable reaction of the dreamer/target. A guy in a van driving through town is presumably what they were planning, which would fit into the world of the dream without any obvious jarring.

the rest of the team is on the second level, which operates at "regular" speed (the speed of reality)

If you believe this to be the case, you just weren't paying attention. I don't think it's fair to relentlessly fault the filmmaker when you apparently were too keen on formulating criticisms through the film and missed key elements of it. I'm definitely not saying the film was perfect, but once you clearly demonstrate that you failed to absorb the basic functions of the universe we're observing, all the rest of your criticism is going tainted by that lack of understanding. If you're not willing to give a film your attention, you can't really fault it for confusing or boring you.

Leo has a team of people that he's worked with repeatedly or for years or both who know absolutely nothing about him

Well first: there's quite a lot my colleagues don't know about me. And we've worked together for years. So I don't find that strange. But additionally: the person who knows Cobb best, Arthur, does know a fair bit about him. Arthur knows about Mal's death, clearly knows that Cobb is suspected of and/or charged with murder in the US, and is aware that Mal haunts Cobb's subconscious. He accepts that as par for the course, and expresses some sadness about it. We don't get enough screen time with Arthur to explore how he makes sense of all this on a personal level, but we get from the first few scenes that Arthur is unswervingly loyal to Cobb in the face of danger.

What Arthur doesn't know is the degree to which Cobb is obsessed with trying to keep Mal alive, and he doesn't know that Mal and Cobb spent 50 years in limbo. Given that they went into limbo by taking a private trip into the dreamworld on the floor of what appears to be their own living room, no, I don't find that odd. I also don't find it odd that Dom would avoid sharing the fact that he has succeeded with an inception before, and the circumstances of it.

Ellen, who joined the team a few days ago

I think it's been more than a few days. While everyone in the thread seems convinced that it's been at least a year since Mal died, but only a few days since Ariadne joined the group, I think the elapsed time is more the opposite; I think Mal died fairly recently, and that Ariadne had at least a few weeks with the team.

On the phone, the kids have still not adjusted the the fact that their dad is gone; he's talking about it like an over-long business trip. They are also still really confused about where their mom is. Having had the experience of explaining death to a 5 year old, I can't help but think that kid (Phillipa?) is still in a bit of shock. I think it's actually been maybe 3-4 months. The other thing that makes me believe this is the reaction of the kids at the end (if that is reality and not limbo): they don't make strange with him at all. With kids that young, going away for a year or more would surely result in a bit of awkwardness on return. Of course that's not happy and cinematic either.

As for Ariadne and the team: there's a lot of rapid shots there. We see Ariadne working with a lot of paper models, which I don't think she created in a single day. There was also time to complete the models and hand them off to other members of the team for consideration and adjustment. That's not something that happens in 5 days' time, particularly not with everything else going on. I can't remember the timing of when they brought Ariadne in: but between agreeing to the inception and enacting it, Eames goes under cover for a significant enough time to get a read on Fischer's godfather, and for the team to formulate a complete plan. I presume this whole process is at least a few weeks. It's certainly not five days.

Why is Michael Caine suddenly in LA?

Obviously a significant amount of time must have passed between Cobb meeting with this character (father? father-in-law?). It's not really that strange that he's in LA, and as pointed out above, Cobb is aware that he is about to make a trip to LA in any case.

Like with freight trains running down the middle of the street? That kind of convincing Los Angeles? Again, I posit it's "have your cake and eat it to" storyteling.

Cobb's subconscious pops up and undercuts what he's trying to do. A train running down the middle of the street in LA is pretty emblematic of that, and it's important that it's a train. Saying "it should have been more subtle" is I suppose a point, but LA isn't all that subtle, and his guilt really isn't subtle, so why shouldn't it be? His guilt and his half-truths are very much like a freight train running through their plans, so it seemed apt to me.

no need to risk a sleight of hand passport theft and then spiking the drink as it's handed to the man, is there?

He probably could have had the stewardess spike the drink, but perhaps he just wanted to be certain the right glass was given to the right person. But I suppose that part was probably just for show. But the conversation between Fischer and Cobb is important as it sets the stage for the dream itself. The passport gives Cobb the opening to know who Fischer is, deliver his condolences, and provide the exterrnal suggestion that his father was surely a good man who loved his son.

Unsure why, if Leo didn't find Saito for decades of subjective time, and they both entered "limbo" at roughly the same time from the previous level, Leo isn't also incredibly aged at the start and end of the movie.

There a significant time difference between Saito dying and Cobb entering that particular level of limbo with him. Cobb goes to his own limbo first. This is the part that confuses me the most: where did that level of limbo come from? Why did Fischer go there but not Saito? Is it that Mal dragged Fischer from his own limbo into this one as a means of getting in Cobb's way? In any case, no one goes to get Saito, who forgets that he's dreaming and experiences many years in limbo. I agree that he's apparently too easily primed to pull the trigger, but he seems to sense that Cobb is there to kill him, and that might not be a bad thing.

Anyway, I enjoyed it very much. Can't be bad if it forces this much conversation, I figure. :)
posted by Hildegarde at 9:19 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jonah Lehrer: The Neuroscience of Inception
posted by homunculus at 9:32 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This doesn’t mean the movie is a masterpiece – I personally thought it was a smart summer blockbuster but no Dark Knight.

Man, just what is it about Dark Knight that people love so much? I found it a confused, structurally flabby buttnumbathon that had my attention drifting before the end, none of which i;d say about Inception.
posted by Artw at 9:36 AM on July 27, 2010


Dark Knight is great fun (this does not mean it makes sense) 'till the end where it falls about due the structural limitations of the comic, i.e. Batman can't kill the Joker, and the convoluted excuses it gives for doing so.
posted by new brand day at 9:56 AM on July 27, 2010


The kids are going to see Inception today (by kids I mean teens, don't go calling Family Services on me), so I think I'll sit through it again.

One thing I did notice on first showing, which I am curious to test out on this second run, is that the "real life" scenes were filmed with much darker lighting than the dream scenes, which seemed more open, had lots of white, bright lighting, etc.

The last scene in the movie has that dark lighting (in the house, with Michael Caine), but the scene just before it, in the airport, is bright and white like a dream, which suggests to me that the director is suggesting Cobb is unable to distinguish between IRL and the dream worlds now (and doesn't really care).
posted by misha at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2010


The Awesome 'Secret' Behind the Music in Inception
posted by homunculus at 11:48 AM on July 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


Thanks homunculus, the BUURRRMMM had to be something slowed down. It was all just a dream. Mal was trying to get Cobb back to reality. Cobb is a dream junky, and was incepted with the idea that his recreation of Mal wasn't full enough. He'll likely see the same when it comes to his kids and decide to come back to reality.
posted by ecco at 12:44 PM on July 27, 2010


I don't think knowing whether or not Cobb is dreaming in the end is any more useful than having the specifics of the dream sharing technology thingy that everyone hooks up to explained. The whole movie is about the last moment and the fade to the title.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:49 PM on July 27, 2010


This reminded me a lot of Primer, but in a slightly less satisfying way. If you haven't seen Primer, by the way, you must drop everything and find a way to see it. Netflix had it on Instant for a good long time but it appears there no longer... Seriously, watch Primer.

Watch one of the past decade's greatest scifi movies, "Primer," free online
posted by homunculus at 2:39 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Awesome movie. A couple of things. The 'kick' needed to happen a level up, not in the dream. So a military protector can't just kick you out of a dream. From what I inferred, anyone can change things in the dream. I kept getting thrown off by Mal showing up everywhere until I realized that. There are other example's such as Arthur's staircase, Eames' grenade launcher ("you've got to dream bigger"), and yes the train. Although that doesn't really explain why all of them didn't have grenade launchers, but I'll just stick with the idea of making less waves is smarter because rampaging mobs is dumber. From what I gather you have to have an understanding of dreams along with an imagination and not to mention realize you are in the dream.
One thing I'm not sure about is at the beginning where Saito's realization he's in a dream starts and stops.
I'm also assuming you can kill yourself out of limbo and get back to reality that way, but I'm still not sure how that works with the extra strong sedative. I think the problem with limbo is that you don't know you are there.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:22 PM on July 27, 2010


Inception Timeline Infographic
posted by octothorpe at 6:55 AM on July 28, 2010


Conception
posted by homunculus at 9:26 AM on July 28, 2010


DiCaprio Brought Solar Power To ‘Inception’ Set
posted by Burhanistan at 1:10 PM on July 28, 2010


Inception Timeline Infographic

Did general audiences really have such a hard time following the plot that such things are necessary? I thought the plot was quite straightforward. It was certainly much easier to follow exactly what was happening than in, say, Primer where you actually had to intuit a lot of stuff.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on July 28, 2010


Nah, the levels are pretty straightforward and easy to assemble/disassemble. The only bit of analysis that has come as a pleasant surprise to me was the slowing of the music thing.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:27 PM on July 28, 2010


I do remember sitting there in the theater thinking, "OK, I need to remember which layer is which and who's dreaming it." It wasn't that hard to keep track of but you had to explicitly think to do that.
posted by octothorpe at 2:47 PM on July 28, 2010


It's not even particularly necessary to remember who is dreaming which layer for a lot of stuff.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on July 28, 2010


Nahh, it's not hard to follow. Some of the smaller details I think confuse things a little. That info graphic has Fischer and Ariadne using a kick to get out of limo but I don't think they did. They jumped to their death, than they kicked out of the upper levels. Although Fischer was killed into limbo which would mean he would've been mentally lost there, but of course Mal had him tied up and whatnot. Idk...
posted by P.o.B. at 3:50 PM on July 28, 2010


The 'kick' needed to happen a level up, not in the dream.

They do explain in the movie that because of the strength of the sedative it needs to happen in both. That is why they didn't wake up on the first kick (van jumping the bridge), as there was no kick in the levels below.

That info graphic has Fischer and Ariadne using a kick to get out of limo but I don't think they did. They jumped to their death

A kick is a change in gravity. Falling is a kick (as in the case of the van falling from the bridge which was supposed to be the first kick). When they're going after Fischer, either Cobb or Ariadne (can't remember which) say explicitly that they'll go in and when the time comes they'll find a way to get a kick from there.
posted by qvantamon at 9:01 PM on July 28, 2010


They do explain in the movie that because of the strength of the sedative it needs to happen in both.

Huh. I don't remember that and it doesn't seem to jive because they explain pretty clearly that the sedative leaves the inner ear function alone so you can easily kick someone out of a dream. Than they have a montage of kicking Arthur out of his dream like four or five times.
Are you thinking that they had to time the kicks in each dream so that as they kicked out of one they were awake for the kick up to the next level and so forth?

A kick is a change in gravity

Yeah, in reality or whatever level your "body" is asleep. In the dream you just jump around or fall or whatever.

as in the case of the van falling from the bridge which was supposed to be the first kick

Yeah, that was because Arthur missed the first kick to pull them out of the snow fortress. Than Cobb starts doing the mathematics in his head to figure out how much time they had to get into the fortress. That also accounts for the huge amounts of time they cut out of the snow fortress scene. Slow moving van, normal moving Arthur, and the normal movement in the snow fortress but they only showed a couple of minutes of what was actually taking them a couple of hours.

I might have that wrong.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:24 PM on July 28, 2010


I watched it again tonight. A few comments:
Regarding the kicks:
They show Arthur getting kicked in a few ways and waking up. Then they talk about the sedative leaving the inner ear alone. But then they say they'll need a way to synchronize kicks, and someone suggests music. Then it cuts to a scene of Arthur and Ariadne sleeping, and someone plays the victrola. At this point, Arthur wakes up on his own, without being kicked in "real life", and Ariadne stays asleep. They don't explain exactly what was happening on that scene. I'm confused myself, but it appears to imply that you only need to be kicked from inside the dream.

I think they do say that Fischer went to Limbo when he was shot, and that they can "go down there" to bring him back. Ariadne does say that they'll find a way to "kick" Fischer back up. When they explain Limbo in the beginning, they say it's pure subconscious, there's nothing there, except for the hangups of someone who's sharing the dream who's already been there. So this explains why Fischer's "Limbo" is Cobb's dream world.

The climax goes: Saito dies, Eames shocks Fischer, causing lightning bolts in limbo. Ariadne pushes fischer off the ledge, he wakes up from the electroshocks without a visible wound. Cobb asks what she was doing, she says she's improvising. Cobb knows Saito is dead, wants to hang around to find him, Mal stabs him, Ariadne shoots Mal. Music gets closer to the climax, Ariadne points the gun at Cobb and Mal's general direction, Cobb says "no, go, I'll find Saito". This confused me, I don't know if he doesn't want to get shot back up, or if he doesn't want her to shoot Mal. Ariadne jumps.
Then comes the kick montage: Van hits the water, Arthur's elevator hit the ground, the tower topples. I don't remember the order between the 3, but first it shows the 3 "dreamers" getting their respective kick (shows eames inside the toppling tower, eames wakes up in the elevator, arthur inside the elevator, arthur wakes up in the van, yusuf in the van, yusuf wakes up in the plane (I don't remember if Yusuf appears in the van after they jump the bridge, so he might have been the first). Then Ariadne falling, Ariadne wakes up in the tower before she hits the ground, tower toppling, etc, etc.
So they do strongly emphasize everyone being kicked in the level they are currently in to go back to the previous level. It gave me the impression that you have to be awake to receive the kick, and the music is to make sure you awaken in order, bottom-up. Everyone shows up at the tower on time to catch it toppling, everyone shows up in the elevator in time, and everyone wakes up when the van is already on the water, so they don't wake further, they swim ashore and talk for a bit. So it seems everyone but Yusuf missed this one (and possibly he woke them up, maybe by turning off the sedative, but this is not explicit).

Regarding Cobb and Saito:
Saito dies after Cobb is in Level 4. When Ariadne tells him they have to go back, he says "by now Saito must be dead, I need to find him. So if you consider level 4 to be limbo, Cobb was there longer.. When Cobb talks to Saito, he acts and speaks like an old man. They talk about being old men full of regrets. His last phrase is "so we can be young again". So it might be that his "self-image" is young (like on his flashbacks from the rail tracks, where he remembers himself young, but then he's later revealed to have been old at that time).

Regarding the kids and the top:
Tricky Nolan does an inception on the viewer about the kids. The first flashback scene shows younger kids - The boy is sitting down, the girl is wearing one cut of dress. On EVERY other scene where the kids are shown (which are all inside dreams), including (I think) the replay of the flashback inside the dream with Ariadne, he shows older kids, the boy is crouching, the girl is wearing a slightly different dress, but the same color. At the end scene, they're again older kids, and, I think, wearing slightly different clothes again (still the same color). By the end of the movie we have the image of the older kids in our head (which has been hammered all throughout the movie), and it looks so close to the first scene, that we "retcon" our memory of the first scene to be the same kids.

So no, they don't look exactly the same from his flashback, but I can't tell for sure if they look any different from the older "dream kids"

He tries to spin the top a few times during the movie. The first time is before he calls the kids, after the Saito job. It topples. So if you're taking the top as a reliable canary, at least here he's not dreaming. He spins it again after one of the dreams with Ariadne, and the scene is cut very shortly after (with it still spinning). I don't remember that spin being shown again afterwards, but I may have been distracted at that time, so I can't be sure. On Mombasa, while testing the "strong stuff", he dreams of the train tracks and wakes up immediately (which maybe wasn't supposed to happen, they imply it's supposed to be a strong sedative) - he runs to the bathroom, and tries to spin the top, but he's so nervous that he drops it and it rolls to the floor, and doesn't try again, so I don't know what we can make of this one. Then he spins it on Mal's safe in the flashback, then either he or Saito spin it at the end limbo scene, then he spins it in his home.
He doesn't see Mal in the window when he's looking at the mirror. It's a flashback because of the window curtain, but it shows Mal the original hotel window, not the bathroom window. Seems to be a flashback, not an actual sighting.

I think I may watch a third time, to try to catch more stuff.
posted by qvantamon at 3:18 AM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some other random stuff I paid attention, not exactly relevant to the plot:

When Cobb asks Ariadne to draw mazes, he gives her a squared paper notebook. The first two times she draws square mazes over the paper lines. The last time she turns the notebook around and draws the round labyrinth on the plain cover.

528 and 491 feature all throughout the Fischer dreams (they're the combination, hotel rooms, blonde's phone number). But I haven't paid attention to numbers elsewhere. Note for next watcher: Mal's hotel room, Fischer's passport, Cobb's flight ticket, stuff on Grandpa's blackboard.

There's a can of Guarana Antarctica (Brazilian Soda) on top of the TV in Saito's apartment (that I thought looked more Southeast Asian), right at the corner of the screen.

Ariadne uses a battery-powered Dremel to make her totem. The Dremel is shown again in a (much later) workshop scene, and it doesn't have the battery (the battery is charged in a separate charger).

The latter two facts bear no relevance, except that I like Guarana and Dremels.
posted by qvantamon at 4:03 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of things cut out of the movie and you have to assume quite a bit. You don't actually think the scene would've better by showing her hitting the ground do you? They don't show Saito and Cobb shooting themselves either, but that's the reasonable explanation for them leaving limbo. Unless you go with the idea that the ending is still a dream idea.
I'm not saying you're wrong, because Arthur doesn't get kicked out of the hotel until the second van kick and he was awake for the first (obviously).

One thing I'm curious about is when Cobb talked to his kids on the phone, I thought I heard they're voices change from young to old. So it was like four sets of voices on the phone, and that happened in the real reality. The really real reality.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:52 AM on July 29, 2010


Re: possible sequel,

I don't think DiCaprio has ever been in a sequel. I don't think he likes them.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 6:37 PM on July 29, 2010


Sorry, correction... he was in Critters 3.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 6:39 PM on July 29, 2010


He probably felt that the brilliant script justified the third film.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoa.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the only child of former comic book artist George and Irmelin DiCaprio (both born 1943). Leonardo's father, George, had achieved minor status as an artist and distributor of cult comic book titles, and was even depicted in several issues of American Splendor, the cult semi-autobiographical comic book series by the late Harvey Pekar, a friend of George's. However, Leonardo's performance skills became obvious to his parents early on, and after signing him up with a talent agent who wanted Leonardo to perform under the stage name 'Lenny Williams', DiCaprio began appearing on a number of television commercials and educational programs. DiCaprio began attracting the attention of producers, who cast him in bit part roles in a number of TV programs, such as Roseanne and The New Lassie, but it wasn't until 1991 that DiCaprio made his film debut in Critters 3, a low-budget horror movie.
posted by Artw at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2010


1. It's all a dream, and Mal's suicide led to her getting out and trying to send people in to Dom's mind to get him out too. Whether it works or not depends on whether or not you think the spinning top falls at the end. Ok, but requires you theorise about action and characters 'out of the frame', which doesn't seem like a very Nolan thing to do. He doesn't always resolve things for you, but he does usually provide all the material you'll need to make your own decision.

2. The parts implied to be real at the beginning of the movie really are real, but at the end Dom can't make it out of limbo. He only figures it out when he reaches the house, starts to spin the top, but then decides he doesn't care and will just be happy in whatever way he can. The top keeps spinning. Bittersweet ending.

3. The entire movie is exactly as presented, Dom makes it out and back home to his kids, happy endings all around. The top wobbles then falls. But Nolan has incepted an idea into the audience's minds, that they can't be sure what is real and what isn't. So after he kicks you back to reality (Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien plays after the cut to black, and in a few minutes you leave the theatre), you second-guess all the things presented to you, not sure if the made-up story you saw was fake-real or really fake or what. Was Dom's dream-memory of Mal's suicide inconsistent with a reality we never got to see? What about the chase scenes in Mombasa - corporate espionage or paranoid delusions? Was his wedding-band on or off at different times? How old are those kids anyway? Now you are questioning what you saw, same as Dom, same as Mal.

I like the third one best, because it fits in better with Inception being a movie about movies, not a movie about dreams. Nolan's telling us something about the relationships between the audience and the filmmaker. But if you interpret it differently, that's cool too.

Not that anyone's reading this anymore, but I just had to write it out somewhere :)
posted by harriet vane at 9:40 PM on July 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Saw the movie a second time, and I can vouch that Cobb is wearing his wedding ring in the dream sequences but not in real life.

Where it gets interesting is that, at the end of the film, there are no shots clearly allowing the audience to see his left hand. I was watching for this in particular, and at one point DiCaprio even holds something oddly, or at least it seemed that way to me. Strategically leaking the, "Cobb wears a wedding ring sometimes," so that people are looking for it at a second viewing, and then obscuring the ring, feels like a deliberate manipulation along with the spinning top.

I was impressed all over again with the various nuances that only added to the overall richness of the movie from the standpoint of the viewer. Brilliant conceptualization. Certainly the smartest movie I've seen all year (though sadly that is faint praise considering this year's offerings). I'd like to see it nominated.
posted by misha at 11:13 AM on August 1, 2010


I hadn't even thought to look at the rings. Gotta get the Blu-Ray.

I'd like to see it nominated.

Ah, it will indeed get a boatload of Oscar nominations--probably at least nine. It will probably win things like best sound editing and best cinematography. We'll see if it gets the best picture/director/screenplay awards.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:18 AM on August 1, 2010


My pet theory is that it all takes place in Mal's dream.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:51 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inception Costume Designer Reveals All
posted by homunculus at 4:57 PM on August 2, 2010


Inception Characters Don't Understand Inception
posted by homunculus at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think I may watch a third time, to try to catch more stuff.

Low quality version is up on bit torrent.

The kids at the end are older, with slightly different clothes. I think the lighting is more natural too, not so dreamy.
posted by nomadicink at 8:35 PM on August 3, 2010


I was really looking forward to this movie, despite shutting out all input after I found out it was about lucid dreaming. I think I saw a teaser for it last year and that was the only lead-up to the movie for me.

I've been lucid dreaming since I was six. That's almost 25 years. There are people who are better at it than I am, but it is probably the thing I do best and know the most about. I don't want to brag, but this comment will be even longer if I'm modest. I have spent lifetimes in dreams. I have been trapped in endless nested dreams. I have done lots of "impossible" things in dreams: reading, manipulating small print, 360º vision (stole that from Waking Life), changed light levels (also stolen from Waking Life, though supplemented by my own observations that nightmares always seemed 'dark'), and lots more. A brief chronicle of some of my exploits is here. Some overlap with here (I had been using Memories as tags until lj introduced tags; I need to synch those up at some point). Since my training is in psychology (yes, I actually studied lucid dreaming, like, forreals), those entries also touch on things like memory and ontology (also studied philosophy, though that wasn't my major), and I certainly make mention of Memento at least once (find-as-you-type for Leonard Shelby).

I've done some actual work with lucid dreaming, like lucid signaling. That is, when one realizes one is dreaming, one makes very conscious, clear, rapid eye sweeps from side to side (convention is to quickly look all the way one way, then the other, then repeat) making four clear movements or two sine waves on the EOG (the thing recording eye movements). In the noise of REM (or in my case, sleep onset) means that this is a very clear signal to anyone recording. It's also worth noting that in previous studies, a similar mechanism has been used to measure "subjective time" in dreams by having subjects sweep their eyes back and forth while couning "one-mississippi" or something like that. The result is almost one-to-one with reality (I think it's covered in this paper, but it's 5am, so I'm not going to go digging for the cite). So the whole "subjective shared dream time" is bunkum, but then so is shared dreaming (dig around in my lj memories, though, and you'll see I did have an LD where I handled something that was being passed around the livejournal lucid_dreaming community, but I don't kid myself). Time in dreams seems subjective, because you're remembering things on the fly. You're manufacturing memories of things that happened (or seem to have happened, based on where you find yourself at the moment), but the things you actually *do* in a dream occur in realtime. For this to work in a shared dream, others would have to have access to your memories, which has a problem for the whole "Mal" premise being a secret (and am I the only one who thought her name was "Moll," short for Molly?). But none of that matters, because there really was no shared dreaming.

(As an aside, did you know it's possible to tease apart lucid dreaming (awareness that you're in a dream) and dream control (the ability to change things in the dream) so that you can experience one or the other but not both in a given dream? I've done it! To me, it hints at the difference between consciousness and conation (really cool word/concept, btw). But for the purposes of this comment, I'm going to use "lucid dreaming" as a catch-all term (and I'll be using multiple nested parens (like this) as well).)

All of that said, I have read this entire thread, and so would like to address it. Yes, the whole thing. =D

First off, I wholeheartedly agree with the CHUD piece. Well, not wholeheartedly. I think that the private totem aspect was bunkum, precisely because this was all the dream of one man (albeit someone who has spent a lot of time experiencing, researching, and thinking about dreams; lucid or otherwise). The chud author makes some noise about Mal's totem, but the whole totem thing is a fabrication of the dream, so it's a moot point. But the film was about the catharsis possible in a dream, or, by extension, in a movie. Yes, agreed. I know this for a fact because I have had dreams like this. Complex, many-layered with seeming n-level depth, almost as if I'd spent a lifetime there. And I've done things both magnificent and unspeakably terrible there, within the depths of my soul, some of which I've remembered and grown because of. So have you, probably, though if you don't remember it, it's probably because I've spent most of my life learning to remember dreams (not that having a nearly eidetic memory doesn't give me a nice head-start) because that's really the first step towards lucidity. (ld4all gives a nice primer on this; the first section is all about remembering dreams. And yes, I've coached people on lucid dreaming, one of whom said she *never* remembered her dreams. We changed that pretty quickly.) But the chud piece saves me a WHOLE lot of explaining, so thanks to you who linked it!

It would be interesting to re-read this thread with each user identifying their experience with lucid dreaming and/or dream analysis. It's pretty obvious to me some of you who haven't (sorry, but dobbs, you outed yourself by suggesting a railroad spike would be equivalent to a train. Not even close. The train is what "killed" them in limbo; I doubt either Cobb or Mal noticed the railroad spikes at the time. In dreams, the idea is most important (in this case, the suicide by train), not details like a railroad spike that the mind fills in later). Because a lot of this movie is about the way dreams (and ideas, and movies) work. Ask about something secret, they'll visualize a safe. If you don't understand that, this movie will be a cypher to you.

Though I'm not saying "it doesn't matter; it was a dream." I'm not handwaving anything. When viewed as a dream, the film does cohere pretty solidly, though. After reading this thread, I have very few unresolved questions. Most everything's been answered, but I'm going to take a swing at the big, recurring questions.

"during the third act shouldn't the zero g/falling have translated into every dream level?"

Derivatives. Arthur experiences the first kick of falling off the bridge, and so knows he's falling at 9.8 m/s^2. But within the hotel dreamworld, there's no acceleration; everything is moving at a constant velocity (m/s, no ^2), which, within that internal reference frame, means there's no acceleration at all. Think about being on a moving train or in a plane. There's the initial jerk of acceleration, but once you're at a steady speed, you can move around just like you were on solid ground (which itself is moving at a certain BIGNUM velocity which we ignore every single day). So Fisher, Eames, and Co. don't feel any acceleration. Again: van at x m/s^2 translates to hotel at y m/s (and therfore there is no acceleration; gravity is canceled) leaving z m in the fortress; meaning there is no effect whatsoever (other than a possible displacement for which there is no way to check; unless there was a line I'm forgetting about them starting out farther from the fortress than they intended). Gravity resumes as normal because the dreamer is feeling no acceleration from the level above (for this to happen, g would have to be increasing noticeably; i.e., there'd have to be a rate of acceleration: meters per second per second per second.

That was long, but hopefully makes sense.

"they ask why Saito is old but Cobb is not"

Limbo is the n-th level dream (according to the dream rules Cobb has dreamt up). You can view that as "time moves infinitely slow" due to the geometric expansion, or you can view it as "time is meaningless." Here, time truly is subjective; Cobb doesn't expect the consistency of the higher dream states so the rules are relaxed to allow some really loose stuff to happen. In a sense, Cobb is Mr. Charles-ing himself; he's saying, "Hey, you're dreaming, but this is not the normal type of dream, so you're going to see some freaky stuff." Note that while parts of the city are collapsing, others are merely in disrepair (their old houses have peeling paint, not crumbling stonework), and their home is just the way it's always been. That's your first clue that time is fluid. But then we see old-Dom and old-Mal at the tracks. Yes, there's an unreliable narrator, but there's also an element of dream logic. Cobb has come to the conclusion that since he and Mal were in Limbo for ages, they must have grown old there. So the dream is re-written/re-remembered with them both elderly. This happens all the time in dreams (see my above paragraph about subjective time and filling in memories); and when you've been lucid dreaming for a long time, this stuff makes the most basic sense. In dreams, the past is totally, completely, and wholly malleable in ways we tell ourselves it's not in real life. It so totally is malleable IRL—the only thing keeping it consistent is checking with external parties (see also: 1984). And that's another thing about dreams; what tends to keep us sane is being held in check by external (sometimes opposing) viewpoints. We're not self-correcting; we need others to keep us from going mad. But in a dream, you're confronted with only versions of yourself (and wasn't it slick how Nolan broke down the Heist film archetypes as the fractions of personality that they really stand in for in a normal film?), facets of your own beliefs (conflicting though they may be). Sadly, I know this only too well to be true/possible, because I have almost gone mad inside a dream where I could do anything but wake up for real (aforementioned nested dream; which it's also worth noting had more levels than even Cobb's elevator, which I took to mean different levels of dream, not just "cubbyholes" for memories). I'm not even joking. That is where I did some of those aforementioned unspeakable things. ^_^

Which brings me back to Saito. See, Saito died in the dream. He didn't descend intentionally like Cobb and Juno (see: Wake-Induced Lucid Dream or "WILD"). One expects to wake up after dying in a dream, right? Even when your conscious mind is told this, you're still in a dream. Your subconscious rules. So it's very easy, especially for an inexperienced "tourist," to get lost, to be unsure if he's awoken or if he's still dreaming. The lines are blurred. So Saito's age reflects not so much the passage of time, which we've established is illusory, but his confusion. He has become lost in the world of Limbo, of Dream. He is frail and weak and near the end of life because he has all but given up the ghost, his consciousness surrendered to limbo and lost forever. He wouldn't die so much as wither away. And when he woke, there would be no mind left. Note that Cobb was much worse for wear, as if beaten (though not aged nearly as much if at all). Limbo takes its toll.

There was also some concern about killing/kicking in Limbo. Note there were no "kicks" in Limbo. Fisher and Juno both plunged to their deaths. As for death in Limbo being an easy out? Well, yes and no. The problem is that Limbo is so slippery, it can really be hard to tell you're dreaming. Killing yourself in Limbo is an exit moreso because you are acknowledging and committing, full stop, to the dream nature of the place. It's the hardest (both in the "not-easy" and the "not-soft" sense) kind of forced awakening. (Though, FWIW, I did try killing myself in my inescapable false awakening dream, to no avail.)

Again, this is all in the context of Cobb's imaginary "shared dream/limbo" dream construct. None of this is "real," but it IS consistent.

"There seems to be a lot of inconsistencies on how Limbo operates."

Limbo operates on inconsistencies. Consistently. ;)

"when the rest of the team is on the second level, which operates at "regular" speed (the speed of reality), why does the van still drive at regular speed? It's supposed to be slower, right? But it isn't because, I suppose the studio or Nolan argued, it would be boring to watch the van cover the (unnecessary) distance at slow speed... but don't worry, I'll start to follow my own rule again when the van goes off the bridge, not only because it looks cool, but because I now have to because I have so much screen time to cover before the end."

Right, because films always happen in realtime, with liberties for subjective viewpoints never taken. I can't believe than anyone watching the movie had a hard time following this.

"Keep in mind that they are not real, trained military agents/soldiers/whatever. They are projections of Robert (Cillian Murphy's) subconscious, and are there because he had received training in subconscious security, in order to prevent exactly what Cobb & Co are trying to do. This is explained soon after they enter the first dream level once the heist begins. As they are projections, they would only be as effective (at aiming their guns, driving, etc) as Robert's training had been."

Also, he doesn't recognize them for what they are (at least not until Mr. Charles). So if he thinks they may be trying to kill him, he's going to subconsciously reign them in. (Also, he never saw the train, so NYAH! (What dobbs saw: Big dangerous thing for no reason other than special effects and with no adverse consequences. What I saw: Cobb's subconscious has an eruption which A. threw the plan off track and DID nearly ruin it, B. shows how close he is to losing control and how dangerous it's going to be for him to lose control, and C. creates tension by way of A. and B.))

(Oh, and for fun: Dreams do really work like this. The bigger the changes you try to make to a lucid dream, the harder the dream is to maintain. This is something I've been struggling with in my pursuit of a lucid novel. Nolan's handling wasn't immaculate, but it worked.)

"But the part about it being hard to implant ideas... why would that even be?"

There's a scene in Waking Life where Wiley is 100% sure he's dreaming, yet he knows this idea he's dreamt of is not something of his own making. Not an answer, just a thought. I've had dreams for story ideas that I feel like I couldn't possibly have come up with. Not such a big issue in that case, but in the case of an idea that you're actively hostile to (like "Break up your father's empire" or "You're only dreaming. Just kill yourself and you'll wake up"), it's ridiculously easy to discard if you don't feel the proper justification behind it.

"Cobb didn't need to go to America to be with his kids, he could have paid for them to fly to him. Of course, the movie would have ended after 10 minutes."

How, when you're a fugitive constantly on the run, do you arrange to meet your kids for some quality time? "Hey, kids, I'm going to be in Mombasa for anywhere between 6 and 36 hours. You should come visit! But don't tell anybody!" And not like the authorities wouldn't put a tail on his kids to see where they went. And that's purely within the dreamworld. Others have said more effectively how the (faceless) children function as a dream symbol. Cobb needed to be ready to see them, or he just wouldn't have been able to see them.

"when the stewardess is working for you, there's no need to risk a sleight of hand passport theft and then spiking the drink as it's handed to the man, is there?"

There's a big difference between paying someone to look the other way vs. paying them to poison/drug someone. IIRC, the stewardess basically closed the curtain and got the hell out of there.

"Asking her to kill herself wasn't wrong, it was the manner it which he did, ala inception, planting a thought in her head."

Agreed. This was the love of his life, yet when he felt he couldn't talk her out of it, he tricked her. By using something from her innermost secret person. In the bonds of love, we learn things about one another that no one else will ever know. To turn those things against a person (which is what he did, symbolically) is a heinous act. His suppressed guilt throughout the movie is built around this.

"So why doesn't the businessman's son remember that he's just been dreamjacked and maybe look around first class and you know, DO something about it. Call his security - whatever. He's been through this incredible dream experience and HE is the only one that doesn't seem to remember it? WTF?"

You remember ALL of your dreams? C'mon, I bet you've forgotten some really fantastic ones.

Telling people they're going to be dreaming is one of those things that actually works in real life. They're much more likely to parse things as a dream, and also to remember things when waking up. Fisher was the only one without this prompting. He was told he was dreaming in the hotel, but when he woke up after his traumatic experience in the van, that disappeared faster than a [insert hot supermodel of the week here] fantasy.

"When Leo goes into the hotel room on his anniversary and has the conversation with his wife that leads to her suicide, why was she on a ledge in a different building across the alley? That bugged me for a bit, then I realized it's dream logic."

Yes and no. Symbolically, yes, but anyone who's seen the 1984 film "Bachelor Party" (the one with Tom Hanks) knows that there are hotels with courtyards or whathaveyou that results in rooms at the same hotel being across from each other. It actually surprises me that this was confusing to anyone.

"Also, reading Dileep Rao's explanation of limbo, I think that there are some interesting implications of the afterlife. If a virtually limitless amount of subjective time can be experienced in limbo while only seconds pass in reality, then perhaps the afterlife is similar -- an infinite subconscious dream that one falls into as the brain dies."

This is explored in Waking Life (really, check it out). I've written several stories (and had a number of extensive dreams) built around this idea. It has an appeal; the amount of self-mastery you achieve in life reflects where your death-dream will fall on the heaven-hell scale. But I've said a LOT about this already (see my livejournal links above) and cripes it's nearly 8am and I haven't slept a wink.

I'll take whatever questions still remain from anyone still reading this thread, though. Sorry I saw the movie so late, but I'd still enjoy talking about it.
posted by Eideteker at 4:40 AM on August 4, 2010 [23 favorites]


"when the stewardess is working for you, there's no need to risk a sleight of hand passport theft and then spiking the drink as it's handed to the man, is there?"

This was less about theft and spiking the drink and more about giving Cobb a reason to interact with Fischer and put thoughts of his father on his mind.

The team never tried to hide anything from the stewardess, only Fischer.

"Keep in mind that they are not real, trained military agents/soldiers/whatever. They are projections of Robert (Cillian Murphy's) subconscious

I think Cobb's description of them as being similar to white blood cells was pretty telling. They simply showed up in force and attacked but didn't seem particularly bright.
posted by nomadicink at 5:40 AM on August 4, 2010


Eideteker, as a data point: I find the face-value interpretation of the movie more interesting (I like stories about storytelling and the responsibilities of storytellers), but I have had some limited experience with lucid dreaming and nested dreams. My nested dreams were quite banal though - a bit like the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin gets up and goes to school then wakes up, only layered. In the past I spent a lot of time analysing my dreams, but found that it wasn't very fulfilling for me (rehashing old news) so I no longer make the effort to remember many of them these days.

I wonder what Nolan's experience with lucid dreaming is? I'm glad to hear that someone like you, who's got a lot of knowledge about the subject, enjoyed the movie and found it worthwhile. I think it's a measure of the quality of the movie that it can bear up under the weight of several interpretations.

By the same token though, I wonder what Nolan's experience is with wives dying by accident - pretty sure that's a plot point that's showed up in more than a few of his movies to date.

Your explanation of the derivatives is the clearest I've seen so far, thanks for that!
posted by harriet vane at 8:01 AM on August 4, 2010


I wonder what Nolan's experience with lucid dreaming is?

He talks about it a bit in this interview:
Let's wrap this up, two more questions. Do any of your own dreams stand out that you don't mind sharing with us? And how has filmmaking changed for you since you started in Hollywood 12 years ago?

Nolan: As far as the dreams go, really I would only point to times in my life where I experienced lucid dreaming, which is a big feature of Inception -- the idea of realizing you're in a dream and therefore trying to change or manipulate it in some way. That's a very striking experience for people who have it. It's clearly in the film, and a big part of it. As far as my filmmaking approach, the thing I always say, which might be hard for people to understand -– I don't know -- but to me the filmmaking process has always been the same. So when I was doing Following, which was shot with friends one day a week for a year, I put the film together that way. It was exactly the same process. I think for me, what I'm doing on set is I'm watching things happen as an audience member and trying to just look at " what's the image we're photographing, how will that advance the story, and what will the next image be?" That process really hasn't changed for me, and it's strangely similar no matter how big the film gets.
posted by nomadicink at 8:13 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nifty graphic of the characters, levels and kicks in Inception.
posted by nomadicink at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2010


Except it's Fisher's dream, not Eames'.
posted by Eideteker at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2010


Except it's Fisher's dream, not Eames'.

That was already linked upthread. It was Eames' dream. Fischer died in that one, remember?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:38 PM on August 5, 2010


Yeah, it was Eames dream. Notice how, like Arthur and Yusuf, Eames was the person running around dealing with the projections? That's a sign that he was the dreamer. Also remember that Arthur put the headphones on Eames in the hotel level, to signal it was time to kick.
posted by nomadicink at 2:58 PM on August 5, 2010


I really think this is a movie about two people mourning the death of their children, one more successfully than the other.
posted by mecran01 at 9:41 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inception Meme Apotheosis has been reached.
posted by Artw at 11:46 PM on August 7, 2010


Inception Meme Apotheosis has been reached.

I much prefer the "Inception Trailer Mashup" meme. "Toy Story 3: Inception", "Bill and Ted's Excellent Inception" and "Up: Inception" are particularly awesome.
posted by gemmy at 6:57 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, you know that "Ask someone how they got there if you suspect your dreaming?" That's a legit lucid dreaming tactic I've used so many times I've forgotten I've done it. It was really weird to see it acting out on screen.

I'm viewing the whole movie as a metaphor for film-making, esp. the time dilation stuff.

Also Nolan is a freakin' wizard with action scenes. They're so coherent.
posted by The Whelk at 1:02 PM on August 10, 2010


I just remembered another thing that was bugged me. Mal had apparently gotten three different doctors to declare her sane before her suicide - disregarding how someone convinced the world isn't real manages that, wouldn't the fact that she got these declarations right before be a very clear indicator that she was up to something?
posted by ymgve at 3:33 AM on August 12, 2010


Didn't she also write a letter or something claiming she was worried about her safety and Cobb was threatening her? It could be seen that she was worried that he would fake her suicide and she wanted to prove beforehand that she wouldn't kill herself.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:34 AM on August 12, 2010


> Didn't she also write a letter or something claiming she was worried about her safety and Cobb was threatening her? It could be seen that she was worried that he would fake her suicide and she wanted to prove beforehand that she wouldn't kill herself.

They made it pretty clear that she wrote that so Cobb could jump with her with no regrets for leaving that "dream" behind.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:49 AM on August 12, 2010


I haven't watched again yet, but my feeling from that bit was that Mal's intent was not so much to leave Cobb regret-free so much as to make the prospect of life after not-jumping so miserable that he would jump even with reservations. Mal was banking on him being as despairing about the situation she had locked him into as she was by the inception he'd pulled on her.
posted by cortex at 9:09 AM on August 12, 2010


I'm totally watching the movie again this weekend. I'll try to keep an eye out for all the "things to keep an eye out for."
posted by Eideteker at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2010


I kept noticing the sound editing was very strange. Maybe it was just my shitty theatre but there was a lot of muffling and shifting and warping going on on the margins. I thought Mal was Moll and Dom was Tom the entire movie.
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2010


One bit of sound editing that leapt out at me: when Arthur and Ariadne are discussing paradoxical structures during her training, there's a cut that drops audio for the new shot into the current visual shot so early that it goes from subtle familiar bridging cut to really, really conspicuous.

It's Nolan obviously intentionally being disorienting, in a way that from an amateur would read as just shitty editing but from him it reads more like evidence for the "I am making a filmic allegory about film editing itself" thesis.

And I cannot for the life of me remember the name of that "cut to new audio before new visual" move for the life of me.
posted by cortex at 9:46 AM on August 12, 2010


Overlay.

I think.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 AM on August 12, 2010


FOR THE LIFE OF ME!
posted by cortex at 10:16 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I kept noticing the sound editing was very strange. Maybe it was just my shitty theatre but there was a lot of muffling and shifting and warping going on on the margins. I thought Mal was Moll and Dom was Tom the entire movie.

The rising problem of inaudible dialogue
posted by homunculus at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2010


The rising problem of inaudible dialogue

Old Person Wishes Everyone Would Stop Mumbling.
posted by empath at 5:40 PM on August 12, 2010


Oh god, I'm watching Prime Suspect with a friend these days and sometimes it's like we've tuned in by mistake to the World Mumbling Olympiad. And do the DVDs have subtitles? NoooOOooooooo...
posted by Kattullus at 7:30 PM on August 12, 2010


Proof that the Inception soundtrack makes everything more suspenseful.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:17 PM on August 13, 2010


Regarding Satio and Leo's age difference in the villa scenes (there are 2, not just different shots of the same scene. Dialogue changes), the explanation that I think I've worked out is that Satio dies and ends up in limbo, dropped there from level 3 (Hoth). We don't have a good idea of the time change between limbo and the other levels. Leo drops down into limbo when he goes to sleep in Hoth so that he and Adrienne can kick Fisher back up to Hoth when he's shocked back to life. When Leo says that he's going to stay and hunt for Satio, he doesn't get kicked back to Hoth in time for the fortress to explode and collapse. That kills his Hoth body, which, due to the sedatives and the lack of successive kicks back to "reality," locks him into limbo. Now we've got Leo and Satio stuck in limbo, the place where you confuse dream worlds and reality. Satio has been down there longer than Leo, since he was locked there when he died in Hoth (old wounds), quite a while before Leo died in Hoth (the collapse). Since we don't know the time lapse between Hoth and limbo, that can explain the age difference.

Leo, who can distinguish between limbo and reality, has to track down Satio and convince him to kill himself after the sedatives wear off . If they kill each other before that, the sedatives still keep them in limbo. That explains the different dialogue between the two villa scenes, and why Leo wakes up on the beach a couple of times; the first time (or infinite number of times) around, they manage to off themselves but can't make it out of limbo due to the sedatives. Remember, when Leo convinced Mal that they should kill themselves with the train, that got them out of limbo, but only because they weren't sedated.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2010


And I cannot for the life of me remember the name of that "cut to new audio before new visual" move for the life of me.

Prelap.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2010


Okay, I watched the movie again yesterday. I did notice the ring. I couldn't see if it was there or not at the end. But I think there's a pretty good chance it's Dom's totem. It's clear that what's important is not what happens to the top, but that Dom chose to look away from it.

Re: Saito's age. I noticed this time the way that he and Dom traded lines in the final limbo scene. I think part of the reason for Saito's advanced age was a form of pre-hypnotic suggestion. Because that's what he was thinking about beforehand, that's what he ended up dreaming in limbo—that he was an old man, full of regret, waiting for death, etc. He just forgot the reason he was dreaming that (and the fact that he was dreaming at all) much as Cobb had to strain to remember why he had come for Saito. Saito unknowingly set the top spinning, and that enabled Cobb to remember that he was dreaming.

I was really impressed on second viewing how well the movie holds together on multiple levels. There are some deeper clues like the presence/absence of the ring to satisfy the folks who accept the whole "shared dreaming" premise. My initial viewpoint, that Dom invented the shared dreaming concept and that the whole plot was his own dream (self-inception, I guess?) stands up, as well (lots of "wake up, come home, Dom" stuff). And watching it with the concept that the whole thing is an analogy for film making... well, that works, too. It's three movies in one! So paying to see it twice in theaters means I still got a discount.

One note about the filmmaking metaphor: I'd almost say that Eames is the writer (he comes up with basically the whole backstory for Fischer's inception) and Ariadne is the set-builder/location scout. I kind of took it that they were ALL the actors, but hey. Just another way to look at it; not going to live or die by it. (Though if Eames is the actor, you could also argue that Mal is the character; she's a fiction of Dom's mind, based on someone he once knew. She has no real substance outside the dream, and she embodies subconscious feelings: hope, despair, fear, love, etc. Just as images are projected onto the screen, the character (the trailer calls her "The Shade [shadow]" is where our emotions are projected. How fitting that Mal herself was just a projection.)
posted by Eideteker at 2:44 PM on August 15, 2010


I just saw this movie and I hated it. I thought it extremely boring. Not for any of the reasons I've seen mentioned here by others who have had a similar reaction. I hated it because I thought it answered way too many questions throughout the movie. Everything was so explicit. "Wow, why are they floating around the hotel hallway while they fight?" That would have been a great question to have lingering in my mind as I watched, but instead, I knew exactly why it was happening because the movie told me. The ending? That was telegraphed half way through the movie. Of course it was going to end with a question about whether or not Leo's character was trapped in a dream. It's not a twist if I can see it coming like some slow motion van falling off a bridge. Same with the beginning scene. As soon as Ken's character was shot and limbo was explicitly explained, well, there you go. The second scene? Anytime someone says "I need to know all your secrets in order to protect you," you know they're scamming you to get all your secrets. When Ariadne was introduced, I groaned. It's like the Lost method of choosing character names. How can we make the most obvious fucking reference with a name?

I didn't go into this movie with any preconceptions (this is obviously a lie, but I did try). I didn't have any expectations (same thing, but you know, I tried). I didn't read any reviews. I didn't read this thread (until just now, and I read the whole thing, including many of the links). My only thought about this movie going in was "thank god it's not based on a comic book, a novel, another movie, or some fucking bar napkin." Add to that I saw it in a movie theater that serves beer, and I also had three beers before going. And I tend to be very, very critical of movies while under the influence. (I'm also a little drunk right now.) Another thing to point out: I just rented Kick-Ass the day before, and my god, I love that movie. Action-adventure at its finest. So I might have been thinking if Inception is billed as an action-adventure flick, it should be exciting, yes? That's not how I felt. The action sequences weren't compelling. Unlike Ebert, I didn't care about any of the characters or if they were going to make it. Similarly, it was billed as a mystery-suspense thriller. I never once felt suspense. And as I said, as far as I could tell, the movie kept answering all my questions as it went along; no mystery.

The reason I use the word "hate" is because the movie has a great concept behind it. This movie is a sledge hammer of concept. The problem is it never hits anything. It is such a great concept that could have been explored in half the time and with far fewer answers, expressing the existential angst at its core in so much more elegant a manner, that the thought of the budget of this piece of junk frustrates me to no end. Someone earlier mentioned Lynch. And this may be the most important unintentional preconception I carry around with me, because I couldn't help but think of how he would have approached this movie. If you are going to try to express to an audience the depth of confusion, fear, and uncertainty at the core of this concept, you have to reach into the hearts and minds of the viewer and squeeze and rip and tear. Instead, this movie holds your hand and guides you through every step. Because of this, the action sequences were tedious. There was no character development. And the only excuse for these is "Dream Logic." It just isn't enough without being confounded like in a dream.

I definitely do not want to take away from the enjoyment others have felt in watching this movie. I do not want to presume that others "just don't get it" or are "stupid dupes" manipulated into thinking this is a cerebral movie. But I cannot, for the life of me, see any value in this film except for the idea that spawned it. I wish I could muster the will to see it again just so I can pick it apart in further detail, but I cannot. I do not mind plot holes; I'm not looking for a perfect movie; I just want to be entertained. This movie did not entertain me. It didn't make me feel like I was 13 years old again; it made me think it was made by somebody who never got over and never fully explored the "deep thoughts" he had when he was 13 years old.
posted by effwerd at 8:22 PM on August 15, 2010


This movie did not entertain me.

Which is really one of the few justifiable reasons for hating a movie - if it can't fulfill that basic function for you, there's not a lot of point.

You did have a quite a few preconceptions though. "Action-adventure" and "mystery-suspense" and you had the idea of dreams and David Lynch in mind. None of which are really a good fit for the actual movie, and I blame that on advertisers not knowing what to do with movies that don't fit into boxes.

I had the preconception of "Christopher Nolan goes back to his roots" so I was thinking more along the lines of Memento rather than Batman, and that's about it.

Not that having a more accurate idea of what to expect would necessarily have changed your mind. But it might have saved you the ticket price and loss of time from seeing something that isn't your cup of tea, at least. There should be a genre that means "this movie doesn't really fit well into a genre", just to give people a warning. We could apply it to things like Eternal Sunshine and My Dinner with Andre.

For myself, I don't need a twist in a movie to enjoy it. And I didn't think it was about 'deep' ideas, since I took the "it's a story about stories" approach to the plot, not the "woah dude what if reality isn't really real" approach.

Anway, I don't want to talk you out of your dislike of the movie, I'm just thinking out loud. But if it makes you feel less like you've been ripped off, Eideteker's explanation of lucid dreaming compared to normal dreams (and why that's relevant to the lack of Lynch-vibe) might be worth a re-read.
posted by harriet vane at 1:42 AM on August 16, 2010


The reason I use the word "hate" is because the movie has a great concept behind it. This movie is a sledge hammer of concept. The problem is it never hits anything.

I was entertained. I did not hate this movie. Shit blew up on a big screen.

But a worse crime for a film is that it is not memorable, when it could have easily been among the pantheon of films that do Great Storytelling.

I might instead argue that the real concept is in the movie-within-the-movie: the relationship between Cobb and his deceased wife.

There was so much to be explored there, in that story. A couple living entire lifetimes in dreams-within-dreams. Building a shared life that lasts decades, centuries, millennia, and then building it again and again at deeper levels. So much richness and depth to be explored in a relationship between two conscious entities who build, live and die in their endless holographic universes, repeating and enriching their shared experience. Creating children and other subconscious entities to live within these nested worlds. Death carrying its God-like subject to other dream-worlds like a 21st Century Styx. How do two lovers navigate their world together?

This is a deep and wild mythological idea in an age when superstition is dying, a literal cosmological treasure that would have had a unique representation in the film world, up to the wordless level of Kubrick's 2001. The reason The Matrix sucks is because it relies on the crutch of the Neo/Jesus mythology to tell its story. What Inception had was new, going well beyond that crippled narrative.

But Nolan did not have the vision or courage to see the idea through. Instead, we get a shoot-'em-up corporate espionage thriller, within which the real story gets crippled and hidden away. Worse still, he chickens out and adds a little twist that was, indeed, telegraphed as soon as the opening scene began. Was this done after focus groups complained about the ending of a previous cut? Hard to say, but the "trick" ending is hardly a trick, and might leave the viewer feeling like a sucker. It left this viewer wanting.

Inception is technically faultless and beautifully filmed, but the story is almost entirely soulless and empty — mostly by the design of its creator. The film could have been so much more! This is why few will remember it a year from now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:20 AM on August 17, 2010


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