After emerging from the dark theater into the glaring midday sun, following a 148 minute descent into Christopher Nolan’s dream sequence, Inception, I’m not embarrassed to say that it took splashing my face with cold water to assure myself that I was really awake. Not as efficient as being ‘kicked’ awake (as they say in the movie); but it worked.
Because I knew I had to write this review, I paid extra close attention to the movie. My hyper-conscious brain followed the film as it made a linear drop through four levels of sub-consciousness—a dream within a dream, within a dream, within a dream. Without realizing it, I had become mentally vulnerable to someone else’s dreams. And though that happens to some extent during every good movie, Inception was particularly, yet subtly, convincing. (And, no, it wasn't just because Leo played the star role.)
This has everything to do with the film’s subject matter. When concentrating on any subject, a person automatically uses experiences from their own life to help them understand it. During Inception, I had unwittingly put myself in the mindset of a dream—in an attempt to identify with the subject matter.
Though I don’t remember most of my dreams, I doubt they are as complex and coherent as those of the characters in Inception. I don’t attribute that to a failing on Nolan’s part, for missing the mark as to what dreams are really like; rather, I attribute it to the unusually high intellect of all the characters in the movie. With brains that capable, it is believable, at least to me, that they would have equally articulate dreams.
Many of the main characters—played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas—were so skilled in the physics of lucid dreaming that they could architect their own and others’ dreams so that a target person in the dream would be defenseless to having their most secret thoughts extracted, or even influenced by the inception of a foreign thought into their own mind.
The target person in the movie’s plotline was the son of a dying energy tycoon, played by Cyllian Murphy, who stood to inherit his father’s company, which was poised to monopolize the industry and become a global superpower. An executive of a rival energy company, played by Ken Watanabe, hired the dream architects to invade Murphy’s dream and plant an idea so deeply in his mind, that he would walk away from the company and let it fall from power.
However, this inception job, with its action-packed dreams within dreams, was only a plot within the main plot, which centered on the psychological fate of DiCaprio’s character and his wife, played by Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard. The dreams they created together had started to become more like reality to each of them, but in varying degrees. This variation in the degree of identification with their dreams as reality created a unique conflict between them which haunted the entire movie.
Along with the dream architects’ ability to maintain rationality during REM sleep, they also had a good eye for design. Their dreamscapes were more wistfully artistic than absurd or grotesque. During Inception, Nolan takes the viewers down the rabbit-hole to a city in the rain, a chic bar and hotel, a snowy mountain and along a beach where things are topsy-turvy, yet beautiful; disordered, yet serene.
While the acrobatics of the plot were pulled off flawlessly, and I was obviously psychologically affected by the end of the film, I would have appreciated Inception even more it reached me emotionally, as well. The subject matter and plot were full of material for good dialogue that might have given shape to a philosophical statement, or meaning, of some sort. I was just a little letdown that that wasn’t there.
It was curious that Nolan chose to repeat Edith Piaf’s song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” throughout the film, as Cotillard’s portrayal of Piaf is what resulted in her 2007 Oscar for Best Actress. This song, for me, was not problematic; just interesting. I thought it coordinated perfectly with the foreign, wistful feel of the movie.
Inception is rated PG-13 for violence and language, not to mention, the surreal theme may be a little difficult for children to grasp.
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.