Inception – 2010
Oh my goodness! This movie really messes with your head. It’s an intellectual science fiction thriller, and I’ve always enjoyed intellectual movies, movies that make you think, movies that stick with you after the final credits. Inception is an exciting study in suspense and dramatic tension. I loved it! The film boasted some pretty big names, like Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen page, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. The actual plot of the film was so complex that I’m not even going to attempt to give a synopsis of it in this review. If you want that, visit Wikipedia. Instead, I will explore a few of the movie’s themes, and explain what made them so fascinating to me.
The movie dealt with corporate espionage, by kidnapping someone, putting them to sleep and dreams, and then inserting outside agents into those dreams to extract information. Once the process was complete, the victim would never even know that he’d given his secrets away, and imagining the entire experience to be nothing more than a dream. But what made it so complicated, is the concept of the dream within a dream. You see, went to dream was being invaded, the subject would think he was still awake, and everything it would seem real. But what if, you put that person’s dream self to sleep forcing him to have another dream? You can see how multiple levels of dreaming are now possible.
And according to the rules of this fictional universe, the more levels of dreaming there, the more time difference there is between the different levels. For me this was one of the cleverest aspects of the film, because think about it. If you fall asleep for a few minutes, your dream can feel like it lasted hours, right? So if you go into a dream within a dream, it would make sense that the deeper dream levels might last months or years compared to the waking world, right? This time displacement effect plays an important part in the overall plot.
DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a man wrongfully accused of his wife’s murder. She is played by Cotillard. Mal had actually committed suicide because she thought she was still in an extended dream, and death would be her only way to wake up. Because of this he can never go home to see his children in America.
Dom and his specialized team are hired not to extract information from Robert Fischer’s, played by Cillian Murphy, subconscious, but to plant a suggestion into his head. In order to leave no footprints, and to make the suggestion seem like it came from Robert’s own subconscious, they went deeper. Much deeper. In fact, though they only intended to go three levels deep, they are forced to go four. The problem with such a dangerous procedure, is that the team invading Robert’s dreams began to lose hold on reality.
What made the movie so fascinating, is that each level of dreaming, was a completely different and distinct reality. You follow the various characters from one dream sequence to another, while others are left behind in different levels of the inception process to dream the next level. Add to that the fact that what happens to someone in one level has an effect on what happens to them on the next level. For example, while in the first level of inception, the characters were sleeping in a van involved in a car chase. When the van started to roll off the road, the characters in the second level of dreaming experienced weightlessness and a shift in gravity. It was a devilishly tricky concept to grasp, but so well thought out. It also made for some pretty stunning visual effects with rooms rotating and people trying to function when gravity no longer obeys the laws of physics. Just amazingly done!
But the end of the film is what really leaves viewers with the most questions. In order to exonerate himself of his wife’s untimely death, Dom, accompanied by Ariadne, played by Page, must go deep into his own subconscious where he must interact with the memory of Mal to save the man who can clear his name. I know, it gets pretty confusing. As a way of determining whether he is in a dream or if he is awake, Dom has a totem. It is a tiny top which, if he is dreaming will spin without stopping. If he spins the top and it stops, he knows he is awake. In the end we see everyone come out of the various levels of dreaming except Dom. We see him start the top spinning. But when he sees his children, he walks away and before we see whether the top stops spinning or not, we cut to the credits, leaving the big question: did he ever make it out of the dream, or is he doomed to live in a dream for countless years? But really, whether he got out is not the point of the ending. The point is that he walked away from the top. He no longer cared whether he was in the dream or reality, as long as he was with his children. Personally, I think he got out. But that’s just my opinion.