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A 2010 movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

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Dreaming Without Meaning

  • Jul 18, 2010
Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine

Eames: If we’re going to perform inception, then we’re going to need imagination.

I knew there was a good reason I fought so hard every night to hold on to my conscious mind and not let my unconscious mind take over.  I’ve got to make sure no pesky extractors get in there to steal my highly sought after secret thoughts.  More importantly, I’ve got to make sure that nobody gets in there and plants an idea that I would go on to believe is entirely my own upon waking up.  This latter assault is called INCEPTION and the extremely dangerous process involved in making it happen is the premise for Christopher Nolan’s film of the same name.  Nolan’s skill as a director gives him the tools to delve deep into the viewer’s mind but after waking up from the dreamlike state INCEPTION creates so delicately, it doesn’t feel like he left anything in there to hold on to.

In order for Nolan to sell INCEPTION, he has a lot of ideas to implant in the audience from the very beginning.  Leonardo Dicaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play professional dreamers, men who, when connected to a fancy box that puts you right to sleep at the push of a button (where can I get this box?!), enter other people’s subconscious minds.  It’s way more complicated than that and INCEPTION does its best to ensure the audience understands its complex ideas.  To begin with, Nolan starts the action with Dicaprio and Gordon-Levitt in the middle of a mission.  This way we get to see first hand what their alternate reality is and it conveniently allows for explanation between characters indirectly aimed to help the audience situate itself.  Comparisons to THE MATRIX are not shocking to me.  Like that film, INCEPTION is a visual marvel that requires a lot of contextualization to get lost in.  And again, like that film, explanatory scenes that stop the action cold are necessary to keep everyone following.  THE MATRIX does one thing differently though – it makes it all about us at the same time so once we do get lost, we have just as much to lose.

Once everyone is on the same page, which takes almost half the film to accomplish, the real mission begins.  Inception, the concept of that is, is thought to be purely theoretical but Dicaprio is determined to make it a reality.  Dicaprio’s team, also including Ellen Page, Ken Wantanabe and the deliciously smarmy Tom Hardy, has been contracted to go deep into the mind of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), the heir to an internationally successful corporation.  Once they get deep enough, they must implant an idea that will trigger Fischer to want to dissolve the company when he wakes up.  As the leader of the team, and the dreamer who has been doing this the longest, Dicaprio’s personal issues, primarily the ones involving his secretive past with his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), keep creeping into the collectively shared dreams.  Here, dreams and memories get easily confused and threaten to bring everything toppling down.  The corporate espionage angle though keeps the audience at a safe distance when we should all be able to draw upon the shared experience of getting lost in dreams.

Visually, there is no question that INCEPTION will have you dreaming of the fantastical sets and effects long after you’ve seen it.  As Nolan takes us deeper into dreams within dreams, he has total control over all the layers he has designed so deliberately one on top of the other.  He wows us with everything going on around us and grips us by making the success of the mission dependent upon a multitude of factors that must align perfectly within a very small window of time.  Considering how much work is involved in getting this deep and keeping all these layers balanced, it seems odd that Nolan doesn’t appear to have any grander a purpose to achieving this feat other than proving he could.  In order for inception to work, to ensure the idea really sticks, the subject has to believe that the idea came from himself, like true inspiration.  Despite burrowing into depths of the human psyche never before explored, Nolan leaves little to no insight behind to inspire us once the credits roll and we all wake up.

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August 05, 2010
I enjoyed the film, as I have with all of Nolan's projects, but I was mildly disappointed with the ultimate predictability of the plot, the shallow nature of the characters, and the plot holes in the dream logic. Perhaps my big issue here is that, as someone who has studied dream analysis and interpretation, the dreams which these characters invade and create are extremely mundane and straight-forward. Yes, we get some very nice action sequences and some interesting visual puzzles reminiscent of Escher, but there's little here that seems psychologically relevant or accurate to the characters. Surely, the Cobb character isn't the only one who has issues that impact his subconscious, so why is he the only one who has a projection that invades his dreams?

Plus, most dreams have specific phenomena such as transformations, surreal environments, flashbacks to the past, etc. Other than the flashbacks that Cobb experiences, nobody else in the film seems to even have a real past to channel in their dreams.

I think because Nolan set this film up as a sort of science fiction heist film, too much time was spent on explaining the concept and showing the execution of "inception" and not enough time was given to the individuals taking part. In some ways, this could be solved with a sequel that would allow for more depth or perhaps even a television series could do this premise more justice, but to try to contain all of the information in a regular length film takes up too much time and leaves little room for characterization.
August 05, 2010
I agree completely about the amount of time being used to set up the concept behind the heist. I felt very empty watching this movie and your theory about the other characters' lack of history and subconscious explains a lot. Great insight!
July 18, 2010
Excellent write up, Joseph! I really liked this movie, and even though your 8/10 rating isn't as high as what I gave it, I can definitely see your point. Nolan had grand ambition going for this one. The film's earlier scenes sure didn't help the complexities of its narrative, but I guess I am used to Nolan's style in direction that I knew what to expect. Nice work with your opening paragraphs...I love it! This review will be one our community's highlights for sure! 
July 18, 2010
I've actually been rewatching Nolan's previous films this past week. Well, his non Batman films anyway. He has great vision and skill. He likes to play with the viewer but I just find that sometimes, he lacks grander purpose. A second viewing of The Prestige this week left me very unimpressed.
July 19, 2010
My favorite Nolan film will have to be Memento and The Dark Knight--I liked The Prestige but I do think that has got to be the his weakest movie yet. How many films has Nolan written and directed anyway? I think we should make a list...
More Inception reviews
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Christopher Nolan Creates a Dream Worth Watching...
   After the highly-successful “The Dark Knight” which defined the way comic book movies should be made, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to expect nothing but the best from Christopher Nolan. “INCEPTION” has generated a strong buzz ever since the trailer debuted in previews and the worldwide web; after all, this film is written and directed by Nolan himself and with his “Batman” team assisting in the film’s production, it seems like the …
review by . August 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Let me start by saying i don't watch many movies, I'm not a big sci fi buff, and as I'm getting older, maybe I'm just getting a little crotchety.  I'm very aware that by coming out and being the ONLY one Lunch who is giving Inception a negative rating, I'm opening myself up to a lot of questioning and judgment... but that's okay because I know the community will respect my differing opinion and not ridicule me for expressing it.  So here goes:      …
review by . January 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There's nothing quite like it! A Paradox!
I like to watch a movie that keeps me guessing what is happening, why it is progressing the way it is, where it is going & what is going to happen next. Inception is one such movie. It keeps the audience in suspense and guessing, anxious to KNOW what is ahead.       Dreaming is something that I had always been enchanted with all my life. It is through dreams that I see God the first time in my life! Yes, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of my dreams and the …
review by . December 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stephanie's Favourite Movies: Inception      What's wrong with this movie? Nothing, that's what. This is a perfect movie, there's nothing wrong with it. I appreciated that it wasn't pandering to the lowest common denominator like most summer blockbusters do. It actually took a few brain cells to keep up with it. Of course, you don't have to be a genius to watch it and enjoy it, but you have to be kind of smart to understand it. It's that rare summer …
review by . January 22, 2011
Inception is a rare breed of movie. Firstly, it came out in July and thus can classify as a summer blockbuster, and secondly, it does not insult the intelligence of the audience and actually takes a few brain cells to keep up with it. It's incredibly well-acted, it has an original story in a time when they are becoming harder and harder to come by, and it's a movie that will definitely be apperciated come awards time. It will probably win more awards for its technical accomplishments, and …
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
After the wild success of  The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan reached the ranks of movie making freedom that so few directors reach.  So what did Christopher Nolan do with his golden key?  Made a movie he'd been wanting to make for ten years.  Inception.  A movie where your mind is the scene of the crime.  It's big, it's complex, it's beautiful... and it's absolutely amazing.  For those who are sick of adaptations, sequels and remakes, Inception …
review by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Before you see Inception, grab your Gingko-Biloba or whichever new age vitamin/drug will quicken your synaptic connections. You're going to need it. You SHOULDN'T see Inception if you aren't prepared to push your brain into overdrive. You're going to be thinking and trying to sort things out from the opening sequence to the twist-ish ending.       This film is, in essence, a quintessential action flick. The special effects are mind-blowing. The constraints …
review by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stylized, Ambitious, Powerful
   Going into Inception was kind of a gamble for me as my friends and colleagues apparently know me better than I thought.  I’ve been hearing this is the “one to check out” since the day it arrived in theaters this past summer and while my friends have once again proven spot-on with their understanding of the kind of fiction I enjoy, it is always worrisome when so much hype comes my way.  I have to make a very conscious effort not to get swept up in it, as …
review by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Listen to the some of the awesome Hans Zimmer soundtrack while reading:            A film like Inception only comes along once a decade, and it's no surprise it took Writer/Director Christopher Nolan over ten years to polish the screenplay into its final form. The loud and frenetic visuals in the trailer all fall into place when you see the film, which represents a masterful blend of genres and ideas, some of which have been attempted before but never …
review by . July 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
For months, just like everyone else on Earth, I've been hearing and seeing the buzz surrounding Christopher Nolan's newest film, Inception. However, due to time constraints caused by college and other personal matters, seeing the movie wasn't high on my list of priorities. Since I just got a mini vacation from college this week, I found some time to finally watch it, and I must tell you, the movie left me scratching my head. Now don't let that past sentence fool you. I wasn't …
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #8
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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Inception is a 2010 American science fiction film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief  who extracts information from the subconscious mind of his victims while they dream. Unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life in exchange for one last job: performing inception, the planting of an idea into the mind of his client's competitor.
Development began roughly nine years before Inception was released. In 2001, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers, presenting the idea to Warner Bros. The story was originally written as a heist film, inspired by concepts of lucid dreaming and dream incubation. Feeling he needed to have more experience with large-scale films, Nolan opted to work on Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. He spent six months polishing up the script for Inception before Warner Bros. purchased it in February 2009. Filming spanned six countries and four continents, beginning in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 and finishing in Canada in late November of the same year. Composer Hans Zimmer scored the film, using parts of Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien".
Inception was officially budgeted at $160 million, a cost that was split between Warner Bros. and Legendary ...
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 16, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 148 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Syncopy Films, Legendary Pictures
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