Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The Score: 8 out of 10

Inception (2010) is a great achievement in modern filmmaking. The cinematography is beautiful. The sound design and special effects are compelling. The stunts and action sequences will catch your breath. The labyrinthine plot and narrative structure is engaging. The casting of the film is appropriate and their acting is solid. Christopher Nolan is a director to be reckoned with, approaching action and suspense on the order of Alfred Hitchcock. We look forward to his third and final Batman film currently in development, scheduled for release in two years. But in spite of all this, there is one thing missing from Inception: HEART.

Dream Men Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Leonardo DiCaprio
Perpetrate an Elaborate Con Game in Inception (2010)
People might disagree, pointing to Dom Cobb's (Leonardo DiCaprio) desire to return home to his children. This is supposedly his central motivation in the story, leading him to take on one last job from a man who may have the power to clear Cobb's name of certain legal charges preventing him from returning home to his children.
Is the Film Just a Maze with Only Dead Ends? Or Does a Single Path Exist to Escape the Maze?
But if this truly were the heart of Inception (2010), then Nolan completely undermines the catharsis of Cobb's reunion with his children, the "heart" storyline, by immediately calling into question its reality. If there were a "heart" to be found in this reunion, then in the last frames of the film Nolan rips that heart out of the film's chest, lights it on fire, and drops it on the sticky floor of your local multiplex while it continues beating, like the evil  priest from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Pictured: Christopher Nolan at the End of Inception (2010)
Dom Cobb's legal troubles back home have cut him off from most legitimate avenues for his useful dream extracting skills, so he decides to turn to a life of crime because... Well... Honestly, who knows? Inception (2010) does not go any further than establishing Cobb has been randomly living as a criminal for an undefined period of time.
Not Your Conventional Hero
For the most part, we do not know what motivates any of the characters or why they do what they do. This is one of the inherent flaws of Inception (2010). Is Dom Cobb invading rich men's minds ONLY for the money? Cobb's father (father-in-law?) played by Michael Caine seems capable of supporting him with his professor's salary in Paris, so it is never clear why Cobb turns to a life of crime at all. And even if Cobb is a wanted criminal in America, surely plenty of people would still hire him for legitimate enterprises. Just look at Roman Polansky. He continues to make films although he avoids setting foot in an extradition country.
If You Are in Trouble, Just Turn to Your Trusted Butler Alfred. Wait, Wrong Nolan Franchise...
The same lack of motivation infects the core of every character in the film. We have no reason to suspect why any member of Dom Cobb's "Dream Team" would be using these extraction skills for the purpose of corporate espionage. Everyone seems to have a sophisticated degree of education and thanks to Cobb, develop valuable dream invasion skills. Why would any of them turn to criminal activities as a means of support? In fact, Cobb recruits a new teammate from a graduate school, hardly a place to find starving outlaws in desperate straits.
"I had to turn to a life of crime to get designer clothing."
--Everyone in the Film
The "Dream Team" are self-serving mind invaders who can steal the secerts of the rich and powerful for a price. This is an interesting concept, but it does make the central protagonists of the story somewhat less heroic than you might prefer in your Summer blockbuster.
"Hand over your corporate secrets before I blast ya!"
--If Christopher Nolan Made Iron-Man
Another major objection to Inception (2010) is its lack of transparency. Nolan purposely clutters the film with a lot of new concepts and jargon to make things sound unnecessarily complicated, apparently in an attempt to fudge over some basic questions the audience should be asking about what is taking place. Half who discuss online the ending of the film are convinced that DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy are in Dream Limbo in the film's climactic finale.
"What is going on?"
--The Audience
The other half are convinced those actors are actually in a fourth layer of the dream and that DiCaprio does not enter Limbo until his body is drowned within the first dream level, thus explaining why DiCaprio is floating around in the ocean in the first scene of the film just before he washes ashore in Limbo to meet with an aged Ken Watanabe.
Pictured: Dream Limbo? Fourth Layer of Dreams? A Major Plothole?
There is no definitive way to settle the dispute from information given within the film, because the film gives us conflicting information for no discernible artistic reason. Sometimes confusion can justifiably help the audience focus better on certain aspects of the story, but confusing the audience for the sake of confusing the audience is just sloppy storytelling.
"It is much easier to keep track of everything in the first three layers of reality."
--The Audience
There was no reason why Nolan should make the rules his movie universe unclear in the film unless he never fully developed them in the writing process. Pointless debate about the story's internal logic distracts from the debates we should be having about the ethical quandary of invading other people's minds for our own selfish reasons. The most intriguing aspects of the story are left in the background when they should be addressed in the foreground.
"I'm going to manipulate you into destroying your company but it's okay because I'll make you think your dad loves you in the process." --DiCaprio's Real Motivation
In spite of these objections to the film, Inception (2010) merits a level of scrutiny few films rarely deserve. Inception is intriguing and helps you develop your own opinions about the creation of ideas, the nature and influence of dreams on our minds, the imperfections of human perception of reality, and the possibilties involved in sharing dreams with other people. But many films deal with these story elements better than Inception: The Thirteenth Floor (1999), The Matrix (1999), Dark City (1998), Total Recall (1990), Shutter Island (2009), and Dreamscape (1984), etc.
For All its Faults, Inception (2010) is Still an Amazing Film to Watch
In a world where Avatar (2009) is the highest grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation), we should be grateful some filmmakers still dare to make intelligent blockbusters. Christopher Nolan may have slipped in Inception's development, but compared to Avatar, Inception is a masterpiece. Watching Inception (2010) again a second, third, fourth, or fifth time is preferable to watching Avatar (2009), 2012 (2009), or Transformers 2 (2009) even once.
The Fascinating Central Relationship of the Film
Inception (2010) is a movie worth watching, pondering, and discussing long after the credits roll and Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" plays one last time. The lack of heart or central character motivation is a glaring flaw in an otherwise superb film. Inception can be watched and re-watched with a level of excitement you do not often feel going into a film.
Inception Music Analyzed
A video clip comparing of Hans Zimmer's score with the Edith Piaf song that plays throughout the film. Since music is playing in the upper levels of their dreams, the music would sound as if it were slowed down in the lower dream levels.

Christopher Nolan Directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy in a Scene
Where Cobb Pretends to be Part of Fischer's Subconscious
Inception (2010) is a film that demands analysis. Because the film brims with ambiguity, the audience might be tempted to think there is no single interpretation explaining the whole film. But in a recent interview with Wired Magazine, Nolan explains he had a specific interpretation for the events of the film:

"I’ve always believed that if you make a film with ambiguity, it needs to be based on a sincere interpretation. If it’s not, then it will contradict itself, or it will be somehow insubstantial and end up making the audience feel cheated. I think the only way to make ambiguity satisfying is to base it on a very solid point of view of what you think is going on, and then allow the ambiguity to come from the inability of the character to know, and the alignment of the audience with that character."
Christopher Nolan's Films Engage the Audience on Multiple Levels, Through Various Layers of Perception
Part of the enjoyment of watching a Christopher Nolan film is applying both hemispheres of your brain to help you read into the film's complete underlying context. Like a game of Tetris, the audience is given a steady barrage of narrative pieces that float down from the movie screen. These pieces can be interconnected with each other in the correct way, enabling you to move on in sync with the story. But if you do not keep up with the film's pace, then your narrative blocks will keep piling up until you are too confused to understand what is happening. This confusion can be frustrating or refreshing, depending on your point of view.
If Only Classrooms Were this Cool When You're Confused...
Nolan respects his audience as few filmmakers do. He expects you to be smart enough to figure out what he is doing by finding patterns and piecing together the answers for yourself. Inception is definitely his most confusing film to date, cluttering the film with ideas, concepts, and dialogue that can feel overwhelming at first. had in trying to decipher what really took place in the film
Inception Characters Don't Understand
South Park (1997-Present) ran an amusing spoof of Inception in a recent episode titled, "Insheeption." The series creators admit they borrowed some jokes and ideas from this College Humor clip above.
While we make no claim to unlocking Christopher Nolan's interpretation for the literal events of Inception (2010), we will offer our own view of the film. Some fans of the film believe the film to be a symbolic journey of a man's psychoanalysis, others believe the film to be real whenever the film does not explicitly state an event is taking place in dream, and others believe nearly the entire film is a dream. Although this list of explanations is not exhaustive, most of the other theories fall somewhere between these extremes, and there is enough evidence in the film to make a good case for each of these possibilities.
Can Anyone Imagine How Much Time Christopher Nolan Must Have Taken
to Explain What Exactly is Taking Place in Each Scene?
We now present our theory of the film, which could explain everything that occurs, explaining away the confusing elements of the story. The bottom line: Dom Cobb's wife was right. The first time Dom and Mal Cobb explored dream limbo they never left. The couple remained in limbo indefinitely until Mal jumped off a building to leave it voluntarily.
Like Most Men, Cobb Just Needs to Admit His Wife is Right
Since the couple sedated themselves in the real world, two kicks are necessary. An external kick is normally sufficient to wake someone from a dream level, but when sedation is involved, apparently a second internal kick from within that dream level is required also. If Mal shoots Dom in dream limbo, then he would simply remain in limbo indefinitely, losing his mind in the process. Therefore, Dom Cobb must consciously decide to kick himself free of limbo. Mal was unsuccessful in her attempts to convince Dom, so she constructs an elaborate plan to convince him to join her return to the real world by invalidating his reasons to remain in limbo. But Dom cannot let go of his delusion and he remains convinced of it is reality.
Even this Poster to the Film Hints that it All Takes Place in Cobb's Mind
Dom Cobb then degenerates into an ever deepening well of madness as his mind struggles between his urge to join his wife and children in the real world with his desire to stay in his dreamworld. Cobb notices he is unable to dream while in limbo, and mistakes this as a symptom caused by his frequent head trips. He begins creating dream worlds for himself within the dream limbo, allowing himself to safeguard a subconscious projection of his wife Mal from the rest of his mind.
Cobb's Subconscious Mind's Attempt 
All the other characters in the story are elements of Cobb's subconscious projections, each representing a part of himself. The Japanese businessman Saito represents the part of Cobb that wants to remain in limbo with his delusions. The new dream architect that Cobb recruits on his team, Ariadne, is an attempt by his mind to negate and severe Cobb's connection to his projection of Mal. The other teammates on Cobb's Dream Team are elements of his personality that he will need to successfully pull off an "inward deception" or "inception."
Is it a Coincidence that as Cobb Loses Faith in His Reality and Increases His Visits with the Projection of Mal that His Mind Responds by Giving Him Ariadne, Who Creates a Series of Elaborate Delusions to Prevent Her from Interfering?
The target of their inception is Robert Fischer, the heir to a mighty multinational corporate empire. Fischer represents Cobb's core personality, the purest and most concentrated aspect of his subconscious mind. The corporate empire Fischer is about to inherit is Cobb's real life--the life waiting for Cobb if he ever awakes. If Saito and Cobb's conscious mind pulls off the inception correctly, then Cobb's subconscious mind will latch on to the delusional life in dream limbo forever. If they fail, then the projection of Mal will have successfully boxed Cobb into a corner, forcing him to confront reality once and for all.

The Question People Ask Themselves at the End: Does the Top Keep Spinning or Does it Stop?
The Real Question You Should Ask: Why is Cobb Using His Wife's Totem?
In the film Inception (2010), there is a possibility of losing track of reality while your consciousness resides in another person’s dreamworld. A totem is an object only you ever handle in real life, which you keep on your person at all times.

If you are not sure whether or not you are in the real world, you can pull out your totem to test its physical properties. If your totem behaves in precisely the way as you remember it, then you know you are either awake and experiencing real life, or you are dreaming in your own mind.
For All the Risks Involved, Dom Certainly Involves a Lot of People in His Extraction Plan
The totem enables you to avoid deception by other extractors who might lure your subconscious mind into one of their dreams where they would have control. The extractor would do this to leverage you in some way to achieve a nefarious purpose.
For Some Reason, Dom Cobb Has a Preoccupation with the Possibility
of Being Trapped in Someone Else's Dream World...
Even if you are working with an extraction team of your own, you might begin mistaking a teammate's dream for the real world. A totem can help you perform spot checks to verify you are not in someone else's dream.
He Has to be Careful or Eames or Another Teammate Could Scam Cobb During a Mission
If no other dreamer understands the physical properties of your totem, then only you can perfectly dream-create it. Therefore, if your totem behaves the way you expect it to, then you know for a fact you are either in your own dream or you are in reality.

Now we approach a detailed explanation of Christopher Nolan’s daunting magic trick performed in plain sight:

Mal and Dom Cobb Create a Joint Dreamspace Together in Limbo
Point 1 - If Limbo is unconstructed dreamspace, then the people who arrive there create the world TOGETHER. Therefore, as Mal and Dom entered limbo together, they would not exist in either of their dreamspaces, but they would now live in joint dreamspace. Because of this, their totems would in fact be useless here since both Mal and Dom would provide literal information regarding the physical qualities of their totems in limbo. The limbo totems would be just as real to them as a real object.

This explains why Mal locks her limbo totem in a vault, which she places in the basement of her limbo re-creation of her childhood home. If Cobb ever touches her limbo totem, then he will understand how her real totem feels and would be able to manipulate Mal's perceptions of reality with this advantageous knowledge. Cobb would know what her totem feels like, but she would not understand what his feels like.
"Never recreate places from your memory. Always imagine new places!" --Dom Cobb's Advice to Ariadne
Point 2 - Because Mal and Cobb unadvisedly constructed their shared dreamspace from their own memories, they ran into a serious problem. All matter in limbo would behave in a normal fashion as long as they dreamed it would. Since Cobb and Mal both wanted to return home, their unconscious desires solidified their joint dream in limbo to feel absolutely real, as if they were already home. 
Dom Cobb Becomes a Dominant Dreamer with Mal in Limbo
Point 3 - Dom Cobb is concerned when Mal becomes convinced that limbo is in fact the real world. Cobb decides to breach Mal's security measures to handle her limbo totem. Since the limbo totem is identical to her real totem, Cobb gains sufficient knowledge to dominate limbo. Cobb disrupts Mal's sense of reality by making Mal's totem top spin forever in a place where the top should behave as it would in reality.
Cobb Spins Mal's Totem
Point 4 - Mal eventually looks at her top spinning without end under the dream influence of Cobb’s dominant power. This helps her wake up to the fact that she is dreaming in limbo. She finally agrees with Dom and the two of them go to a train track where they voluntarily give themselves a kick out of dream limbo by allowing a train to run them over.
"You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can't be sure. But it doesn't matter, because we'll be together." --Dom Cobb to Wife Mal in Limbo
Cobb May Have Used His Dominant Dream Power to Prevent the Train from Running Them Over,
Inadvertently Stranding Them in Limbo Without Their Conscious Knowledge
Point 5 – After the kick, they apparently wake up in the real world having only dreamed a few hours even though they lived the equivalent of several decades in limbo together. But upon entering this world together, Mal and Dom diverge into two separate camps. Dom is certain they left limbo and are living in the real world. Mal is certain the kick did not work and that the two of them never left limbo. an idea is the most effective type of parasite and one of them has been infected. Mal's totem is now his own.
At Some Point, Mal's Totem Becomes Dom's
Dom’s Point of View: Since the limbo totem should behave as it would in real life, spinning her limbo totem forever has disrupted Mal’s perception of limbo reality and real reality. Dom Cobb is entirely responsible for the mess, so he feels guilty that she loses grip on both realities.

Because Dom manipulated Mal into thinking the top spins forever in a place where it would behave normally, she can no longer be certain where she exists. Mal must come to the realization that Cobb has manipulated her totem in limbo and therefore has invalidated her assumptions of reality. She cannot trust whether or not she is in Dom's dominant dream limbo, or in reality because Dom knows how her totem feels.

Mal’s Point of View – Mal formulates a theory that if Dom took control over limbo, then a strong possibility exists that the kick they gave themselves on the train track was just another manipulation by Dom. Mal believes the train did not kick them back up to reality, but that they are in fact stuck in Dom’s dominantly controlled limbo. Dom skewed the balance of power in limbo in his direction, so Cobb could be still manipulating her perceptions, even if he is doing so accidentally.

Whose Idea is More Infectious?
Point 6 - Here is the pivotal moment of the film Inception (2010). Mal has been infected with the idea of her existence not being real or Dom has been infected with the idea that dream limbo is the real world. These two infectious ideas cause a rift between the couple and they are unable to reconcile their perspectives.
"You're waiting for a train..."
Either Mal was right and they never left limbo, or Mal was wrong and their stunt on the train track did successfully kick them back to the real world. The problem is neither Dom nor Mal can verify with perfect certainty who is right or wrong based on rational facts alone. A leap of faith is necessary
Mal is Right, So She Tries to Save Dom the Only Way Possible
Point 7 – Based on all the facts presented in the film, Mal could be correct that they are still stuck in dream limbo. However, since they are both sedated in the real world, just shooting Dom and killing herself in limbo will not work to save them. The film establishes rules that if someone is sedated and killed in a dream, they will be stuck in limbo until their brain turns to mush as their minds continue racing away for dream centuries decades without grasping the fact they are in limbo.

Yet, Mal wants to help both Dom and herself make a real kick out of dream limbo this time, so she desperately attempts to convince Dom to perform another kick. But her attempts are in vain. Dom is convinced they are in the real world.

So Mal develops an elaborate plan to have herself declared sane subconscious projections of psychiatrists in Dom’s brain, leaving legal documents with projections of their lawyers that implicate Dom will murder her, and then she arranges one last time to plea for Dom to join her for a leap of faith.
Dom Cobb and His Conveniently Loyal Collaborator/Sidekick Arthur
Point 8 - Cobb is convinced that Mal killed herself in the real world and he does not follow her example to leap off their hotel. Dom Cobb retreats into hiding and escapes the country to avoid imprisonment, since the American authorities are now convinced he killed his wife. Cobb must leave his children behind until he can find a way clear his name and return.

So the question is who was right? Was Mal correct that they were both stuck in limbo? Or was Dom correct that they had successfully escaped it. The answer to this question determines how you interpret the entire film.
Dom Cobb is the Architect of a Grand Conspiracy Targeting Himself
Point 9 – We know an idea is the most effective type of parasite. We know Cobb has adopted his wife's totem for no clear reason. We know Cobb cannot dream on his own without the aid of dream equipment. We know hostile police forces chase him across the globe in the same way subconscious projections attack a person who alters a dream.

Unless someone can point to compelling evidence to the contrary, we must assume Cobb was stuck in limbo throughout the whole film. Cobb's weird relationship with the subconscious projection of Mal would be caused by his subconscious understanding of his existence in limbo, and his desire to protect and hide her from the rest of his hostile psyche.

The central storyline about implanting an idea in Robert Fischer to abandon his father’s corporate empire is simply a subconscious struggle between two parts of Dom’s mind.

The projection of Mal represents his repressed knowledge that he is in limbo. The projection of Saito represents his desire to continue deluding himself that limbo is real.
Fischer Represents Cobb's Free Will
By performing an inception on Fischer, Cobb will successfully convince himself that deceiving someone to make them happy is morally justifiable. Cobb would then be granting himself a free license to continue deluding himself incessantly to make him feel better.

Who is the Villain and Who is the Hero? The Answer Will Surprise You...
Point 10 - The infectious idea that spread to Cobb from handling his wife’s totem was not that his world is fake, but that limbo is real. Real Mal understands this eventually and leaves, but Cobb is infected with a false sense of reality so he remains. Part of Cobb's subconscious, a projection of Mal, is constantly trying to convince him to give up the inward deception and join her in the real world, but Cobb ignores projected Mal and completes the inception on himself.
Pictured: Ignorance is Bliss
Point 11 - Cobb successfully implants an idea in the deepest recesses of his mind to convince himself that self-deceit is worth doing if it provides a beneficial side effect. In Fischer's paradigm, it is a false sense of his father's love. In Cobb's case, it is a false sense of reality and an unrealistic reunion with his children. Cobb succeeded in incepting himself into a permanent state of delusion. Whatever it takes to see the faces of his children is justified now in his mind’s eye, even if it means creating the most elaborate means of self-deception in history.
Save Saito, Save Your Delusion
This is why Mal and the other subconscious projections made a particularly strong attack on Saito, wounding him and eventually killing him within the layered dream journeys. Mal hoped to save Cobb’s life by attacking his subconscious desire to remain in limbo. But Cobb confronts his projection of Mal along with his Anti-Mal, Ariadne. Cobb rejects her plea for reality and kills her so he can bring back Saito, who is the only element of his subconscious that can facilitate his delusional reunion with his children.
Dom Cobb's Conclusion: Reality Does Not Matter as Long as You Feel Good
Point 12 - The spinning top at the end does not matter since Cobb has been stuck in dream limbo the whole time. The totem will behave in whatever manner he chooses. And since his only desire is to see his children again, then that is all he will choose to see.
A Recurring Theme in Christopher Nolan's Work is a Protagonist Who Manipulates Himself to Feel Better
All inconsistencies and criticisms of the film would actually be reconciled under this theory, since they could be explained away by the shifting desires and conflict within Cobb’s psyche. It would also mirror Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2001), which features a central protagonist who decides to deceive himself in order to achieve a positive catharsis.
Comfort vs. Truth
Whether correct or not, theorizing about the film is an entertaining mental exercise and we invite you to comment below to explain why you agree or disagree with this unified Inception theory. Use specific examples from the film when making your case.
Inception's Extended Ending Parody
College Humor also made this "funny-because-it-is-true video" about Christopher Nolan's unsatisfying ending to Inception (2010). This video accurately portrays how audiences reacted to the last shot of the film in movie theaters.

Inception (2010) is beautiful on Blu-Ray and in some ways is even more entertaining in the comfort of your home, where the dream-like qualities of the film feel even more personal and real. It also won three Academy Awards in March 2011
Inception (2010) Trailer

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  1. Brilliant analysis, iv read them all and this is the best one I've seen. It makes perfect sense to view Inception as an expansion on Memento.

  2. wow... man.. u ve really got me to perceive the film entirely in a different manner... kudos for ur efforts...

    here is a resilient idea i would like to plant ..
    i would like to add weightage to ur point number 12 about the the spinning top ...

    at every instance in the film that the top is shown,cob is there watching it to control it the way he wants it to behave.. but at the end of the film.. he jus walks away to see his children's faces.. so he doesnt control the way the top spins and maybe that s the reason the top behaves the way that it should ( spinning in a dream )...

    awesome review.. awesome movie.. hats off to chris nolan for planting such a masterpiece of an idea and to u for clarifying how to perceive it .. :) :)

  3. "Watching Inception (2010) again a second, third, fourth, or fifth time is preferable to watching............."
    Did you really watch this film a number of times, because it seems your understanding of it is wanting. I will try to get around to elaborating another time, i've just had an alnighter and need to get back to reality.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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