Sunday, August 08, 2010

Inception - A Review

Don't get me wrong, The Matrix is a good film. But held up next to Inception, it has the comparative emotional and philosophical depth of [generic thriller].

The main philosophical idea of The Matrix is the suggestion that, maybe, our world isn't real - that we're really in, or part of, a computer simulation - and more importantly, that we have no really way of knowing whether or not that's the case.

But realistically, this is an idea that has been considered and explorer a lot throughout history, dating back as far as the ancient Greeks. And this is evident in this article, which lists some of The Matrix' influences and interpretations. Just because it was the first to bring the idea into wide-spread popular culture, doesn't mean it was the first to do it ever.

But enough about The Matrix and the ridiculousness of its being held up as a yard-stick for all modern Sci-fi and reality questioning.

Okay, first of all, let me get this out of the way - the final scene of Inception wasn't a dream! Contrary to appearances, Cobb's children were wearing different clothes AND were played by DIFFERENT ACTORS! And there are other hints, like how Cobb is always wearing his wedding ring in dreams, but never in reality - he wasn't wearing it in the final scene.

So, mystery solved. End of story.

Inception, for those who still don't know, is the film that isn't about stealing ideas through dreams. While the film plays out like a heist movie, it's actually quite the contrary - inception is the act of placing the seeds of an idea into a subject's subconscious, so as to affect a change in the way the subject thinks or acts.

Businessman, Saito, hires protagonist Cobb to make business rival, Fischer, dissolve his dying father's company, using inception to plant the idea in Fischer's mind. And this forms the core of the film. Not that it's anywhere near that simple.

And if that were all there was to the movie, then what we'd have would be a good Sci-Fi thriller (like The Matrix) with a cool twist and some magnificent cinematography. I mean, visually it's just plain gorgeous. As is Hans Zimmer's hauntingly beautiful score.

But Nolan adds extra depth to the story with a second narrative strand, involving Cobb's wife.

The story goes like this: having spent an extended period in a shared dream, Cobb had to convince his wife, Mal, that their dream world was just that. So, by inception, he planted the idea in her mind that their world wasn't real. This worked. And to wake up they killed themselves in perhaps the most gruesome way possible - head on a train track + on-coming train.

But having woken up, Mal was convinced that the real world was a dream as well. And that, to wake up, she and Cobb had to kill themselves again. This eventually led to Mal committing suicide.

What you get, then, is that same question - is this world real? But with the added gambit that if you die in the simulated world, you wake up. It's like the film's saying "Go ahead, test the reality of your world. I dare you!". And that makes it all together more sinister.

You also have Cobb's guilt manifesting itself as Mal popping up in his dream-share jobs, and sabotaging him. (But since she's just a projection of his memories, he's actually just sabotaging himself).

And all this adds an extra dimension to the film. Needless to say, my summary nowhere near does the film justice though.

The most common negative reviews I've seen, besides the ones that call it over-rated/over-hyped/etc, have included these words - 'confusing' and 'boring'. Now, I'm not suggesting these reviewers are just too stupid to follow or understand the film (because I'm not a bastard). But you feel free to make your own judgement on that.

I've also seen more extreme reviews; and perhaps evident by this entire post, the most infuriating (for me) were the ones that had the audacity to claimed that Inception is just a rip-off of The Matrix. Anyone who genuinely thinks that deserves a good, hard slap, which I would gladly administer.

I'm not going to claim that Inception is perfect, or even my favourite film. But it is a damn good film! If there is anyone in the world who hasn't seen it yet, I'm not going to demand you go and see it right now. But if you want my opinion, I would definitely recommend it.

And if you find yourself at all confused as to what's going on, go see it again! And if you're still confused, there are plenty of explanations online (and an infographic).
But really, it's best just to enjoy it without asking too many questions. Because you can ruin anything by over-thinking it.

And if you prefer to think of the ending as being ambiguous, or even a dream, then feel free. I've put forward my case, but I'm sure there's someone in the world who can give you a convincing counter-argument. And unless Nolan himself gives us an answer, we may never know for certain.

Oh, and if you have a spare moment, you might also like to check out my previous post - "If You Liked Inception...".


[I may have gone a little over the top with The Matrix abuse. I'm sorry. It really is a good film.]


abooth202 said...

We went to see it for the second time last week and it's one of those films where you notice different things on second viewing. It's so well thought-out, so well planned and so well written that I think it deserves at two viewings to appreciate it fully.

Great review!

Oatzy said...

Thank you. Yeah, I really need to get round to seeing it again. If only to work out what exactly is going on with the totems...