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Originally posted July 18 2010 at 13:07 under General. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.


Went with the pixie to see the latest cinematic offering, Inception. Warning: There may be minor spoilers ahead (and maybe one major, though it’s fairly obviously signposted in the film).

Inception certainly has an interesting idea. Through a combination of sedation and drug cocktails people are able to enter shared dream states. This allows operatives to steal ideas or information from the subconscious of the target. There’s a lot of waffle about dream architects and such but frankly the idea is skimmed over in pretty much the same way as the origin details of this shared dreaming (with that catch all of having something to do with the military).

Much harder than taking something out of someone’s mind it turns out is to give them an idea—described as an inception (which means beginning—I’m not sure why Insertion wasn’t considered a better choice of word). This forms the basis for the troubled lead character to assemble his team to attempt such a difficult task, on the basis that this will win him the freedom to return home

From there though the whole central premise becomes little more than a convenient way for writer/director Christopher Nolan to set up a number of actually fairly conventional action sequences that he has an excuse to intermingle to some extent. The team decide that in order to successfully perform the inception they will need to go deep into dream states, affecting a dream within a dream within a dream (oh how complex). Having affectively kidnapped the target (though why if the guy paying for all this is powerful enough to do that sort of thing without any apparent difficulty in the real world he needs to go to all this trouble to achieve his ends isn’t entirely clear) a number of dream scapes are played out.

It has already been established by the first part of the narrative (involving the recruitment of a new team member and hence the explaining of the rules of the game) that the subject’s subconscious will become hostile to the foreign dreamers. It turns out however that this particular subconscious has been trained against such dream incursions and hence there is a militarised force pitted against our protagonist and his accomplices. Rather annoyingly it is at this point that one of the already established rules is also jarringly changed. It’s early on shown that dying in the dream state merely wakes you up (a premise actually central to the main character’s back story and ultimate guilt) but here we’re told because the team are so heavily sedated that no longer holds but death will instead result in a kind of limbo state. This may be necessary for the excitement and a couple of rather unnecessary plot points but feels like it’s rather just thrown in there.

I’ll leave the bulk of the plot (lots of shooting, fighting and explosions and a dreamer who must have been fond of The Empire Strikes Back’s Hoth) to personal viewing of the movie but there are a couple of additional weaknesses I’d like to raise. Firstly the male characters do tend to begin to meld into one big ball of those who aren’t Cobb once the dream sequences get underway, depute a promising chemistry between them at the start in the real world. Of more concern are those dream sequences themselves, however. They are simply too consistent, too normal and indeed too in need of the totems carried by the players to tell dream from reality. Dreams simply do not work in this way. They are inconsistent, jerky, discontinuous and with such jumps of place and logic it is difficult to buy that a dream architect could so easily overcome them, especially for such detailed mass dreaming. The physics breaks down in other ways too. At one point a van containing the team in the first dream level goes over a bridge into freefall (part of the a sequence designed to wake everyone up at the right moment). This has profound affects on the dream level below, with people floating in weightlessness. Dreams though pay little attention to the world outside them like this; otherwise that frequent dream you have of flying couldn’t be; nor could you be jerked awake by the sensation of falling when safely lying in a bed. The film even breaks its own logic here, as the weightlessness has no affect on the next level down.

One final thing that only struck me later is that despite Cobb’s claim to have performed inception on his deceased wife, leading to her realising the dream world limbo in which they were trapped together wasn’t real and ultimately causing her to continually question reality to the point of suicide and igniting his guilt, wasn’t actually the insertion of an idea at all but simply the pointing towards a truth already there and known to her all along.

In the end of course the dreamers succeed in their mission and the obvious question is raised and unanswered in the final scene, where the film seems to dream it’s cleverer than it really is. It’s concept sticks around, and gives excuse to the things happening but in the end is simply a route to three disconnected mini-action films with an overly convenient way out.

7 out of 10

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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