Monday, August 9, 2010

Inception (2010)

A separate post for a new addition to The Greatest Films Of All Time list.

Every decade or so there comes a film or two that redefines storytelling, filmmaking, and the way the people think or perceive reality - all the while being a commercial success and impressing critics worldwide - that redefines everything again for decades to come. These films aren’t ‘ahead of their time’ (read: boring, too complicated, unrealistic, etc), but eternal. It would be best if these films aren’t remade, and even sequels should be viewed with caution.
The 1950’s saw the birth of animated films (The Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Cindrella) and epic films (The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, The Greatest Show on Earth).
The 1960’s had Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a mind-soul-thought bender, a film that proudly and single-handedly represents the Sci-Fi genre.
The 1970’s had Star Wars, the biggest franchise in film history, and also The Godfather, a film that could be used to teach everything about films from direction to costume design.
The 1980’s had E.T., the film Spielberg wants to be remembered for in history, and Back To The Future, which was just too much fun.

The 1990’s was probably the biggest decade for diversified films. The top 3 films that owned this decade were Titanic, the film that could be used as a synonym for ‘epic’, Fight Club, already talked about this one in an earlier post, and The Matrix, which wins this decade for possessing all 3 of the qualities listed in the first sentence above.
The 2000’s had a couple additions to this list : Avatar, and The Dark Knight. Finally, the decade that starts with our current current year, has already seen the film that will mark film-making's greatest achievement for the 2010’s. That film is Inception.

Christopher Nolan has made a lot of money for WB (Warner Brothers), his studio of choice, or just the studio he is under contract with. After the huge success of the Dark Knight (grossing over a billion dollars worldwide), WB, to keep Nolan, gave him about $160 million to make anything he wants. The result was Inception, a mind-boggling sci-fi action thriller heist film set in a world where dreams are not only penetrable, but more important than reality to the human mind. This film has already made about $480 million worldwide in its first 4 weeks, so I’d say it was a good investment on WB’s part.

The story is actually quite simple. The plot too. In fact, once the viewer understands the underlying concepts that allow the Inception universe to make sense to his/her mind, the film is surprisingly easy to understand. Since it was a pretty unique, never-before-seen kind of film, it was hard to judge the film while watching it, since there was no frame of reference to compare the film with other works.

It’s hard to talk about a film such as Inception without spoilers. Luckily, me mentioning the fact that at the end of the film ‘the totem keeps spinning’ won’t really mean anything to some one who hasn’t seen Inception yet. As for the open ending, I’ve read a few opinions about what it means and I found a couple that I found really interesting, and all were well-thought interpretations. One obvious answer is that it was all a dream, but I don’t think that was the point of the film, as it makes the film look unnecessary to me.
My first thought once I got out of the theater: Before Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, who delivered another flawless performance, and is my most favorite actor of all time) can see if the totem stops spinning he sees the faces of his children. Now, we never really see what Cobb does after he meets older version of Saito in limbo, after which he just wakes up in the plane with everyone else. My theory at that time was that during that gap, Cobb implanted an idea in his subconscious that any reality, or any dream for that matter, where he is reunited with his kids, will become his reality. So once he sees his kids’ faces, he no longer cares about whether the totem stops spinning or not. He chooses his reality, but like his late wife did when she killed herself to get to hers. Choosing what you believe is real is much more powerful as an idea than being told what is real.

My favorite theory though, which I believe is true, is that the entire film is Nolan’s conscious attempt to plant an idea into the conscious minds of his audience. Here’s my outlandish reasoning for it:

In both Batman films, Nolan doesn’t show the name of the film till the end. I’ve always liked that for some reason. But it also made sense with his scripts. In Batman Begins, the name of the film at the end is more like a statement - “Batman Begins”. Same for The Dark Knight, the name appears as as we hear Gary Oldman’s character call Christian Bale “The Dark Knight”. In both cases the name of the film is about the journey of the characters, as well as about the end of story arc. Basically, in most cases the film has a name, and then there is a story; but in Nolan’s scripts, there is a story, and then the name of the film is epilogue. Sort of. So when Inception, where again we don’t see the title of the film till the end, it’s as if the director is stating, cleverly right after the totem spinning scene, “Inception”. An inception of an idea, a concept, of ambiguity between reality and dreams, conscious and subconscious, but without the technology of his fictional universe. Now that (and the fact this post, online discussions, forums, etc are talking about Inception) is the power of storytelling, and the power of film.


  1. @Lakshya - There you go! finally! Great write-up...would be able to connect with it more, once I see it :)


  2. Well 'the spinning top' certainly wobbles in the end... Also in the earlier part of the movie it had been toppling... SO??? :)

  3. Also on the acting front how can you forget Joseph Levitt... I think he has done a gr8 job in keeping his acting subtle to let audience focus on DiCaprio's expressions. Also wondering if you know this guy Yusuf The chemist is an Indian guy named Dileep something... He was in Avataar too.. When Watanabe is shot in the first level, I super like him for the way he says that Dicaprio had promissed him his complete Sum. :)


  4. I don't know about the spinning totem anymore, sometimes I find it easier to believe in one ending that makes sense to me, even though many interpretations are also legitimate.
    Yeah I know about dileep rao, I saw him recently in this movie called 'drag me to hell', a new (not that new, it's a few months old) kind of classic horror/thriller by Sam Raimi who directed the evil dead movies and spiderman trilogy.
    As for Joseph Gordon-Lewitt, I think he is one of the best actors in the industry. His film '500 days of summer' from last year is in my favorites list.
    What I tried to do with this post was more appreciation than a review or a verdict, if I had to list all the things Chris Nolan and the cast did right it would have been a really long post.
    But I do appreciate your comments, thanks

  5. Inception, interesting film and one of Leonardo DiCaprio's finest! All the questions not answered at the end was fine with me and thought the "spinning top" not going over at the end was a nice touch. Yes one of the great movies of all time.

  6. this was an amazing insight into what the director really wanted to portray....yes I do concur with the idea that belief is more stronger than reality....and Leonardo wanted to see his kids more than anythign else....he had always tried to see their faces in his dreams earlier but failed so once he sees their faces he no longer cares where he of the best movies I had watched ina very very long time...


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