Use Your Illusion: The Magic of Inception

There’s no point in writing a review for this film, for one it’s been out for over a week (light years on the web), and the English-speaking world is divided into those who have seen it, and those who haven’t. Suffice to say it is pretty good. Actually it is unbelievably good. It’s everything that’s great about movies: suspense and the suspension of disbelief. “Take a leap of faith,” good movies make us think, and not by preaching. Director Christopher Nolan waited until he’d had experience with other big productions before making this film, and the work paid off, with all elements – from the score, to the script – well polished and masterfully done. Go see it, and don’t read any further until you have (spoilers). Good, now that you’ve seen the film (last chance) you’re probably struggling with the resiliant question that was planted in your brain, was it all a dream? The web is just a buzzin’ with answers, and there is little to no consesus. However, one common thread throughout all the analysis is that Inception is an allegory for film making, or the shared dream of movies. The best argument for this is made by Deven Faraci:

The movies-as-dreams aspect is part of why Inception keeps the dreams so grounded. In the film it’s explained that playing with the dream too much alerts the dreamer to the falseness around him; this is just another version of the suspension of disbelief upon which all films hinge. As soon as the audience is pulled out of the movie by some element – an implausible scene, a ludicrous line, a poor performance – it’s possible that the cinematic dream spell is broken completely, and they’re lost.

Nolan builds an architecture and the dream (or film) is fleshed out by the actors, producers and production crew. I happen to agree with this take as well, it’s plausible that we in the audience, like the target, are left to fill in the blanks and interpret the story for ourselves. Regardless, the whole “it was all a dream” was my uninspired ending to a half-finished story as part of an English assignment and I simply can’t take another mind-blowing story where the unraveling epicness really was of no consqeunce.

Spending hours scouring the web looking for “the answer” probably won’t do any good (like many I’ll probably try), since the movie even puts the nature of reality into question. In what looks like a modern opium den where the patrons are out dreaming for hours on end the proprietor argues they are not there to sleep, but to awaken. I’m sure that I’ll be playing with these notions for a while, and subsequent viewings will likely be accompanied by further posts. (Un)like some, I’m glad the discussion is just getting underway. For those looking for jump off points on their Pi like journey to enlightment can check out Sam Adams, who presents the same dream of movies argument. Brad Brevet also points out some important and potential deal breakers.

Some comparisons have been made between this film and Shutter Island, which also features Leonardo DiCaprio struggling with the guilt surrounding the death of his wife and the inability to tell fantasy from reality, where dreams are admittedly more dream-like but I don’t see that as a downfall, rather a huge plus. There is a lot of room for debate but the way we remember dreams in anything but complete and for the sake of the general viewing experience the absence of tedious and esoteric dream sequences is welcome.

Another potential interpretation is that Cobb was the real target, that he was being incepted to throw away the guilt over the death of his wife, and his choice to look at his kids represented his acceptanceof the idea. I can only speculate, and will continue to do so.

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