“Do you want to take a leap of faith? Or do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?”
So, at last, we come to the great movie of our time. After years of Hollywood dreck, finally Christopher Nolan delivers his masterpiece and proves that Hollywood can still make intelligent movies for grownups. It’s so expensive! So smart! So original! As the credits rolled I truly felt like I myself had been dreaming.
OR DID I.
Sure, I could take the easy route with this review and say all the now meaningless overpraise that everyone else has said thus avoiding the inevitable barrage of defensive comments I’ve seen on every other article, review, or message board post that dares to suggest that Inception is just an OK movie. But that’s not why I keep this site going, right?
I have no problem with people liking or even loving this movie as much as they clearly do – I care as little about that as I do what anyone thinks of my own opinion. What bothers me and puts me in the “need to redress the balance” frame of mind (ie. it’s not a bad film; but relative to its #3 position on the IMDb Top 250 list it’s a downright stinker) is the fact that its fans accuse its dissenters of not really backing up their opinion while committing just the same mistake themselves. The phrase “you don’t get it” has been thrown around this movie more than I can recall in my movie memory, as if there couldn’t possibly be any reason for disliking a movie other than simply not following the story.
I get this movie. I’ve watched it
twice thrice now since it’s taken too long to catch up to posting this review, the second (and third) time(s) just to “make sure” of my total lack of overwhelm-ment the first time around (I wasn’t nuts about The Dark Knight the first time I saw it; now it’s in my top 50 – actually I need to update that review…) I won’t list the whole plot and show my working to “prove” that I get it because I just don’t believe this movie deserves that much attention, but a simple Google will unearth for you very simple explanations (if you must call them that) of the film’s machinations and you’ll just have to trust me that, I’ll say it again, I get it.
In short, here’s what I understood after the first viewing, and though oversimplified, I think it was “close enough”. We have a team that typically uses technology to infiltrate dreams and extract valuable information. Somebody comes to them asking if it would be possible to instead plant information. It’s possible, but hard, and involves “drilling down” in layers of dreams. Normally, if you die in a dream, you simply wake up, but this operation requires sedation and if you die you will go to a futher layer, “Limbo”, a place you perceive as reality, hence, troublesome. As the layers descend, time expands, eg 5 minutes real world gives you 1hr on the first dream level, way down to Limbo, where you could be stuck there for a lifetime – when you wake, you’d pretty much be a vegetable. Long story short, they successfully plant the information, get “kicked” back up the levels, and wake. For such a “dangerous” mission, our hero Leonardo DiCaprio was promised to be allowed to return to his children in the US (he had to flee under suspicion of murdering his wife, who killed herself, thinking herself still in Limbo). The promise is honored, we see Leo return home, reunite with his kids, but then through a motif used throughout the movie, a totem which all our dreamers carry to tell them whether they’re dreaming or not, we are left wondering if, in fact, Leo is still in a dream.
Or, in even shorter… here’s this movie in a nutshell: this sentence is false.
The thing is, much of this “complexity” (if you must call it that) is simply redundant in the grand scheme of the movie, in which Nolan really only has one thing to say, and that’s in that line that I quoted at the start of my review, a line that is in the very first scene of the movie, and recalled again at the end. The “twist ending” (if you must call it that – it’s by nature not a twist though) indicates that the entire movie may or may not have also been a dream. There is nothing concrete imparted to the audience, I’m quite sure of this the more pointless online discussions about it I find myself unable to resist reading, and that’s the problem of the movie. It tells you that in order to enjoy existence you must choose at least one thing to believe… something to latch onto… and to me, the endless discussions that the movie is provoking only serve to prove that that message simply wasn’t received by the bulk of the audience. No amount of digging around in the corners of this movie is going to make that message any clearer.
In short it’s a nice message, and a slickly visual movie, but nothing about it is as earthshattering as the masses have been led to believe by one another. I could go into how unoriginal it is too – go back just 10 years to find a far more curious and less patronising eXistenZ … I hear of an animé called Paprika that I haven’t seen … there are clear nods to The Matrix and The Animatrix … on and on the list goes.
I’m not saying all this to say the movie is entirely pointless or bad, but only to discredit the most niggling pieces in the overpraise nightmare this movie has been subjected to. It is not as complicated as it presents itself, and it most certainly is not an original idea. I’m happy for Christopher Nolan after his sterling career so far (for me really only dipping ‘till now at Insomnia though I’ve yet to watch that one a second time) that he was allowed to make what is clearly a project close to his heart. But it really is not the masterpiece that so much of the reception implies. To praise it so highly really does what would otherwise be a pleasantly above-average blockbuster a massive disservice by making those who prefer to keep the high accolades for truly deserving works… frankly hate it.