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Inception (2010)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

What do you remember? Or, was it in a dream? Do you have reality straight in your mind? In your subconscious? The confluence of such questions is the space Inception perceptively explores. Part of the genius of Christopher Nolan’s writing and directing is that, in its exploration of the subconscious, the film is constructed to heavily involve intuitive, subconscious processing by viewers. Given the film’s premise — that there’s a way for a person to enter another’s dreams — the plot and its mechanisms are ripe for complexity, yet Nolan employs complexity not for showmanship but to reflect somehow the complexity of the human psyche. Levels of dreams mirror levels of the subconscious mind; confusion between dreams, memory, and reality mirror the (often suppressed) reality of our struggle to live in full and clear view of the real world. The complexity inhibits us from fully grasping what we see on screen (certainly upon first viewing), raising the importance of taking it in viscerally, emotionally, and in some sense subconsciously — you know you’ve been given valuable, multidimensional puzzle pieces, and you’ll have to let them sit in your subconscious until the seeds begin to bear fruit.

If that all sounds too abstract and ethereal, I’ve perhaps succeeded in giving you a sense of what experiencing Inception is like — that is, if I’ve made you more interested in seeing it. It works because Nolan makes it accessible, though mindbending, by making it (like life) work for the most part on a surface level, even though there are multiple levels deeper to explore. The acting is very good. At times, Nolan’s screenplay allows one character (Ariadne) to move the plot forward a bit quickly — but then, in Greek mythology, she is sometimes known as the Mistress of the Labyrinth. Considering her name, we can grant a couple of shortcuts so that Nolan can move the film on to more important explorations and juxtapositions like suppression of guilt, being haunted by the past, and battling our own subconscious for control of our lives.

Inception is quite well worth the time, though you must be quite alert and attentive as you watch (eat before the film). Place yourself in a receive mode, applying just enough thought to keep the plot as straight as you can. Aim to experience it viscerally. Center your viewing on the characters’ memory, conception of reality, and subconscious constructions. When you’re ready to put some energy into exploring our ability to keep reality straight, put Inception high on your viewing list.

Cobb is an extractor — one of the best. An extractor is a person that can, via shared dreaming, vicariously enter another person’s mind and find out secret information. Shared dreaming allows multiple people to actively inhabit someone else’s dream. Because of something gone wrong in the past, Cobb can’t return home to his children. Saito, a powerful businessman, offers a deal: He will clear the way for Cobb’s return in exchange for Cobb reversing the process on Fischer, a Saito competitor. Rather than extracting information, Cobb must cause the inception of an idea in Fischer. Running time: 148 min.

Inception is intense in many places and features plenty of gunplay, people knocked about in chase scenes, and a relatively small amount of blood. A sparse sprinkling of language throughout.

  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
  • Leads: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy
  • Cinematography: Wally Pfister
  • Music: Hans Zimmer

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NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
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