art in all its forms

art in all its forms


FILM REVIEW: Inception

5 stars

Does it have a flaw? Possibly. Probably more than one. But you don't really care by the time you've come out of the cinema. Because you have been blown away.

One of the great things about Christopher Nolan's film is how it so convincingly fuses genres and then wraps itself around the audience like a python: crushing you in a tight coil. The plot is at once classic film noir meets sci-fi meets spy thriller/action flick. The characters are stock, but unforgettable and attractive. The experience, beneath all its hysterical thrills, is profound: it is like an extended meditation on a dream, a startling metaphor for film-making and a deep question about life.

You could read a summary of the plot, but that's not going to help. That said, it is clear that the film is about people stealing ideas by entering dreams. And with that, the intriguing possibility of doing the inverse: implanting ideas to attain certain objectives.

Is this germ not itself a metaphor for the cinema? The film beautifully makes us question the very nature of truth. How do we know that our world is real and not a dream? (The associated question raised by philosopher Robert Nozick's "experience machine"--which was harvested by The Matrix films--is how do we know that our world is not the product of someone else?)

The film's characters figure out an ingenious device for testing reality. But upon deeper thought, that device is clearly also possibly flawed (which is where the tension of the last shot of the movie--in part--originates). What is it that makes us, while we are watching a film, aware that we are watching a film? Why do we jump when we are startled, or scream, or get excited, or get horny, or get anxious when watching what is clearly not real? What is the meaning of the suspension of disbelief and does that suspension not also hold in terms of our attitudes to approaching difficult issues in "real" life?

Okay. Pretty droll stuff there. But the film is nothing like that. Coming out I was left in awe at its power: how it gets you involved. I didn't have the feeling of terror I had when I came out of seeing the first Matrix film (the only decent one). But I did wonder: what the f--k just happened?

UPDATE: I just saw the film a second time and am even now more convinced that this is a great film. This time around, I really appreciated its emotional landscape and how the movie becomes a meditation on one man's guilt and inability to let go of his past. 

Notably, the performance by Marion Coutillard is incredible (all the other actors are also strong). Coutillard is at once dangerous, alluring and unforgettable: a real femme fatale in the finest traditions of the noir, but with an edge and intensity that the story permits but does not quite explain. 

Additionally, I was also struck by the screenplay, how economically Nolan made important points and got the action flowing. Take for example the masterful scene when we meet businessman Robert Fischer (played by Cillian Murphy). We see Fischer from behind, his face a silhouette. His dying father throws a childhood portrait of Fischer to the floor and Fischer is literally picking up the pieces when he utters his first line. His father didn't even notice the picture, he says. Immediately, Nolan has fixed this character: it is understood that his troubled relationship with his dad has, in many ways, come to define him.

And while I noticed it the first time around, the second time really made me appreciate the intricacies of Hans Zimmer's score. Each character has a different musical motif: Fischer's is dark, brooding and suggestive of his conflict with his father. So too is the theme for Coutillard's character.

Yes, yes, the logical flaws, this time around, were more obvious. They did not diminish the film for me though, because before you know it, the movie has earned its keep.


FOR a humorous take on Inception, you should watch this video (BUT ONLY AFTER YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE!) CHECK this one too.


  1. This movie didn't live up to the hype, was just as "droll" as the plot description: confusing, incomprehensible and a cheap thrill. And besides its OBVIOUS Mr Nolan has some unresolved daddy issues considering ALL his movies end on this sour/depressing sometimes confusing note.

    3 stars out of five.


  3. Because the grandmother believes Leo killed her daughter and will not permit it? That's why granddad is estranged and in Paris, as he believes his son?


    Also consider whether the entire film is not a dream, which is the key issue raised by the closing shot. This would bring different demands when discussing the film's "logic".

    It's amazing to think of how the film itself is a mirror for its... subject matter. The narrative is implanted in the audience in much the same way as the characters devise the planting of an idea. The director uses techniques to--momentarily--achieve a suspension of disbelief. This is the great debate over the nature of film-making and whether it is the art form that comes closest to fabricating dreams.

    Thus, is the idea of a film itself, and all fiction for that matter, not a lie: an illogical idea that time spans (sometimes narratives cover weeks and more) can be reduced to two and a half hours in a dark cinema?