Inception: Discuss!


Inception is too much fun to stop at just one review. Geoff and Nir have already published theirs, and this is my turn to chime in with my two cents. More than that, as the title indicates, this post is an invitation to join the discussion in the comments. What’s your answer to the “was it or wasn’t it” question, and if it was, when did it start, and whether it was or wasn’t, how did you know?

For the record, I think it was, that it started before the movie began, and that there are a lot of reasons to think that, but also that the film skillfully and cleverly doesn’t foreclose either conclusion, and either way leaves a lot of room for interpretation of the details. Like: does anything that happened in the dream reflect the dreamer’s reality outside the dream?

However you come out, isn’t it great that we can have this discussion? I love a well-done mindless thriller/actioner/sci-fi jaunt as much as the next person and more than the next critic (emphasis on the well-done), but how much more exciting to see a movie that challenges you to think as well as rewarding the senses! That asks you to stay sharp, to pay attention to the details, to take it home with you and keep thinking about it and turning it over and arguing just what happened and what it all means.

Inception is hugely entertaining on the surface level and I want to see it again for the thrills, the performances, the visuals, the music…. But I also want to see it again to take up the mind-game challenge by looking for clues I might have missed the first time. Not to mention gather ammunition for the ongoing discussion.

Commentary Track reviews of Inception by Geoff Geib and Nir Shalev.

8 responses to “Inception: Discuss!

  1. I think that it’s all real. There are many reasons as to why, some that I’m currently too tired to discuss but let’s just say that I don’t like this movie not having a character to follow. If it’s all a dream then who is dreaming it (probably Cobb) and who is he outside of the movie? I don’t like that aspect.

    I love that the film’s conclusion can be, almost equally seen as “it’s been a dream dream all along” and “it ended in the real world”. There are many more ways to explain the dream ending than the real one but I think it’s been real. It feels more concrete.

  2. I honestly think the whole point of the ending is to make a commentary on the nature of reality. That is: an objective reality that exists outside of our own perceptions is something that cannot be proved but must be believed in. Much like Cobb decides to believe in the objective reality of his wife, versus the perception he has created in his own mind.

    What really matters in the ending, I believe, is not whether it’s real or a dream sequence, but what Cobb percieves it to be: whether he knowlingly accepts a forged reality or not. Accepting a dream world would derail his character arc. It would be unfitting of him to accept a fake world after refusing to embrace a fantasy moments before.

    I think, though, that it would be cheap of Nolan to craft a storyline in which the whole film was a dream. Doing so would rob the viewer of any objective reality to stand upon, making it quite impossible, as Nir pointed out, to follow any one character. We must believe that reality is portrayed at some point in the film to make any sense of the plot.

    But once again, we’re left with no conclusive evidence that shows us, without a doubt, that any of the movie is real. We’re always going to be unsure as to the true nature of the reality portrayed on the screen, much like, as human beings, we’re left wondering whether a supreme being exists that rules over the Universe.

    Nolan, then, calls on us to make a leap of faith, just as Cobb does when he is told that his new job will get him back home. Or as his father does when he is begged to help him on his quest. Or as Moll does when she jumps out of the window to the street below. Just as in our daily lives, when we truly believe something, it is up to us to make that faithful plunge. But we’re never guaranteed that our expectiations will be met, and that’s where the risk comes in.

    Having said all that, I believe that the ending is real. But, who am I to really know?

  3. “Having said all that, I believe that the ending is real. But, who am I to really know?”

    I, too believe that to be the basis of the ending and the overall story of the film. There is a strong emotional core to the film and works off of Cobb’s personal guilt over the suicide of his wife. It was entirely his fault but it also triggers the paradox of inception being a concept that works.

    I believe that the happenings are real in their entirety, not just because I say so but because of little details, here and there which point to that conclusion (Cobb wears his wedding ring throughout the dream sequences but not during the “real” ones). Also, the story’s conclusion, to me is similar to the conclusion and overall concept of Jim Jarmusch’s “Broken Flowers”: Bill Murray’s character, a nonchalant Don Juan finally cares and that’s the whole point of the film. It’s the same in Inception: Cobb confronts his guilt and as long as he gets the job done, reconciles with his “wife” and admits to his guilt he is able to see his kids once again, whether in any type of reality or not. His kids, at the end of the film are the ray of light shining from the lighthouse from way across the ocean. He admits to his mistake, takes full responsibility and “cares”, therefore the spinning top at the end is a misdirection. It’s not whether the happenings were real or not, it’s to show that Cobb had thrown that notion away.

    It’s a powerful film that works on every level and is worth seeing multiple times because it’s just awesome.

  4. David Bordwell has published a great post on narrative construction in Inception:

  5. Seen it three times. The first two times, I missed the first five minutes. At the end, I figured it was real and they were just messing with us. Then last night I saw the whole thing and by the end, I was intelligent enough to doubt, along with the other watchers. I didn’t think all not real, I thought it might have been just not real from the last airplane part.

  6. A lot of people get the idea that there was in inception performed on Cobb but no one seems to elaborate what the inception was and how it worked. I see where you’re coming from.

    Care to elaborate?


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