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Inter-Inception

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It appears as if my wife and I are the only two people on the face of the planet who hated Inception.  She walked out about an hour and change into it—immediately before the tedious exposition that made the rest of the film thuddingly predictable—and I followed shortly thereafter.  Spoilers follow under the fold.

As soon as the ersatz Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman Begins got shot the film screamed its circularity.  Once the rules about dying in one dream level were explained, the mechanism of that circularity became obvious, as did the fact that the “cliffhanger” would consist of whether or not Cobb was really in the really real world or just in another dream.  Which is pot-logic; by which I mean, the sort of thing you say when you’re listening to Floyd in your dorm and everyone has their own bowl and is abusing it.

“Man, but what if this was all, like, a dream?”

“I know, dude, but what if it’s not even a person’s?  What if we’re all, like, in a dog’s dream?”

“And the moment it wakes up to lick its balls?  We like cease to exist?”

“That is deep, dude.”

“Totally.”

It’s an infuriatingly stupid conceit, and asking the audience to accept it in order to make a film work is insulting.*  I’ll admit that film was finely composed: the plot circled back perfectly, i.e. the timing of the van versus the timing at the hotel versus the timing at the fortress and then Limbo.  Limbo.  What to say about that?

The less more likely the better.

Instead, I’ll just note that psychological complexity in this film was figured like a wedding cake: “depth” literally entailed layers stacked one atop the other, such that the “deeper” one went, the “deeper” one was.  Which is deep, dude.  But the perfect circularity of the plot had another unintended consequence: the film felt like an exercise in empty formalism.

I’m sorry, I misspoke: the film “felt” like nothing, because it generated sympathy for neither the characters nor the corporation at whose behest they toiled.  When Nolan did attempt to make viewers care about the characters, he did so in the most grossly manipulative of manners: he killed a wife and quasi-orphaned some children.  Only who cared?  They weren’t people so much as necessary elements of his orderly plotting, without whom he couldn’t have knocked over that first domino.

“Dominoes” aren’t the operative metaphor here, though.  Inception was the equivalent of watching a grandmaster play an uninspired game against the village idiot.  There’s brilliance there, certainly, but it’s pointless and wasted.

*My personal theory is that no one had the gumption to tell Nolan this because The Dark Knight was the highest grossing film of all time.

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  • Huntly
  • mark f

    David Denby panned it too, as did Sir Charles at Cogitamus.

  • Tonyv

    So I don’t disagree that it was a lacking movie, but who goes to this and walks out? It was as absolutely predictable as “a Christopher Nolan movie about dreaming” as you could expect. It would be like going to see the third Matrix movie and walking out because Keanu Reeves is a bad actor and the “reality inside a computer” thing was a lame conceit.

    I also think the emotional set pieces were as well done as any other block buster, but it was only the dream concepts that made painfully awkward dialogue.

  • Anonymous

    Also, check out David Edelstein’s pan: http://nymag.com/movies/reviews/67155/.

    I feel asleep around the time of the trip to the dream level that is for some reason on a ski slope, and stayed asleep for about 20 minutes.

  • I’m in sympathy with TonyV’s POV. To wit:

    the “cliffhanger” would consist of whether or not Cobb was really in the really real world or just in another dream.

    I saw this movie when David Cronenberg made it. And I would like to see Christopher Nolan’s version, but I’m not going to a Nolan film for plot.

  • The thing about Inception was that it was just good enough to make you imagine how it could have been really good. Which made it even more aggravating than the usual Hollywood summer fare.

    The really weird thing about this movie is that it did not have a villain. I’m not sure that’s a point in its favor, particularly, but it sure is unusual. What’s the last big-budget action movie you can think of without a bad guy of any kind?

    • SEK

      The thing about Inception was that it was just good enough to make you imagine how it could have been really good. Which made it even more aggravating than the usual Hollywood summer fare.

      Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Its failed potential defines my ire.

  • j.b. Kawika

    I totally agree with just about everything you say, but I really enjoyed the film as pretty stupid structure to hang some bad ass action sequences on. I guess it’s just an exercise in empty formalism, but I enjoyed the style while ignoring all the false profundity.

  • Christopher Nolan is the world’s most overrated director. And it’s not even close.

    • SEK

      Actually, he’s not, so it is. His set pieces are often exquisite, and his ability to juggle multiple narratives in a coherent fashion, e.g. Memento and Batman Begins, is technically impressive. However, here it’s all cold technique and artifice for its own sake, and the result is a supremely frustrating film.

      • Mike D.

        I’m getting the sense you liked Batman Begins more than The Dark Knight, and if that’s true, I give you due props. BB was an impeccably structured action movie, while TDK was good for ninety minutes and incredibly leaden for another sixty.

  • Janet

    Oddly, I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and Facebook status messages in the last few days saying “Am I the only one who hated this movie?”

    • wengler

      Beware The Facebook. It was built so people could conform to other people’s opinions about…everything.

      • JJ

        Like

  • maxr

    Wait, so your wife just left the movie and you stayed there for a while? Did she just sit in the lobby while you wondered why she’d been in the bathroom for so long?

    • SEK

      She thought I was enjoying it, when in fact I was just being a Jew and trying my best not to waste the $32 we spent to see it. (I did the same thing with the black and white tile floor I bought for my bedroom with my bar mitzvah money. Long after I grew to loathe it, I continued to insist to others that it was really, really cool. Sigh.)

      • mark f

        You were 13 and you used a cash windfall to tile your bedroom?

        • SEK

          And yet I still ended up marrying a woman. Go figure.

          • mark f

            What really surprises me is that your parents allowed you to permanantly alter their home with something attuned to very specific tastes, especially considering that what you like when you’re 13 is rarely what you like when you’re 15. I am not Jewish; does a bar mitzvah have a day-of-my-daughter’s-wedding-type clause for the honoree?

            • SEK

              Something like that: you’re young, given lots of money–most of which is squirreled away in college funds–and because you’re now officially “a man,” a little more autonomy. I swung mine into a black and white checkerboard of a floor and a later bedtime so I could read more. Dork, thy name is mine.

  • Beavis

    Salt is everything Inception was supposed to be.

  • Captain Splendid

    Inception was the equivalent of watching a grandmaster play an uninspired game against the village idiot. There’s brilliance there, certainly, but it’s pointless and wasted.

    Wait, what? This sounds more like an argument that Inception shouldn’t have been a summer release than the fact that it sucked.

    • SEK

      Watching a grandmaster dismantle an opponent is about as gratifying as fifteen-seconds-of-foreplay-and-done: both parties are embarrassed, albeit for different reasons, and one is frustrated beyond the telling of it. (In this scenario, we are all an aggrieved, unsatisfied women.)

      • Ed

        Watching a grandmaster dismantle an opponent is about as gratifying as fifteen-seconds-of-foreplay-and-done: both parties are embarrassed, albeit for different reasons, and one is frustrated beyond the telling of it. (In this scenario, we are all an aggrieved, unsatisfied women.)

        I’ve seen a grandmaster dismantle an opponent on more than one occasion and it didn’t bring to mind premature ejaculation to me, but perhaps it’s the eye of the beholder.

        I didn’t rush out to see “Inception”, having some reservations about Nolan’s previous work, but if David Denby didn’t like it that’s a definite sign in its favor.

        • SEK

          Not the grandmaster’s play itself, but the enjoyment derived from watching it: too soon, and all too fleeting.

          • hv

            Do you think novices resign earlier or later than grandmasters?

        • Anderson

          but if David Denby didn’t like it that’s a definite sign in its favor

          Yes! Trust that impulse. It will never fail you.

          I am bewildered by the Inception hatahs. What great SF films have they seen lately?

          • dave

            Too few, all too few.

          • jamie_2002

            What great SF films have there been at all?

  • Jonathan Cook

    You saw the wrong film. Remind yourself that (whatever it wants to be) its not a masterful study of the nature of reality and relationships. Instead, it’s a summer caper flick.

    • Captain Splendid

      Spot on.

    • maxr

      Right. Many of the negative reviews I’ve seen lament that the dream world of Inception isn’t as crazy as the one in Paprika (which is, admittedly, a great movie with a lot of top level similarities to Inception). That the movie isn’t a substitute for a philosophy dissertation on existentialism isn’t, in my opinion, evidence it’s not an entertaining flick.

      I also don’t think Inception was necessarily trying to be deep: it’s basically Oceans 11 but the casino is Cillian Murphy’s dream.

    • I went to see it as a summer caper flick. Still found it seriously tedious.

    • SEK

      I’m too familiar with Nolan’s work to write it off like that. I’ve taught three of his films–The Prestige being the other–and so am rather invested in the idea that he enlivens dead or musty material like Batman’s origin. To find his original material so pedestrian is a bit of a disappointment.

      • Jonathan Cook

        Not wanting to sound like one of those “hey mister critic its just a movie” people. However . . .

        I think saying “write it off” about “summer caper flick” is a mistake as it sounds as though you don’t value escapism and I trust that’s not true. Perhaps in this case your “investment” is part of the reason you reacted so negatively. I mean, I’m not surprised that you didn’t like it (not because you’re you but because there are lots of problems with the film) but I am surprised you walked out. (I take your comments below to indicate that even if you’d seen the film alone you still would have wanted to walk out although your frugal nature might have prevented that.) It’s just not a walk-outable film (though maybe I’m too tolerant having sat through “Krull” and only ever walked out on one flick, a “Revenge of the Nerds” sequel that a much younger cousin wanted to see.)

        I suspect you’ll have to see it again. Not because you’re wrong about it but because there are some technically interesting things happening with the digital effects. They really have gotten better at it. Yes, the digital effects are IMO the best thing about the film and yes, that may be damning with faint praise. But there you go.

        I’m too familiar with Nolan’s work to write it off like that. I’ve taught three of his films–The Prestige being the other–and so am rather invested in the idea that he enlivens dead or musty material like Batman’s origin. To find his original material so pedestrian is a bit of a disappointment.

        • Jonathan Cook

          Whoops! I copied your comment so I could refer to it and forgot to delete it.

        • SEK

          I think saying “write it off” about “summer caper flick” is a mistake as it sounds as though you don’t value escapism and I trust that’s not true. Perhaps in this case your “investment” is part of the reason you reacted so negatively. I mean, I’m not surprised that you didn’t like it (not because you’re you but because there are lots of problems with the film) but I am surprised you walked out.

          I absolutely value escapism, but this film had pretensions of being more. One of the reason’s Oceans 11 succeeds so brilliantly is that Soderbergh doesn’t pretend it’s anything more than it is: a heist film. Nolan, however, does seem to want to be saying something, it’s just that I found that thing trite and unlistenable.

          It’s just not a walk-outable film

          I proved otherwise!

          • Jonathan Cook

            Well, obviously you could walk out. At least if your wife did first to get you over your thrifty nature. But whatever “pretentions of being more” are there, it seems obvious to me that your expectations were what ruined the film for you. The walking out seems so gross an over reaction that it feels like a type mismatch. It reminds me of my (seemingly almost universal) childhood experience of stealing the baking chocolate from the cupboard. Looks like chocolate. Smells like chocolate. Has that familiar Hershey’s trade dress. One bite and I’m spitting it out. But that wasn’t the fault of the baking chocolate.

  • hv

    Virtually every SFish movie has these problems… the tropes are not familiar to the average movie-goer so they are painted with broad, blunt strokes.

    I personally could not stand Matrix at all for similar reasons. (Seriously, 3rd Law of Thermodynamics, anyone?)
    “Dude, what if all this is a simulation?”
    “Yeah imagine the power we would have if we could access the operating system!”
    “Awesome!”

  • M

    I thought the movie was entertaining, and an interesting twist on a stale movie genre. Seriously, if we lament the state of Hollywood, and movies like Inception what are we left with? Is this movie better than a lot of action movies out there? Yes, is it smart, despite its flaws (and please remind me of the objectively flawless movie)? Yes. At one point these conversations become more about intellectual authenticity than about the movie itself. This happened with The Dark Knight where it became cool to dislike it, despite the fact that it was a pretty decent movie. Nolan makes good movies, in ways that other directors do not (paging Mr. M. Night Airbender). Hell, I’ll give more credit to a director for not treating his audience like morons but makes an uneven movie over any Hollywood panderer.

    “I also don’t think Inception was necessarily trying to be deep: it’s basically Oceans 11 but the casino is Cillian Murphy’s dream.”

    EXACTLY, and that’s a pretty interesting premise.

    I’m sorry but I refuse to live in a world where PIXAR movies are the only ones worth seeing:)

    • SEK

      For the record: I never disliked The Dark Knight. Quite the opposite, in fact. That said, I also loathed The Last Airbender, and perhaps more rightfully so. The thing about this film was that it was a puzzle, and an obviously one, and since there wasn’t any additional emotional investment, as soon as you figured it out, you might as well leave.

      So I did.

      • M

        That’s like saying you walked out of Ocean’s 11 because you figured out that George Clooney and Brad Pitt were going to prevail in the end. Figuring out the puzzle of Inception wasn’t the point, it was watching how the puzzle worked that was supposed to be interesting. And to me, it worked, though the 3rd dream sequence in the snow took too long. Whoops, you didn’t see that, don’t want to give anything away:)

  • Nah, you aren’t the only one. I made it through the film, but found it tedious. Some interesting concept to it, but they traded everything that could have been interesting for gunfights, cheap psychology, and special effeccts.

    • L2P

      If I read a review saying “This movie trades away an interesting concept for gunfights, cheap psychology, and special effects,” I’m in. Where’s my popcorn?

      These complaints sound horribly unfair.

  • wengler

    If you’d actually stayed and watched the whole movie(why walk out of a movie you’ve already paid for?), you’d have seen why it is called “Inception”, and not “Flailing Around In Dreams”. There must at least be the minimal standard of having actually seen the movie in order to pan it, or else you are just re-hashing some sort of rightwing media outrage theater.

    As for my review, I think the challenge that the film presented was in keeping track of at least 4 different storylines in parallel rather than any deep metaphysical musings. The plot came together at the end and it was a good and worthwhile story and your loss for walking out on it despite your misgivings.

    • Bobby Thomson

      This.

      Also, too, it’s not about dreams.

      It’s about filmmaking.

    • SEK

      There must at least be the minimal standard of having actually seen the movie in order to pan it, or else you are just re-hashing some sort of rightwing media outrage theater.

      I watched most of it, figured it out, and confirmed my findings when I got home. Moreover, I’m a bit of an expert on Nolan’s work–at the very least, I’m much more familiar than most–so I feel qualified to pan it without said pan being mistaken for a hipper-than-thou gesture. (Though if you look at the comments at Drum’s place, you’ll see that I’m frequently accused of being exactly that.)

      • Saffi

        Not to be nitpicky, but he didn’t kill his wife: either she framed him for her suicide, or she escaped and he was stuck in his own dream. Either way, the worst he did was manipulate her psychologically.

        If you saw “most” of the film, you need to make that more clear. I really value your opinion on film, but anytime someone says “I didn’t see the whole thing, but…” I lose respect for their opinion and immediately tune them out. Especially if they misunderstand an important plot point.

        • SEK

          Not to be nitpicky, but he didn’t kill his wife: either she framed him for her suicide, or she escaped and he was stuck in his own dream.

          If you’re referring to the bit up-thread, yes, you’re correct. I was focusing on his guilt, which in effect arose from his belief that he’d killed his wife by performing that initial inception on her. Unless, as you note, he didn’t.

          If you saw “most” of the film, you need to make that more clear.

          I did say I walked out on it …

          • Saffi

            If you saw “most” of the film, you need to make that more clear.

            I did say I walked out on it …

            No, I mean you need to make clear that you saw almost all of it, and thus feel qualified to offer an opinion. You said that you walked out “shortly” after your wife, who left after merely “an hour and change.” It’s a 2½ hour movie, so I’d say it’s reasonable to conclude that you walked out before the movie even reached the halfway point.

            “Most of it” isn’t an exact measurement, but to me it implies about 90% or more. That’s why I asked for clarity around how much you had seen. Because otherwise, I’d be confused as to why you’re giving an opinion on the film as a whole, rather than just the portion you saw.

  • FWIW we hated it too. Hate to pile on but there entire movie seemed … pointless.

  • I think the challenge that the film presented was in keeping track of at least 4 different storylines in parallel rather than any deep metaphysical musings.

    Well see, I wanted deep metaphysical musings because I could give a crap about going into someone’s dreams so you can plant the notion that they sell their father’s multibillion-dollar corporation. I mean, who cares? Without any context whatsoever it was meaningless. I don’t know this company or if they’re evil or even what they do, I have nothing vested in the idea of whether the team succeed in the mission or not. I know I’m supposed to care so Leonardo DiCaprio can reunite with his children but we weren’t really given enough character development to find that entire premise believable.

    I thought the concept was interesting but the execution was lacking.

    FWIW.

    • wengler

      And therein lies the problem. It’s very hard to sell a movie to a studio that is going to cost 9 figures to make, when it is intellectually inaccessible to most of the potential audience.

      This film had very simple concepts(a dream within a dream, the genesis of an idea), but by its very nature was classified from the outset as a “thinking” film. Stupid people avoid these movies like the plague. It’s really too bad, but it is what it is.

      • SEK

        It’s very hard to sell a movie to a studio that is going to cost 9 figures to make, when it is intellectually inaccessible to most of the potential audience.

        Let me put it this way: what was so profoundly disappointing was that coming off The Dark Knight, the highest grossing film of all time, and being on board to direct the sequel, Nolan had more leverage than he ever will again in his entire career … and he chose to use it to make Inception, which even its defenders insist is, at best, a caper film. That saddens me, if only in part because he used his Batman Begins cachet to do The Prestige, which was a solid piece, but also boiled down to a gimmick the viewer saw coming halfway through the film. (At least there, though, he created characters the audience could care about, so the entire weight of the film didn’t rely on the audience not figuring out the puzzle.)

        • wengler

          This movie definitely had a problem with fleshing out the characters, but this is not uncommon with sci fi cinema. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I’m just saying that it is more forgivable than if it was a character-driven drama.

          And I still don’t understand why you walked out of this movie. I’ve sat through some really bad movies. This wasn’t one of them.

    • PTS

      “And what if the dude hired to chase the robots is a robot himself!”

      Clearly, Bladerunner was based on a stupid premise. I can’t believe no one told Scott or Dick they were wasting their time.

      Or perhaps…

      “And what if, dude, we are chained in a cave and all that we see is really just a shadow or an illusion.”

      “Or, dude, what if we are just being fooled by an evil demon…”

      I mean, you totally knew that Form of the Good was going to end up being the Sun. Called it.

      • hv

        “I mean, you totally knew that Form of the Good was going to end up being the Sun. Called it.”

        This is damn funny, best thing I have read all day.

      • redrob

        Damn, there goes that lecture.

      • Paul Campos

        Does the original studio version of Bladerunner really suggest to the audience that Deckard is a replicant? The director’s cut does because of the unicorn dream stuff but that’s not in the original, right? Or am I misremembering?

        • wengler

          In the original Deckard and the replicant woman run away and find themselves in landscape scenes scraped together from beginning of The Shining. The Director’s Cut changes the entire meaning of the movie…in a good way.

  • Anonymous

    I thought this movie was less about whether or not Cobb was dreaming and more about whether or not dreams are real – if they’re of any consequence in reality. Cobb believes they aren’t, which is why he wanted to wake Mal up and refused to plunge himself into a dream in order to reunite himself with his kids.

    But of course extraction and inception only make sense if dreams do matter. Mal is real enough to haunt Cobb, even though she can only appear when he is dreaming.

    So “Is Cobb dreaming?” becomes “Does it really matter if he is?” I think the movie leans toward no. But I guess that could just be more pot-logic.

    • Anonymous

      Also movies are dreams and I’m high as a kite.

  • JimmyC

    “At one point these conversations become more about intellectual authenticity than about the movie itself.” I think hit the nail on the head M. This is a summer blockbuster for chrissakes. You all sound like the pretentious latte sippers the wingnuts accuse you of being.

    This is not a class in moral philosophy. Its a movie. What’s more, a movie which doesn’t treat its audience like idiots and makes everyone think about it for more than ten seconds. You bitch and whinge about the all the Michael Bay atrocities out there and as soon as something even approaching intelligent comes along which is STILL accessible to the supposed stupid movie goers you bemoan – you hate it. Because… its not intellectually authentic. Jesus.

    • SEK

      You all sound like the pretentious latte sippers the wingnuts accuse you of being.

      Wow, someone’s accusing the Comic Book Guy of being highbrow. I must be doing something right.

      • hv

        We don’t go to Comic Book Guy for highbrow for the same reasons we don’t go to Burger King for steak.

        • Anonymous

          I actually agree with SEK on the question at hand, but that’s a good zinger.

      • JimmyC

        You identify with Comic Book Guy? I’m not sure I should be impressed or sympathetic. Though I certainly wouldn’t accuse the Comic Book Guy of being high-brow, more… pretentious. I think a better analog for you would be Sideshow Bob. He’s both :)

      • wengler

        Worst Blogpost Ever.

        • SEK

          I meant “the Comic Book Guy at LGM,” not The Simpsons. It’s just odd that someone who’s frequently accused of being a guy with a Ph.D. who’s “slumming” with film and comics was being accused of drinking lattes and being incapable of appreciating low-brow culture.

  • Your comments are pellucid and your life must be as pathetic and hollow as your lost teenage of dream of being cool.

    • SEK

      What do you not understand about “Comic Book Guy”? Any pretensions to coolness I had were dispelled when I was thirteen. Stop projecting at strangers on the Interwebs. You’ll be much happier.

      • hv

        Hmmm, but this didn’t really feel like the review a ComicCon cos-player would write.

        Too much wife. :)

  • brent

    It’s an infuriatingly stupid conceit, and asking the audience to accept it in order to make a film work is insulting.*

    I am not quite sure what you mean here but I don’t think the cliffhanger you are talking about was at all central to whether or not the film worked. That is, the entire point was, in most of the movie, it was made quite explicit not only when we had witnessed a dream but just how “deep” in the dream we were. In fact, it wouldn’t have made much sense at all if one was not quite acutely aware of the boundaries between the dreaming and waking world. So I am not really sure how the sort of pot inspired rumination you are referencing here comes into it.

    The bit at the end was just a bit of a little joke on the audience.

    To the extent that there was some sort of deeper philosophical question here, it was not about the tenuous nature of reality or of dreams but more of a psychological question about how much our subconscious defines us, defines who we are. Dreams were the mechanism chosen to explore that question but they weren’t the point. Just my opinion.

  • theo

    Agree with Brent; the ending was perfect in the way it snaps the audience to realize they are leaving a movie — a shared dream — without belaboring it the way certain literary Hollywood self-referential writer/directors might.

    Also, the idea of having been like gods in a shared dream that seemed to go on for eons, but in reality only lasted a short while, is the most intriguing metaphor for bereavement or lost romance I’ve heard in ages.

    The deepest layer is like a feminist Solaris. I know that sounds awful, except possibly to a few of the bloggers around here, but it really isn’t.

  • JimmyC

    “…a feminist Solaris”. Tarksovsky or Soderberg? Or does me even asking that question betray my low-brow status?

    My only fault with this film is what many have alluded to. The lack of risk for the protagonists. We never actually see what could happen to you in reality if you are stuck in limbo and your brain “turns to mush”. This could have been better explored without exposition.

    But other than that I found it quite wonderful.

  • wiley

    The “brilliance” of keeping the dreams going simultaneously is what is so stupid to me about the movie. We don’t dream three dreams simultaneously no matter how “deep” we go. His dreamworld was not surreal enough.

  • Brian

    I’m so glad we’re not the only ones who hated it. My partner and I looked at each other 15 minutes into the endlessly tedious (and no, it is not smart or challenging) exposition, poorly disguised as dialogue, and rolled our eyes. We stayed til the bitter end, but boy is this thing ridiculously overrated.

    In David Edelstein’s review someone cited above, he theorizes that the real “inception” was the idea planted into everyone’s head that this was a good movie. It’s as good an explanation as any, since it’s the closest thing to mass hypnosis I’ve ever witnessed. And don’t get me started on the Nolan fanboys. Theirs is a life apparently committed to filmic jihad.

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  • Scott de B.

    Haven’t seen Inception, but you really walked out on the movie? I’ve never walked out on a movie, and I’ve seen Spawn. And Judge Dredd.

  • JB2

    I’m not a huge fan of Nolan’s movies, and I really hated the second Batman. I liked Inception quite a bit, but I purposely didn’t think too hard while watching.

    It worked as a caper film, the action sequences were all very good, especially Joseph Gordon Levitt in the hotel. I like all the actors on the “team” assembled in the first third of the movie – even though there was too much exposition during that part.

    And Marion Cotillard! Amazing. She was the best thing in last summer’s Public Enemies and the best thing in Inception. She makes any movie worth watching.

    • Anderson

      She can haunt my dreams any time, that’s for sure.

  • Anderson

    Since I commented at Drum’s post on SEK’s post, I’ll just quote myself:

    What exactly failed to grip people emotionally about this film? Could the story of Dom and Mal have been any sadder? I think those comments rebound on the emotional lack of those making them.

    … Re: the film’s not being “dreamy” enough, i.e. weird enough, that’s perhaps the final irony. It’s not a dream; it’s a *movie*. And a movie has to play by rules that a dream can’t. If the movie were anywhere near so random as a dream, no audience would tolerate it.

    That’s the other side of the double edge to Mal’s great comment to Dom about how absurd his “real life” is, chased around the globe by int’l corps. etc. Her point is that it’s too absurd not to be a dream, but it’s really too absurd not to be a movie.

    • SEK

      What exactly failed to grip people emotionally about this film?

      The fact that the majority of the characters were flat ciphers? Did you really care about the fate of the majority of the crew? I certainly didn’t. Moreover, I didn’t even really care about Cobb’s fate. We can talk about the mechanics of establishing sympathy in film generally, or in Nolan’s work specifically, but in either case, he failed.

      What I mean is, if you look at Batman Begins, our sympathy for Bruce Wayne is established not with the death of his parents, but with how he wrestles with it growing up. If Nolan had just had Bale say, “My parents were killed when I was little,” you’d feel sorry for him, but not identify sympathetically with him. By spending the first two hours of the film flashing back and forth between the narrative present (prison and training), and an ever-advancing narrative past (death of parents, boarding school, Cool’s trial, etc.) and then having those narratives later meet, Nolan makes the audience invest in Wayne as a person before they see him as an iconic figure.

      In The Dark Knight, he flips this: the Joker is someone who not only has multiple accounts of how he became himself, he foregrounds the lack of sympathy they produce by continually having the character narrate them himself. Only there, they don’t function as exposition so much as false confession, thereby establishing the Joker as a false confessor, etc.

      • Anderson

        Well, there’s not much to say after “I was touched and moved by Dom’s guilt and longing re: his dead wife” and “meh, dead wife, whatever.”

        And quite obviously, the truth (?) about Dom’s history with his wife gets a slow reveal, step by step. Not sure how that could’ve been handled any better.

        I wonder if one’s ability to relate to Dom had to do with one’s pre-film opinion of DiCaprio? Lots of people don’t see Brad Pitt’s character, they see Brad Pitt, etc.

        • dave

          “I see Famous People…”

  • Sir Charles

    Boredom and absolute indifference are never really emotions that a movie wants to invoke, but that’s exactly how I reacted to this film. I could not have given a fuck about Dom and Mal — because Dom was the biggest stiff seen on screen since John Holmes. It didn’t work on any level from my perspective — as caper film, action-adventure movie, or as deeper sci-fi.

    And I’m not overly picky. I happily watched “Salt” last night, which is completely off the improbability meter, but engages nonetheless. Watching Inception was a chore — I only wished I realized that the other three people with whom I saw it felt the same way. I might have gotten at least an hour of my life back.

  • oldnumberseven

    I thought it was a good movie. Went and saw it last Saturday, and the air conditioning in the theater was excellent, and the popcorn was good too.

  • Mike D.

    “It appears as if my wife and I are the only two people on the face of the planet who hated Inception.”

    What in the hell are you talking about? The backlash had completely overwhelmed the initial positive reviews within like 72 hours of the release. From then on, it’s been the establishment-cool thing to do to hate this movie for a week and a half.

    The lamest thing to do is pretend you and you alone occupy a critical counter-bandwagon that became the hip-CW position almost immediately after something hits the general population.

  • Mike D.

    Here’s my take. He had a very promising idea, but then he put it to sleep and drove it off a bridge.

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