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Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Inception" Perception

An Inception analysis written by Avery Whisenant

There are few ways to give an honest review about a movie which takes so many risks and is so involved as Inception without divulging secrets or spoilers which may soften the experience for the viewer which may be inspired by the review. There are pros and cons to it, as with nearly every movie, and almost every pro or con will be at the discretion of the author's opinion. That said, I would like to apologize preemptively for any subjective praises or dissidents about the film at hand, and state at the beginning: if you have any intention of seeing this movie for the first time, and to experience it unadulterated, stop reading now.

If you're looking to bounce some ideas off, or just gain an alternative perspective, please continue.

I'm not going to give notes on actors or performances in this review, as it is completely unnecessary. They are believable, and - given the script - that alone is more than I expected. I don't care about names, billing, etc etc. It simply doesn't matter for this film - just that they are believable. And they are. Now....

The story is a classic sci-fi setup. Set in a no-where land in no-time in particular with no real specifics given, Inception has no real direction with no real conclusion - just realization. The shell is this: somehow, science has allowed humans to tap into dreams of others, and share the experience parallel and in abstract, so that they can be involved in the dreamer's action at the moment, or go behind the scenes and set a chain reaction in place that causes the action the dreamer needs to undertake. Used as a technology for profit, its primary abuse is to extract precious information from targets for clients: passwords, memories - anything that the client wants. It's a world where anything goes…almost. Eventually the line between reality and dreamstates starts to blur, and even the dreamers are unable to discern between the two after a bit (or forever). Sounds like the plot-line for so many other movies that I won't bother listing them all, right?

This is only the catalyst. And it comes around full-circle.

That said, it is absolutely brilliant.

I hate movies that start you in the middle of the fray, without giving you a character introduction beyond how they quip at a moment's impulse or confrontation (Broken Arrow, Face Off, Con Air, Mission Impossible trilogy, etc) where it's "Stage situation"+"Impossibly-masculine melodramatic narcissists"+"Timeframe"+"Big Explosions"= "Box Office Smash"(it also = 'LAZY' and also = Michael Bay…yeah, I went there). I consider it lazy writing when the author doesn't feel it worth his time to give a character any interesting depth other than 'What will he say next?', always one-upping their contradiction with macho ego talk. I appreciate a story. I enjoy a journey. I don't like being jilted in my absorption of - what should be - art.

Inception violently assaults you.

It throws you in the middle of it.

It is chaotic.

It is significant.

The symbolism in this is perfectly defined (it's even directly stated by the movie's star, Leonardo DiCaprio): "In a dream, you're just thrown into the middle of it." You never start a dream dreaming of falling asleep, dreaming of going into the dream - and if you do, what were you doing before hand? It's a subconscious journey.

Enter Freud.



The main client they are working for seeks a dissolution from one of his competitors. This client never has any affiliation, as I can recall, to any one corporation or government…and though I have my own suspicions, I will not divulge them here. Suffice it to say - conspiracy theorists could have a field day with this (go global. Don't stick in the USA. It goes beyond that. *word to the wise*). The target is young, and inherited the company from his father. Cue the fluff padding for the adventure of it. "Plant the idea so that he thinks he thought of it." "You can get lost in here forever." "He's had training in anti-dream penetration." "We only have ten hours to get in and out." Ok, sure fine, whatever, let's get back to the good stuff. Psychologically, it's a classic complex for the target - the dominance of the father creates a need for approval from the son. Common, right? Most have heard of this.

Common setup. Common scenario. Common timeframe. Where does it get good?


Subconscious delivery.

Shot with almost-entirely hand-held and Steadi-cam, this movie moves around more than I can recall any other. It's disorienting. It leaves you looking for a center to put your feet on. The characters are almost always chasing or being chased in the movie…ever been able to run fast enough in your dreams? Ever had a proper sense of footing or orientation when being chased by some unknown predator in your dream? Gravity with weightlessness? See why they did it? Even when it can become nauseating, stick with it. They are still working to consciously immerse you in this dream. There are still shots in the film, but they are always centered around the invader's dream-slash-reality (Leonardo DiCaprio is the invader, by the way). Spinning, swirling, steady…sounds like a top? Hmmm…like the one he holds as a memento from his late wife?

But wait. There was an invasion into a target's mind, right? OK. Invasion into the target's dream?


Cold. Icy. Totally devoid of any feminine characteristics. Guns. Grenades. No ovarian symbolism AT ALL. Angular. Perfect. All while a van is plummeting in slow-motion towards the river (total masculinity resolved in absolute femininity? WOW!)

This fall, by the way, in slow motion? It takes about an hour. It is the longest fall known to the history of man. It is the steady in the storm. Once the steady comes, and they are submersed back into the loving subconsciousness and cleansing water of mother, the invader is lost, reviving inexplicably on an ocean shore - merging back into masculinity again, right? And it concludes perfectly, swirling, staying, finally letting all the pieces we were just introduced to fly around in your mind, and then the center, and then peace and balance, while all part of the same chaotic top - the embodiment of perfection, as I can imagine it.

So what about the guy? Who cares. What about the special effects? There, but unobtrusive. What about the action? Yes, but it's unimportant. Necessary, yes, but not the focus. The focus is the subconscious. Literally. The company, the target, the objective - the plot itself - are all catalysts for one constant. This constant will not apply to everyone, as it involves a broad, but not universal, set of assumptions about the audience. Most who go see movies will have this frame of reference, but some will not. While those some may still be dazzled by the special effects and the science fiction of it all, the true meat of this movie is the audience. The plot? Not the focus. The plot is a catalyst, pure and simple. It's not about who did what, or what happened afterwards, but it is purely about the abstract, the subconscious, and is the absolutely brilliant movie in that it uses the plot as a symbolic mechanism, as opposed to the focus - much like The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus: the focus was not the kids' love life, or the assistant, or the fact that there was a giant portable stage barreling through a modern city; the focus was the relationship between the Devil, and God, and how it played out via the plot. The movie was totally in the mind. Inception is completely different, but fulfilling in the same way. Dreams - the parallels, the questions, the cyclic, tumultuous nature. The moments of intelligence, and the thankfulness for them. The moments of, "Why?" The hope of the escape from the predator, and the realization that you're doomed to run forever.

Then, the realization that it was all a dream.

And that, my friends, is about as concise a review I can give on Inception.

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