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INCEPTION: a movie review

What if we could move in and out of each other’s dreams? What if we could have a dream within a dream? The questions of, ‘whose dream is this?’ and ‘to what degree do I have any control here’? Become as necessary as ‘whose life is this?’ and ‘what is real?’
Christopher Nolan’s newest film, INCEPTION, explores these questions. As someone very interested in dreams (see novel, Everybody Dreams or live interactive dream seminar, The Dream Workshop) I knew I was going to have to see this movie. Luckily I was able to avoid all movie reviews before doing so, except to see a couple of disparaging headlines. But he’s invented a new genre, psychological science fiction.
The movie is like, literally, nothing else I have ever seen. Nolan is a master at messing with our minds. One of his earliest films, Memento, tells the story of an amnesiac in reverse, scene by scene, in a carefully crafted maze of inverted narrative. Seinfeld later crafted an episode in using the same device.
For INCEPTION, Nolan using several hypnotic techniques to entrance the audience. For a couple of hours after the film my wife and I both experienced a weird sensation of altered consciousness; like the film wouldn’t let go; “It’s like the film possesses you…” she said. How does Nolan do this? It isn’t just the story, but how he does it. The use of music, a driving score (by Hans Zimmer) that reminds me of the music of Michael Nyman (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover); it is music that is very simple, emotionally evocative, repetitive and insistent. Another device Nolan uses is imagery: elevators, water, falling, etc., that introduce and deepen a trance like state.
Any film about dreams would have to be less than fully linear. Like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami, INCEPTION leaves you asking questions every so often, “Wait, is this a dream?” What is what? And what happens when an idea takes over your consciousness? What drives us?
The cast is great. Leonardo DiCaprio has developed so much character and depth in his face. I kept thinking of Orson Welles as I watched him. A tortured genius. Ellen Page, the eternal youth, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe. Really fantastic cast and acting.
Now, the special effects. In this era, you expect the special effects to be amazing. And these are. And I won’t go into detail. But, this is the first film in a long time where I said to myself, “How did they do that?”
You might notice I’ve stayed away from revealing any plot points. And I won’t. Because it is just too fun to figure it out (or try to, I’m still working on it) yourself.
This is not a film everyone will like. A movie that uses the terms “projection” and “subconscious” liberally has a special audience. If you’ve read this far, that audience is likely you. Do yourself a favor. See it in a theater.

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2 Responses to “INCEPTION: a movie review”

  • Wrapped up that movie this morning after falling asleep on it yesterday. I was expecting more because people hyped it up too much.

  • Mike says:

    Based on your post, I’m guessing you watched this at home. I felt that this was one of those films that it was best to see in a theater. I felt really enveloped by the experience. But I was lucky to see it the first night it was out, pre-hype. So I wasn’t disappointed.