Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inception: A Deception Conception?

The film Inception was not even on my radar as a movie to see in this "Summer of Suck." I had heard of it, but the secrecy surrounding it wasn't enticing enough for me. The little that was revealed prior to the movie's release did not sound like something I wanted to see: Leonardo DiCaprio plays a corporate-contracted specialist whose job is to go into the dreams of rivals and steal their ideas from the subconscious level. I've never been into corporate espionage type of movies, thus why I did not see Duplicity, the Julia Roberts / Clive Owen film about dueling corporate spies who once worked for the CIA and MI6, respectively.

I felt that the ad campaign for Inception was trying too hard to be the next The Matrix, which actually had one of the best campaigns I had ever seen (the teaser trailers showed Keanu Reeves in super slo-mo dodging bullets that left ripples in the air that audiences could see while a voice-over asked: "What is The Matrix?"). However, once the reviews came in (some with mild spoilers), though, I was intrigued. I could overlook the corporate aspect and appreciate what the film says about dreams, the nature of reality, and how we know the difference between dreaming and being awake while we are in the dreamstate.

Besides the impressive reviews, director Christopher Nolan has a pretty good track record on films. He made the most perfect Batman film one could possibly make (I had been waiting since adolescence for a film that reflected the Dark Knight series of comic books, which Nolan managed to achieve with Batman Begins). The 2008 sequel featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker managed to earn $1 billion at the box office worldwide. How many sequels earn that much money? His Memento still blows my mind away. Simply put, Nolan knows how to craft an engaging, intelligent film that keeps your mind sharp while watching it. You can't ask any more than that.

So, I decided that I just had to see it, and I waited until Thursday night (the best times to avoid crowds at the movies are Monday through Thursday nights). Seems like many of my friends recommended it on Facebook. Since I like films that play with your mind and the nature of reality, I figured that this might be one of the best films I see all year.

As I watched the movie, one thought kept running through my head: this is so much like The Matrix. There's obvious connections between the two films and its quite likely that Christopher Nolan was inspired by The Matrix that he hoped to create his own film that covers similar ideas, with just as impressive special effects. My biggest concern about seeing this film was that I feared that the director would utilize too many shoot-em-up action sequences to cover up a lame rip-off, a la Equilibrium (a The Matrix knock off). However, I found that the action sequences did not take away from the film and it was far less outrageous and violent than The Matrix trilogy.

The similarities abound, though. They both feature a team of super-smarty people (with a token lady for the mostly male crew) who go into dreams together, all with their own skills and responsibilities. Think of it as Mission: Plausible. There are baddies after them, the subconscious projections of the person whose dreams they are operating in (I must say that I don't have many violent dreams. Is this common?). What I love about this film, in particular, though, is all the globe-trotting they do: Tokyo, Paris, Mombassa, and a 10 hour flight to Los Angeles.

The premise of the film is that Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo diCaprio) is given a job offer he can't refuse. Instead of stealing secrets from someone's subconscious dream state, he is tasked with implanting an idea into a person's subconscious. This procedure is called "inception" and those who don't know, think it can't be done. Cobb, though, knows for a fact that it can be done...because he's done it before. That takes care of the subplot, involving his wife, who has the nasty habit of appearing in the dreams to wreck havoc to the team's mission. This movie is as much about Cobb's inner demons as it is about implanting ideas in other people.

What is so important that Ken Watanabe wants to plant an idea in a rival's subconscious? The background info is only briefly touched on. Something to do with breaking up an energy company so it won't have a monopoly on the world's energy supplies. Sounds pretty okay to me.

The film took a little while to draw me in, but at one point, I was absolutely riveted. When they get to the dream sequences, the film shows its incredible depth. Its layers upon layers, dreams within dreams. I've heard talk that one needed to see this film a couple of times to understand it all, but I did not find that to be the case. While I will definitely see this film again, I was able to understand it on first viewing. I could keep track of the various dream layers. I liked how the story flowed and the tricks employed to give audiences a sense of time lapse. An hour long dream is actually five minutes of "real life time." There's an elaborate "wake up call" set up for team members, to let them know when its time to come out of the dream. I thought this sequence was the most amazing of all, as each layer experiences it before the final wake up.

Essentially, the film asks viewers to contemplate reality. For instance, how can you tell the difference between a dream and real life? I admit that there have been plenty of times where I have gotten lost in a dream because it was so real and my sleeping self thought I was awake. The characters in this film each have a personal "totem" that they keep with them, so they will know whose dreams they are in and if they are still dreaming or awake. Cobb's totem is a spinning top that never tips over. This is an important prop for filmgoers to pay attention to. Seriously.

The other day, I had the most amazing dream, in that I had gone back for a visit to my old office in Atlanta. The office was considered "the best place to work" and there was a long line of people wanting to apply to be on the waiting list to work there. I was offered a job there if I wanted it, and morale was high because the office manager no longer worked there. When I awoke, I actually had the impression that perhaps I should move back to Atlanta at the end of the year. This is actually not part of my ideal plan, so it feels like someone might have "planted" that idea into my subconscious. Weird.

In Inception, the characters discuss the difficulty in planting an idea into someone's subconscious, because the person has to believe that they came up with the idea themselves. As the film showed all too brilliantly, it really is a difficult thing to plant an inspiring idea into someone's subconscious.

I walked out of theaters feeling good and inspired. Definitely would have loved to discuss it with others who have seen the film. For years, I've wanted to do dream analysis, but it just seems difficult. Most of the time, I forget them right after I wake up. And since I'm normally rushing in the morning, I don't have time to write about my dreams so that I won't forget. The dreams I've had recently, though, I have remembered. The film shows a little bit about how dreams work, and how to analyze one's own dreams for information. A lot to think about. Love a film's ability to inspire more thought on the subject matter. I suspect that the sales of dream analysis and dream symbology books will see an increase this summer.

No deception in this conception: Inception is a brilliant reception for your perception.


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

We'd heard great things about the movie and went to see it. I found it confusing, although loved the concept about implanting ideas through dreams. Want to see it again when it comes out in DVD. Maybe the second time around will make more sense.

Sansego said...

Wow...I thought it was pretty easy to follow and understand. It has helped me understand and even remember dreams more. I love how that movie works in depths. It shows just how deep a subconscious is and how difficult to access it.