Yes, I am still out there, just haven’t been as frequent as I usually am, and will strive to change that for hopefully, my loyal followers.
So to get the juices flowing, will go back a few years…has it really been three years since “Inception” first came out? Indeed it has, and with that, we’ll dive right in.
There have been a number of movies about dreams, or people sleeping and having their environment manipulated, with some of my most memorable being “Dreamscape” (1984) and “The Matrix” (1999). Each of those movies explores the idea that inside the mind, so many things can happen, and with the right tools, you can change the world around you.
Christopher Nolan was first brought to me with “Insomnia” (2002), which I did not know was him in the director’s chair, and then “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Prestige” (2006), and “The Dark Knight” (2008). Of those movies, “The Prestige” really rocked me and had me wanting to see the movie immediately after it was over. That sharp cut to black at the end of the story. That poignant moment where you literally are dying for more. It stirred something inside me that made me understand that I was going to enjoy seeing his works (and since that time I have seen “Memento” 2000, and really enjoyed it too).
I often don’t care for trailers, as they show parts often not in the theater, or show you way too much of the plot early on, and often create an idea in my mind of what to expect, and I’d rather let the movie do the talking. But even with this trailer, I was hooked from the beginning, “Your Mind is the scene of the crime…” I hadn’t seen anything like this before, and I was excited for the possibilities.
And I wasn’t disappointed. With a really stellar ensemble cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Paige, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, the list goes on, the story of Cobb’s (DiCaprio) journey home and one last job to do so begins to unfold. A thief, who steals from your dreams, must find a way to create an idea, Inception, into one last person, and in doing so will be able to return to his children after he fled the country following his wife Mal’s (Marion Cotillard) death.
For those who want to avoid spoilers, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Take the time to really sit and watch, pay attention, and then discuss the ending with friends.
Everyone else ready? Good.
So the idea behind “Inception” is that in the dream world, which is facilitated by a unique device, your subconscious can be a playground. But it can also be a prison. Mal and Cobb experiment with dreaming and are trapped in their shared dream. They use items called tokens, items that only they know the weight and feel of to ground them to the true reality, to distinguish between the worlds. After years and years of being inside the dream, Cobb implants an idea by using Mal’s token to convince her that she is in a dream and that if they die, they’ll wake up. When they return to the real world, the shock of such an idea rocks Mal’s mind and eventually she kills herself to prove she’s in a dream, and orchestrates the whole thing in an attempt to have him join her and wake up. This leads to Cobb’s fleeing and having the regret of not being able to tell his children good bye. Cobb was a loving husband, and is a loving father, though he is plagued by the regrets of what happened and in violating his own rules, uses memories to create dreams inside his own mind. He assembles a team of specialists to get the job done, and uses a dream within a dream, within a dream, to plant the idea in his target.
The special effects, writing, and story are top notch, and really for anything that I’ve seen Christopher Nolan do, he doesn’t disappoint. For the dream sequences, and the dream within dreams, they do take the time to explain how time works within each layer, and how it becomes exponential and more dangerous the deeper you go. The effects are well created, with enough eye candy to keep you interested, but not enough to make your brain hurt…that comes later. This is what I feel more science fiction should be like, and doesn’t require aliens or crazy space things to be successful.
Ok, next part is more spoilery goodness, and will be a discussion in how I can to the interpretation of the ending. You have been warned.
So after my first viewing of “Inception,” and I’m sure those who have seen it remember the ending, has the same cut to black as his other films. I saw it again not too long later and was still blown away by the ending, and it raised the question of whether or not Cobb was still dreaming. Now before we get into the deeper meat and potatoes of what the movie was really about, I present my points and then we’ll get to the last bits.
Theory: Cobb is awake at the end of the film.
Reason 1: Mal is dead, we know this, and Cobb is running from it. She appears in his mind, in the most inopportune moments and causes all sorts of chaos. She makes him question what is real and what is the dream. But, if you watch, she only appears in the dreams. As persistent of a memory as she is, if he were still dreaming in the end, she’d be there.
Reason 2: This one involved a little bit of cheating, but on my third viewing I had noticed it (and had begun to come to my true conclusion about the film). His children have aged since he left them. When watching it I noted the change in their clothing for one, though it wasn’t until I looked closely that I confirmed it. It’s very minute, but there are differences in their height and attire, and with a check to IMDB (the cheating part) I found that the ages for them were in fact, different
Reason 3: This is the reason I give that if you took away the others (which I even have more if we needed to go there), proves it. Throughout the movie they talk about the tokens and how they work. And Cobb spins a top, wondering if he’s still asleep, but when it wobbles and topples over, he can rest assured that he’s back in reality. In the dream with Mal before the first Inception, the top had been locked away inside Mal’s subconscious, always spinning, never wobbling. Some then argue, “But he didn’t see it fall when he was in the bathroom after he used that super drug!” To which I say, look at the very end. The top spins, and spins, in a sort of slow motion to add dramatic flair perhaps, but it does something it hadn’t done in the dream, wobble. It’s very subtle, but again, didn’t wobble when it was in the dream. There are talks about his children and his ring being his token, but really, the top proves it.
And even if we question the ending of whether or not Cobb is still dreaming, let me put a quote for you to help with the big takeaway,
“And I start to panic and realize I’m gonna regret this moment, that I need to see their faces one last time. The moment’s passed and whatever I do I can’t change this moment. I’m about to call out to them, they run away. If I’m ever gonna see their faces again I’ve gotta get back home in the real world.”
Cobb’s life is full of the regrets, with Mal’s death, leaving his children, not seeing their faces, he’s on the run. All he wants to do it get back to them, to not have that regret any more. Through his journey, he finally let’s go and confronts his guilt and lets the projection of Mal know that he kept his promise to her, that they grew old together in their dream. When he sees his children’s faces, he’s come to let go of the guilt and has accepted the happiness that is present with them back in his life. He doesn’t care about the top any more, he cares about what he always has, them.
If somehow you read through all of this and still haven’t seen the movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. And even if you’ve seen it many, many times like I have, watch it again and relive the moments and just enjoy it.