Inception (2010)

Inception (2010) [xrr rating=4.5/5]

This post may contain spoilers. Read at your own discretion.


It took me the entire two hours or so of the film’s running time and a couple of weeks to realise I have no idea how the hell Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” works. Much to my relief, this lack of understanding is not an isolated case. Instead of analysing the film and coming up with theories behind the story, I’ll stick to what I’m able to ruminate to some relative depth.

I remember seeing the teaser trailer long before the hype behind the film reached deafening proportions, and being excited then. At that time, I had less than absolutely no idea what it was about. Facts that I picked up prior to watching the film is that it stars a few former 90’s teen heartthrobs and a handful of the names that brought the 2008 box office hit, “The Dark Knight”, to life. With collective talent as viscous as molasses, it is unsurprising that “Inception” was nothing short of mind-blowing.

Brief Storyline

The main character, Dominic Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) wakes up at a beach, the context of his arrival not provided at this point in time. While struggling to regain consciousness, guards scrutinise his body and find him armed. He is brought to the quarters of an elderly man, one who Dom later reveals is someone he intends to meet. The scene switches to the dream of his current client, Saito (played by the dashing Ken Watanabe), where Dom reveals the nature of his job as an extractor. An extractor is someone who infiltrates a sleeping person’s — or target’s — subconscious and takes information from them. In the words of Dom, he specialises in “subconscious security”.

But he doesn’t operate alone. Dom has a point man, Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a dream architect, Nash (played by Lukas Haas). Arthur is also responsible for researching the targets prior to infiltrating their dreams in order to ensure the success of the mission. Nash, as implied by his title, designs the dream’s space. Everyone involved in the mission should be asleep within close proximity to each other, and their biggest threat is the target’s knowledge that their subconscious is being burgled or waking up before the mission is complete. Pain can be experienced in dream state, but death in the dream will throw the target back to consciousness. In the name of abusing puns, it’s the job of their dreams.

Shortly after that mission, Nash gets taken away, and Dom’s team is left without an architect. But that’s not his only predicament. Dom is not without internal conflicts of his own, and his conflicts that are so haunting they have been elevated to become an intregal part of his identity. His dreams are consistently disturbed by the manifestation of his wife, Mal (played by the mesmerising Marion Cotillard), for reasons that Dom refuses to discuss. It is also revealed he is a fugitive of his passport country, preventing him from seeing his children. His secret remains unquestioned until he takes on a new mission, which will be his ticket home.

The mission, called “inception”, is one that is commonly known to dream specialists as impossible and dangerous. To “incept” is to infiltrate a target’s subconscious and plant an idea, with the intention of said idea coming to fruition when the target awakens. The particular idea in question is to enter the dream of Robert Fischer (played by Cillian Murphy), the son of Saito’s business rival, Maurice Fischer. Maurice has long been a threat to Saito’s investments. However, already being terminally ill and near death, the fate of his empire hangs on his last mortal actions and whatever stipulations lie in his last will and testament. Saito knows his problem will be eradicated by the destruction of the empire, and asks Dom to plant the idea of disintegrating Maurice’s life work into Robert’s mind.

Though accepted as impossible, Dom manages to convince a number of people to assist him. Dom recruits new members to carry out the operation: Eames, Yusuf, and Ariadne. Eames (played by Tom Hardy) acts as a forger who can enter dreams and change his appearance in order to resemble people familiar and intimate to the target. Yusuf (played by Dileep Rao) is a chemist who provides potent sleeping agents that assist in achieving dream states of varying degrees. Ariadne (played by Ellen Page) is a student who is recruited as the team’s new architect after gaining Dom’s approval by creating successful and mind-blowing dreamscapes for the mission.

Ariadne’s presence turns out to be crucial to the team, as she provides more than just designs for the mission. She also becomes the agent who unites Dom with the solution to his anguish.


One word: mindfuck.

Prior to watching the film, I have been advised to approach “Inception” without harbouring any assumptions — advice worth taking. Being an adolescent in the 90’s, it is impressive to see former teen stars take on roles that they probably couldn’t imagine accepting when they were all sporting bowl cuts, plaid shirts, and a seemingly simpler type of angst. Namely Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Allow that name to sink in for a moment, because if he continues in this upward direction, his name will carry quite a lot of weight in the film industry.

Joseph makes the film for me. Rising above the push-over he plays in “500 Days of Summer”, he is clinically methodical, concocts explosions, and kicks lots of ass. He is one of the people involved in one of my two favourite scenes: the anti-gravity hotel corridor fight sequence. (My other favourite scene is where Dom manipulates Ariadne’s coffee shop dream. The shattered scenery in non-violent suspended animation is breath-taking.) Joseph has been noted for wanting to grow beyond the mould of his teenage career. From his re-emergence into mainstream film, he appears to be maintaining his word. Funnily enough, my interest in “Inception” is rooted in Leonardo DiCaprio’s involvement.

Leonardo is an actor who has become attractive to me recently. It is not just physical attraction, though I will happily admit as someone unfazed by him during his teenage heartthrob days, age seasoned him very well. I find the man talented, his resume plump with experience dating from as early as his childhood years. However, I have now grown to respect him because he still chooses roles that continue to foster his career as an actor. I also appreciate his activism. Unsurprisingly, his performance as Dominic Cobb does not disappoint.

Likewise, Marion Cotillard’s performance as Dom’s wife, Mal, is sufficiently beautiful as it is scary. Ken Watanabe shows poise with every fluid movement, although his character has to endure injuries during the inception mission. “Juno” sweetheart Ellen Page’s performance as the young cornerstone to the team swells beyond her petite stature. Of course, this is to name a few.

“Inception” is a film worth watching not just once. Perhaps additional rounds at the theatre are necessary for some to catch the details one may have missed on the first run — or because it’s worth paying for another powerful dose of a Nolanian masterpiece.


  1. Pingback: Gravity (2013) | Maria Celina

  2. Maria Celina

    @Nikz: Nikz, I’d like to think the repetitiveness of the music was integral to the theme of the film, although how, I cannot really say. I found the music pretty scary, especially when the audio trailer was being aired on the radio, complete with the accelerating soundtrack.

    I’m also glad to know that you enjoyed the same coffee shop scene. When I first watched the film, it was seldom for me to find people who enjoyed the coffee scene as much as I did, but I’m glad to learn that it was just a matter of looking in the right direction.

    @Kristine: I’m so flattered, Kristine. Just before pressing “Publish” on this review, I couldn’t help but think, “What on earth am I thinking publishing such an incomplete review?”, seeing as it’s not as solid as the others I have written. However, I am grateful for your re-assurance.

    @Terry: You know what I love about your comments, Terry? I learn so much from them, and it’s clear that you took the time to research the film properly. I’m blown away that the hotel corridor fighting scenes were done using the forces of physics, and that the coffee shop scene stayed away from three-dimensional additions, with exception to the finer debris. I can only imagine that if Nolan did decide to film “Inception” in 3D, there would be far more film-induced headaches.

    @Abby: That’s another take to the film, Abby, the idea of redemption and the desire to return home. Perhaps that’s another way into looking at dreams, as some people look into them for solutions — and perhaps even for some form of validation — that they may not be able to conjure while conscious.

    @jannie: The funny thing about “Inception”, Jannie, is that the two and a half hours whizzed by. I also didn’t pick up most of the mindfuckery — How’s that for another form of the term? — although during the film, I thought I did. If anything, it’s a visual fest. If you’re not the type to watch long films, perhaps a renting it out and having the option of pressing pause is probably a better idea. In fact, I plan to buy it on DVD when it comes out, just so I can watch it for the parts that went over my head.

  3. jannie

    I heard from friends this movie was really good. Knowing especially that Leonardo Di Caprio is in it. :D I also heard it lasted 2 1/2 hours. LOL. I don’t know if I can sit through a movie that long in a theater. I’ll probably wait for it to go on DVD. I heard it’s pretty much in the same line with Minority Report. Surprisingly, I liked that movie even though I don’t pick up mindfuck (Hahahaha… I like that terminology you coined. LOL.) movies too quickly. I probably might like this too. I’ll give it a shot in case my cousins or even boyfriend decide to pick it up and watch it. :D

  4. Abby

    Oh, I absolutely loved Arthur’s character! And I feel as if I still have no idea how Inception exactly works, but that’s also an excuse to watch the movie a few times over. This movie was probably the best movie I’ve watched this summer. I feel sometimes as if the movie is not so much about the idea of Inception as it is about the idea of redemption and letting go — and a man coming home.

  5. Terry

    A very well written review of the film, Maria! I love it the way you have penned the overview – giving a comprehensive and yet concise writeup of the storyline without going into the details (I bet if you’re really going that direction, you’ll end up with a thesis).

    Coincidentally, the two favourite scenes you listed are exactly what I really liked. I remembered reading a transcript of an interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt about how the actor felt like he was on a hamster wheel. I’m really impressed with the extent Chris Nolan went to keep the film real – all the tilting scenes were filmed in hydraulic-supported sets, including the hotel corridor (which can rotate 360 degrees about its length) and the bar set in the second level of the dream, where Dom Cobb convinced Robert Fischer that he’s there to protect the latter.

    The scene where objects along the Parisian street were shattered, most of the debris were real and filmed using six separate high-speed camera (so that they wouldn’t miss out anything). Since the Paris government isn’t too keen of using explosives on the street, they had to use alternative methods to propel debris through the air. However, fine debris were added using CGI.

    One trivia: in the shattery scene, they actually added organic sounds in it – including whale calls. You can learn more about sound design of Inception here.

    Compared to films of a similar nature, Chris Nolan managed to cut down the number of visual effects shots from 1500-2000 to a mere 600+ shots.

    p/s: An the film’s saving grace is Chris’ refusal to shoot in 3D.

  6. Charles Ravndal

    I wasn’t able to see that movie with Odd and some of our other friends since I was somewhat busy. Nice review and I think I’ll grab the DVD version when it’s available!

  7. Anna

    That was one crazy movie, but I gotta say I loved every minute of it! I can’t pretend to have understood every single detail, so I’m looking forward to watching it again when it comes out on DVD. :)

  8. Kristine

    First off, great job with the storyline! Because of this review, I am going to watch it again and buy the DVD. It was definitely a mindfuck!

    Don’t get me started on the JGL fangirling! :-P

    By the way, this review should be rated five stars. You make the BEST reviews.

  9. Marie

    I didn’t read the actual part of your review because I don’t want to be spoiled, but I have heard some awesome things about this movie. I’m really looking forward to seeing it, especially since I’ve heard Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it.

  10. Nikz

    Goodness, that’s a relief to know I’m not the only one who went out of the theater wondering what the hell just happened. LOL! I couldn’t remember if the spinning top worked in reality or in the dream state. Yes, I think a second watch would be worth it – in the comfort of my home. That way, if I miss a detail, I could just rewind.

    That music was pretty repetitive, don’t you think? The whole movie left me feeling woozy, thinking I was in some other dream. Crazy!

    When I saw the coffee shop explosions, I would have put a “like” on that scene. Hahaha. Joseph is HAWT. Nuff said. XDDDDDDDDDD~

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