Film Reviews


By • Jul 20th, 2010 •

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Huh? Beautifully executed with DiCaprio’s intensity but what does it mean?

Okay, to even begin to decipher INCEPTION we need to dig deep into the knotty well of the subject of writer/director’s Christopher Nolan’s film. Why do we dream?

Ancient civilizations saw dreams as portals for receiving wisdom from the gods. In modern psychology, Sigmund Freud famously theorized that dreams were the “royal road to the unconscious”. From the psychoanalytic perspective, Freud’s theory of dreams suggested that dreams were a representation of unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations.

According to Freud, people are driven by aggressive and sexual instincts that are repressed from conscious awareness. While these thoughts are not consciously expressed, Freud suggested that they find their way into our awareness via dreams.

But Freud has been dismissed. It’s not about sexual rage, aggression and unresolved fetishes, it’s all about New Age poppycock love. You don’t get a Ph.D., M.D. in psychiatry, or grant money in dream research by saying Freud doped out the whole thing long ago. You look to develop another working theory. Let’s admit it: Freud didn’t have google. He had to think up everything himself!

Now theorists say we may dream to de-clutter our brains. Every day we are bombarded with new information, both consciously (through learning) and unconsciously (through online porn sites).

This modern dream theory suggests dreaming is a way to file away key information and discard meaningless data. It helps keep our brains organized and optimizes our learning.

Then there is the Contemporary Theory of Dreaming which holds that the process is not random and that it is instead guided by the emotions of the dreamer.

Dreams are a way of assembling and dumping daily gunk. So I have been asking scientists I know:

Do prisoners held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day dream? Do cloistered nuns and monks living in a vow of silence dream? Do mystic cave-dwellers dream?

What about people in comas? Do they dream?

When I trekked through Tibet, my dreams were very, very different – and unusually and strangely menacing. I now understand why Tibet’s deities are so awesomely terrifying. It’s the effects of the high altitude.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is not your run-of-the-mill corporate spy. He and his team go into the dreams of businessmen and steal their top-secret ideas. That is where I keep my deep, dark secrets and important corporate raiding schemes – in my “dream vault”.

Cobb’s team is made up of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames (Tom Hardy), Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and new recruit Ariadne (Ellen Page – out of her league here).

Problem is, Cobb’s subconscious is haunted by his ever-present, nagging, dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), who has a nasty habit of showing up in his subconscious and wreaking havoc on his intrusive job of going into other people’s dreams.
His workplace is other people’s dreams – who invited her along? She just won’t go into The Light!

Mal has an agenda. She’s mad she is dead and wants Cobb to join her. That is how much she loves him.

Cobb is an international fugitive. He is accused of killing his wife. He didn’t do it, but he’s carrying around a lot of guilt. He constantly moans and bitches: “I want my life back!”

Businessman Mr Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb and his team to create a dream whereby his future rival, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), will believe it is his idea – and a good one, to boot – to sell his father’s business empire when he inherits it.

Instead of stealing ideas locked in the dreamer’s vault, Mr Saito wants Cobb to interject an idea into a dream. In return, he promises to purge Cobb’s fugitive record allowing him to return to his two children and go home.

Why doesn’t Mr Saito just hire a Russian hooker or buy up all the company stock? Hasn’t Saito ever heard of greenmail?

After Yusuf drugs the client, in this case Fischer, the team gets drugged. They all go to sleep and plunge into Fischer’s dream and mess around in there. Ariadne is an architect and has designed the entire dream landscape.

There are a few glitches – it’s her first job. And there are some pitfalls Cobb neglected to tell her about. Mainly, you can get stuck inside someone’s dream and never get back. You can spend years sitting in an empty room without cable.

Cobb fell into this dreaded 5th level rabbit hole once. This is why he is so unhinged and unstable.

Mild-mannered, impeccably dressed, pillow-lipped Fischer has his own unconscious dream landscape and Cobb & Company must battle a rogue team of dream-saboteurs and Fischer’s love of travel.

DiCaprio is sensational. Having followed in Robert De Niro’s footsteps by being mentored by Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio is fully invested in every film project he is in. He does not walk through any movie. Let’s hope there is never a THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE or a lucrative franchise like MEET THE PARENTS down the road for DiCaprio.

After 25-30 years in the business, it’s all about the money, not the work.

DiCaprio’s supporting cast of Gordon-Levitt, Hardy, and Rao is strong. Page and Cotillard – not so much.

I thought Marion Cotillard was brilliant in LA VIE EN ROSE, but her Hollywood roles have been terrible (PUBLIC ENEMIES, NINE). Why is she in INCEPTION and why is the song used in the film as the dream ticking clock (it’s INCEPTION’S Rosebud) Edith Piaf’s “Non, “je ne regrette rien”? Does Cotillard deserve this homage at this point in her Hollywood career?

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One Response »

  1. I’ve been very hyped for this movie anyways, but after reading your great review I really cannot wait to see this film.

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