A Film Analysis of Inception If “true inspiration is impossible to fake,” explains a character in Christopher Nolan’s existentialist heist film Inception and If that’s the case, then Inception is one of the realest films ever made. In July of 2012 Nolan crafted a movie that’s beyond brilliant and layered both narratively and thematically. It requires the audience to take in a collection of rules, exceptions, locations, jobs, and abilities in order to understand the text, let alone the fascinating of the subtext.
Nolan’s magnum opus is his first major blockbuster in over a decade that demanded an intense viewer concentration. It raised thoughtful and complex ideas, wrapping everything in a breathlessly exciting action film. Inception may be complicated, but simply put it’s one of the best movies of 2010. Inception requires so much exposition that a lesser director would have forced theaters to distribute pamphlets to audience members in order to explain the complicated world he’s developed.
The movie centers on a team of individuals led by an “extractor” named Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is a thief who commits corporate espionage by infiltrating the subconscious mind of his target. When he is offered a chance to regain his old life as payment for a task considered to be impossible. He constructs a dream of a high value target and used this dreams to implant an idea so the target will make a decision beneficial to the individual who hired Dom Cobb. To give a full description of this movie would almost take as long as watching the movie it self but that is why I choose to do a review on Inception.
This creation of Director Nolan and Wally Pfister is both gripping and complex in the way that they apply the uses of lighting and angles, CGI, music, and mise en scene to create a master piece that has yet to be imitated or duplicated. To know the movie, one needs to know who wrote it, produced it, and directed it. He was born in London, England in 1970, where Christopher Nolan began making films at the young age of seven using his father’s super 8mm camera and an assortment of malefaction figures. He graduated to making films involving real people and his super 8mm surreal short film Tarantella was shown on PBS Image Union in 1989.
Chris studied English Literature at University College London while starting to make 16mm films at the College Film Society. His short film Larceny was shown at the Cambridge Film Festival in 1996, and his other 16mm shorts include a three- minute surreal film called The Doodlebug. Major films that he has directed are The Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and he is currently producing the Man of Steel, a remake of Superman, set to be released in 2013.
Most of his movies are based in action and adventure but still have a little bit of science fiction, which gives the film a surreal feeling to them. Nolan usually begins his movies with a personal touch by introducing the main character/s with a Close-up shot of their hands. He is also known for making use of flashbacks or scenes from the end of the movie as an opening. Most of the movies that he directs are usually about characters who have some kind of psychological disorders or who develop a physical or psychological handicap throughout the film.
In the case of Inception, the main character Dom Cobb wakes up on the shore with his hands trying to reach or point out to his children who were playing with the sand. This scene reappears again in the end and plays an important role to explain the essence of the movie. The psychological handicap that is portrayed within the main character, can also be considered the main protagonist in this movie but that is not revealed until the closing scene of the movie. The Cinematographer Walter C. Wally” Pfister is known for his work with Christopher Nolan’s films, including Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. He has worked on the Italian Job and Moneyball. Pfister is known for using the hard cuts and cross cutting method, to build up the suspense in the audience. Along with this editing style he places ending scenes at the start of sequences to make the viewers ask what is going on. This is common in a great deal of suspenseful and mystery films, as is the cross cutting method which is seen every day on daytime television.
This kind of cinematography gets you into the storyline and has you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the resolve, while at the same time being other part of the world. Without this method of editing you would see one story after another and I really think that boredom would set in and your mind would not be challenged with what could be and we would be left wanting more. The way he builds the suspense and holds back on some of the facts in this film, place it snuggly as a mystery film but with all the car chases, explosions, and gun fights it gets a stronger action film label but is not lacking on the depth in the story.
Add in the CGI that Pfister uses to create the dreams and challenge reality, and you have a movie that cannot be place into any one genre. The use of CGI and camera angles in this movie was just breathtaking. To watch the city being folded without disrupting the gravity was a wonderful undertaking and If you are an avid film watcher then you could easily compare that scene with the scene from Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire, (Donen, 1951) where he is dancing on the ceiling and walls.
It’s a classic use of time honored techniques, where the shaking of the camera gives you the illusion that the dream world is crumbling when the architect is removed. This technique was also used in Star Trek to make the viewer think the ship was really under attack and the hits they were taking were hard and devastating. These simple effects that were used in this dream world, gives one the illusion that in this dream world the architect can play god. The time structure was also altered to stress the altered and lengthened time lines in each dream, capitalizing on the elapsed time that is gain when traveling from dream into a dream.
This time ration was actually matched within each film sequence and speed, as all the dreams where not moving at the same speed, which is explained in the movie. So Pfister uses this multiplication of time to slow down reality and allowed the characters in a layered dream sequences to more time to accomplish their mission. This technique was also done with the sound as well, as the composer Hans Zimmer used the same song though out the movie but in each level of the dream, the music was slowed down. Nolan, 2010) This kind of scene matching is something Hans Zimmer is known for with his work in music. Zimmer also worked on Lion King as well. Using the same elements from the scenes and incorporating them into the sound. One of the other elements to his composing that is not seen in many other composers is that he tries not to match what will happen to the score. Meaning that he would lead the audience with the music, as a horror/suspense film would. A classic example would be Jaws and the known and anticipated “ ba… da… ba…da…ba da ba da aaaa!! ” He wants you to be truly surprised at how the scene plays out. So Zimmer plays a score that would enhance the scene but not give away the ending before it happens. In this way, the score and sound effects maintain the same non-linear form as the story line does. When dealing with dreams you cannot maintain a linear story line. This film had to utilize a non-linear storyline, keeping the audience wondering what is going to happen next. It creates in your own mind, more questions to add to the one you began with.
This constant “make you think” aspect of the film allows the audience to use their own imagination to fill in any blanks they might have, in collaboration with the psychological puzzle that is placed before you, you cannot help but be mesmerized by some of the breath taking visuals and non linear scenes. The main characters protagonist changes as your understanding of the film evolves. This adds a sense of confusion and leave room for debate, as you discuss this film with others. As the story unfolds you learn more and more about the psychological stress this man must be under.
The understanding of his psychological distress will later add to a greater understanding of what is and has transpired. This stress was something Leonardo DeCaprio adapted to very well, as did all of the actors in playing their parts rather well, considering some of them have a stigma about their abilities that has left them in comedies and dramas, being unable to broaden their horizons as an actor. The supporting actors in this movie provided more than simple time filling lines. They add as much to the story and plot as the main character, if not more at times.
The director, Christopher Nolan, is known for choosing talent that may not fall into the part but makes them have to work to enhance it. He chose actors that would fill the part, but they did so with a progression of their own style. For example one of the co-stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for his role on Third Rock from the Sun. (Turner, 1996) He is not known for playing an action star but within this film he is just that, an action, shooting the “bad guys,” saving the day, and even fighting in yet another “Fred Astaire” sequence with the rotating hallway.
The combinations that Nolan uses in this movie is a masterpiece in itself without the characters but it is the characters that define this movie. The main character of this movie is Dom Cobb. His character is played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Cobb is the Extractor in the dream field. He enters into other people’s dreams, plants an idea in the targets’ mind and then steals their secrets. Due to his previous experience in the dream field, he is hired to steal secrets from Saito; a business man that turns the tables on Cobb. Cobb finds out they want him to do “inception,” which is the planting of an idea in the target’s mind.
Cobb takes the job offer so hopefully one day he can go back to his family. DiCaprio heads out to find similar experienced people to form a team together. Once he finds the people he needs, they start coming up with ideas to plant in the targets’ mind. His team helpers include: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, Ellen Page as Ariadne, Tom Hardy as Eames, and Dileep Rao as Yusuf. As they start planting their ideas, Cobb’s dead wife Mallorie “Mal” Cob, played by Marion Cotillard, keeps interfering in the dreams. With her interfering, it is hard for Cobb to keep focus on what he is trying to do for his job.
All the characters play an extremely different roll from one another in the movie. They all have individual, special talents and different jobs to contribute to the planting of ideas. Page, who plays Ariadne, is the Architect. She is a graduate student who Cobb recruits to build the dream- scapes, which they call mazes. Her job is extremely important because she has to make sure every maze is precise. If not, everything could go wrong in the process of planting the idea in the targets’ mind. Levitt plays Arthur as Cobb’s Point Man.
His job is to be responsible for researching their targets. Rao is Yusuf, the Chemist. They need him to make the drugs needed to sustain the dream states. Without him, the rest of the team and their targets, could not go into the dream state. The last character to talk about is Hardy. He plays Eames, the Forger, Cobb’s associate. Hardy uses his ability to manipulate dreams. The connections that the characters have with each other are typical for a superior action movie, but Cobb and Mal’s relationship is why Inception stands apart from other action movie
The impact that Inceptions had on society was not as dramatic or frightening as some movies are, but it does show a darker side of the immense greed in this world and can make you wonder about the lengths that some people might go to, to obtain wealth or power, the boundaries the government will push to make them better then the enemy, or even the lengths one man might go for his family. These features of this film make it a very cerebral film. These make you think about how far you are willing to go to get what you want.
How much are you willing to put others lives in danger to acquire what you think it is you need? Do the ends justify the means when you are dealing with human lives? While others that have watched this film argue that the film itself is a metaphor for film-making and that the filmgoing experience itself, images flashing before one’s eyes in a darkened room, is akin to a dream. Jonah Lehrer also wrote in Wired that he supported this interpretation and presented neurological evidence that brain activity is strikingly similar during film-watching and sleeping.
In both, the visual cortex is highly active and the prefrontal cortex, which deals with logic, deliberate analysis, and self-awareness, is quiet. (Lehrer, 2010) Whereas Paul argued that the experience of going to a theater is itself an exercise in shared dreaming, particularly when viewing Inception: the film’s sharp cutting between scenes forces the viewer to create larger narrative arcs to stitch the pieces together. This demand of production parallel to consumption of the images, on the part of the audience is analogous to dreaming itself.
As in the film’s story, in a cinema one enters into the space of another’s dream, in this case Nolan’s, as with any work of art, one’s reading of it is ultimately influenced by one’s own subjective desires and subconscious. (Paul, 2010) I personally liked this film and was happy when I decided to review it. My take on this film was that the whole thing was but a dream within a dream, where the main character “Cobb” (played by Leonardo DeCaprio) (Nolan, 2010) is able to manipulate everyone in his entourage, except his wife.
He knew that Ariaden (played by Ellen Page) would return the next day even though you are led to believe that his wife killed herself, because she felt she was still in the dream. I feel she was still in a dream and was able to escape, while he is still trapped inside a dream thinking it is reality. Which he lost his grip on when she “killed herself” but his subconscious is using her to help him but at the same time, his logic and emotion is preventing him from seeing the truth and in the end he is blinded by it. It really is a lot to wrap your brain around when you just want to watch a ovie for entertainment value but it does have something for everyone, even if it is a little drawn out between climaxes but the overall premise behind the idea of Inception was wonderful and the fact that it made you think about the movie was quite refreshing. References Allers, R. &Hahn, D. (1994). The Lion King. United States: Walt Disney. Breznican, A. (2010). “With Inception, Chris Nolan’s head games continue. ” USA Today. Retrieved August 28, 2012. Donen, S. &Freed, A. (1951). Royal Wedding. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Goodykoontz, B & Jacobs, C. (2011).
Film: From Watching to Seeing. Retrieved from http://content. ashford. edu Lehrer, J. (2010). The Neuroscience of Inception. Wired, July 26, 2010. Retrieved August 28, 2012. Nolan, C. & Thomas, E. (2010). Inception. United States: Legendary Pictures. Paul, I. (2010). Desiring-Machines in American Cinema: What Inception tells us about our experience of reality and film. Senses of Cinema, Issue 56. Retrieved August 28, 2012. Spielberg, S. &Zanuck, R. (1975). Jaws. United States: Universal Pictures. Turner, B. & Turner, T. (1996). 3rd Rock from the Sun. United States: Carsey Werner Company.
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