The Trouble with Quibbles: Inception

I must preface this quibble with two warnings: 1) This film is far too dense to truly quibble about in one go, so I’m sure there are things we’ve left out, gleaned over, or touched on far too briefly, which might lead to the first multi-part quibble. We’ll see. 2) There be yon spoilers, but not for a bit. So, even if you haven’t seen Inception, you can read on, to a point. I’ll warn you again when we get to spoiler territory. Seriously though, you should go see this film… a sci-fi thriller from the acclaimed director of The Dark Knight, The Prestige, and Memento… what more do you need?

With Inception, Christopher Nolan offers a cinematic breath of fresh air in a summer blockbuster season chock full o’ watered-down remakes, superfluous video games adaptations, bedazzled vampires, and formulaic tent-pole franchises. Nolan’s mind-bending thriller is a wonderfully original blend of action and intrigue. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of dream extractors, composed of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Dileep Rao, are presented with an even more challenging task than their typical dream extraction, planting an idea deep enough within a subjects subconscious that it redefines them.

After watching Inception I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t want to be in one of Christopher Nolan’s dreams. And I don’t know that I’d want him in one of mine either. I haven’t been so tense and anxious watching a movie since I saw No Country for Old Men.

BP: I think I know what you mean, but for me it wasn’t really an anxious feeling, it was more a feeling of being enveloped, consumed. There were 20 minutes or so near the end where the visual combined with the aural, especially the brilliant louder than my own thoughts score from Hans Zimmer, in such a way that I forgot where I was.

AS: Yeah, I was definitely consumed by the film. And not just the score, but all the sound. There was some crazy sound design going on. Those gun shots seemed much louder than normal. It reminded me of when Heat came out and the entire multiplex was filled with the sounds of the shoot-out at the end.

BP: I remember that I could hear Heat playing from the lobby of the theater, and this was like that I’m sure.

AS: With Inception the entire theater seemed to be shaking at times.

BP: I had the added luxury of 12,000 watts of IMAX sound and picture so you can imagine.

AS: I wasn’t just watching and listening to Inception… I could feel it. I can’t even imagine what seeing it in IMAX would be like, as overwhelmed as I was at the Vista, I feel like seeing it in IMAX would be on par with how they describe limbo in the film. I’d be lost.

BP: The film does nothing small, the sound is BIG, the picture is BIG, the acting is BIG, the ideas are BIGGER than BIG. But BIG in a good way. BIG in a visceral, shake you out of our movie-going stupor way.

AS: I don’t think “big” truly captures the sort of experience seeing this movie is, especially not the ideas. It’s massive. Nolan officially blew my mind. I could follow it, but I know I didn’t get everything.

BP: He’s done that before with Memento, but that was small. This time he blew our minds on a much bigger canvas. I agree with the general feeling of understanding, yet a greater feeling of missing all the small little details

AS: As much as I love Memento, it didn’t blow my mind… not like this, not to the point where I feel like I’m not smart enough for the film.

BP: I’ve been scouring the internet and chatting with co-workers for days trying to piece every little thing together and it’s exciting and headache-inducing at the same time

AS: Yeah, I’m going to need to see it a few more times. I’m probably going to have to read up on quantum physics/mechanics and whatnot as well.

BP: It is something that should totally be seen twice.

AS: At least.

BP: I will not pretend to be an expert after one viewing.

AS: I don’t think I have the patience to become an expert on this movie. I feel like I’d have to get a doctorate in Inception.

BP: But that is not a complaint, that is a good thing. More movies should inspire this much head-scratching and pondering

AS: Ok, we need to move on, cause there so much more to talk about.

BP: Well, I think any further discussion might need to be spoiler territory so before we get to that, is there anything negative you have to say about it.
Anything at all?
Some small quibble?

AS: Well, for one, the snow scene that seemed like a level from a James Bond video game… that was pretty random, and Ellen Page seemed really out-of-place.

BP: I bet there is some logic to it though.

AS: In that scene?

BP: To the snow level, not Page, like some reason we missed that it would be some hidden snow fortress, as opposed to say a beach.

AS: The whole thing kinda felt like a video game, not in a bad way.

BP: That level or the movie? I thought Page felt fine in that scene, by the way.

AS: Most of the movie… it seemed like a very advanced, complex video game, which kinda makes sense with the whole maze premise.

BP: I’ve heard all kinds of comparisons: The Matrix, video games, Bond etc., but I don’t think any of those do it justice. Even eXistenZ has some similar elements, but then not really the same.

AS: I’ve certainly never seen a video game near as complex as Inception, but it had that sort of vibe, with the levels and whatnot.

BP: Well, what that kind of comparison fails to highlight is my favorite part of the movie, and that is the idea of time inside dreams. I mean every other thing in the movie has been done a little bit here or there, but this idea of dream time is the thing that blew my mind the most and really took the movie to a whole new level.

AS: That’s not really a new idea, but I did like the way they brought it to the screen.

BP: Sure the idea that a whole big long dream can take only a few seconds is nothing new, but the idea that the further you go into your dreams the more stretched out time gets is something I’ve never thought of or seen visualized before. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the exposition heavy scenes, but I felt they were essential. The whole movie rushes at a sonic pace, so you have to sort of learn the rules on the fly, but I found that added to the excitement.

AS: I was fine with the exposition. It never really came off as heavy-handed to me.

BP: Me neither, in fact I only have two small critiques: 1) Watanabe’s accent made it a little hard to understand him in the beginning scenes, and 2) the scenes after the initial job, before we meet Page’s character, felt a little too clipped or rushed, but that might be deliberate depending on how you interpret the movie.

AS: I can see that.

BP: Well, shall we take this to the next level, SPOILER ZONE?

AS: I guess so.


BP: How would you interpret the ambiguous ending?

AS: Wow, straight for it, eh?

BP: Unless there was something else you had to comment on. Whatever you want man. Like I said, I’ve had more time than you to suss this film out and all I’ve done is gone in circles.

AS: Uh… how awesome Joseph Gordon-Levitt is…

BP: Very awesome, but if you don’t know that by now, you haven’t been keeping up on your indie movies. In fact, third complaint: I could have used more of him. Now we’re getting somewhere.

AS: Yeah, but more than his usual awesome self, he kicked some serious ass.

BP: Yes, yes he did. I would fully endorse any cast members from Inception being cast in any parts in Batman 3. In fact, I demand that Leo and Joseph play villains in Batman 3.

AS: Demand, eh? Who would Leo play?

BP: Don’t care. Killer Croc for all I care, so long as he’s in it. I think we all know by now that Nolan knows what he’s doing. In Nolan we trust.

AS: Yes… but no Killer Croc, please…

BP: I wonder if there is anyone else from 10 Things I Hate About You that Nolan can shoot into the spotlight

AS: Julia Stiles hasn’t done anything of note in a while… nor the Alex Mack girl.

BP: Alex Mack is… Catwoman! You heard it here first.

AS: I’d be interested in seeing David Krumholtz as a Batman villain.

BP: Dude, I almost did a spit take. Cut it out.

AS: What!?! David Krumholtz is… the Mad Hatter.

BP: Krumhotz is… Penguin! And the cast of 10 Things… goes down as the greatest young cast of all time. Back to the mind-bending at hand, I love the lack of a definitive villain in Inception. You know, there are man vs. nature stories, and man vs. man, but this one is the difficult man vs. self, literally. The most action-packed therapy session of all-time!

AS: Uh… yeah, but it helps when you have Marion Cotillard personifying your guilt.

BP: Exactly, she was kind of scary at times, like Freddy with nice gowns, a french accent, and boobs. Was anybody not awesome in the cast?

AS: I was not disappointed. This doesn’t feel like much of a quibble… We need to find something to argue about.

BP: Ummm… hmmmm… fuck you?

AS: Something in the movie… dick.

BP: How about the details?

AS: Which details?


BP: I’ve been trying to piece it together. So, they go into Leo’s dream, level 4 (crumbling building world). Some people have told me that level 4 is limbo, but I thought it was Leo’s dream.

AS: Was that Leo’s? I thought that was Page’s dream.

BP: When they get there Page says, “This is the world you made with Mal?” It was a dream they didn’t design before hand, Leo’s previous dream he created long ago with his wife, but here’s where I get lost: if Fisher is shot, he should go to limbo, but they find him in level 4 and if level 4 is limbo why is Fisher not old? BOOM!… SPLAT! (My head exploding.)

AS: Yeah… right there with you.

BP: And then how does Leo end up washed up on the beach? I think he drowns in level 1 and wakes up in water in limbo where Saito has been for years.

AS: I need to see it again… like, right now.

BP: And then you get to the teasing last shot where one might suppose the whole thing is a dream!!!!! I know these aren’t plot holes, and Nolan must have it all worked out, but until I can sit down and interview the man I just don’t know what to think and I love that. I love this perplexing feeling. It’s not frustration. The mind craves puzzles. I am thrilled someone hasn’t forgotten how much fun and challenging a movie can be.

AS: Nolan is one helluva architect… I feel like my subconscious projections would just end up crying in the fetal position.

BP: Too weak to fight off extractors, they just cry themselves to sleep, “Please leave my brain alone….Wahhhhhhh.”

AS: Too weak to deal with Nolan’s designs.


AS: ?

BP: How else do you spell loud horn blasts?

AS: Signifying what?

BP: It’s my Hans Zimmer impersonation. I thought it was rather obvious, duh.

AS: Well, it wasn’t. Fail.

BP: At least we disagree on something

AS: That’s a phrase I never thought I’d hear.

BP: Oh and Shutter Island/Inception… Best Double Feature Ever!!!!

AS: The Mind Fuck Double Feature Extravaganza!!!

BP: Your final judgment sir?

AS: Definitely an A…


17 responses to “The Trouble with Quibbles: Inception

  1. A. the fourth level is “limitless dream space” not limbo, Leo had to go back to limbo to save Saito (That’s what the interwebs says).

    B. Go back and watch the movie assuming Mal is right and Cobb had to kill himself one more time to get to reality…it works. Chris Nolan is SCARY.

    • Bryan Parrill

      I have since seen it a second time and now understand that “Limbo” and the “4th level” are one and the same. You can get there by dreaming 4 levels down or by dying under heavy sedation. Or so I think.

      This still doesn’t explain why fisher has not aged while in limbo/level 4.

      Are you suggesting that the end is real, but the whole movie is a dream or that the whole movie is a dream including the end?

      Damn it, I need to see it a third time I guess

  2. Essentially that the entire movie was a dream (including the ending). The idea being that cobb created the situation to free his guilt from not jumping with Mal (her, in said dream, being his subconscious manifestation of that guilt). His friends being his defenses and/or reflections of his psyche.

    • Bryan Parrill

      I can see that, but I’ve yet to commit to any concrete interpretation.

      • I can’t say with any certainty that I’ve commited to it either, I just like the idea. Every time I try to weigh any idea as right, there is evidence that goes against that idea, which is why this movie is so intriguingly good to me.

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  5. When remarking on the snow level, and how it felt like a video game, my friend and I theorized that since dreams make it possible for you to do things that you can’t normally do, like do incredible jumps on jetskis, kill off an entire army, it stands to reason that the scene should seem unbelievable.

    It would also stand to reason, that you two may compare it to a video game, because that may be what you are most familiar with, in regards to killing mass armies by yourself.

    • I can’t speak for Bryan, but since he has kids I’m sure he’s in the same boat, I don’t have nearly as much time as I used to for killing mass armies by myself in any form but video games. Mass genocide takes up so much time and it takes a lot out of you. I can’t even find time to make it to the gym.

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