‘The dream is real’
(Inception, Christopher Nolan, USA/UK, 2010, 148 minutes)
Ten years ago Christopher Nolan’s Memento perplexed audiences with its disordered style of storytelling. Inception makes the idea of memory and perception even more complicated. The film explores the multiple questions of life; what is real and how do we know it isn’t all just a big dream?
Dom Cobb, Leonardo DiCaprio, is a talented thief with a very rare ability. He works in the dangerous occupation of extraction; stealing valuable information from people when they’re most vulnerable – while they dream. His rare gift becomes his greatest curse when he’s wrongly accused of murder and becomes an international fugitive. Cobb has a reoccurring dream of his children playing in their garden, the fact he can’t see their faces is painful and torturous. So when he is approached to do one last job which promises to drop the charges and enable him to return home to what we are told is his real life, after some thought, he accepts. He recruits several gifted individuals to help him complete this extraordinary mission. They must perform the impossible task of inception; planting an idea in somebody’s head instead of stealing one. The team have to delve deep to complete something that’s never been done before. This particularly inception occurs in a dream within a dream within another dream. Cobb fails to inform the others that if they don’t complete inception they could all end up in Limbo, a place of raw infinite subconscious.
Ellen Page plays an intelligent, youthful, conscientious architect called Ariadne, who only wants to do what’s right. Dom Cobb’s father, played by Michael Cane, tells him that she’s even better at extraction than he is so he quickly takes his father’s word for it and hires her for the job. The audience question – why can’t he do it?
Ariadne proves how gifted she is when she dream shares with Cobb, an interesting concept Nolan brings to the screen; being able to occupy the same dream simultaneously. The street they walk on starts to fold up into a little box of infrastructure without disturbing the traffic or damaging any of the architecture. The pair is then able to vertically walk up the pavement. In this dream Cobb tries to embark his wisdom and knowledge on the young mind and tells her never to involve memories, if she does she could get confused between what is real and what isn’t.
This film is certainly one for the eyes and it convincingly presents the experience of a dream by cutting from sequence to sequence. It attempts to explore the difference being in the dream world and reality. In one particular scene Dom Cobb, pretends to be ‘Mr. Charles’ and informs Fisher that he’s dreaming. Here, he runs the risk of being hunted down by the projections in the dream, but he continues to pick out the aspects that make the dream feel strange. When the dreamer’s subconscious kicks in everything starts to tilt and go off balance. In reality you’d probably say ‘Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Is this real?’
The complexity and brilliance of the script took over ten years to put together. But being two and half hours in length it risks frustrating its audience and losing their attention. I did look at my watch a few times, and that’s always an indicator that I’m getting a little bored. I thought that the action scenes of gun fire and slow motion fighting in the corridors were a bit tedious. Is this an action movie or sci-fi? After this thought process I realised what Nolan was trying to do. In a dream we jump from one bizarre place to the next so that’s why, in Inception, one minute Cobb is stranded on a beach, the next he is being shot at. I guess the aim to portray a dream-like experience could also justify why there aren’t many disruptions to their plan, they do come across certain obstacles but seem to overcome these issues rather quickly.
So how do we know whether we’re dreaming or not? As Dom Cobb says in the film, it’s only when we wake up we know we’ve been in a dream. Each character in Inception has a totem; a small object they keep on them at all times to determine whether they’re dreaming or not. Cobb’s totem is a spinning top – if it continues to turn he knows what he sees isn’t real. The audience think about what they’d have as their totem.
Despite using similar themes to The Matrix, Inception concentrates more on the visual representation of a dream; Nolan wants the audience to consider how a dream feels and how it is built. Dreaming is all about control, if dreamers become aware of their state they come closer to planning where they’ll end up. Inception makes its audience think about life and the complexities of human existence, it shows how those who get trapped between what is real and what is imaginary suffer the consequences. Despite interweaving sequences together, the film’s plot wasn’t too complex but the audience is left with a few questions unanswered.