Inception (2010) Mini-Review

Cobb is a master dream extractor. His job, for years, has been to steal innermost secrets, corporate or otherwise, by entering the target persons dreams.

Cobb, unable to be with his kids, gets one final chance to return to them as the reward for doing inception, which — as opposed to extraction — means planting an idea, instead of stealing one.

Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins), has made an extremely interesting movie worth discussing. Which I can’t do without spoiling it. Which is why you should stop reading, if you haven’t already seen the film.

What The Hell

Like all other recent movies, at 2,5 hours Inception is simply too long. Unlike The Dark Knight, however, it’s not way too long. No doubt this is due to the intensity of both the subject matter and the action on screen. You’ll be entertained for the duration, even if you don’t get what’s going on. Which brings me to the crux of this review.

This film is complex. And I don’t mean complex like installing iTunes on Windows without the bloatware. I mean complex like trying to solve a 50x50x50 Rubiks cube blindfolded. There’s layer upon layer upon layer of intentional confusion. So much that it becomes clear in hindsight that Nolan wants to be ambiguous. It’s likely you’ll leave the theater not knowing exactly what happened.

Which is what I want to give a shot at explaining. Second spoiler warning.

Planting An Idea

We learn at one point, that planting an idea in someones mind, is like a planting a virus. This idea can grow and grow until it defines your life. We learn at the end that Cobb planted an idea in his own wife, the idea that you can’t be sure the world is real. Well the idea grew in his wife until she killed herself, thinking she’d wake up. The idea came to also define Cobbs life, as it left him maniacally checking his spinning top for proof that he’s awake (if it spins eternally it means he’s dreaming). Letting go of this doubt becomes the subtext of the film and comes to fruition right at the end, where Cobb — returned to his kids — starts the top spinning. Before verifying whether he’s in a dream or not, his kids distract him, and as he walks towards them, he walks away from the still-spinning top. As the film cuts to black before we see the top fall over, the audience is left wondering whether he was really dreaming or not. All we know for sure is that Cobb did learn to let go. His journey is complete. Whether he’s dreaming or not.

This is where Nolan really bugs me. He could have easily made the ending less ambiguous. He even dropped hints — mindtraps — early on that started me down a completely different path.

Remember when Ken Watanabes character says the word “Inception” the first time? I thought I had it there; that Leos character was in fact dreaming… that the inception was actually targeted at Cobb. Perhaps he’s stuck in Limbo and his real world wife and kids were trying to wake him up — the entire film being a metaphor for saving Cobb from Limbo.

Incidentally, I don’t think Cobb was dreaming. The kids wore sligthly different clothes, and looked a tad older.

The bottomline is, Nolan really bugged me with this one, but even so, the watchability and craftmanship of this film is undeniable. The music is good, the effects are unquestionably real-looking, and the acting is superb. Even though I want to, I can’t get myself to give this annoying film a bad rating. Inception is mindboggling.




14 thoughts on “Inception (2010) Mini-Review”

  1. Spoiler:

    Mind how he wakes up in the plane and see how while he doesn’t accept a immigration form, he still hands one over to the man at the desk, just before he sees his dad again…

    It’s less ambiguous that you think 🙂

    1. Joen says:

      Mind how he wakes up in the plane and see how while he doesn’t accept a immigration form, he still hands one over to the man at the desk, just before he sees his dad again…

      Oh you have to elaborate on this one! We’re through the looking glass, spoiler wise, so just let loose.

    2. Barney Scott says:

      It was an entertaining and interesting film, one of the better ones that I have seen this year. However what grated when I left the cinema was the complete lack of regard for the rules they had defined for the dream state when the film entered it’s climax.

      What i mean is that two fundamental axioms had been set up:
      1: That you can’t just wake yourself up, however much you want.
      2: When you are “kicked” you are woken up however much you want to stay in the dream.
      The fact that all of them could seemingly ignore the kicks between the levels and purposefully wake themselves up when no kick was present broke the immersion for me.

      Additionally the timing was completely off between the levels, from the van to the hotel seemed ok but the hotel to the snow set was closer to a 1:1 mapping.

      Spoiler:Mind how he wakes up in the plane and see how while he doesn’t accept a immigration form, he still hands one over to the man at the desk, just before he sees his dad again…It’s less ambiguous that you think 🙂

      I hadn’t noticed that, it certainly puts a different spin on the ending.

  2. Also, “Dom Cobb” sounds suspiciously like “dom kop” in Dutch. Which translates as “dumb head” or “dumb-ass/dumbo”.

  3. Joen says:

    Guys. You really need to explain to me how his waking up on the plane and how that immigration form changes things. I’m not following you!

  4. Barney Scott says:

    What I assumed he meant was that after they had all woken up on the plane and the air hostess comes round with the immigration forms Cobb waves her off and doesn’t take one. Then when he gets to immigration control he hands over a completed form.
    I can’t remember the scene clearly enough to say for sure that he waved off the form, if he did then it’s either a continuity bug or a subtle hint referencing the point made earlier in the film about dreams not necessarily being consistent.

    1. Joen says:

      Barney Scott,

      Oh, so maybe he was dreaming after all. Interesting. Gotta see it again.

  5. Kristian says:

    You should remember that the spinning top is a red herring.
    It’s specifically said that the totem is personal and only useful for the person who developed it/thought it up.
    Also, from the concept, it logically follows a totem will only tell you if you are in someone ELSE’S dream. The idea is someone else doesn’t know the trick or idiosyncracies of your totem – only you do. So someone else dreaming it would get it wrong.
    In your own dream you’d know how it should behave, so it wouldn’t actually tell you anything you didn’t already know.

    Thus, the top spinning at the end is just a red herring – the only information of value would be if it keeps spinning infinitely, which of course is imposible to show in a finite movie.

    Also while the kids at the end WERE different and dressed slightly differently (according to the costume director), they were similar enough, and shown in the same poses as before, that Nolan obviously intends the ending to be ambiguous and not one or the other.

    Lastly, consider that there are things in what we are led to believe is the real world, that point to it being at least one dream down…
    For instance the walls closing around Dom while fleeing the corporate goons, whilst Saito shows up at a suspicously fortunate time – have none of you had that dream? 🙂

    There’s also the scene with Mal’s suicide – she’s sitting opposite their hotel room which just struck me as ODD. Did she jump over there? Rent the room across from the room they rented together? It seems like one of those dream-situations that make sense until you wake up and you go “Wait, why did the unicorn need the corncobs painted green? THAT MAKES NO SENSE”.

    The story as an allegory for movie making was very satisfactory, though. I kinda liked the difference in how Nolan sees investing your personality in a movie compared to how many other directors view it. 🙂

    1. Joen says:


      Well that’s the most insightful comment I’ve read yet.

      Now that you mention it, I do remember the details of his, or should I say her totem. I’d forgotten that, I guess the red herring worked.

      I also, in the moment of it, thought why is she on the other ledge? Well technically Cobb’d be able to stop her from falling was she on the same ledge, but how did she get there?

      I have to say, the allegory for movie making appeals to me as well. Cobb is not dreaming; he’s a fictional character in a movie, and this is a dream he can’t wake up from.

  6. Hans-Henrik says:

    About that hotel room:

    Why is the room trashed, like after a big row? Did Mal do this herself before Cobb arrives? This makes no sense.

    Unless, Mal isn’t dead at all.

    If we say that Cobb is dreaming all through the movie (several places in the movie seems to suggest this), she might have left him.

    At one point in Limbo Mal says that Cobb promised her they’d grow old together. If Cobb is dreaming, it is he who says this. And this could just as easily be a lover’s regret: “How can you not love me anymore? You said we’d grow old together”.

    The mess in the hotel room, the glass that breaks every time we see the room, Mal’s violent temper might be the remains of this row that ended the marriage.

    To Cobb, at least in his dream, the pain is just as great as if Mal died. He dreams that they grow old together in Limbo. But in the end he realizes that she is gone.

  7. Hans-Henrik says:

    Another thing:

    In Limbo, Cobb tells Mal that he knows she is his creation; but it is this creation that questions the mystery corporation and all the faceless men chasing Cobb.

    Which of course means that Cobb himself questions these things.

  8. Ina Franks says:

    Barney Scott, Oh, so maybe he was dreaming after all. Interesting. Gotta see it again.

  9. Habbit says:

    Short movies are for idiots, therefore the writer of this post is an idiot.

    1. Joen says:

      Short movies are for idiots, therefore the writer of this post is an idiot.

      What about short comments?

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