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The Conversation: Inception


Sequels. Three dimensions. Explosions. These are the things typical summer movies are made of, and precisely the things Inception is not made of (OK, it does have some explosions). And yet the definitively atypical summer flick is the movie event of the season, spending two weeks at the No. 1 grossing position and inciting deep discussion over its nuances and story points. What is Inception all about? Here to discuss are Press Editors Brad Pareso and Michael Patrick Nelson, and Dylan Skolnick, co-director of Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre. (CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD!)


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Brad

I’ve been watching trailers for Inception since as far back as I can remember, and the combo of the cast and director is straight out of my dreams (pun intended). My expectations were incredibly high, and the movie exceeded every single one of them.

Dylan

It’s a dazzling movie. At a time when most Hollywood films are sequels, or just seem like sequels, and feel like they are made by a committee of businessmen, it’s great to see a challenging work by a real filmmaker. There are a lot of fun mind-twisting levels to the movie, but what I ultimately loved was the core story of death, guilt, and loss. While there are plenty of entertaining elements, it was these powerful and resonant emotions that made Inception worth watching.

Mike

Man, I hate to disagree with you guys (that’s not true—I love to disagree with you guys), but I was really disappointed by Inception. To me, it felt awfully cluttered and confusing, and pointlessly so. Worst of all, for a movie ostensibly about dreams, what I saw in Inception didn’t remind me of any dreams I’ve ever had. Partly, I guess, because my dreams don’t look like action movies. As for the themes of loss and guilt, I was too busy trying to work out the seemingly arbitrary “rules” of dreaming to be moved by anything else.

Brad

You’re not alone with that criticism—I think two or three other people on Earth disliked it, too. I actually thought the movie was surprisingly not confusing, considering the world it creates. As far-fetched as the idea of entering someone else’s dreams is, the way it’s presented here comes off as plausible. I don’t see where confusion would set in until maybe the final scene, but all that does is open the entire film to interpretation.

Dylan

My dreams are much more mundane, which is why I’m glad Inception didn’t remind me of them. And I didn’t spend any time worrying about the “rules.” The film’s highly entertaining dreams are just a door into the very real and heartbreaking memories DiCaprio’s character is trying to escape from.

Mike

Dylan, your dreams may be more mundane, but I’d also bet they’re a lot more colorful and less predictable than what we saw in Inception. I truly enjoy movies that take place in the subconscious—I’m thinking of Linklater’s Waking Life, Bunuel’s Belle du Jour, almost everything by David Lynch—but Nolan’s vision was too high-octane action-oriented for me to feel any emotional investment. As for it being confusing, there was a lot of time-and-space “logic” introduced at a very rapid pace, and I had trouble keeping up with the applications of that logic along with the actions of the many characters involved. At some point I stopped wondering why certain things were occurring—going with the flow, I guess—and just waited for it to end.

Brad

So you found yourself unimpressed and waiting for Inception to end but were on the edge of your seat for a movie about a housewife who doubles as a prostitute. Given your proclivity for films with anything French (although Inception did have Marion Cotillard) and knowing you found Inception confusing, I’d say this just isn’t your film. But as I, Dylan and hundreds of critics can attest, it’s a phenomenal film. C’est magnifique, you might say.

Dylan

Hold on there, Brad! Don’t go insulting those of us who love French movies about housewives who double as prostitutes! One of the cool things about Inception is that it cuts across the high art/low trash divide, and has provoked debate among all kinds of critics and moviegoers. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it film. The strong arguments Inception inspires (like this one) attest to the film’s strong and distinctive nature, as opposed to the bland pablum many moviegoers often swallow without a second thought (or a first one).

Mike

Agreed. Inception didn’t work for me, but at least it aspired to be something big and different. Ultimately, the cinema would be a much better place if more filmmakers shot for such targets, even if they missed the mark more frequently than not.

Brad

I think what makes it all the more surprising is that, in an age of bankrupt studios (MGM—where’s my new James Bond?!) and four Shrek movies, Inception was even made, and released in summer. I know Nolan is a proven director at this point, but this is a high-concept film that cost a rumored $160 million with a relatively unknown cast. I’m impressed it got the green light.

Dylan

Well, he did make The Dark Knight. After making a record-breaking hit is one of the rare moments when a filmmaker gets close to a blank check. Still, it’s nice that he decided to use that check for something cool.

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