Saturday, July 31, 2010

Inception Discussion – ‘Spoiler Warning’

Inception is the new film by Christopher Nolan, who also directed of Dark Knight, The Prestige, and Memento. This new film has sparked many debates amongst the general populace, on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. These Discussions all deal with the same thing, the end, dream or reality. With so much discussion already, one wonders why you would need another blog, tweet or status update. I would say one does not need one, but then again I am one of the very few who I know that believe the end was real. So I would just like to see if I can convince a few people otherwise.

Let’s be clear, no one can understand or argue anything for or against the film Inception until you understand the rules of the world in which it’s based. They are few but they are very important.
So let’s begin with the basics…


Nolan’s Characters throw about some pretty fancy math when they begin planning the Inception but all of it trivial. All you need to really know are the basic concepts:
The dream within a dream process puts you into a deeper state of sleeping and thus also dreaming. The deeper you go, the further removed your mind is from reality. We all know what that’s like: the deeper you sleep, the harder it is to be woken up and the more vivid and real-feeling a dream becomes. If you’re in a deep enough sleep, not even the usual physical cues to wake up effect you, such as the sensation of falling (“the kick”) or even, say, having to go to the bathroom.

2.       DREAM TIME
Time is the other factor. The deeper you go into a dream state (according to this film), the faster your mind is able to imagine and perceive things within that dream state. We’re told the increase is exponential, so going deeper into dreams turns minutes into hours, into days, into years. This is why Cobb and his team are able to pull off the Fischer job while the van is still falling through the air, before the soldiers break into the snow fortress, before Arthur rigs the elevator, and all within the span of a flight from Sydney Australia to LA lasting a total of ten hours.


THE EXTRACTORThe extractor is a master con man, a person who knows how to manipulate a dreaming subject into revealing their deepest mental secrets. At heart, an extractor is a classic con man – he creates a false set of circumstances that manipulate the mark into revealing his secrets. Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) only knows how to literally do his work on a subconscious level. Fancy premise aside though, the extractor (as I said) is basically your classic con man.

THE ARCHITECTThe architect, Araidne, (Personally the best name for any character in a film) is the designer of the dream constructs, i.e. cities, buildings interiors and exteriors, into which an extractor brings a “subject”. They create the “levels” within a dream, complete with all the aesthetic and tactile details to perfection. The subject is brought into that dream construct and fills it with details from their own subconscious (Secrets are kept somewhere secure Banks, safes or ‘Fortress) and memories, which convince the subject that the dream the architect built is real – or at the very least, is the subjects own dream.

THE FORGER – As in “forgery,” Eames (Tom Hardy) is a master of imitating people’s handwriting, mannerisms – and in the dream world, even their very appearance.  This is the key to Cobb’s plan.

MAL (SHADOW) – Mal is the character who plays a major role in Cobb’s emotional journey, but she also serves as a problem. Mal is Cobb’s manifested guilt as a subconscious projection and therefore she is aggressive and violent whenever Cobb enters the dream world, primarily she makes it her job to ruin Cobb's jobs and even kill him and his associates such as Arthur.

4.       THE DREAMER
The architect and the dreamer are not always the same person. The architect designs the dream world and can then teach that maze to a separate dreamer. The dreamer is the person whose mind actually houses the dream and it is the dreamer’s mind that the subject is ultimately brought into in order to be conned by the extractor. The dreamer allows the subject to fill their mind with the subject’s subconscious, and unless the dreamer maintains the stability of the dream, the subject’s subconscious will realize it’s been invaded by foreign mind(s) and will try to locate and eliminate the dreamer to free itself.
The dreamers become difficult to identify once the Job begins, but it’s actually simple the last one awake within the dream level is the dreamer. But for those who can’t remember:

The Rainy City – Yusuf, chemist (Dileep Rao) is dreaming this level
The Hotel – Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is dreaming this level.
The Snow Fortress – Eames (Tom hardy) is dreaming this level.
LimboUnconstructed dream space or something of that description, no dreamer.

Well, now with that out of the way and we are all on level playing ground (You are free to disagree with any of my interpretations of the dream world rules) we can get to the good part, the part that’s cause all the commotion, the end and who is really dreaming. I have heard and read many facts, theories and interpretations for both sides, dream or reality. I will hope to argue both sides, and in doing so you might even see and believe that the end is reality.

From the moment Cobb and Saito wake from the job, there is no more dialogue between the characters and few shots or images that would concretely explain or prove one interpretation. Is Cobb still dreaming and his team and family (and maybe Saito) are all projections? Or is it the job completed, everyone is back in reality and everything is happily ever after? 

Well I think we all can agree that before we can argue a case for either side, reality or dream, we must decide on one reality (not this nonsense that the entire film is a dream world, ‘nothing will come of nothing’ you crazy people) So if you will agree with me I believe that the original reality, believing there is one, is the one Arthur and Cobb awaken to on the train, the same reality in which Dobb accepts the mission of Inception from Saito and the very same reality in which he recruits Araidne and Eames and plans the job. (Feel free to disagree)

If you do agree then we can get down to the few pieces of “evidence” that we can certainly argue. The following points are questions found on the internet regarding various questionable aspects of the film from various sites and issues/details I raise myself about the film in order to argue, dream or reality? 

·         THE DEAL - Was Saito truly powerful enough to make one phone call and end Cobb’s problems or was that just Cobb in limbo projecting his subconscious wish to go home? You can argue logistics all you want, but I believe if it’s said that Saito is a powerful and wealthy man and bought an entire airline on a whim (Which is done in our agreed reality and not dream world), then there’s reason enough to infer that he could bend the legal system for Cobb. Rich powerful people bend laws all the time all it takes is money which he shows us he has a lot of if you can just buy an airline.  

·         WHERE AM I? – Early in the film, when Cobb and Araidne are in a dream; Cobb says to Araidne ‘’ You always end up in the middle of events but can’t quite remember how you got there’’. Now I have brought this up for a perfectly valid reason. You see when people discuss the end of Inception they narrow their vision to simply the scene in the house with the two children and the Spinning top (Which I will address later). However they forget that if the house scene was a dream, if the children weren’t really there and the spinning top never stopped then how come we know how Cobb got there, it’s an inconsistency. Araidne couldn’t remember how she got to the Café, but Cobb came from the airport picked up by his dad Miles, remember?

·         THE PICKUP - Did Cobb’s father (Michael Caine) arrange to meet him at the airport or is he there because he’s Cobb’s projection? I’ve heard this argument and it’s pretty weak or you’re just reading too much into it. There is a phone on the plane Cobb could of call from, but more importantly Cobb and his team spent 3-6 months (If I remember correctly) planning an intricate heist of planting an idea in someone’s head via a series of dream levels so Saito could arrange for him to get back into America  . So arranging for airport pickup would probably be on the to-do list.

·         TILL DEATH DO US PART - In early dream scenes Cobb is wearing a wedding band that doesn’t appear in the “real world” scenes or the end scenes in the airport – does that mean the ending is “reality?” I believe that this fact is a strong indication that  a real world and that Cobb does live in it at times – such as when he isn’t wearing a wedding band.

·         TOTEM DOES IS AS TOTEM DOES - Does the fact that Cobb uses Mal’s totem mean It’s ruined and doesn’t work as a totem and therefore he never knows if he’s in reality or not? Crazy people, you cannot possibly know the answer to that question as it isn’t hinted or mentioned anywhere in the film that it possibly could happen. But I will justify it with an opinion in the form of an answer; the only people who know the weight and feel of that totem (Spinning Top) are Mal and Cobb, and since Mal is dead, Cobb is the only one left who knows the totem’s tactile details. So yes, he could certainly use it as a measure of reality, the totem was not “ruined” by him using it.

·         SPOT THE DIFFERENCE – This is definitely one of my favourite facts to prove my case, so listen up. At the end of the film Cobb’s kids seem to be the same age and are seemingly wearing the same clothes as they were in his memory (dream) of them – is it “proof” he’s still dreaming? Well for those of you who were paying close attention (And few of you there were) the end of the film Cobb’s kids are wearing similar outfits to the ones he remembers in his dream of memories, but their shoes are different. As for their ages: if you check IMDB, of course not that you would, there are actually two set of actors credited with playing Cobb’s kids. The daughter, Phillipa, is credited as being both 3 and 5 years old, while the son, James, is credited as being both 20 months and 3 years old. Which validates the 2 year gap Dom Cobb has been on the run from the law, while it might be subtle, there is a difference between the kids in Cobb’s memories and the kids Cobb comes home to. That would suggest the homecoming is in fact “reality”. Inception - IMDB

·         LIMBO, LIMBO, LIMBO! – Another argument I have seen is ‘Limbo’ (earlier explained as unconstructed dream space). People pose the question ‘’how did Dom and Saito get out of Limbo?’’. I find this sort of silly a question, as it is explained clear enough in the Dom and Mal train death scene. You kill yourself, simples! The problem with Limbo is you don’t know you’re in Limbo (Dreaming). Thus the place feels real even if it looks bizarre, to you it feels real and so you are very unlikely to commit suicide if you feel you are alive in reality. We know this because Dom had to go through the trouble of inception just to convince Mal they were in limbo (The spinning top in the safe). But they had no gun like Dom did at the end with Saito and so they used a train. The dialogue we hear with Saito and Dom is what reminds each other they are dreaming. "You remind me of someone... a man I met in a half-remembered dream. He was possessed of some radical notions." - Saito

·         THE TOTEM (SPINNING TOP) - Will the spinning top keep spinning or was it about to fall over just before Nolan cut to black? ‘’Sorry, we will never know for sure.’’ Not much of answer so here is my opinion.  For those of you who paid close attention the spinning top was talked about quite often, the most important discussion (Which took place in our agreed upon reality) was between Araidne and Cobb. Cobb said that when the Totem was spun it would slow down and fall over eventually, but in the dream world it would spin endlessly. He specifically uses the words ‘‘perpetual’’ and ‘’never falter’’ which means to say the Totem/Spinning top will continue to spin without wobbling, moving or even a shift of weight on any axes. At the beginning of the film, after the first job Cobb’s team tries to pull on Saito, we see Cobb sitting in his hotel room alone, spinning the top and watching it intently, gun in hand, ready to blow his brains out at the first sign of perpetual spinning, in order to “wake himself up.”.

But even still, even though I feel I have put up a top notch argument, each of us will take away a guess of some kind – But that’s the whole point of that final shot isn’t?

I hope you have found my analysis entertaining if not convincing. I believe I have covered a lot of the possible arguments one can make for the ending and the overall films nature. If there is anything I might have over looked or a different angle to which one can approach this film please do comment. I believe Dom made it back to reality and made it home to his children, do you?

‘’You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling’’ – Eames


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