Jul 17, 2010

Inception

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Christopher Nolan's filmmaking at once evolves and regresses with Inception, a theoretically impressive, purportedly mindbending undertaking that unfortunately remains surface-bound in its chosen philosophical considerations. Not entirely unlike the justified non-subtlety of The Dark Knight (in which every boiled-over emotion and exaggerated thematic exposition functioned as part of an often-exquisite metaphorical examination of crumbling morality), Inception approaches its dreamworld landscapes with the apparent assumption that we, the audience, will require constant SparkNotes updates to remain in the know on what's transpiring moment to moment. Inception lacks a beating heart to ground its conceptually loaded proceedings with something more than sometimes-cool noirish imagery. Nolan's technical expertise is a given, but for as viscerally enthralling as his films often are, they can just as easily slip into the realm of the impersonal affectations. By taking unnecessarily painstaking efforts to reiterate its labyrinthine sci-fi rules and psychological mumbo jumbo ad nausea, Inception nearly gorges itself to death on its own ambitions.

More than those of any other Nolan film, Inception's characters tend to function less like actual people than as ciphers for overwrought screenwriting, so while the cast entire stands as more than capable (DiCaprio seems to have walked right off the set of Shutter Island with but a few tweaks of character needed), one can't escape the saddening impression that they're little more than non-playable characters in a big screen videogame. The storytelling here wouldn't be out of place in Halo or Resident Evil, and while the resultant hand-holding is less outright condescending than it is narratively tiresome, it nevertheless exacerbates what is otherwise an intellectual and visceral slog punctuated only sporadically by bits of nifty storytelling and the occasional moment of eye-popping imagery. Trying his hand at the sci-fi existentialism genre with nearly unrivaled audacity (The Matrix, Dark City and even 2001 are recalled throughout Inception's hulking mass), Nolan's story concerns professional infiltrators who enter people's minds through their dreams so as to steal ("extraction") or plant ("inception") ideas, the latter being far more challenging. Briefly recalling Inland Empire, these dreamscapes give way to deeper levels of subconsciousness, but look for no rabbits here: accurately reflective of dreams or not, Inception is essentially about psychological manipulation via your own cranially implanted videogame.

When it comes to stealing ideas, corporate agent Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best of his kind, a skill learned in part through a deep personal loss he once endured as a byproduct of such unnatural dream meanderings. The results of that tragedy now drive his efforts to plant (incept?) an anti-monopolistic motive in the head of a young business titan (Cillian Murphy), the success of which will earn his freedom to return to the life he once knew. As a character study, Inception flounders, and while its spectacle-heavy slant sometimes yields mind-blowing effects, the overwhelming effect is that of misdirected energy and lost potential. Occasionally, such as during the film's centerpiece heist sequence (a bold storytelling juggling act that revolves around a vehicle's time in freefall), Inception's many parts cohere into something both viscerally and intellectually intoxicating (the most intriguing moments concern Joseph-Gordon Levitt's attempts to induce gravity in a zero gravity environment).

Alas, the effect is enthralling in the moment but more so does it illuminate the frustratingly schematic storytelling otherwise being employed. For a film about dreams, Nolan's images play it relatively safe, avoiding surrealism like the plague and frequently neutering any accruing sense of visual wonder (an invocation of M.C. Escher's "Ascending and Descending" turns sour when the visual trick is rendered obvious for the sake of the literal-minded groundlings in the audience), while the seemingly endless scientific exposition amounts to little more than high-minded, metaphysical heavy lifting wanting for a more fitting emotional context in which to flourish. Certainly admirable for its ambition alone, Inception nevertheless only goes halfway in its aspirations of greatness, the successes routinely, tragically undercut by misguided and unnecessarily overt attempts at narrative clarity. Dead weight and needless redundancy plummets the proceedings; Nolan should've expected a bigger leap of faith from his audience.

Directed by: Christopher Nolan Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine 2010, PG-13, 148 minutes

114 comments:

  1. I agree with you that this movie had too much exposition. It might have been titled 'Exposition: The Movie'. To be fair though, nothing wrong with Matrixy videogame antics. Most people, as myself, like that element.

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  2. The movie is brilliant and is itself what is described in the movie as the most powerful parasite: an idea. The film makes graspable a possibility that exists as mostly theory for anyone knowledgeable about the deeper realizations of the subconscious, and the nature of consciousness itself. This film will set in motion a revolution in the ways that humans create reality through our innate potential to manifest our infinite capacity to create, not just in the physical, but to create realms of awareness surpassing even the most vivid imaginative explorations of all past pioneers into the nature of consciousness itself. A work of staggering insight and genius.

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  3. Anonymous3:22 PM

    It sounds like you are being controversial for the sake of being controversial.

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  4. Your article is really well written, but that's about it. You use your review as a vehicle for your amazing vocabulary, but there's no substance. Maybe if you could use your amazing brain thesaurus to find some synonyms for positivity, you would have been able to write an appropriate review.

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  5. Geeeoff: Actually, my feelings are that my vocabulary is extremely lacking. When I see a movie I like sufficiently, don't worry, I'll break out of the positive lingo.

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  6. Anonymous5:37 PM

    And if there wasn't enough exposition the audience would have been completely lost. You failed to recognize the difficult balance Nolan struck in that regard. Rather you knocked him down for trying to let us in on what may as well be one of the more ambitious story lines ever put on screen. You may not need the hand holding but your ignorant to the strategic delivery of a high-budget Hollywood production. If nobody gets the film, then what's the point? your review would have been completely different if the film was less explanatory. Then you would have called it "a cacophony of shattered approximate, thoughts that may have once been intelligible but ultimately failed in it's delivery of a cohesive, articulate blah, blah, blah" Because only you would say "cacophony".I think you're a pedantic downer. Inception is great, great cinema. It's great storytelling. It was such a good movie and I would guess that based on the fact that you didn't like this movie, you must also be a huge fan of the Spin Doctors and Collective Soul. I'll let you figure out what that means.

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  7. Anonymous6:08 PM

    I agree with your review.

    SPOILERS BELOW

    My major issue with the film is that there seem to be major holes in the logic of the universe Nolan has created. We are told that the characters are in danger of being stuck in limbo forever if they die, but are shown that Cobb and his wife escape limbo simply by killing themselves.

    Cob and Saito are in Limbo, but it is not shown explicitly how they get out... we are left to infer that they shoot themselves with the gun, but if exiting limbo is as easy as all that, why is the threat of eternally being trapped in limbo what drives the urgency of the entire film?

    What did Cobb's wife “keep locked away to herself” in the doll house in her childhood home in limbo? This is not explained.

    Finally, the ending: I personally find ambiguous "let the viewer sort it out" endings annoying. Would the top have fallen over? It wobbled, then cut to black. It is strongly implied that Cobb is in fact just in another dream. If that is the case, all logic/rules etc etc do not apply because (cue eerie, overly-dramatic voice) it was all a dreaaaaaam! If the cut was to give the viewer an out to reject that Cobb is in a dream, I still call it a hack move.

    For all the exposition in the film, the rules are not firm enough or clear enough, and the ending feels like a cop-out.

    That said, the visuals were beautiful, the acting was good (how could it not have been with that cast?), and the film broaches some truly interesting concepts... which makes it all the more disappointing.

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  8. I'd rather read a well-written negative review than watch an overhyped mediocre movie.

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  9. Anonymous6:52 PM

    If you feel that your vocabulary is extremely lacking, then perhaps a subconscious desire to boost your ego is what's driving your arrogant review.

    In essence, you are saying that you were just too smart for the movie, and that it would have been better if Nolan had "dumbed it down" for the masses.

    In reality, I believe that you missed many of the ambiguities because you simply failed to recognize them.

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  10. Anonymous7:00 PM

    What a load of horse shit, Jack. If it's "a work of staggering insight and genius" tell us how. It's not enough to merely say it. A revolution? From a mildly decent, action movie? Ha!

    Back to school, boyo.

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  11. Anonymous 5:00 pm: "In essence, you are saying that you were too smart for the movie, and that it would have been better if Nolan had "dumbed it down" for the masses."

    This sentence is one of the more contradictory things I've read of late. Let me illustrate:

    "Inception approaches its dreamworld landscapes with the apparent assumption that we, the audience, will require constant SparkNotes updates to remain in the know on what's transpiring."

    Now, where in this statement do I suggest that the movie is too complex? Or where else in the review? Examples help. In the meantime, I'll continue to review because I love movies and I'll continue to read to expand my vocabulary.

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  12. Anonymous9:26 PM

    you obviously have a complete misunderstanding of the film's aesthetics... criticizing a work of science fiction for not having a certain fidelity to whatever abstract notions of the ontology of dreaming that you personally prescribe too is an utterly self indulgent analysis....surrealism and science fiction are two completely different forms of address...your essentially criticizing an apple for not being an orange

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  13. kaduzy10:45 PM

    You're obviously an intelligent person. I think very smart people often forget how dumb and slow everyone else is. Movies have to gear themselves to the lowest common denominator or else most people leave scratching their heads. Remember how many people didn't get the plot of the first (and best) "Mission: Impossible" movie? If things aren't spelled out, the movie fails. I'd bet anything the studio made Nolan put in more exposition from his first script draft. Just think back on every foreign movie you've ever seen. The subtitles are always there like 40 seconds longer than it takes you to read them, right? That's for the slow readers. Just cut Nolan some slack. If he had made it any more complex, it would have been an "art-house" movie. Mass entertainment MUST be comprehensible by the masses, and the masses are massively dumb.

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  14. Anonymous11:13 PM

    Ah...Inception. It's obvious that Nolan was aiming to cram the best cast, the best visual effects, and the most interesting concepts imaginable into this movie.

    But, at the end of this film, I actually preferred the dream-state ideas presented in the film to the film itself. I think one of the major qualms I had with the movie was the "pulse-pounding" soundtrack that repeatedly blares the music at the audience whenever a "action-sequence" is about to take place. Nothing even remotely subtle there, and I don't recall much variation in the music either. Guess one signature tune was enough for them.

    And yes, I (as well as a host of other people) noticed that Leonardo plays this role as though he were still acting for "Shutter Island" (with the dead wife, and the kids, and the 'is it real?' moments).

    In the end, I have to say that "Inception" certainly aims to entertain the audience during it's runtime. I was sucked in for most of the film, waiting to see when all the dreams would converge or collapse into a coherent conclusion. No such luck there. The conclusion leaves little to *gasp* about, and I felt the same disappointment I felt at the end of "Shutter Island". All that build up and potential wasted on a quick cop-out. It's a shame.

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  15. this was an absolutely fantastic movie. it had everything. it was thrilling, mindbending, and emotionally powerful.

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  16. Anonymous11:31 PM

    rob humanick: i think it's pretty clear he meant to say "hadn't 'dumbed it down'".

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  17. Anonymous12:01 AM

    You fucking suck. Get off your high horse and stop nitpicking at the little things that you dont like about the movie simply because you wanted your review to be different and stand out. This is soley to cause controversy and make the author feel good about themselves because they believe that they are right and everyone else is a fucking retard.

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  18. We clearly simply disagree on Inception's merits -- I thought it was possibly the best film I've ever seen -- but I have to question your idea that there's too much hand-holding. There are people calling this movie overly complex and "pretentious" (which we can probably both agree is just what people say when an intelligent movie makes them feel stupid) and you think Nolan needed to do LESS explaining? I personally think he explained just enough that you understood what was going on, without getting bored.

    Were you a Lost fan, or know much about the show? They had to have "Hurley the Explainer..."

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  19. Piecar12:24 AM

    Just passing through....I agree with your review, but I have never seen a guy work so hard to throw in a five dollar word when a three dollar word would work just as well. Seriously. It's a review. Play it straight, and stop trying to tell people you're smart. If you're looking to be a "go to" reviewer, this is not the way to do it. Thanks for the read, though.

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  20. Anonymous1:42 AM

    I'll add a very small "mea culpa" - that should have said "HADN'T dumbed it down."

    But frankly, your response simply confirmed my initial reaction - you think you're just so much smarter than the proletariat that "Inception" was just too simple.

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  21. Anonymous2:27 AM

    I think it is a tad redundant to just eviscerate a movie blogger and not tell him why he is wrong. Why do people leave comments to say why they think the author of the article is wrong and not tell him why? He is right, the film is full of "sparknotes" and is very heavyhanded with exposition.

    But... I think this is the point!!! Why do we forget that filmmakers make film in a social vacuum, that the make film that plays on the intrinsic qualities of the medium, moving pictures, and other films. This is worth a second look and I think the point here is that Nolan is making us think. Remind oneself of other sci fi that just might even play a part in the "dreamscape" of this film. A criticism I have read which I think is fair, is that in Nolan's ideation of dreams and content of dreams, there seems to be a conspicuous absence of sexuality. Fine that makes sense, any body who has had the chore of mining through Freud will see this.

    But isn't this film about FILM? Solaris, 2001, even Citizen Kane play into any interpretation. I think anybody who has been exposed to film theory will know this film will end up on curriculum, probably adjoined with Deleuzen deconstructionism rather than film psychoanalytic readings. Remember sammy jenkins kids.

    Memento's main character constructed a world for himself, though memory, a purpose, so he could continue an ardent attempt of heroics, rather than live with quilt and emasculation.

    Remind yourself of the prestige and the reuniting of father and daughter. Remind oneself of cues and triggers, memories and associations of Inception. The dead wife Marion Cotillard, "Mal" (moll), and the strange coincidences that our MEMORIES and associative recollections (on, rien de rien), strange right? That the image we fade to black to is the totem that belonged to her.. the james bond scenarios, and as the author of the article put it, Matrixy videogame scenarios. I think Nolan trotted out a cast of characters AS actors here. the fundamental paradox of absence and presence of the film star.

    So this film, as didactic and heavyhanded as it might seem, is about ... film, isn't it? But this is again, interpretation of essentially what constitutes a dreamscape. Isn't this the point of the film?

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  22. Anonymous3:31 AM

    First off, its really nice to read an honest review.
    Secondly, I'm not at all surprised at some of the reactions to your review- Its bound to happen when 90% of the people going to the movie decide to like it even before they see it. 'oooh 100% on the tomatometer even before the release! I am GOING to LOVE this film'. Add to that a seemingly 'complex' plot which can be unraveled by simply following the dialogue and suddenly everyones a genius. There's no question of interpretation here- everything is laid out in crisp dialogue without any mumbling - Mulholland Drive? THATS interpretation.

    If you don't like the film these are typical reasons its 'fans' will come up with
    1. You have no taste
    2. You couldn't comprehend the
    'oh-so-complicated' plot
    3. You're just trying to be different from people who like the film.

    Inception has only two things to offer you- a complex plot twisted as and how Nolan finds it feasible making up rules along the way, and cheap action thrills comparable to a bad James Bond flick.
    The sub-conscious defending itself against intrusion with projections as gun carrying guards? please...slightly less convincing than Matrix with its Kung-fu fighting computer viruses.
    I do understand that some rules are bent for the sake of entertainment, and some are retained for the sake of balance. Spider-man getting bitten by a genetically altered super spider? sure, just one small part of the film and we can get on with the rest. Humans being used as batteries in Matrix? yeah, a small explanation sequence by Morpheus and we can get on with the rest of the film. Lord of the rings? a fantasy world. It has a nice opening monologue explaining the premise. Ok, enough said, lets move on with the film.
    What I'm trying explain is that movies like any other entertainment medium involve a willing suspension of disbelief. Nolan doesn't need to continually reinforce our acceptance of his dream world. Neither does he need to explain every small bit of it with half-baked pop-psychological theories- making a significant portion of the movie one long primer of his own idea of a dreamworld. A large part of the movie is simply used to explain and justify the functioning of the shared dream space as Nolan calls it.

    I went in expecting something more profound, more surreal, more unique, but what Nolan gives us here is a premise with just enough (which is very little) psych-jargon to pass of as 'intellectual' and enough action to not bore the viewers.
    The movie was like a D&D campaign setting rule book- with the story itself sorely lacking

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  23. Anonymous4:07 AM

    This is perhaps one of the worst reviews I've ever read, rather than discussing the film's innovation or incredible use of editing to maintain suspension for a large chunk of the movie. You use the review to boost your own ego by assuring your readers that the movie is too obvious in its exposition. "Groundlings," you call your fellow movie attendees, cheap attempt to establish your own intellectual superiority above the populace. The movie, regardless of exposition, was most certainly thrilling and original. Check your ego at the door and instead try to view the movie as a cohesive whole.

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  24. Anonymous4:24 AM

    So what is you're point? Where do you stand? Why exactly didn't you like the movie. You argue as if there was anything better out there to compare this movie to. You obviously can't appreciate the difficulty the director went through in order to present the audience with an accessible and yet subtle interpretation of an otherwise psycologically ambitious script.

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  25. Anonymous4:31 AM

    As a conclusion, all I can see in you're review is that you are criticizing the movie by comparing it to itslef. And that's what I call "hating".

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  26. Anonymous6:26 AM

    The pretension in this review is sickening.

    Also, the fact that the reviewer notes The Dark Knight as being better than Inception is absolutely absurd. The Dark Knight had terrible pacing and was incredibly campy (which definitely did not function as an imagined metaphorical conceit). Even if the reviewer didn't like Inception, he should at least have the intelligence to know it's better than The Dark Knight.

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  27. Anonymous6:49 AM

    I watched the film last night and I agree with you reviewer. A very interesting concept (I saw shades of Dark Cities and Dreamscape in it) but it didn't quite work. On the other hand, where it did work, it was breathtaking. Success really should be determined by the difficulty of the undertaking and in this, Inception was very successfull. I do wish though that there hadn't been so much exposition as it slowed everything down in the wrong places. I understand why the chorus of characters were played as they were at the end of the film but they still felt very flat during the film. Overall, excellent try and possibly more interesting for its flaws than for its successes?

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  28. I think this review is spot on. The potential to explore the possibilities of the subconscious was completely overlooked and instead the plot was reduced to people chasing each other with guns. Very dissapointing.

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  29. Chris S.10:55 AM

    Great review, Rob. Does Nolan just get a pass, or what? This movie was a bunch of convoluted nonsense. Nolan seemed to write and re-write the rules as he went along (and, as you note, spent endless amount of time explaining those rules to the audience with exposition after exposition). And the movie is SO freaking serious ... and takes itself way too seriously. Ugh. Give me a break. You're making a movie about people going others' dreams (with a silly briefcase with wires that is shockingly never explained)! How about having a little fun.

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  30. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Rob,

    I agree with a lot of the points you made. The dialogue in most scenes consisted of the characters explaining exactly what was going to happen and how dreamworld works. Also, dreams are usually more, at least in my experience, surreal, you know, dreamlike. These dreams were on par with a hollywood action movie. I wanted to come out of the movie feeling like I was just in a dream, as if I had almost no clue what was happening. You know, weird shit happening all the time. I didn't want Christopher Nolan to try to explain the plot to me as I was watching it. That being said, I still enjoyed it for what it was. The concept was original. Amazing visuals. There were a lot of great moments. But not a masterpiece as a lot people, including Jack (above) seem to be saying (Jack, are you for real, "This film will set in motion a revolution in the ways that humans create reality through our innate potential to manifest our infinite capacity to create.."... seriously).

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  31. Anonymous12:17 PM

    I whole heartedly agree with the reviewer here. This movie had an incredible idea but it never uses it. Nolan simply explains the idea over and over again. Its insulting that he took a great idea and then assumed people would be too stupid to get it. I was hoping for an incredibly complex film that I would have to see again and again. Unfortunately, its painfully obvious the whole time.

    Great movies require great execution as well as a great idea. This only goes halfway.

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  32. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Wait...no i think that guy was saying that you were too smart for the film so Nolan should have taken out more of the explanations as to not insult your intelligence.
    What is your response.

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  33. Very valid review. I agree with you on most things. I wanted to be confused at the end of the movie, and I wasn't. It was all too explained and obvious. Or maybe I've just seen too many movies and read too many stories.

    Personally, I thought *spoiler warning* the movie was less about inception and more about dreams and the psychological power and control people give subconscious ideas when they feel guilt. I also liked that the ending was left open as to whether it was real or finally a guilt-free dream.

    Overall, it was worth my time and money, and I'm glad I watched it, which is more than I can say for most movies.

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  34. Anonymous1:06 PM

    As you seem to be inspired now to develop as a person {6.52PM}, maybe you could just let a few of the comments stand without further comment? Reading your review, I was reminded of Disraeli "A skilled rhetorician... [he is] inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity". The fact that 'Anonymous 5.00PM' had got the wrong end of the stick is testament to this - poor soul was confused by your refuse. And what on Earth do you mean by 'only goes halfway in its misguided attempts at mass appeal.'? Not far enough, or too far by half?

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  35. Anonymous1:14 PM

    If you say the reader needs SparkNotes to know what's happening, then you are saying the movie is too complex. What's hard to understand about that?

    btw, I loved the movie, I want to see it again to pick up things I clearly missed and like the many dream sequences, I want to delve into the multiple levels of the movie.

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  36. Reading some of the reviews, one thing that emerges is the criticism that Inception is simply too literal/logical to be a proper movie about dream states; too many rules that require too much explanation.

    The explanation part i think is somewhat subjective; i certainly felt it was done seamlessly for most part, and never got the same sense of things being over-narrated as i did with Scorsese's Casino.

    The logic vs dream logic angle though is interesting; though i can see the point about it lacking the surrealness of dreams, i'm not sure if the trade off of having the latter would be worth it; wouldn't it just lead to loose anything-goes-nothing-makes-much sense like Terry Gilliam's
    Imaginarium of Doctor P?

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  37. Megan3:51 PM

    "What did Cobb's wife “keep locked away to herself” in the doll house in her childhood home in limbo? This is not explained."

    SPOILER BELOW!

    It is explained. I'm fairly certain Cobb explicitly said that she locked away her knowledge of what was real and what isn't, just in different words. Thats how he planted the idea for her. He sets the top spinning in the safe, which was her token that allowed her to understand what was real. I feel that this is one of the points that is fairly well driven home in this film.

    As for the limbo comment, "but if exiting limbo is as easy as all that (killing oneself), why is the threat of eternally being trapped in limbo what drives the urgency of the entire film? "

    The threat is getting lost in limbo. The difference in length of time is what messes them up. They would be trapped in this lower level for so long that waking up and being young again would be a shock that they might not be able to overcome (see Cobb's wife) or would have forgotten what was going on in the real world (see the phone call to save Cobb). In the latter, Cobb would have done all the work in the movie for naught.


    Personally, I think that the fact that this film has sparked so much conversation proves that it did its job. The fact that some people loved it and some did not is just a given, that happens with any film (unless everyone just agrees its terrible, in which case it is probably really bad). Inception did what it wanted, it planted an idea.

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  38. Anonymous4:27 PM

    If you briefly scan Rob's reviews, you should be able to tell that he uses his vocabulary to mask his rather pedantic views. This review is unreadable due to its ostentation. You must think that your convoluted style may impress these 'groundlings', but anyone who passed grade school should be rather bored by it. The fact that you went to college depresses me and makes me wonder what kind of books actually read. You seem a bit of a dilletante in most areas. Since you are sure to bring it up, should you respond to this, I am very aware of the fact that I am only commenting on your writing style. I do this because it is the only thing even remotely interesting about your review.

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  39. Anonymous4:31 PM

    all i can say is EVERYONE in the theater here in Los Angeles clapped at the end.
    I figure the audience has a good mix of people.
    That should be enough of a review in itself.

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  40. Anonymous4:47 PM

    You should read your review again. There is little 'content' to speak of - and the attitude seems to be all yours.

    I quote '...the effect is both enthralling and, unfortunately, illuminating of the many weaknesses throughout the film entire.' Not to mention that the idea of this being enthralling and disappointing (those 'illuminated weaknesses') to you at the same time is preposterous, where do you mention these 'many weaknesses' as part of your review? I only see the complaints about exposition (which I disagree with as it was not distracting at all) and the literal conception of dreams. If there were others, you might have tried a bit of exposition within the review yourself.

    Intellectual and visceral? Two diametrically opposed concepts, and you think this movie is both? Never mind reading this review again; scratch that. You should bloody well write the thing again.

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  41. The reason people have focused on your vocabulary over your content is because there is no content. I suspect many people have wound up here wanting to know for curiosities sake how someone could slag such a good film, what approach could be taken to not enjoy Inception. I think this review is controversial for the sake of it. I think this review lacks any depth. I think this reviewer is hostile in the face of criticism because s/he knows that this review has no leg to stand on, calling your readers ‘you people’ is an outstandingly arrogant move. An outstanding film and a subpar review I feel.

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  42. Anonymous5:05 PM

    Rob,

    Just curious here. What do you think is Nolan's best film?

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  43. Andrew Hope5:54 PM

    Where are we at in our stage of devlopment as a species that a reviewer needs to be insulted by people who don't share his viewpoint? I loved the movie, and I'd argue with the reviewer, but that's a far cry from cowardly posing behind an anonymous post to sling mud. Get a fucking grip, you cunts.

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  44. Anonymous6:19 PM

    "More time wasting than time bending, Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION is a shoot 'em up masquerading as a thinking person's sci-fi film. Conceptually, the story is absolutely fascinating. Intricately constructed like an Escher print of dreams within dreams within dreams, the picture's fundamental ideas never fail to intrigue. But the movie itself never achieves anything close to its promise. Still, if lots of gunfights and fast car chases are enough for you, then you may not be disappointed in the slightest. Needlessly long at a full two-and-one-half hours, the movie is firmly in the more is better camp of movie making. While it never lost my attention, it also never gave me much motivation to try to make sense of its wildly complex plot. Bordering on the ridiculous, it involves a professional "extractor" named Leo who normally is hired to steal people's thoughts during their dreams. The movie loves to play with its audience, so that we are never quite sure what is a dream and what is reality. As Leo, Leonardo DiCaprio turns in his usual outstanding performance, as does his co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Sadly, the same cannot be said of JUNO's Ellen Page. A wonderfully spunky and quirky actress, the script offers her a flat role with little chance to demonstrate any of her considerable talents. The plot involves Leo being asked to accomplish the nearly impossible task of planting an idea in someone else's mind in such a way that the guy firmly believes that he came up with the idea on his own. The idea that Leo must implant is surprisingly mundane, so I must admit I didn't care much whether he succeeded or not. The ending's pace is probably the film's biggest problem. The movie's conclusion is dragged out for so long that you'll begin to feel like you've entered an endless loop and the ending credits have been postponed into eternity. If you do go, try to savor the early parts of the story before it begins to take itself too seriously. The best section has Page's character relishing her new dream power as she wraps streets full of traffic onto themselves, as the film uses some really nifty special effects. Another favorite part of mine comes in an opium-like den run by a Chinese man who explains that his clients are hooked on the surreal shared dream states he offers and have eschewed the real world as not being real for them anymore, as they see their life being in a constant haze of dreams... (Steven Rhodes)"

    Hopefully this review (by another reviewer getting blasted for listing his issues with the film) will enlighten others who think this film is just the coolest "sci-fi" film of the decade. I agree with this reviewer ^^ Great concept, but even Nolan couldn't carry it to fruition. Sorry fellas, give Inception a watch and move on already.

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  45. To everyone who thinks the movie wasn't surreal enough, and too much like an action movie, I think its fair that since the environments they were in were created by an "Architect" and that the protagonists had some semblance of control over the environments that they shouldn't have all looked like something out of Sandman. Despite this, there were a lot of holes in the story:

    The zero gravity from the van effects the 2nd layer but not the 3rd. It would seem to me that if there's zero gravity in the 2nd layer, and the first layer affects the second layer, then the third layer should be affected by the second one.

    Also, they're supposed to be too heavily sedated to be able to kill themselves out of a dream, but Juno kills herself to get out of Leo's head and that just doesn't obey the established rule

    The easy way to explain away these holes is that Leo was dreaming the whole time and he was making up rules as they were going along that could be broken and fixed

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  46. Anonymous8:46 PM

    I am just an avid movie fan and not a critic. But what is so wrong with a movie that leaves the viewer to come to his/her own conclusions. Done in the right way it's intriguing and generates much discussion. I am still left thinking about this movie days after seeing it and will continue discussing this movie with others for quite some time to come. This cannot be said of many movies. As a result I say Incetion is a job well done.

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  47. Anonymous9:49 PM

    Calm down, it's a fun summer movie with an original script. Some of you people act like the movie was created to offend you.

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  48. I connected emotionally with this film on a deep level and thoroughly loved it. If that makes me dumb then so be it. Critics be damned.

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  49. Dick Peter Johnson11:11 PM

    I'm totally nude! I've gotta boner!! ...and I've gotta take a shit!!!

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  50. I didn't care for the exposition all that much, but lets face it, most movie goers like that sort of stuff. He gave the audience what it wants, and while you want to be dismissive from your failed-writer/fanboy arm chair I think he made a smart action movie that holds up well, and that's a rare thing.

    It's a summer blockbuster not an art house conceptual piece, you can't have both in the same film, and Nolan did a great job of walking between both genres

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  51. Anonymous12:54 AM

    i hope they reconsider and make "Toy Story 4."

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  52. anonymous@1:06PM: i really liked inception, but i think in the context of the review, its clear Rob's "sparknotes" sentence is saying that he thinks the movie tries to explain too much - too unsubtle and heavy handed. He's not arguing that the movie is too complex.

    anonymous@8:22pm hits the nail on the head though, about the difference between the movie's logic and some critic's argument that its not reflective of 'real' dreaming.

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  53. Emily2:17 AM

    Koan-esque? Yes
    Dissatisfying ending? Oh yes.
    Movies that get you questioning reality mid-movie("Whose subconscious are we entering now?") should end on a more definite note so that that a final ambiguity doesn't trump the subtler ones before it and make my final reaction "If the top didn't drop then we can't be sure of what was reality anywhere and without a plumbline all things are equal and thus uninteresting. There is suddenly no capital (R)eality set apart to cling to or strive for, (and we do care about this distinction--it's what drives the gotta-get-back urgency of the second 1/2 of the movie.)

    Cast some doubt ("SOMETHING isn't right here, what is it??") and spur people on to critical and creative thinking.


    Cast total final doubt and take all the fun out of things. Making it back to reality is a triumph and something worth striving for and makes for much more deeply satisfying movie than a think-what-you-want/"Dude--after that movie I'm like, you know, What IS reality?!?" ending.

    (See: A Beautiful Mind)

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  54. it was a great film by Nolan. He made our brains work non stop for 2.30 hrs for the first time. hats off!!

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  55. Anonymous2:45 AM

    My barometer for a superb movie is wanting to see it again,recommending it to others and discussing/debatig about it with movie fans. Inceptoin has met all of these marks. I think the mere fact that anyone of you would discuss this movie on this forum or have seen the movie and contributed to the discussion earns this move the rave it has received.

    Don't throw entertainment out the window. Those who have given this movie a negative review has devalued entertainment in a movie. Must all movies be overly complicated, where one must see it twice or three times to understand it? Or have it so complex that only a minority of viewers can understand it? Come on! Nolan WROTE and DIRECTED this movie...how can anyone criticize the results?

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  56. Anonymous3:02 AM

    Well, I don't know Rob. Should you shoot my attitude (I'm the cacophony guy) right back at me with naughty expletives? Probably. I did say that you liked Collective Soul. That would certainly piss me off.

    No, don't apologize for your college education either. I'm glad you have a brain. Unfortunately it takes more than reading and writing skills to detect good film making. Specifically, unless you went to film school you can only rely on what the good Lord gave you and in this case, yes, you're a good writer. You're just not very good at knowing when something rare and brilliant is perfectly executed. That's fine. We can't all be endowed with every good gift.

    Since it's clear that you may well pass on other great films in the future and it's obvious that there's no panacea (that's for you) to this unfortunate curse, perhaps you can still find success in writing. But please, like someone else suggested if you want to be a "go to guy" for reviews you can't be so pedantic. People hate that crap...seriously. A verbose dissertation will never go over well. But if you were able to articulate distilled, valid arguments in the way of simple solutions to Nolan's apparent mishandling of the film, you wouldn't have received such negative backlash.

    Just like Inception, you too have to figure out how to translate the complexity of your writing style into something more digestible. That's only half the battle though, friend. You'll still be left with the wrong filter over that brain of yours (the one that makes you prefer Collective Soul but dislike films like Inception). If you can figure out what good cinema is AND simplify your writing style, well then my friend, you might actually get somewhere with this whole reviewer thing!

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  57. Cacophony guy: I didn't bother responding to any of your musical comments because I'd be hard-pressed to name a Collective Soul song in the first place. Your most recent comment at least indicates you're above the knee-jerk nastiness I pigeonholed you into at first.

    Your comments are valuable, but, if you think that even the most articulated distilled arguments against something this hyped would go over well with a great number of reactionary types with nothing better to do than sling verbal mud at online names, you're wrong. I've seen plenty of it (and I'm not referring to myself).

    More later, as this and several other comments actually merit response.

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  58. I just saw the movie tonight.
    The problem with this review is that it's too truthful. People don't want to accept that films are meant to stimulate the mind in an imaginative way rather than challenge the audience to "keep up" with it, as was presented in this movie.
    I thought that the action sequences were incredible, they kept me on the edge of my seat, but the dialog was a complete narration, which made it (can I use this word?) boring.

    What Nolan has accomplished in this film is incredibly unique: a boring action-packed pseudo-convoluted that keeps you wanting to see more.
    what the hell did I just type?....

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  59. Anonymous4:11 AM

    definitely a spin doctors fan.

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  60. Adam!4:15 AM

    rob humanick: "...against something this hyped..."

    Ah, the good ol' hype-backlash review. Move along people, nothing to see here.

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  61. Anon 3:41: Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. Try Massive Attack. Or some Zimmer that doesn't suck.

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  62. Anonymous4:20 AM

    Although I would qualify my criticism of the film more carefully, I essentially agree with everything Rob says in his review; in fact, he gets to the core of the movie's problems immediately, and articulately. This is the review of a seasoned film-goer and observant critic, and it is an individual opinion: a far cry from the generic series of irritating adjectives that many paid and unpaid reviewers put forth.

    Most of the virulent hatred directed against Rob - rather than against his review - is a good indication of how reactionary and anti-intellectual the majority of people are. In fact, judging from these comments, it would appear to be a moral crime to speak intelligently, without making excuses for doing so. Why is there so much distrust and anger directed at the reviewer? Does it really bother people so much that they need to take the trouble of whining about how much they despise anyone more coherent than the average Facebook/Myspace user? Should a person constantly grovel and apologize for not falling in line with conventional opinion, when he has a valid point to make and knows how to make it, without resorting to trite phrases or saccharine pseudo-joviality? These commenters seem to lack a sense of irony: when they criticize his insecurity, they don't notice how easily their egos are bruised by something as simple as a differing opinion.

    Do you want to see a masterpiece that really challenges your mind, is emotionally affecting, and makes you think long after the film is over? Do you want to live an experience that is truly dreamlike and makes no concessions whatsoever to the line between narrative, dream and memory? A film with an amazing script and gorgeous cinematography? A film Nolan admitted he hadn't seen before he made Inception? Go watch "L'année dernière à Marienbad" (yes, that's French, for the intellectually insecure) - i.e. "Last Year at Marienbad" in English.

    There are all kinds of films, just as there are all kinds of speech, and each may be valid in its own way. I don't think that Inception was a poor film by any means. It's just not what many assume it to be, or market it as, which is a pity, because this vast rift between the commercial nature of the film and its "profundity" is what creates the disappointment. I saw one of the first screenings. I'm glad I saw it and I recommended it to friends. Is it one of the best films to come out of the traditional Hollywood system? Yes. Is it some kind of mind-altering transcendental experience? No. But if your standard of comparison is Terminator 3 or something on those lines, you can be forgiven for thinking so.

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  63. Adam! 4:11: You're quoting a comment but insinuating it's in the review itself. Even if it were, you're deliberately - or at least absent-mindedly - misplacing the logic the statement. (In the vein of Glenn Beck: fail.) I didn't purport that the hype was a detriment to the movie or something to be railed against itself (believe me, as far as capitalist runoffs are concerned, the hype for a blockbuster movie is of relatively no concern), only that, like "The Dark Knight", "Avatar", and countless other big budget movies beforehand, it's serving as fuel for the self-righteous fire of raucous fans.

    Such as it is, I avoided the hype for this movie, as I do as a rule of thumb for many years now. It was only about two weeks ago that I saw the full preview and just about wet my pants in awe. What most of the people here seem oblivious to here is that I've always been something of a fan of Nolan's, warts and all. I was looking forward to his new flick, and it let me down. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you address the nearest brick wall.

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  64. How about everyone gets mad at each other anonymously and talks all the shit they can because they know they have the comfort of their computer to keep them safe. Inception was a great movie and if this reviewer wants to nay say about it, then he is more than entitled to his opinion. It was done in a bit of a pretentious way, but he's a reviewer trying to get noticed, so he has to do all he can. This was an entertaining movie that sparks the imagination. It will certainly not go down in history as the best ever, but it is a rather original story line and did a terrific job of keeping the audience informed while not dumbing it down too much.

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  65. "What did Cobb's wife “keep locked away to herself” in the doll house in her childhood home in limbo? This is not explained."

    @Anonymous: Yes it is. She locked away her totem so she could forget that she was living in a dream world. This is a key detail, if not *the* one single thing that defined the film - as soon as Cobb realised something was amiss, he went deep into his wife's subconscious, found the totem and realised the only thing he could do to return to his kids was to incept the idea of 'You're living in a dream world' into his wife's mind. Cue rest of the film.

    I'm neither here nor there with this review. Personally, I thought the exposition was entirely justified given the complex plot, and it does take repeated viewings to appreciate the details in the film to tie up (which they do very well). Reading reviews where the reviewers complain that the dreamscapes are not imaginative enough, I think are missing the point entirely. The entire point of making dreamscapes as realistic as possible is a ploy to deceive the intended target of extraction (or inception) - it would've simply been too weird (and not to mention out of character) to introduce purple skies or whales floating in the air or whatever the reviewers rather would've seen.

    Despite the reviewers remarks, this is a film well worth repeated viewings.

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  66. Your review is a fair minded and I also thought the same way as of too much data, and too much obvious scenes, like the time spent on the elevator scene etc. But I also think this was done to attract more 'average' intelligent fans, ones who couldn't get a clue of what happened in Memento. Look where that went and this one's box office collection.

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  67. Hey everybody. If anyone here is returning from an hour or so ago or earlier, you'll surely notice a major change in the main text body, which is about 50% longer now and in paragraph form. The comments inquiring about my thoughts will hopefully find some satiation now; the expansion was certainly a good way to work off this bout of insomnia...

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  68. Anonymous7:46 AM

    "Reading reviews where the reviewers complain that the dreamscapes are not imaginative enough, I think are missing the point entirely. The entire point of making dreamscapes as realistic as possible is a ploy to deceive the intended target of extraction (or inception) - it would've simply been too weird (and not to mention out of character) to introduce purple skies or whales floating in the air or whatever the reviewers rather would've seen."

    But as the movie takes pains to explain, dreams make sense while you're having them. You don't realize anything was strange until you wake up. So purple skies or floating whales wouldn't necessarily have seemed "too weird" or out of place at all for the dreamer. Creating dream realities someone can infiltrate and control and then just resorting to gun fights seems silly. Why would the infiltrators even need guns if they can manipulate the nature of the dream? Why don't they make their enemies spontaneously combust or just grant themselves the power to point at them and make them *poof* disappear?

    Also, why did their state of zero gravity in one dream world (the one where they were falling off the bridge in the van) dictate their physical state in another dream world (the one where they all started floating in the hotel room)? This wasn't true at any other time. In every other case, once they had fallen into a dream within a dream, the film just depicted them as sitting still in chairs looking like they were asleep, not going through the motions of the actions being performed in the deeper dream world.

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  69. Anonymous9:14 AM

    a review within a review within a review. how hilarious is all this? i read the 'level 1' review because it was the only negative one on RT (very clever Rob...) and this blog is off it's head bonkers.

    The film was outstanding. You're telling me that any of the previously dubbed 'haters' could come up with this story and get anywhere close to being able to write & direct it? It's a huge project and it's impossible to execute these ideas and portray this subject matter within the confines of a cinema screen, without a limitless budget and inside an acceptible running time. so basically, props.

    and the fact that the movie is so strong as an action/sci-fi flick and also a wierdy thought provoker means both types of fans get involved saying it's not enough like or their favorite genre. The Gondry clan saying 'urgh too many explosions' and the action fans saying 'it's soooo pretentious'.

    I dont get too deep into these things. how can anyone knock the car flipping / hotel corridor spinning fisty cuffs? what an idea! it looked amazing! i'm so glad i can look at these type of scenes in a way just shallow enough to enjoy them so much i nearly wet myself.

    if you didnt love this movie and have an awesome time watching it, it sucks to be you.

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  70. Anon 7:46: I never said you had to be shallow to enjoy the movie, let alone the hotel corridor fisticuffs (which was, in fact, part of a larger sequence I deliberately singled out for its pleasures). You delude yourself; as of now, my review is one of 33 "rotten" reviews at RT. Get a clue.

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  71. Anonymous10:45 AM

    What a complete rambling,ranting review this was. You are obviously unfamiliar with the concept of "run-on sentences" as something to be avoided. By the way, did you like the film?

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  72. I want to respond to more of these in time, but to the poster who asked what I think Nolan's best film is, it's nearly a toss-up between Memento and The Dark Knight, with a slight edge to the former. Then Batman Begins, then The Prestige, then Inception, although I suspect a second viewing of Inception will put it up a spot. Haven't seen Insomnia or Following, and Doodlebug just sucks.

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  73. I disagree with your review. The film was utterly absorbing and no great problems in script, concept or performance distracted me from the ride. It was the most absorbing film I've seen in a long time. Bravo to Nolan et al for never pulling punches.

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  74. I agree with your review. Too often film fans mistake excess for profundity. "Donnie Darko" with much less fuss, achieved the tone that "Inception" strives for. And while no one could deny Nolan's talent, he needs an editor for and a screenwriter who can check his need to extemporize.

    There’s a short film, a classic, "La Jetée" which is likely the source (the inception) for Nolan’s film. It’s 28 minutes long and emotionally devastating. There’s little to no emotion in Nolan’s film, and that’s really not a movie worth buying a ticket to see, much less spending 160 million to create.

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  75. Jason M.W.1:18 PM

    Actually, Anonymous 6:52 PM, the commentator did describe why he thought it was "a work of staggering insight and genius" in the paragraph directly above the one containing the aforementioned statement.

    See, the trick with reading and comprehension skills is be able to grasp the whole, but understanding the parts that make up that whole...

    ... ... ...
    ... ...
    ... ..jackass..

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  76. Anonymous6:07 PM

    This reviewer thinks he's simply cleverer than the average person, and chooses to use extensive language and high and mighty concepts to try and take a pot-shot at a great film

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  77. Anonymous6:43 PM

    Agree with this review:

    1. Too much overt exposition made for boredom before the movie finally starts working at the end with the most excellent iterations.
    2. The characters are hard to care about.
    3. The dreamscapes are computerscapes and hold no personal connection to the characters.

    Solid film in most respects, cast, acting, camera, dialogue etc and worth the cinema trip for the brilliant concept to think about but let down by above.

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  78. Very enjoyable film, not an artistic masterpiece nor a great study of psychology/philosophy. But it is a great film, just enjoy it as a ride. Great hollywood film stimulates less groundbreaking thought and debate than literature because ITS HOLLYWOOD.
    I agree with some of the negative comments as the film came to a meandering end which suggested that Nolan had difficulty coming up with an ending as interesting as the rest of the story. But maybe thats because the story was so good that any ending was going to be anti climactic. There was only going to be so many ways it could have ended

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  79. this is a major hollywood film and a very enjoyable one. A major hollywood film will not be revolutionary in its message but it will be a good ride. I agree with a lot of the reviewers that the ending was a let down ( or maybe that is too much to expect as it is very difficult to surprise some people when it comes to endings)

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  80. Anonymous8:40 PM

    Obvious troll. Rob rated movies such as "Hot Tub Time Machine" and "Killers" and "Wolfman" higher than Inception.

    Bloggers thrive on creating controversy, and I think Rob is striving to find his fame in this manner.

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  81. I disagree completely with this review .. one of the best movies i've seen in the last couple of years!!!

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  82. I agree entirely with the review. I still don't understand why people think it's complicated. It really isn't. I didn't have the slightest trouble understanding what was happening. It's always clearly shown when they are going into another dream.

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  83. Hey Rob, I'm actually going to see the film in about a half hour and look forward to seeing whether we agree or not. At any rate, I just wanted to point out as someone who had followed you for a couple of years now this this review seems entirely typical of the rest of your output - and by that I mean of course well written, well thought-out, and backed up with actual context from the film, something absent from a lot of the knee-jerk responses that scream out "It's genius!" or, vice-versa, "It sucks!"

    Nice job, as always. Although if I love the film I reserve the right to come back and edit this comment so it just calls you a stupid jerk-head!

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  84. Anonymous1:41 AM

    "My major issue with the film is that there seem to be major holes in the logic of the universe Nolan has created. We are told that the characters are in danger of being stuck in limbo forever if they die, but are shown that Cobb and his wife escape limbo simply by killing themselves."

    They were originally in "limbo" because they put themselves there with the machine. They didn't die under heavy sedation where they would completly forget how they got there and would never remember to kill themselves to get out.

    "Cob and Saito are in Limbo, but it is not shown explicitly how they get out... we are left to infer that they shoot themselves with the gun, but if exiting limbo is as easy as all that, why is the threat of eternally being trapped in limbo what drives the urgency of the entire film?"

    Cob remembered they have to kill themselves to get out and reminded the old Saito.

    "What did Cobb's wife “keep locked away to herself” in the doll house in her childhood home in limbo? This is not explained."

    She locked her top thing away to forget this dream world wasn't real. When Cobb opened the safe and found it, he spun it and closed the safe. Because the top never stops spinning in the dream world, it planted the idea in her head that this dream world they were in wasn't real.

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  85. Anonymous2:57 PM

    Those who can't get the ending lack the neurons to absorb and inculcate their noggins that it is basically a metaphor. It's like how a typical dream progresses, in which you wake up before the climactic part settles in. Duh.

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  86. Anonymous3:57 PM

    I dont pretend to be as articulate as many posters here, but I do think that this was a great review. There were a great many plot holes I noticed on only one viewing (one I didn't see mentioned here is that the totems were supposed to have properties known only to the person who possessed them, while the top has no such property and could easily be faked).
    I am the kind of person who will often get a tear in the eye at an emotional moment of a film, and I didn't care that Mal killed herself. Who cares if he never sees his kids again? Who cares if a multinational isn't broken up? There is no impact if they don't succeed, an no emotional investment in the characters. Fail.

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  87. i love Emily's comment about the far superiority of a Beautiful Mind over Inception. and Rob, thanks for your review.

    i felt Inception was hurrah for Nolan but zero for his audience.

    it was Nolan saying, "the ending (with no real clues throughout) is the entire point of the movie, folks. it is the mechanism for me to plant an idea in your mind and for it to fester, for you to generate hypotheses and discussions, and for my movie to be a hit. ...everything else important (e.g. characters, climax, gratification) to a good movie didn't matter."

    it sucks to feel zero emotion built-up for any character in this show (not even Leo), and correspondingly no exoneration whatsoever. in this regard, Memento and Dark Knight were better mindfucks, since both shows forced us to deal with real moral dilemmas obviously absent in Inception.

    that said, to be fair, the movie was visually interesting, arresting even.

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  88. I liked the movie for the most part and it was definitely internally-consistent, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece. For one thing, yes, the exposition and jargon is too much at times. For another, the music sometimes draws too much attention, in order to convey the feeling that stuff is happening apace, but in certain slower moments a little 'middle eight' break might have been nice.

    I could accept Leo's character's inner struggle, and I liked generally how he fights it in moments when the children appear or the curtains blow and he's reminded of Mal. But Leonardo as an actor lacks the worn, haggard, conflicted appearance that I think a less pretty actor could have conveyed better. Someone wracked with so much guilt should have been more screwed up. Even Tom Cruise pulled it off better in "The Minority Report."

    The moments when J. Gordon-Leavitt's character is tying up the crew and pushing them into the elevator as the van is in free-fall was pretty cool, but on reflection the idea that each level's physics is defined by the level above, and all characters are affected by it, including the subconscious agents... it doesn't hold up so well. And although the concept of "residual self-image" works fine in The Matrix to establish why other beings and agents in the matrix look like ordinary people, it feels contrived in a movie that's supposed to take place in deep subconscious layers.

    Likewise, the notion that deep subconscious ideas can be expressed or planted in terms of sensory words or images is patently unrealistic. Obviously many new difficulties would have been introduced to the movie's framework had Nolan designed the subconscious more like "What Dreams May Come" or "Naked Lunch" (for example). But the dreamworld seemed too sterile, modern, and architectural. I would expect something far more primordial at deeper levels.

    I think the movie works as an action picture with a romantic outlook, but it doesn't deserve a place in the list of "visionary" films. It doesn't bend the mind nearly as effectively as "City of Lost Children" or "Dark City," doesn't explore the nature of consciousness at all - in fact it does a disservice to that whole realm. But if the viewer is willing to take it on its own terms, enjoy the premise insofar as it goes, and appreciate its visual flair and trickery, and withhold criticism, it's pretty darned entertaining.

    I particularly liked the infinite mirrors trick, if only because it's got an intuitive low-tech feel, it was impossible to do that effect before the advent of digital tech, and it might actually be the very first time it's been done in a movie.

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  89. Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention... I liked the little cameo role of Lukas Haas in the first part of the movie. Savvy viewers might recall that he starred as George Orr in a recent production of "The Lathe of Heaven," the story of a man whose dreams actually change reality. I was expecting a few more such references, but sadly it was just a fluke!

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  90. Anonymous9:26 AM

    I enjoyed the movie. It was entertaining and thought provoking. I respect Christopher Nolan for attempting to convey a simple yet complex idea to a mass audience. I had difficulty following the story at times but managed to connect the dots after several in-depth explanations from friends who are, admittedly, more clever than me. This movie was refreshing and frustrating at the same time. It gave me a headache. But it also gave me a smile.

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  91. Anonymous3:47 PM

    I found that I wanted this movie to be over long before it was. I felt the same with Dark Knight. Nolan has issues with not knowing when a movie should end. Also the "Mal" story line did not add to the movie. It made it more convuluted. It would have been a better movie if it concentrated on the main group and their relationships and backgrounds.

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  92. Anonymous3:19 PM

    "frequently neutering any accruing sense of visual wonder"

    yeah, when Paris was folded on top of itself that's what I thought. How dare he use special effects to express impossible things. This review is shit.

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  93. Anonymous6:01 PM

    I agree with this review.
    I really wanted to like this film, as I study dreams and find myself drawn to films of a psychological nature.
    However I found this film lacked any emotional resonance whatsoever. I had no interest in the task the team had, why care if some multinational company gets broken up?
    The wife/kids issue should have been touching, but it seemed contrived and brushed over (was done much better in shutter island).

    As for the dreams themselves, there was so much scope for this to be really interesting, instead the dreams seemed like scenes from the latest Call of Duty game, or a Bond film. Dreams are in general very emotional and personal, but this was almost completely lacking.

    It seemed to me the film wanted to be deeper than it was, at no point did I ever feel a sense of wonder or confusion... it just seemed to be one long action sequence, chases gunfights etc.

    Nolans earlier film Memento worked so much better at creating mystery and suspense.

    Maybe it's because I study dreams that I found this so lacking. Knowing the true nature of dreams, and then being faced with a film that portrays them like an xbox blockbuster, just seemed flat.

    I wanted to love the film, instead I found it all rather empty.

    It was a "ride", but it just wasn't the philosophical or psychological ride that it could have been. Instead it felt like a fun packed computer game.

    Not that i hated it by any means, and i'd probably go watch it again with the right mindset (not expecting something philosophical or psychological) then i'd probably enjoy it a whole lot more.

    Basically the whole thing seemed to me to be the dream of someone who watches a lot of bond films and plays a lot of call of duty.

    The layering of time was an interesting but completely fictional plot device - time in dreams has been proven to be identical to that of waking life. Still it added some interesting dimension and pace to the film.

    For me the film lacked soul, and it lacked depth and that is why I can only rate it as average.
    Yet, from the perspective of an action film, it certainly delivered.

    Just I really don't think it deserves to be considered in any meaningful way a film that makes you think about the nature of reality or dreams.

    To quote the film itself, as a criticism of the film "sometimes you have to dream bigger".
    (and that line and scene in the film makes you wonder why they didn't all dream themselves to have missile launchers and invincible shields for the entire dream - if it can be done once in a dream, why not all the time?)

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  94. @Anon 3:47 pm: That "how dare he" comment is yours, and in no way expressed in my own words. That being said, I found most of Nolan's attempts at visual euphoria to be leaden and uninspired -- what little did evoke wonder out of me was quickly shut down by the script's inability to let the characters shut the fuck up. A second viewing is still in order.

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  95. I'm glad someone was finally brave enough to point out the flaws of this movie. After all the hype and comments about it having an 'intelligent' and 'gripping' plot, I for one was very disappointed when I saw it and in the second hour found myself often looking at my watch. To me, the concept and the plot were synonymous -- and that made the movie entirely predictable once you understood the concept, which, thanks to the excessive exposition that you've pointed out, did not take long. I would love to see this movie redone with a complex plot built on top of the concept. Nonetheless, I still loved some of the visual aspects of it.

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  96. Anonymous8:09 PM

    You're spot on. I've found it a little disheartening that so many 'intelligent' people have loved this film.
    I wasn't confused at any point watching it, I realized I was being fed rubbish as an explanation for the far-fetched set pieces. Mainly I was bored and kept checking the time.

    I'm reminded of this quote from Don Marquis:-
    If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; But if you really make them think, they'll hate you.

    The masses will love Nolan's condescending cliched nonsense but if they saw Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" they'd hate it and dismiss it.

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  97. Anonymous1:39 AM

    you're dead right, mister reviewer. It's a pile of wank. In fact, you don't go far enough. This movie is a stupid person's idea of what an intelligent movie is. Absolutely rubbish, start to finish, interspersed with the odd bit of eye candy. Christopher Nolan is the laziest story teller of modern times, and Legendary Picture is the most heinous producer of hackery that cinema has ever seen. As a team, they are formidably, insultingly inept. They'll cry all the way to bank

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  98. Anonymous8:25 PM

    I saw the film. It wasn't anywhere near as good as Memento and you need repeat viewings because the dialog whizzes by faster than light. Half the time the concepts are contradicted in its cleverness, such as the floating sequence which was ridiculous even though it was cool. If the dreamers don't even feel the insane movement of the car weaving through traffic or hear the gunfire, there is no way they'd even notice any effect when falling in a van, where they would still be in their seats and not in mid air either. The blaring trombones should have awakened the subjects, not given them extended warnings only they could hear. Why is it that only Cobb's visions made a difference but all the other members of the team didn't have any effect on the dream world.

    Yes, I got the entire film but it wasn't great. The intelligent people liked the "concept" but Dark City is a far more pleasing film about the fiber of a person's existence rather than this predictable tripe. I knew the ending from the beginning.

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  99. Anonymous2:17 AM

    I fully agree with your critique!

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  100. I guess you can put me in the camp that there's no sense in criticizing a film for what it wasn't. Unless you can re-make the film yourself, you can only critique it for what it was. This was a big budget Hollywood movie with a fairly original idea mashed up with traditional caper and action movie mechanics. I left the theater feeling Inception owed a good bit to The Matrix as well as Tarkovsky films such as Stalker and Solaris. It's not one of those frustratingly thought provoking films, but the execution is monumental.

    I prefer to look at it in terms of what Nolan accomplished. The exposition was a bit four square undoubtedly to bring as large a cross section of the audience in as possible, but once the plot starts rolling I was thoroughly entertained. Could I pick out inconsistencies? Sure. Could Nolan have made a more probing, challenging film? Sure. But in its genre it beats the pants off of real junk like Transformers (or anything by Michael Bay) and 2012 (or your disaster movie du jour).

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  101. Jesse Walker8:12 AM

    anonymous 5:37pm

    I had a few comments on your comments:

    My major issue with the film is that there seem to be major holes in the logic of the universe Nolan has created. We are told that the characters are in danger of being stuck in limbo forever if they die, but are shown that Cobb and his wife escape limbo simply by killing themselves.

    Cob and Saito are in Limbo, but it is not shown explicitly how they get out... we are left to infer that they shoot themselves with the gun, but if exiting limbo is as easy as all that, why is the threat of eternally being trapped in limbo what drives the urgency of the entire film?

    What did Cobb's wife “keep locked away to herself” in the doll house in her childhood home in limbo? This is not explained. ----- her spinning top, her way of knowing if something was reality or a dream.

    Finally, the ending: I personally find ambiguous "let the viewer sort it out" endings annoying. Would the top have fallen over? It wobbled, then cut to black. It is strongly implied that Cobb is in fact just in another dream. If that is the case, all logic/rules etc etc do not apply because (cue eerie, overly-dramatic voice) it was all a dreaaaaaam! If the cut was to give the viewer an out to reject that Cobb is in a dream, I still call it a hack move.------

    Three of your comments all seem to reference the same issue, that is being limbo. So here is my take. You can't escape limbo. So go back to Cobb and his wife killing themselves to escape. They don't actually escape. She eventually realizes this, killing herself again (now assuming you can't escape limbo, she doesn't actually go anyplace) He continues forward in limbo thinking he is in reality effectively making the rest of the movie take place in limbo, including the end of the movie... because he has never left. The only part I am debating is whether or not the Mal he sees is his memory of her, or in fact the real Mal, still stuck in Limo trying to get through to him.

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  102. Anonymous5:59 PM

    I agree with the reviewer and i am surprised at the hype this movie created. The endless fighting scenes were an overkill and a very literal way of depicting a mind supposedly guarding itself!

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  103. (***spoilers***)

    Re: limbo escape, based on Nolan's logic there are two ways to get to limbo. One is by burrowing deeper and deeper by choice. The other is by dying in a dream while heavily sedated. Apparently getting to limbo by choice means one can escape by choice. It's Nolan's world; he makes the rules, as arbitrary as they may be.

    What I find interesting in the fervent dislike of Inception is that most critics are claiming 'they got it' too easily yet are still probing at the architecture of Nolan's dream world. That's not a profound question--how does this movie work--but I don't know how one could feel cheated leaving with some unanswered questions. Few movies are creative enough to get to that level.

    There are passing details--like the train running through the street in the first dream level that as it turned out came from Cobb's memory of escaping limbo--that I suspect will emerge more clearly on repeat viewing. Or perhaps not. But I'm betting there are yet layers to peel back related to Cobb. Some people complain that Cobb is the only one whose mind corrupts the dreams. So what--he is the only one whose mind is so tortured dreaming is agony.

    As for minds guarding themselves in a militaristic manner, there is a suggestion that a mind can be trained to protect against extractors. A 'natural' dreamworld might be more surrealistic, and a 'natural' defense might be less militaristic. The extractor architecture is created not to mimic a typical dreamscape, but to accomplish a goal, stealing. Security of in extreme force could be the tactical response.

    I don't mean to say that is the answer is that is precisely how it is. Just that Nolan could use various justifications for his world. There's no point in complaining the world is not the way you think it should be.

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  104. Anonymous6:04 AM

    The reviewer is right. "Inception" is a dumb film that allows dumb people to think they are intelligent. It's a movie for adolescent bores in bars who've just discovered a superficial understanding of quantum mechanics and "lecture" their companions.

    It's a movie full of plotholes and contradictions, and poor abbreviated filmmaking, and the "It's all a dream" theory is the ONLY way to explain away those weaknesses. The problem is if you do that NOTHING counts, not the Totem, not the wife, not the kids. Maybe there isn't even such a person as Dom Cobb.

    I reviewed "Titanic" years ago, and that was shit. Saying so sparked an internet jihad like this one against me. This isn't shit. It's just an action movie with some pretensions it can't live up to.

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  105. I think the brilliance of Inception is that Nolan has created a film that can be denigrated by Anonymous posters and amateur critics who need to call others dumb to feel good about themselves because they feel they have it all figured out, yet also be enjoyed by viewers who feel the literal plot was but one way to interpret it. There's something for everyone to love or hate. That's the beauty of the inception Nolan has created in the viewer's mind. The ending plants the seed, and each person feels the idea is his own. Especially so for those who summarily dismiss the movie!

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  106. Anonymous3:31 PM

    I'm in total agreement with this comment - http://projectionbooth.blogspot.com/2010/07/inception-2010.html?showComment=1279434444574#c2338633554099804519

    I had really high hopes for this movie. I expected something much more intellectually stimulating and unique - but instead I got something meant much more for mass audiences. I guess with something this expensive that is to be expected.

    But you know, it's just an opinion and I don't understand the need to insult people because they have a different one.

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  107. Anonymous6:00 PM

    I found the movie unfortunately boring and told without any emotion. Who the heck were we rooting for? What made the other company worse than the other. If anything, I found the two full of snobby CEOs, who I could care less about.

    I have heard rumors of this film topping all others. My only comment is that I prefer movies that get you involved, that make you think about them forever. Toy Story 3 is a great example. Every person walks out of that theatre in tears, while Inception's audience's reaction was "cool."

    I know every person has their own opinion, but I fail to see how this was a good movie. Try watching classics like Shawshank Redemption. Was the movie good? Yes. Was the movie great? Not even close. Just like Avatar, this movie fails to successfully tell a story--well that is.

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  108. Anonymous2:19 AM

    It was the basic idea of the movie itself that was brilliant for me--dreams within dreams and the internal dynamics thereof. Watching Nolan's idea play out in the film was what was interesting and novel. The creative value of the basic structure was sufficient to qualify Inception as a great work. I have never seen a movie like it before, and its originality in conception are the core of its ingenuity for me. Maybe there are movies like Inception of which I am unaware; if there are please suggest some titles.

    It would have been difficult for Inception to do much more as it was, in its essence, an action movie. If you need an emotional attachment to characters or some exposition about the human condition in order to lift a movie into the realm of great, then inception probably would not fit the bill. If the structure of the plot and basic idea of the movie was novel and compelling to you, then inception is a great movie. There is no uniform qualification for what constitutes a great movie. As with all art, quality is in the eye of the beholder. Above all, why attack each other when the difference is in taste, which is decidedly subjective.

    Finally, most of the questions raised in posts above are answered in the movie. It is beyond the purposes of this post to address them all, but I suggest re-watching the movie.

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  109. Philippe8:32 AM

    I just want to comment on a criticism I have seen in comments here, and in your own review: the lack of dreamlike, surreal elements in the film's dreams.

    I have to watch it again, but as far as I remember, the dream's environment is consciously controlled by one of the dreamers, and populated by another. For the heists to work, the dream's environment needs to be anchored in reality, so that all of the dreamers can either a) believe it IS reality (as for the young heir) or b) do their job without being distraced by these ultimately useless elements.

    This is not about normal dreaming: this is about lucid dreaming.

    On a personal note, what I found most touching in the movie is the fine balance between dreams and reality, and how easy it is to confuse them, and to fall into a new, artifical reality. I know, from personal experience, that some drugs can have such an effect -- the feeling of "falling into a new reality", if you will, is the strongest I have ever felt, and is immensely terrifying. I could therefore connect with Mal's anguish.

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  110. Just got back from seeing this film and enjoyed it quite a bit. But your review (as well as other critical ones I've read) makes intelligent points in a reasonable manner. You've put your finger on some of the misgivings I have about it.

    It's a shame the internet is teaming with people who can't engage sensibly in a debate of any sort and instead just berate people for not thinking and acting exactly like them.

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  111. Anonymous3:00 PM

    Adolescent mishmash fodder; noisy, overblown, ridiculous. As much depth as a street puddle.

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  112. Anonymous12:07 AM

    Why are you all attacking the person who wrote this review? I don't agree with what he said at all, but I must say if he really did write it for attention and to stand out he succeeded. Look at all these comments! If you hate the review so much than why let the world know that you read it?!?!?

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  113. I just saw the movie a few hours ago.

    I've been reading quite a few reviews because I am trying to figure out why everyone thinks it's such a masterpiece.

    I suppose that no matter what philosophical or logistical ambitions Nolan had, they were all for naught if he can't make us care about the characters. The whole crew just appeared to be plot-steering placeholders for me. We learn almost nothing about them, except that Leo misses his kids and feels guilty. Like somebody above said, when Mal killed herself, I felt nothing.

    The movie was highly summer-blockbuster-ized, with meaningless gun battles and car chases. What a shame. The concept is indeed fascinating and the cast could have pulled off a much more intelligent take on it, if only they were asked to. But the studio went for the bombast, the cleverness, the obvious instead of the subtle, every step of the way.

    And the dreams! For all the special effects, they are the most uninteresting, unimaginative dreams I've ever seen rendered on screen. There was no creepiness, no innuendo, no irony. Just big, pretty, exploding stuff.

    I don't want to sound like I thought it was all bad -- it is a unique picture, worth my time at least -- but I felt the distinct sense of squandered potential throughout the whole thing. I really wanted it to be insightful, but I think it was merely imposing.

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  114. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I though the movie was garbage, save for some visually appealing scenes ... ridiculous dialogue, a ridiculous fortress battle that went on way to long (were we actually supposed to care how well his subconcious was protected, and if any of the "good" guys were killed during the attack?) and ridiculous acting ... can't believe this is at 87% on rottentomatoes.com ... garbage

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