Eugene Cho

inception: was it a great film?

So, I finally saw the film, Inception, today. After weeks and weeks of hearing about it from folks and seeing it trend every day for week on Twitter, I finally sat down to see what the big deal was all about.

After seeing the film, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the film.

  • I think I enjoyed it.
  • I think it’s real good.
  • I think it’s brilliant.
  • And I’m pretty certain that I need to see it again.

It was visually fascinating, stimulating, and thought-provoking and as I shared above, I think the film was brilliant and good but I don’t know because I don’t quite understand.

During and after the film, my head was still spinning. 

Get it? [Dang, I’m good. ;)]

So, someone explain the movie to me.

The dream, dreamers, totem, limbo, Saito, guilt, reality, the wedding ring, dream within a dream, several levels of dreams, and my head is still spinning.

What’s the meaning of Inception?

Was it a great film?

And while we’re at it, here are a few other questions that crossed my mind:

  • Is it a film you’d place in your Top 10 List?
  • And while they’re different types of films, which would you rate higher: Dark Knight or Inception? As you know, both were created by Christopher Nolan.
  • The music and soundtrack. Wow. Wow. Wow.
  • What’s the meaning of the Totem?
  • Who would have thunk that the little kid from Growing Pains would grow not just to be a superstar but actually, be a really good actor?

And for the record, I saw it with my father on our blu-ray player and he absolutely hated it. He got up half way through from the sofa to tend to other stuff.

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17 Responses

  1. Al Shaw says:

    I agree with most of what you say. I regard it as a brilliant film, though probably not a true classic.

    The reluctance to explore in greater depth the philosophical implications of the film’s basic premise sets it apart from, say, 2001:A Space Odyssey. There seem to be elements worth comparing between these two films.

    Having said that, its production values (and soundtrack) are high quality and combine to create an emotional (if not an intellectual) hit, in my opinion.

  2. Al Shaw says:

    By the way, have you seen this interesting visual-graphic on the architecture of the film’s plot?

  3. Bryan says:

    i liked it and want to watch it again. it boggled my mind the first time and by the time i caught up, it was over.

    also, wondered why micheal cane just didn’t take his kids to france.

  4. Joel Mayward says:

    Some of my scattered thoughts on Inception, including spoilers:

    -Director Christopher Nolan seems to enjoy creating protagonists with very grey ideas of morality (i.e. destroy a person’s sense of reality, and potentially an entire business empire) so he can see his kids again, when he abandoned them in the first place. I admit, I choked up a bit when he finally sees his children, but it was also difficult to justify his manipulative actions. Cobb is quite the anti-hero, but so are all the protagonists in Nolan’s films.

    -Inception might be a meta-film on filmmaking itself. Creating worlds and ideas that appear vividly real, that tell us something about ourselves and reality, yet are simply images an architect (i.e. movie director) made for us to experience.

    -While Inception is definitely an original and creative film–and it will be in my top 10 of the year–the parallels between Inception and The Matrix are pretty strong.

    -The Dark Knight is a stronger film; the performance from Heath Ledger far outweighs any in Inception.

    -See it a second time. It’s not quite as mind-blowing on a second go, but it’s definitely worth pondering over again.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      interesting thought.

      i agree that dark knight > inception. and batman begins more enjoyable that both of these.

      but from a thought level, inception is one of the rare films i actually wanted (and almost needed) to see again.

  5. Dan Imburgia says:

    I just watched “Inception” last night as well. I enjoyed it and was writing a blog review when I checked FB and saw your post. My thoughts are going in the direction of Walter Benjamin’s thesis that movies are themselves like “waking dreams,” and his insight of the collective role we all play in the “phantasmagoria” of our shared visual culture.

    Like Nolan’s “Dark Night,” the audience is asked if fiction, self delusion, and willful ignorance is preferable to a painful and demanding reality. Nietzsche argued that we lack the courage to face the truth of a world without meaning (other than what we ourselves assign to it), and there is a lot of evidence to support that. “Inception,” probes the limits of willful delusion and frames the question so that the viewer (who has already invested him/her self in the illusion of the movie) chooses among a narrow set of options: Does the “totem” stop spinning signaling that Cobb has chosen to return to a painful reality, or does it keep spinning and does Cobb surrender to his phantasies.

    Of course the movie doesn’t provide an answer, and more importantly, no possibility of deciding. However, for Christians the question might be, is the “Body of Christ” a collective dream, a ‘cathedral of the mind’ built on the collective phantasies of a self-deluded people who can not bear the harsh realities of this world? Or, do Christians follow the one person who could confront the terrible/beautiful reality of this world as it really is, and love it unto death. Do we choose to inhabit a ‘cathedral of our own minds’ unblemished by sin, sorrow, and pain, or a living temple filled with others as scarred and broken as we ourselves are?

  6. jin says:

    continuity issues. the fact that the side view mirrors of the white passenger van were folded in when they left the warehouse still bugs me to this day. i like mindbenders.

  7. vl says:

    seems like nolan peeked with his first major movie “memento” which was btw a remake of his short film “following”. havent seen “prestige” though which is very highly rated. “inception” just wasnt as intelligent as memento, the only smart thing was maybe going deeper to flip the CEO. i was so revved up to see it and was kind of shocked, even the CGI’s weren’t that mindbending (pun intended)

  8. gar says:

    Definitely an intelligent movie, one designed to make you think… I think I’d have to watch a few more times before I’d consider it Top 10, though.

    Speaking of Inception, you should check out this guy’s blog entry series. He’s been writing about Inception once a week since the movie has been released.

  9. Dong-Titus says:

    I agree with Joel and Dan’s point regarding movies, “dreams,” and the dreamworld. I also think Nolan wanted to end the film by drawing the audiences’ attention to this idea of movies as places where time moves differently, a space where our selves are projected into the story, and a place where we provide our own interpretations. I think that is why he ends the film the ambiguous ending. I guess you can say it functions as a “kick” for the audience.

    More important than whether the totem falls or keeps spinning is the fact that Cobb walks away. Cobb’s goal was to plant an idea that would grow as Fisher experiences a “catharsis.” I think Cobb walks away because he too has experienced a catharsis, which has allowed him to come to terms with his guilt. Maybe he is now at peace. And, as suggested by one critic, perhaps that peace is enough for Cobb such that whichever place, either dreamworld or real world, offers him that peace is for him “reality.”

    This website was helpful. According to the critic, Nolan has “endorsed” his interpretation of the film.

    Would love to hear your thoughts after a second viewing.

  10. Eugene, I had a similar experience after watching it the first time. I thought it was brilliant but didn’t know why and immediately bought the soundtrack. But then I watched it a second time and began to see the details. It helps a lot.

    Many of the links above suggest that Nolan is exploring the movie making process, but there are meta qualities to the basic idea of inception that are deeper than that. Cobb is trying to get home. Many have suggested that its all Cobb’s dream from the plane.

  11. Ian Ebright says:

    An interesting link for those wondering about what the director thinks: excerpts and links to Wired’s recent interview with Nolan.

    You’ll notice that

    1) nolan did not intentionally make this a metaphor to filmmaking, more that his love for the craft spilled over into the framework of the story and characters.

    2) he has an answer about the ending and isn’t telling, but he also affirms that it doesn’t really matter. As Dong-Titus says, and Nolan backs it up, the point is that Cobb is with his kids. That’s the narrative closure that was intended. He’s walked away from the top which was his only tie to reality, and he no longer cares. The rest (dream vs. reality) is up to the viewer, and Nolan has built in a lot of ambiguity on purpose.

    A pretty neat trick if you ask me: to construct a film that has closure and ambiguity, and is endlessly puzzling but also satisfying.

  12. Dan Imburgia says:

    I haven’t bothered in this case with Nolan’s comments or assertions about the film or his intentions. I don’t think the ‘author’ has any privileged interpretive position. What we have is the “text,” so to speak, and how it functions within the larger matrix of the culturally constructed symbolic order. I have no idea what this film might mean, y’alls ideas are as good as anybody’s. Does it challenge dominant cultural narratives of power? maybe. Does it support cultural narratives of power? maybe. There’s nothing deeper here, there nothing more behind the screen, there is only the surface and the surface is rich enough to engage on it’s own. That the world is a dream or illusion is a challenge every culture has engaged from ‘Plato’s cave of shadows’ to Baudrillard’s warnings of the “death of the real.” What is new, as Baudrillard argues, is that societies used to resolve this challenge with art, symbolization, religion, etc. , but now the crisis of the real is the loss of any possibility or ground of being that offers a structure to distinguish between the real and the dream-world (so Plato’s cave analogy no longer even makes any sense). It’s not, as has been said, that “dreams are the only perfect crime.” Rather, one might say, there is no foundation to judge if a crime has even been committed! Of course, there is no “Cobb,” there is just the text and how it functions. One may argue that the movie ‘intends‘ to set up a binary tension between “dreams” and “reality.” But that is just all the more reason to probe elsewhere. I like that part of the story that asserts that by planting the seed of an idea deeper into a persons unconscious they may ‘think’ that it is authentically theirs. Indeed, there is much about our late-capitalist modes of discourse that supports this idea. That is, that the more that the state, or conservative ideologues for example, insist on concepts of freedom, even commands us to “be free,” the less free we actually are as we internalize (authenticate) the command for ourselves (within proscribed forms). It can be argued that the film problematizes concepts of reality. But then, couldn’t it also be argued that that assertion only serves to grant more power and control to those that have it by disempowering the subjectivity of any that might challenge the authority of those that control the discourse? Films like “Inception” and “The Matrix,” seem to offer a challenge to the principalities and powers of this world. But it could just as easily be argued that they are actually it’s instruments of greater control. I mean, I rented that darn movie, right? Nobody ordered me to, it was my own desire, my own idea, no? obliged.

  13. jchenwa says:

    Alls I knows right now, is there must be a GOD, b/c I can’t explain anything I’m seeing right now. Experience, life, the soul, reality, ‘I’, huh? But I love my life,

  14. Anthony Bosco says:

    If you enjoyed INCEPTION, check out this short film from an up-and-coming Australian film-maker:

    You won’t be disappointed.

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One Day’s Wages

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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love. don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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