On “Inception”

Spoilers galore ahead. Yes, posting will resume the 20th. I’m making an exception because – well, you’ll see.

On “Inception:” a meditation on trust and sacrifice. Those issues are explored through faith and reason. The movie is filled with extraordinarily clever and competent people and a curious device that allows them to give someone a dream, go into that dream with themselves and the recipient of that dream as actors, “extract” information and plant ideas.

Underlying the Inception project is the mixture of dreams and reality – the mixture is destined to be a mess, as it depends on untruth in its very, um, inception. It is no surprise the one man best at navigating others’ minds drove his own wife insane by implanting the idea that they were together in a dream world when they really were in a dream world. Brought back to reality, she wondered if that too was a dream and killed herself assuming it was. That’s not Inception gone wrong: that’s the very nature of the project and how DiCaprio’s character knows Inception will work, especially for planting ideas.

But the movie is nowhere near as nihilistic as “The Prestige,” where a fatal conflict between old and new has a Hollywood ending slapped on. There, the “new” wins because of “family,” never mind that the “new” drove one of his wives to hang herself through his purposeful neglect. Underlying faith and reason here is memory, the want to believe and trust, the guilt we feel that we must reckon with, not simply recollection. His dead wife, as a subconscious projection of his, only wants him. He’s the anchor to reality; the dream world only includes one other person for her. The twistedness of trust as blind loyalty/mental projections begins to disappear when one realizes that if it weren’t for being forced together in a dream world, all the insanely clever people we’re presented would be trapped in their own little worlds. It is no surprise the idea DiCaprio and friends are supposed to implant is that of breaking up a monopoly in an heir’s mind. The father, dead for years to/in reality, had through his cunning and power near complete control of the world’s energy. One wonders how much they deceive the heir, given that the heir’s placement of his childhood as central seems a self-realization. The plan that called for creating two dreams within a dream was ultimately about seeing what would make the heir happy. Money and power were never terribly important to him even before the dreaming began.

What is surprising is how much trust invading others’ dreams takes, how only a thief – a liar – can be the surest safeguard for everyone else who needs to be involved. The thief and crew are employed by the very first person targeted; he probably set himself up to see what they could/would do. He is most likely testing their loyalty/ethics with the confrontation before the helicopter ride. We get different examples of “faith” (spoken 3 or 4 times at decisive moments) throughout the movie: a team that trusts each other despite violent disagreements (at least two members know full well how threatening DiCaprio’s subconscious is), the girl in love with the dream world who ends up believing more in the thief and his techniques than he himself; a belief by the thief that he still has a family despite a wife screaming in his head that he doesn’t really. But the trust a corporate executive puts into a fugitive who broke into his mind is the strangest of all, yet yields the greatest reward for all involved. DiCaprio’s hero understands more than his mentor that faith is faith in something, someone. The memory of the wife shows “only one” can be just as lost as being alone. Two may not be enough. What “reality” is: the everyday trust a CEO may have in his workers, his reputation, yes, his money, driving him to incredible acts of heroism. Recall how much pain he endures throughout the dream, for a chance at normalcy.


  1. Um. I hate, as my mother would say, to be one, but:

    You appear to have not seen your own earlier post. Or, or, maybe: YOU’RE SLEEP-POSTING!! (Actually that would probably be kind of appropriate for a post on Inception, right?)

  2. I haven’t seen Inception yet, but you’ve definitely sparked my interest. I probably won’t catch it until it is on DVD, but I’ll be adding it to my list for sure.

  3. I’m fascinated by the way you conceive of trust bonding people together across different experiences of time (for me, it was rather the song used to coordinate their escape that struck me as the important device of connection). And the heroism of the trust between Watanabe’s and Dicaprio’s characters (a different sort of two, no?) is particularly interesting since their assumably very long and difficult struggle passes by so fleetingly in the film, as if its lack of recognition were a necessity. It’s as if the narrative requirements of the genre itself understand and accept that which is so difficult for us to stomach.

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