Inception is a diamond in the rough of this year’s movies. The brilliance of Inception lies in its many facets. And as we shed light on it and peer into its depths, the light just seems to bounce off the facets more and more, giving this diamond a dazzling glow.
The first facet is immediately apparent at the end of the movie, as the screen cuts to black before we see the spinning top fall. We are brought to stark awareness that we did not see the top fall; the top could very go on spinning forever and the ‘reality’ that the events of the movie are based upon may very well just be another layer of this dream within a dream.
What many people don’t realize is that this doubt (that we feel so intellectually gratified at realizing on our own) is the true brilliance of the movie. The very fact that we can draw a conspiracy theory doubting the entire veracity of the movie just based on the ending scene of a slowing down top that we did not see stop completely shows how successful Nolan’s inception (I refer to the action of implanting the idea here, rather than the movie) has been. What this means is we ourselves are part of this dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. We ourselves are part of the inception. As Cobb and his team go deeper into the layers of consciousness, we too go with him. And at limbo, that very deepest layer of dream, we are incepted: emotionally, as the drama between Cobb and his wife unfolds; intellectually, pounded into us by shifting of scenes between layers; but most importantly, subconsciously, as the movie begins with limbo.
From the beginning of the movie, we are struck with the question that defines a dream; the very same question that Cobb asks Ariadne: how did we get here? We don’t know how things started, even though we are in the thick of action already. We don’t know how dream machines come about. We don’t know what year it is. We don’t know the genesis. Right from the beginning, as we watch Cobb getting washed up upon the shore, our own dream begins. Of course, beginning with the end is a method of inception in itself. By showing us the end, Nolan gives us tainted glasses to watch the movie through. As we watch the movie unfold, we watch it with foreknowledge and prejudice and stereotype. Nolan does to us exactly what he does with the characters in the movie; he infects our tabula rasa with the virus of an idea. He incepts us. And thus, we become part of the dream.
The power of the idea is amplified when we internalize it and when we start to find implications for it. For the danger of an idea is not the idea in itself, but in its repercussions. And if we assimilate these ideas and start to question… do I know my beginning? Do I remember being born? How did I come into this world? We realize, alarmingly, that we don’t know. We are as dumbstruck as Ariadne and we realize with chilling possibility that we might be living a dream. That nagging doubt, that gnawing suspicion, that tainted lenses; that is the power of Inception.
Another facet of the movie is the theme of faith. Saito asks Cobb early on in the movie, “Dare you take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone.” And at the end, while we are caught up in figuring whether things were real or not, Cobb has already gone beyond us. He has left the top behind without bothering to see if it stops or not. He cares more about hugging his children then he does about checking whether he is in a dream. He has taken that leap of faith. He has come full circle, despite rejecting Mal’s words – “You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope the train will take you, but you can’t be sure. But it doesn’t matter because we’ll be together.” It doesn’t matter any more whether things are real; what matters is they are together. And in taking that leap of faith, Cobb has taken one step (or leap) further than us, for we are still stuck with our doubts. Cobb, the character in the movie, has gone further than us who are in the real world. The fiction, the fantasy the dream; they have gone further than reality.
And the last facet that I’m going to talk about is that the whole movie being just Nolan’s dream. It’s a paracosm (credit to posef for this idea) that he created for himself to showcase his sick special effects and awesome directing skills. And from his distinctive non-linear storyline style, multiple levels of meanings and explorations of a myriad of themes at the same time, this movie is somewhat a microcosm of his own mind as well.
And there are many other facets I’m sure; many other ideas spawned by this movie that I have not covered, which other critics will expound on in greater detail. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Ideas beget ideas. They are viruses, after all. They multiply and consume. That’s another facet =)