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Friday Night at the Movies: Inception


Review: Inception

By Travis Greene

Written & directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo
DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 148 minutes. Rated PG-13 for
sequences of violence and action throughout.

begins with a shot of a wave crashing into the shore, as Dom Cobb (Leonardo
DiCaprio) struggles against the chaos, trying to orient himself against
something solid. This is as good an introduction to
Inception‘s themes as any. And themes it has, since
it is that rarest of animals: a summer action blockbuster driven by ideas. How
do we know what we know? If we think our dreams are real while we are dreaming
them, how do we know what is real when we are awake? How do our memories come
to define our present, and can an idea (guilt, regret, desire) grow to define
us and control us?


takes place in a world where the technology exists to enter dreams, and
corporations take advantage of this for corporate espionage.  Cobb is a thief who invades the minds
of important people to steal their secrets, but he is soon hired for a very
different kind of job: not to steal an idea, but to implant one, a
presumed-impossible process called inception. But Cobb has his own past
experiences with inception that threaten his ability to pull this off.

It’s a little hard to describe without sounding either silly or
complicated, but fortunately all these rather abstract and philosophical ideas
are suspended on a familiar structure. Inception is a heist movie. It has all
the beats of that genre. There’s the assembling of the team, the formulating a
plan to access the impenetrable facility, and the inevitable complications that
threaten the plan once it begins. But because it all takes place in the human
mind, director Christopher Nolan can play around with time and physics, often
to thrilling effect. One scene in a hallway is particularly impossible to look
away from, or indeed breathe during.


The well-rounded cast, which includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph
Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, as well as the reliable DiCaprio, does a great
job grounding the heady concepts into believable human interaction, although in
the end the film is more about the ideas than the characters.

will send you out of the theaters pondering big questions, and not because of
some contrived twist, though its enigmatic final scene is open to
interpretation. It is captivating and entertaining throughout, and deals with
important issues of how we carry guilt, how we deal with our problems
subconsciously, and how we can operate with epistemic humility in the face of
our inherent dependence on perception to experience the world. It continues
Nolan’s string of movies that are both meaningful and entertaining, and I
highly recommend it.

Comments read comments(11)
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Ben Steel

posted July 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Good Review! I’ve seen it twice already. Nolan does such a great job telling stories through a camera.

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Lived in Wien!

posted July 23, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I would rather hear Scot’s reviews of books and film rather than someone else’s. However, the commentary was well-written. I just don’t see the point of reading someone else’s take, when this is Scot’s blog. Just my opinion.

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Scot McKnight

posted July 23, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Lived in Wien! (Und ich in Wiener Neustadt.)
Gr?ss Gott!
Simply put, this blog has been churning along for 5.5 years and the blog has created a community of readers. So much so that it is “our” blog. A couple years back RJS began posting on science; she’s been wonderful for all of us.
And others, too, have been regular contributors, like Michael Kruse and David Opderbeck.
I don’t go to movies very often but sense that many readers here do. Opening the blog on Friday evening for a movie review fills a spot on the blog with comments by folks who are thinking about such things at that time.

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posted July 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Hmm, Inception sent me from the theater wishing I could have my time and money back. What are these big questions I’m supposed to be pondering? It seemed there was a lot of saying _that_, but no saying _how_ or _why_–nothing very meaningful, just an uncaptivating and predictable story. I guess next time I’ll spend my time and money reading a good book.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Travis, great review. I haven’t been to see this yet. I was waiting until after my travels next week. I may have to move up to this weekend. Thanks.

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Travis Greene

posted July 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Thanks. It is definitely worth seeing it in the theater if you can. Preferably with someone you can then mull it over with.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to contribute in a small way to a blog that means a lot to me. Thanks.

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Gary Cleveland

posted July 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

Hey Scot,
Enjoyed the film with my wife. We talked for a long time afterwards about reality. Why some things seem more real than others….even when we read the Bible. Did I see a blue parakeet fly by in one of the scenes?? I think your review is a good summation of the film’s premise.

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posted July 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I saw this movie and loved it. Going to see it again. Was fixed to the edge of my seat the whole time. Had great discussions with friends about the enigmatic interpretative ending and worldview questions as they relate to the Judeo-Christain faith.
Great movie! Can not recommend it enough. (Oh ya, good review too!)

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posted July 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Great review Travis. This movie just stirred up a long conversation about racism and identity development: how we create safe worlds for ourselves and how one (in this case, racist) idea can be planted perhaps by family or culture and we don’t realize it and yet it forms our perceptions and actions. This could apply to classism and a host of other *isms as well. Just wait until preachers take hold of the movie. Instead of handing out red/blue pills, they’ll be handing out totems. *tongue firmly planted in cheek*

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Bob Smallman

posted July 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm

“Inception will send you out of the theaters pondering big questions…”
Linda and I saw it yesterday on the basis of a 4-star review in our paper, and while I suppose it raised some “big questions,” I really do think it WAS basically a heist movie. I’ve seen worse, so I gave it 3 stars. Linda gave it 2.

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Ben Van Loon

posted July 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

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