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Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) July 31, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy

I guess what Christopher Nolan’s been doing in the last few years is redefining mass entertainment. While it’s true that his films pander to people who are intelligent—more so to people who think they are intelligent—it’s also clear that he has created a steady mold for these blockbusters. I can’t help but imagine other filmmakers who are eager and inspired to have at least the sawdust and tinsel of his big ideas, enthused to imitate his experiments and articulations. Nolan’s concepts, albeit clever, are showy to the point of tiring the viewer out of his mind. He’s too smart for his own good that he creates the illusion that every time he makes a film, that wisdom could be passed on to his audience. Rubbing shoulders with the “thinking audience” is Nolan’s lucrative business particularly after The Dark Knight. Sadly, the ticket to immortality seems to need only a rave status update on Twitter nowadays.

Nolan has the whole Internet to thank for. Aside from Heath Ledger’s death, The Dark Knight raked in the box office due to the incredible hype (and meaningless discussions) it raised on blogs, social networking sites, and comment reviews. It’s the phenomenal disease that hasn’t waned until Nolan’s next film, the pointlessly glorified Inception. Again, it’s the film that tipsy fans would exclaim, “Fuck, I have to see it at least twice!” But is Inception really that clever or these people are just being unreasonably stupid for coolness’ sake? Hasn’t it already become, in only a matter of weeks, a symbol of cinematic hipsterness?

In hindsight, Nolan has raised the bar for blockbuster movies. When a 160 million-dollar movie becomes the talk of the town because of its merits, and eventually puts itself in the position of audience’s exaltation, honestly, that’s an uncomfortable thought to deal with. It kills many loyal members of the audience who want their entertainment without the sugar rush of too much icing, viewers who don’t complain about clean fun and excitement. James Cameron’s Titanic, as far as I can remember, didn’t have to explain its mawkishness; in fact, it’s proud of it. On the other hand, Inception is always in defense. It’s no clean fun and excitement. It’s too busy taking up Freud and Frank Lloyd Wright to bother with that. It’s one of the most narcissistic films ever made; and the big narcissist, if only it needs to be said, is Nolan himself. The chases are awful, the cutting between scenes too dull, and the Matrix concept too exerted and stressed to pound one’s nerves. It gave me a headache, to say the least, and it’s not a good thing to take an aspirin while the film is so bent on pressing the mind tricks. Like a moebius strip of clever that drags on for so long it’s no longer interesting. His Batman movies are lamentable and The Prestige is almost ruined in the end, but how come I still can’t shake this feeling that Nolan’s middle name, for Christ’s sake, is fast becoming Jesus Christ?

The dialogues are downright explicit that there is not much thinking involved while watching the film. It’s all there, skin and bones. The only muscle it keeps on moving is Nolan’s mania for highfalutin action and countless references. It is too intentionally messy with a very weak emotional hinge. When it goes on with the dream proper, it walks cool. But when it comes to personal correspondence and motives, it all falls apart. The drama couldn’t be taken seriously. It’s almost close to bluffing. Thank the cinematographer Wally Pfister for the impressive visuals, but hell, it’s fucking $160 million. Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page are exceptionally pretty; so as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, who all excel at being cute. Leonardo DiCaprio, however, has more problems than Africa, and his damn eyebrows are overworked and underpaid. Hans Zimmer pricks up my ears. All this makes Inception stunning on the surface, but as with some pretty-looking things, you don’t always give it a second look.

The dream concept is what everyone’s been crazy about. But hasn’t Satoshi Kon played with the unconscious with more grace and wonder in Paprika? Also, Luis Buñuel. Just one ridiculous dream sequence in one of his movies turns Inception into a lousy karaoke. I quote David Denby:

“Dreams, of course, are a fertile subject for moviemakers. Buñuel created dream sequences in the teasing masterpieces “Belle de Jour” (1967) and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972), but he was not making a hundred-and-sixty-million-dollar thriller. He hardly needed to bother with car chases and gun battles; he was free to give his work the peculiar malign intensity of actual dreams. Buñuel was a surrealist—Nolan is a literal-minded man.”

What am I getting at here? Aside from Nolan’s fake empire, nothing. But two weeks later, it’s still cool to talk about Inception, isn’t it? I belong to the club. Welcome me. Losers.



1. Wilfred - July 31, 2010

Before The Dark Knight, Nolan has always been rubbing shoulders with the “thinking people”. There’s always his masterpiece Memento, which I think is far more worthy of praise than Inception.

2. Richard Bolisay - July 31, 2010

But Memento was not lucrative. The Dark Knight was. Or still is.

3. yulaskie - July 31, 2010

hell, yes. thank you, chard. you hit the right points, especially the part about Inception having a very weak emotional hinge. that really was what was lacking in the film. i couldn’t empathize with leo’s character at all. it was smart, but it was void of emotion.

4. Richard Bolisay - August 1, 2010

“it was smart, but it was void of emotion.” isn’t that the problem with smart people in general? hehe. leo’s too busy twitching his eyebrows.

5. Wilfred - August 2, 2010

It was Shutter Island for Leo all over again. Marital problems, psychological issues, etc. That’s the one thing that hindered myself from connecting with his character, coz I couldn’t keep his last film off my mind. Still, the scene where he narrates what happened to his wife is utterly out-of-place.

6. Wilfred - August 2, 2010

Oh, and I hope you really don’t mean that L-word at the end, else you’ll be battling against thousands. :)

7. Richard Bolisay - August 2, 2010

Wilfred, I mean it. :)

8. Alipin ni Paraluman - August 2, 2010

Alam mo, Chard. Por da pers taym mula noong una kong nabasa itong film blog mo, por da pers taym ha, parehas tayo ng punto sa napanood kong pelikula. Mas magaling ka lang mag-sulat. At dahil naniniwala ako sa ‘yo sa aspetong pelikula, hindi nga ako nagkamali na SAYANG AT SANA SA DVD KO NA LANG PINANOOD ANG INCEPTION. Hehe. Apir.

9. Richard Bolisay - August 2, 2010

Alam mo, Julius, feeling ko lang ha, feeling lang, di ko sigurado, pero parang negatibo yung sinabi mo. Waha. Masaya naman manood sa sine. Action ang palabas, tapos sa DVD, sayang naman! Ayaw mo lang kasi makipagkita. Libre ko naman :)

10. Manga Therapy - August 2, 2010

What do you think of anime fans who saying that Inception is a rip-off of Paprika? I just wish they actually watch the movie and then say something, not just read from a script or general synopsis.

I actually posted my thoughts on why some fans might think this way. You can read them at:

11. Richard Bolisay - August 4, 2010

Inception pales in comparison to Paprika. Paprika is complex in its exploration of the dream world, exciting, colorful, challenging. On the other hand, Inception is literal, tense, and though there are moments of wonder, they melt instantly. I don’t think it’s a rip-off because Inception fails where Paprika succeeds. It can’t be helped to have similar ideas and subject. In the end, it all boils down to execution.

Nice observations you have.

12. Manga Therapy - August 4, 2010

Thank you very much. I do agree that in the end, execution is what matters. Both movies executed things differently. Nolan tried his best to appease the casual audience. What do you think about the upcoming live-action Paprika?

13. nico - August 4, 2010

i loved Inception, i still do..

but i do agree, it is intelligent the way any movie can be made intelligent just by analyzing the philosophy about it, (intended or not) in other words, nasa reading na ng tao.

as i said, i love the movie, pero this was the first (negative)crtique of the film na napaisip ako. na hindi ako nagalit. na parang hindi ko kelangan i-defend yung pelikula. (i would like to us the word sober, pero who the hell knows kung ano ang context ng salitang sober) hehe

14. Richard Bolisay - August 5, 2010

@Manga Therapy: not surprised about the live-action one. i just wish they put more effort on the writing than the effects, or else it’ll be wasted.

@nico: who’s sober? hehe.

15. Manga Therapy - August 5, 2010

Let’s hope Wolfgang Petersen can make something happen with the live-action version of Paprika.

16. Jayclops - August 8, 2010

Haha. Welcome me too, Chard. For I’m also somewhere between thoroughly enjoying the mindfuck (intentional) and wanting to dislike it. In dreams. Bago na layout ng blog mo ah. Cool. It’s like doodles of Ariadne haha. Or not.

17. ayerarguelles - August 9, 2010

yo, chard. apir! disapir! =)

18. Epoy - August 9, 2010

I still don’t know all this fuzz about Inception since I am yet to watch this one. I remembered Fidan Medel calling this the best movie yet of 2010 or maybe of all time. I still don’t criticized it, but I asked something like: “”better than Synecdoche, New York?”

I’ve just been reading about this… that it is a rip-off of paprika, it is great, pretentious, etc. I’ll get back to this when I’m done watching it. :)

19. ayn - August 11, 2010

saw this and really had to share. well that and this

20. Manga Therapy - August 13, 2010

@ayn That is a really good point! I really hope nothing happens to his wife in the future.

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