50 Things About Inception (Spoilers)

First off, I’m gonna drop a spoiler alert as big as the budget Warner Bros. gave Christopher Nolan: if you haven’t seen Inception STOP READING HERE. I’ll also update this occasionally to make sure it’s accurate. Also make sure to check out the rest of our Inception coverage.

1. The top totem just became one of the most iconic film images of the new millennium. It also serves as the thread that holds the film together. If you really pay attention to it and use common sense at the end, it will help you separate dreams from reality — just like it did for Cobb and Mal. But more on that later.

2. Tom Hardy is the man, isn’t he? He’s got that same irresistible charm that seeps out of Robert Downey Jr.’s pours. Apparently, he has shed 30 pounds and is revved up and ready to roll for the new Road Warrior flick. Badass.

3. Speaking of Hardy, his outfit in the frozen third dream world during the climax reminded me of Dan Aykroyd in Spies Like Us — “Soulfinger.” Also of not here is that by admitting he couldn’t ski during the casting process, he damn near cost himself the role. Nolan doesn’t mess around with doubles, or at least he does as little as possible, which is wise. Three words: 80s action movies.

4. Hardy’s “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” line was on of three moments that provoked a  literal laugh-out-loud moment from the crowd.

5 (28-491). Saved this for the most important number. This film has to do well, or Hollywood wins and original ideas go down into limbo. This film isn’t going to make $100 million this weekend. Probably $55 million if we are lucky (it made $60 M!). But if you love this film do what I did and go see it twice, or three times (which I will do). If you can’t afford to go see it twice, then tell everyone you know about Inception. Why should you give a damn? If you love great movies that make you think, like Vertigo, like Chinatown, like this, you should. If you like watching anything other than sequels, reboots and spin-offs you should. If you believe in art you should. Let’s do the impossible and pull of inception on Hollywood. Plant this idea: “Great original ideas exist and are worth spending big money on.”

6. The only huge hole I saw in the film? How did Robert Fischer Jr. not recognize Saito, a fellow billionaire and the head honcho of a powerful rival energy company? You’d think that even three levels down in the dream he’d recognize an adversary willing to hire an international fugitive to plant an idea inside his subconscious in order to bring down his company. Especially when he was so paranoid about inner-cranial espionage that he hired a security team to train his subconscious to protect itself.

7. On the other hand, Saito was wearing a mask and given the context Fischer believed to be true  — that Peter Browning had been responsible for the kidnapping — he could have easily overlooked his rival’s presence that deep in his subconscious. Additionally, things were frantic, Saito was dying, and he was searching for something. His mind was elsewhere and there was really no reason for him to be suspicious. I caught this on my second viewing, and upon further review is it even a hole? Not really. He did see Saito in the first dream layer, but who else would Browning use as the face of the kidnapping attempt?

8. Apparently, Cillian Murphy was considered for Batman. I was one of those people who grew up a Batman geek and saw American Psycho and said, yeah, that is Batman/Bruce Wayne. But after seeing Murphy play the conflicted heir I now believe that he too would have been a good choice to play the Caped Crusader.

9. Very similar to Shutter Island, the opening scene plays out a whole lot differently the second time you watch this film. And this film really demands a second viewing pretty immediately.

10. Leonardo DiCaprio brings out the nutjob in actresses, doesn’t he? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier than Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road and Emily Mortimer (that chick has to be crazy in real life, because she plays a wacko in every flick) and Michelle Williams in Shutter Island, Marion Cotillard’s big blue eyes make you not want to sleep for a week.

11. Speaking of Leo, he rocked it again. Not surprised. He’s a modern-day Brando and all that, I’m one of his biggest supporters. I will say this, however, and it’s that it is easy to see that how once an actor reaches the pinnacle of the profession it is pretty easy for him to really thrive. This guy has been working off of Kingsley and Ruffalo, off of JGL and Watanabe, with directors like Scorsese and Nolan. In Leo’s defense, he chooses his projects more wisely than anybody in the business and isn’t afraid to sit years out (1999, 2003, 2005, 2009). He also has virtually no blemishes on his filmography as far as directors go post-Titanic, with the exception of The Man in the Iron Mask helmer Randall Wallace. In Leo’s defense, he was young, fresh off the Titanic and Wallace was fresh off of Braveheart. The were the kings of the world. My point here is that right now Leo is like Kobe Bryant; not only is he the best in the game, he always has the best team around him. That is a deadly combination.

12. As reader Erik points out, I originally missed this number. I think it was just to keep 13 from actually being 13, hence unlucky. Or maybe I just was finally too zombified to notice at 7 AM after writing all night and missed it? Anyway, I wanted to include his really cool interpretation of what could have actually been going on:

I have a suspicion that most everyone in the film doesn’t actually exist, except for perhaps Michael Caine and Ellen Page, and that Caine is the one that has put Cobb into a dream that Page designed. It’s possible that Page is Cobb’s daughter grown up and wanted to know if Cobb actually killed her mother.

This is certainly not my interpretation, nor do I agree with it, but it is also hard to disprove. This much is for certain: this movie will spawn more theories than JFK’s assassination.

13. This is trivial, but what is up with Leo getting away with having the same facial hair and pretty much hair in every film? Didn’t affect me in this film or Shutter Island, but there will be a point where he needs to pull a De Niro and disappear on us or risk going Cruise and being unable to disappear any longer onscreen.

14. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “give me a kiss” moment received a huge pop from the audience. That was a very successful moment in the film because things kind of hit a lull between that epic street shootout with the train and the climax. It gave the audience a nice little chuckle and a little release, and broke up the exposition nicely. It also harked back to classic Hollywood. Masterful touch.

15. Speaking of JGL, I just can’t gush enough about the choice to have him in the film. Hardy and Ellen Page are super cool, yes, but JGL is next. He’s the next superstar. I just have this feeling. I had that very same feeling about Philip Seymour Hoffman 10 years before he won an Oscar. Brick, The Lookout and Mysterious Skin might have given him an underground sizzle, and (500) Days of Summer might have put him on the map, but that anti-gravity fight in the hotel hallway might have just made his Arthur the baddest sci-fi mutha since Neo. Trust me, his agent is going to be the busiest dude in town this summer. Everybody is going to want a piece of the JGL now.

16. Even though this is a complete film that stands alone, WB is going to want a sequel. If there is an Inception sequel, it has to be Arthur’s movie. Hell, Maybe he and Ariadne even get together. Maybe he’ll roll that die? Well, either that or you start all over from scratch. How often do you have a concept and a director where you don’t even need any characters to carry over? Um, never. Except now. And if you want to avoid that ugly Inception 2 name just call it Extraction. I don’t think a sequel here would be unoriginal either — I think this environment demands further exploration. I really do think the primary remaining interest would be in the environment. I think that’s where The Matrix sequels went wrong. They had this beautiful world set up where anything was possible, yet the entire second and third films felt like they happened outside of that world.

But maybe we would still like to know more about everybody not named Cobb, Fischer and Saito? I do think those three characters are fully resolved, however, so if you bring back any of the three you damage the open resolution of this film. So, no, I do not see any possibility of a sequel with Leo — unless Cobb is merely a projection, a la Mal. To work with Nolan again even in a more limited fashion, he might sign on for that. Of course they could always do an Inception prequel, but with Cobb I feel like we already know that story. My idea for a sequel, although it would require all viewers to choose an ending for the first film, is the crew cracking into Leo’s mind to try and pull him out of limbo. In that scenario, Cobb would be the villain and the protagonist, which sounds pretty intense to me. Again, I just don’t see Nolan damaging Inception‘s ending, but you never know.

17. Then again, you could literally scrap the whole cast, keep the ground rules intact and bring in another eight ringers. Just off the top of my head: Brad Pitt (who Nolan damn near cast as Dom Cobb), Evan Rachel Wood, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Dustin Hoffman, Penelope Cruz and Vincent D’Onofrio. If this movie makes $200 million in the next 6 weeks, Nolan could forget the old cast and just throw out a wishlist like this for the sequel…and both the studio and the actors would jump at the chance. This man is building some Spielbergesque Hollywood capital. Hell, with the Internet backing him like it does he may have unprecedented capital.

18. A lot of people and events have figuratively turned Paris upside down, but nobody has been able to literally turn Paris upside down. That’s why…

19. Before you know it it will be Sir Christopher Nolan. Not afraid to be the first to predict the inevitable.

20. What about Cobb and Mal being younger than older in limbo — which is correct? Well, first off, all of that stuff happened in limbo, which from what we are told makes even less sense than the constructs of your typical dreamscape. Now, that being said, Cobb tried to hold out for as long as possible on admitting and facing the truth, but in the end you see that he had to remember that he and Mal did really grow older in limbo before they freed themselves. His visualizations even admit as much before the film is over. Regardless, even though their minds aged that way in limbo and they felt that old and believed they were that old, hence the aging since their shared subconscious was in control, I believe that when they were able to free themselves by committing suicide on the railroad track that their mind returned to its normal age back in the real world. Minus some extreme wear and tear, of course.

21. Cobb’s inception on Mal actually makes a lot of sense. They dug too deep within the layers of the dream and both lost awareness that their world, the limbo of the subconscious, was not real for a long time. But at some point Cobb figured out they were in limbo. That’s when he planted the idea inside Mal’s safe using her totem that the limbo which seemed so real for so long and caused her to0 give up was but a dream — by having the top always spin. By doing this, he permanently allowed her to lose her grasp instead of just temporarily. He believed that his inception had freed her and would allow them to escape. What he didn’t know is that the idea he planted, the virus he infected her mind with, was so strong that it would infect her mind even in the real world and ultimately lead to her tragic suicide.

Reminds me an awful lot of what Sammy Jankis’ wife did to test him. Or what Leonard convinced himself happened there. A lot of parallels exist between Lenny and Cobb, that’s for certain. You can literally see how Nolan started thinking while making Memento, if this works maybe I can do this on a much, much larger scale someday.

22. The dreamers during the climax were: 1. Yusef; 2. Arthur; 3. Eames. That’s why each one couldn’t go any deeper. Fischer is the mark whose subconscious populates the dream. Ass stated before, his mind has been trained to protect itself from such heists. By going to the “Mr. Charles” strategy and Eames turning him on Browning, he leads the crew right to what they need. Ariadne was the architect who constructed the physical layers of the dreams and in fact was only there to help Cobb deal with his Mal problem. Saito was the tourist who came along so he could get a guarantee that the job was indeed done properly. Cobb was the quarterback who used his experience to call audibles as needed, which they were. He did not want to be the architect nor the dreamer due to his lack of ability to control his projections of Mal inside the dreamscape.

23. I always say this about movies, and it’s why I love suspension of disbelief, but god damn the bad guys cannot aim. Then again, in my dreams the villains have piss-poor shooting, too. I’m a regular James Bond during my REM sleep. But that doesn’t explain Mobasa? I guess Leo just got lucky.

24. Michael Caine is like some kind of film prophet now. He was in that film for literally two minutes and his impact was immeasurable. I suppose he is at the point in his career where he has earned unquestionable wisdom.

25. What in the hell happened to Tom Berenger? I realize that we all age, but this guy really went to sh**. Did he mean to go on the Val Kilmer diet? Next to Cillian Murphy, who looks years younger than he is at 34, he just looked atrocious. On the other hand, he did seem very authentic. The No. 2 guy in a company like that would play a lot of golf, be out in the sun a ton, eat a lot of red meat and room service, travel a lot and booze, just generally probably get run down and look like hell. You’d think that the No. 2 guy would actually work a whole helluva a lot harder than the No. 1 guy and his heir — without the same quality of lifestyle. So it worked well, I suppose. Nothing wrong with the performance either, especially when he was acting as Tom Hardy acting as him — a very slippery slope. But I’m not backtracking — he has aged terribly.

Continue to page two for the final 25…

26. Dileep Rao is the biggest actor in Hollywood! Who else can claim co-starring roles in Avatar and Inception? Dude, if I send you $100 will you buy me like $10 worth of lottery tickets and send them back? Jesus H., are you riding some luck, my man.

27. Speaking of Rao, his character had one of the great one-liners of the movie after the van crash, when he turned around to his REM-ed cohorts and stated, “Did you see that?”

28. Did the whole forger thing confuse you? Well, Eames was good at forging in the dream world for the same reasons he was in the real world. That’s the way I looked at it, anyway. He was kind of a criminal method actor with a knack for improvisation and forgery, and, well, a little MI-5 action thrown in for good measure. He was like a mix of Dana Carvey, Daniel Day-Lewis and Jason Statham.

29. Cobb’s style — pretty straight forward. Now that that’s established, who had the dopest style in this flick — Arthur or Eames?

30. Screw style, which of the leading ladies was better eye candy — Cotillard or Page? I’m gonna be in the minority here, but I’m going with Ellen. She’s young and she’s not the curviest chick around, but she definitely has that “it” factory. Cottilard kinda scares me — not gonna lie. I’m gonna piss myself during her next Maybelline commercial. I’ll be expecting her to pick up a butcher’s knife or a broken champagne glass. “You told me we’d always be together!” Alright, bitch, I won’t change the channel again. EVER!

31. Nolan recently said in an interview, “”There are a few laughs, mainly from the supporting players.” My only gripe would be that in my two screenings I have counted three such moments. I think the film could have benefited from about three more moments where the audience got a good, loud chuckle in. Tension…and release. But who am I to question Christopher Nolan?

32. One complaint I’ve heard is that there isn’t enough joy and sex in this puppy. You know what, we all like sex, but I’d like to think that some of us can still experience joy without it being gratuitously involved in every film. I went to see Inception for the same thrills that Blade Runner gave me. If you want sexual thrills, fire up some porn. Doesn’t matter to me, but can’t one of man’s brains think while the other remains paralyzed in REM? Yeah, that brain.

33. Andrew O’Hehir, comparing this film to something Michael Bay would create is an effing embarrassment. Honestly, you should be disbarred from Rotten Tomatoes for such an insult. Didn’t like the film? Fine. Didn’t think it lived up to the hype (and how could it?)? Fine. Thought it included too much exposition and too little action for summer fare? Fine. But for you to compare one of our modern-day pioneers to a hack like that when he is trying to stretch as an auteur and take an original concept and see just how far he run with it…that’s effed up. If you really care about film, if you really love film the way most of us, the way I do in my heart, then do you wouldn’t dare go there. Bush league. That’s called being a hater. There’s no place in legitimate film criticism or discussion for behavior like that. It’s absurd. What’s next — gonna call P.T. Anderson Uwe Bol?

You are simply playing the contrarian here and riding against the hype tidal wave. It’s transparent and phony. If you’re comparing Nolan to Bay you are obviously just a hater. It’s like comparing Peyton Manning to Ryan Leaf. Someone needs a kick right about now. Time to wake up.

34. I am an agnotheist (my own term), so I don’t know that you are, but if you are out there, Philip K. Dick, then you have to be smiling this weekend.

35. The Matrix hit this mark. Blade Runner hit this mark. I think Inception hit the mark. I don’t believe Minority Report is quite in the same class. Children of Men hit that same mark on a quality scale but never blew up, because it was far too bleak, with far too few thrills. There’s only about one neo-noir sci-fi film that explodes every decade, and I think we just witnessed it smack dab in the middle of the summer. Mind. Blown.

36. Ken Watanabe. He might not be the easiest guy to understand in English, but god damn does he command the screen.

37. Back to the numbers 528 and 491, which were not only the blonde’s incomplete digits and the safe code but the hotel room numbers. Ariadne’s architectural design must have made the rooms pliable in a way that the crew could adapt to whatever numbers he chose.

38. One thing that seemed to confuse people was level two and its lack of gravity. Well, if you are taking a nap and you fall off the couch while dreaming, you could freefall in your dream. The dream layers operate in a very similar fashion — you feel the effects of what is happening in the level “above” you. When the van began to plunge off the bridge towards the water below in dream layer one, in the dream layer below gravity was temporarily suspended. This is why Arthur, the dreamer, had to get extremely creative when it came to the kick. Ultimately, he used C-4 explosives to disconnect the elevator car, and then used them again to cause a crash resulting in a kick.

39. Read some bitching about Arthur and how he should have gotten kicked when the van drove off of the bridge. First off, if you remember what happened to Cobb early in the film, the kick did not take until he hit the water. Second, I’d like to think these guys — especially Arthur, Cobb and Eames — are so good they can ignore a kick if they absolutely need to do so. Third, if a kick comes during a strenuous situation such as combat where the actual dreamer is preoccupied, does that situation supersede the kick? If it is your dream do you have more control over the kick? I personally think the kick comes when the van hits the water, not when it drives off the bridge. I think people took the chair example when Eames was playing around a little too literally as a “rule.” I tend to roll with earlier in the film when Cobb did not leave the dream until when in the level above his body was fully submerged into water and the kick was fully initiated.

40. Nolan has always been in love with Bond. Screw Sam Mendes. You’re great, Sam, but this man was born to direct a 007 pic. In fact, I truly believe he could put forth a Bond film that would be an Oscar contender. He has even expressed interest. If even Nolan can’t save MGM, then the studio should go Heaven’s Gate and have a mass suicide for mismanaging two properties as ridiculously easy to manage as Bond and The Hobbit.

41. I wonder how the Wachowski brothers siblings feel right about now? Not even being a smart ass. I bet they feel like they paved they way for this. And they did. WB would never have coughed up this coin without that experience.

42. Nice to see Lukas Haas get some love early on in this picture as Nash. I wonder if JGL had anything to do with that? They did kill it together in Brick and do seem to roll thick as thieves. Well, it’s always short lived. These two have a history of not working out, and Haas has a history of taking a bullet in every film he appears with JGL in. I think it’s worth it, dude. Stick with JGL.

43. I love the term “projection.” The word is so negative in its nature. I don’t know about its root and all that, hell, I didn’t even look it up in Webster’s. But think about it — when we are at our worst as humans we project our negativity towards others. The connotation paired with the white blood cells metaphor really gets the message across. Additionally, when you see that even Cobb, the best in the world, can’t completely control his subconscious anymore, you see just how frakked (to borrow from sci-fi culture) this kinda work can be. All of this really sets the tone for the subconscious security that serves as the opposition for the final third of the film.

44. Whether it’s the van or the elevator or the hallway with the lack of gravity or the entrenched icy hospital fortress, Nolan’s greatest trick has always been his ability to make you believe what you have no business believing. His directorial and writing styles lend practicality to impractical worlds. I honestly have never seen anybody with the ability to create a more hyperreal environment on film than Nolan (Alfonso Cuaron has gotta be up there, though). His ability to suspend the audience’s disbelief and force them to fully accept his proposed reality is his greatest asset as an artist.

45. Love my Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, Texas — best theaters in the country — but they weren’t at their best tonight. I could sense that the servers were just done, they were in limbo after a long day of dealing with Inception. You see, these theaters are like the ultimate film-lovers hangout. Every film is going to be soldout with a line 90 minutes beforehand with people ordering beer, wine and food. I was in the back and the servers and runners were being ridiculously loud during the opening scene of the movie, and I momentarily lost concentration (ADHD to the max) and didn’t catch if the top stopped spinning when crazy-eyed Cobb sits down with elderly Saito in the opening scene. I don’t think I needed to see that, as either way they at least thought they figured things out and were escaping limbo, but dammit — Ken Watanabe is hard to understand! But it’s nice to know that we have a movie in the middle of July that can make us hone in like this.

46. That train in the first dream during the Fischer heist was a nice touch. Quite often, I see a car chase and say, oh, hear we go again. Not this time. I suppose this one arrived unsuspected. I suppose I actually gave a damn about the characters. Maybe Nolan taking a decade to work on this script’s character development paid off?

47. Pete Postlethwaite was the cherry on top of the sundae if you ask me. Love him in The Usual Suspects. His In the Name of the Father turn was even more sensational. It was so crucial to get a man who could lend enormous weight to the role of Maurice Fischer, dying CEO, despite limited screen time. It took a “name” director to get an actor of magnitude to take on such a role, and Nolan is now certainly that. He’s become a brand.

48. I think the ambiguity of the ending is brilliant. He’s managed to please the most hardcore and cynical of cinephiles, but also the more moderate and even modest film fans. Given the same opportunity with The Prestige, he made things pretty cut and dry there at the end. In his defense, at that point in his career I doubt he had final edit over that particular movie. With this movie I bet Warner Bros. even gave him the “f*** off” edit. I mean, the studio is considering giving his brother, who has never directed before in his life, the Superman franchise. They might as well put a crown of thorns on his head. Nonetheless, the ability to please both the high-brow crowd and the summer-popcorn gang with an ending is a true magic trick. If Nolan is Lord Caldlow, Inception‘s prestige is that he allows the viewer to walk away with the resolution they want.

If you really, really want a happy ending, you can convince yourself that Cobb made it back and be done with the journey. But if you want to dig deeper I think you’ll see that: the top keeps spinning; those kids hadn’t aged a bit (they look the same even down to the clothes they are wearing, even though time had elapsed and the daughter sounded older on the phone); and that we never saw/heard any shots fired. The opportunity for deep thinking is set before you. Ironic given the film’s similarities to The Matrix, that at the end Nolan allows his viewers to either be bluepill or redpill people. I prefer redpill, just because given the clues it makes sense to me, and given that resolution there are so many more paths to explore during future viewings. You take the blue pill and Leo is starring in Daddy Day Dreams. Just saying. But what is amazing to me is that he gave the “sunny day” movie folks that option without killing it for the rest of us, and he didn’t smack any of us over the head with the ending, which is rare these days. Although I must admit that for a second there it did almost sound like on both viewings that the top topples over after things go to black.

And, no, I do not think the entire film was a dream. Possible given the Cobb-Saito bookends, but the top totem (which I believe is our totem) notifies us that we are indeed in reality multiple times during the course of film.

49. Not only is the ending very flexible, but the entire movie is as well. There were so many parallels between me and this movie that I can’t, and won’t, even start. I think some of the critics who chalked this thing up as a superficial swing for the fences will be in for a rude awakening when they see this bad boy in their living room for the second of third time. Things will start to sink in, and the screen will start to turn into a mirror. Then again, I fully believe this is the kind of movie you will get out of what you go into seeking. I went into Inception looking for something deep. That’s what I found. If you just want Bourne meets The Matrix, I’m pretty sure you’ll be satisfied as well. This film is also like a dream in that I find that it really fits its viewer. I think that’s a result of the writer/director pouring so much of his heart and soul into every character.

50. I believe that Nolan put a subtle hint in this film, a subtle challenge to all the wannabe filmmakers out there. He is Cobb and you are Ariadne. After seeing what he can create, after seeing what can be done when you dedicate 20 years to gradually taking on bigger projects, after seeing how big he can dream, do you dare go back to your old life? Can you live such a life when you know such creation is possible even if not plausible? Can you dream big enough to fool an audience full of marks? I think the gauntlet has been thrown down not only to Hollywood but to its next generation of architects. Do those  who want create cinematic mazes dare take the same leap of faith Nolan once took? Or will they and the film industry both die old and full of regrets?

If Hollywood was looking for its kick, it certainly got it this weekend. I know I felt it.