This will be full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie I’d recommend not reading this post.
Sceent it twice now, last Friday and yesterday. I don’t think I can adequately describe how I felt watching it last week – mostly straining to fully comprehend everything, trying to take in every little detail – while still missing many. It wasn’t exactly exhausting, but it took some attention. I thought I had a good grasp of it, until it ended and I had no fuckin’ idea what had just happened. It’s a two and a half hour movie that seemed both longer and shorter than that. Longer in terms of the sheer amount of shit happening; it easily had enough content to fill a ten-part miniseries on HBO, but short in that it didn’t seem like I had been there for several hours, it didn’t feel like it went on too long. For all I knew it was ten hours long – and that wouldn’t have been a bad thing, it was entertaining. Though, once it ended, I left feeling overwhelmed. I wasn’t blown away, in some sort of faux-Nirvana*, I was simply confused. Didn’t really feel anything. Which was unfortunate. I was sure it was great while I was watching it, why did it seem so empty now? People are raving about it – people dumber than me! – why don’t I feel the same way? Knew I had to see it again, knew that I’d missed something.
*Which has happened to me after a few movies, most clearly The Dark Knight, WALL-E, and to some extent, Kick-Ass. Yeah, I’m a faggot. Wanna fight about it?
Saw it again on a whim last night. This time I watched it differently – was Michael Caine’s character wearing the same clothes in both of his appearances? What about Cobb’s kids? Nope, both of ’em changed outfits. What was the time scale of different dream layers? (From what I recorded: a week in the first level is six months in the second and ten years in the third. Also, ten seconds in the first layer is three minutes in the second and twenty minutes in the third. Doing some quick head-calculations, it doesn’t appear the two are consistent with one another. But that’s just with straight multiplication, some sort of exponential function might fit.) What are random people acting like in the “real world?” Until the JGL gravity-defying fight scenes*, I was convinced the movie was absolutely brilliant, just as many others have said. Yay, I get it! But then I started noticing things that really didn’t really make sense. There are plenty of little nit-picky things in the movie, different things you have to suspend disbelief for, but those are OK, that’s to be expected in a movie like this. But these two issues, both regarding events near the very end of the film, seem too big to ignore. Both may have simple explanations, both may not. I just can’t think hard enough to figure ’em out.
*Of which I really, really want to see both some uncut footage, along with shots of the entire setup as it was being filmed. Description of them here.
On to the questions:
Why did Mal (specifically, Cobb’s projection of her) end up in limbo? Cobb killed that projection of her after she shot Fischer, but I don’t know why that would send her to limbo. Do only dreamers and projections of actual people go to limbo when they’re killed in those deeply-sedate dreams? There weren’t dozens of imaginary henchmen from Fischer’s subconscious waiting for anyone once they got there. I could understand her being there once Cobb showed up, but she was very clearly there first – she had time to tie up Fischer and stash him on their porch. Is she always there because Cobb is stashing her there, like how she’s stashed in various other places they’ve been together? Guess that would be the most likely explanation, but I didn’t think Cobb ever visited limbo with that dream elevator of his.
Why was Saito, or Cobb for that matter, confident they succeeded when they both woke up on the plane? I’m fairly sure they were both already in limbo before the vault to the bizarro-bedroom was opened; Eames was the only one that witnessed Fischer seemingly buying in to their implanted idea. I haven’t been able to think of a good explanation for why they assumed it worked, aside from the fact that they woke up and everybody was looking at Cobb with shit-eating grins. It’s not like their mission was going perfectly before they both ended up in limbo, it was falling apart. The final part of their job, which I’d assume was the most difficult and unlikely aspect, was to occur inside that room. Why would they just assume it was successful? The only reason Saito toured the dream was to ensure they succeeded – how could he wake up and immediately make that freeing phone call without actually knowing? Maybe they set up Fischer so well in the preceding levels that they were sure it was going to work once he saw that projection of his father, but that seems like a bit of wishful thinking.
Both those things seem explainable, but not realistically. Hopefully, I can find the answers somewhere. I haven’t really looked. Most likely they’re both issues only because I’m an idiot, but I can’t tell yet.
Now, about the ending. There have been plenty of believable explanations as to why Cobb’s reality was still the dreamworld. (Even though I just read the creator of that specific explanation saying he no longer believes it. Phooey.) He’s awake. He’s really back with his children. His wife is dead, killed due to his previous experience with inception. Too many things don’t make sense if this is simply all in Cobb’s mind – why do the supporting characters do things when Cobb isn’t there? Sure, a few things make it seem like he’s dreaming – the chase scene in Mombasa, most prominently. Oh, so random thugs just start chasing him, he squeezes through a dream-like obstacle and Saito shows up just in time to save the day? A bit outlandish, but not indicative that he’s dreaming. Everyone should’ve been after him, not just some white guys in suits. The corridor was most likely meant to invoke dreams, not prove he’s in one. And Saito shows up because he’s omniscient. I did say a little suspension of disbelief was needed with the film.
So, all in all, it’s a great movie. Not one of my own all-time favorites (reserved for those that truly get an emotional response out of me – I can think of maybe five right now), but still an excellent film. If you don’t buy into it the first time you see it, watch it again. Maybe read some analysis of it before you go back. You’ll pick up on much more of what’s going on and, in my opinion, appreciate it that much more.
Oh, and some random things. I thought Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne, had a name just as dumb-sounding and retarded as the Twilight baby’s when I first saw the movie. But, because I assumed Christopher Nolan isn’t an idiot like Stephenie Meyer, I looked it up. And what’dya know, the original Ariadne was also known as the “Mistress of the Labyrinth.” We’re in the majors with this shit, people.
And another random thing – during the Mr. Charles scene, why was the chick Eames impersonated so ugly? She seemed real out of proportion and had an almost clay like, fish face. Not exactly the bombshell I’d expected.
(Added at 10:15 on 07/25/10 – I’m pretty sure the “supporting actor” in Christopher Nolan’s next film is going to be David Krumholtz. Someone tell me why and I’ll mail them a dollar.)