Friday, January 14, 2011

Things I Picked Up On My Third Viewing of "Inception"

My favorite film of 2010 is probably going to be "Inception," because I am still totally enamored with it six months and three viewings later. There are still little things I'm picking up with each viewing and I thought I'd share some of them to show where I am in the process of breaking down and getting to know the film. Here's a quick list of observations I made while watching "Inception" for the third time. Spoilers are everywhere, so be warned.

During the preparatory and planning scenes for the Fischer job, the characters hold discussions in the dream architecture for the first two levels. First, we get to see the car chase environment when it's not raining and then the office building environment empty, and with different lighting. It's wonderful foreshadowing.

The wine glass breaking in the bar during the "Mr. Charles" sequence is a visual and aural reference to Cobb stepping on a glass in the hotel room before Mal's suicide. You can really see the way Christopher Nolan added all these recurring motifs throughout the film upon rewatch, and I'm still finding new ones.

Is the snow fortress Eames' dream or Fischer's? I figured out the reason why I got confused was that Cobb tells Ariadne that they're going into Fischer's dream to clarify that they're not going into Browning's. This doesn't mean he's the Dreamer, to use the film's terminology. The entire time, Fischer remains the Subject, while the other team members are the Dreamers constructing dreams for Fischer to populate. That's why all the projections are hostile all the way down - they're all part of his subconscious. The other people sharing the dream can also affect the environment and bring things in, which is why it's raining in Yusuf's level and Cobb is stalked by Mal and a freight train.

Also, I still can't figure out why there should be a loss of gravity in the second dream level, but not in the third. Saito's injury still affects him as he goes deeper into dreams, but the effects are delayed. So the loss of gravity should still affect the third dream level, but maybe to a lesser extent. Wouldn't it have been fun to see the assault on the hospital base if the gravity was similar to the moon's? Then James Bond fans could have had "Moonraker" references instead of the ones to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

There are a few other inconsistencies with the second level that I spotted. Arthur has to retrieve the explosives, get his floating teammates into the elevator, reset the charges, and then blow them for the kick, all in the space of about five minutes according to Cobb's math. I find that unlikely. Also, the projections are supposed to get worse the further down into dreams you go, but Arthur fights off far fewer projections than Yusuf does a level above him, few enough that they can be dispatched by hand-to-hand combat. Maybe his level is better designed and only a few projections managed to find him?

I no longer have any trouble understanding Ken Watanabe or Marion Cotillard's dialogue. As non-English speakers, they're actually being very careful with their pronunciation. However, I want to watch "Inception" with closed captioning for a fourth viewing because I'm still missing Tom Hardy's lines. He tends to blurt things out quickly, and his British accent gets pretty thick.

Isn't the whole team still stuck in the car chase level for a week after the van goes off the bridge? The reason the team wasn't going to wait out the sedative once they realized Fischer's subconscious was militarized it because they would have had to survive in the first dream level for a week to wake up naturally, and even longer the farther down they went. Everyone except Saito and Cobb only wake to the first level at the end of the film, because we don't see a kick in the real world to bring them all the way back up to reality. Does this mean Fischer's projections were placated after the inception and the team waited it out for a week? What were they doing for all that time?

And why did they just leave Cobb in the van underwater? Not being conscious might mean you can't drown in a dream, or killing yourself in Limbo might automatically bring you all the way back to reality. The rules about death and limbo still elude me. If suicide was always the way out, why didn't Dom and Mal kill themselves earlier when they were stuck in Limbo the first time? My guess is that no one had been to Limbo before so nobody really knew the rules of the place yet. Or something.

I love that the film ends in LAX because I'm frequently at that airport, groggy, have just woken up or having been awake for too long. I think the filmmakers fudged some of the interiors because I never remember going through any sort of security to go from the baggage claim to ground transportation. Or maybe coming in from Australia you get a different terminal. Did they ever mention what Fischer was spending so much time in Australia for? He doesn't have an accent.

On the subject of accents, Michael Caine's character, Professor Miles, is identified as Dom's father-in-law, but why does a professor with a British accent have a daughter with a French one? There are lots of possibilities here. He could have divorced her mother, or been a step-father, foster father, adoptive father, or simply an absent one - in the military or living in England separately for work. There are hints in the film that Mal didn't have a happy childhood. Some interesting backstory is lurking in there.

Too many unanswered questions. I'd better go watch the movie again.

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