[Before you start reading, please be aware that this post discusses a few plot elements from the recent movie “Inception” and the book “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows” although I don’t think I have given away any major spoilers from either the movie or the book. Also, I think if you are interested in Harry Potter and haven’t read Deathly Hallows by now, probably you deserve spoilers being thrust into your face anyway!]
Mundungus Fletcher had an idea. It was a brilliant escape plan to take Harry away from the Dursleys. Only, it wasn’t he who generated the idea. It was Severus Snape who had gone into his subconscious mind and planted the seed of that idea. When Harry saw Snape doing it, he wasn’t seeing it in the real world of course; he had dived into Snape’s mind and he was looking at the projection of Snape and the projection of Mundungus talking among themselves. And as you know, Harry Potter exists just in the mind of author J. K. Rowling and her millions of fans, and we have no way of knowing whether Christopher Nolan is one of them. So when Nolan had this idea of inception, it was probably triggered by this projection of Mundungus in the mind of Snape’s projection in the mind of Harry who was in turn just a projection in Rowling’s mind – a Rowling who wasn’t real but just a projection of Nolan’s own subconscious.
Confused yet? Welcome to the world of Inception.
Christoper Nolan’s latest movie explores the world of dreams and the subconscious mind, and questions reality in a way that probably only “The Matrix” did in recent times. It is built on the premise that several people can share a dream and interact in the dreamer’s subconscious. There can also be a dream within a dream, a concept that we computer programmers call “recursion.” And just as in computer programming, if the exit condition is not specified properly, one runs into all kinds of problems.
The movie plays with its timeline in a very interesting way – without giving away any key plot points, let me say that when we dream for a few seconds, the incidents that occur in the dream span a much larger time. This “expansion of time” has been cleverly used throughout the movie which is as full of action and special effects as all action movies these days seem to be.
That’s about all I am going to say regarding this movie. Too much discussion is likely to harm your viewing experience. Leonardo DiCaprio is good as usual, as is the rest of the cast. Nothing new needs to be said about Nolan’s direction after “The Dark Knight” and Hans Zimmer’s music is lovely as usual. There is only one thing more that I want to say about this movie.
That is about the concept. The idea.
The protagonist in the movie says, “What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.” While nobody is accusing Christopher Nolan of stealing someone’s idea, the concept is not entirely original either. In stories all over the world, people interacting through dreams with other people both living and dead is a well-known plot device. As far as questioning reality and bending the rules of physics is concerned, The Matrix got there first, and the science of The Matrix (only the first one) was much more believable. Not that The Matrix was original either – we Indians have always known that the world is just Maya, but that is not relevant to this discussion here. What is relevant is the fact that the comparisons with The Matrix are inevitable for Inception, and according to me, Inception loses on that front.
And that is why, my final verdict is that while Inception is a very well-made movie, it left me a little disappointed. I don’t know whether the trailers were too explicit, or I had set my expectations a bit too high reading the “OMG Inception is the best movie made in like, ever!” Facebook status updates from some of my friends. But when I saw The Matrix, I felt it was full of surprises. Inception, on the other hand, felt predictable to the very end – not in the details of course, but in the overall plot. To be fair, I saw The Matrix when I was a lot younger, I had not seen trailers, and Facebook did not exist back then (I know I sound like somebody’s grandfather saying that line).
Inception is definitely an excellent movie. A “must-watch,” to use the oft-used phrase. But a life-changing experience as some people around me seem to claim? No way! Four stars out of five if you ask me. The Matrix would probably get five. Not Inception.
But then, it was The Matrix that planted the seed of the idea in our minds. Inception pays the price of coming second, and it does a very good job of being the second.