This movie was, frankly, pretty stupid, though quite fun. It’s by Cristopher Nolan who made The Prestige so it should be good, but it was too self-consciously complex, if I bothered to trace the story through all its complex layers I’m pretty sure it would have huge internal holes in it, and most annoyingly the ending was obviously deliberately set up to spark a circle jerk of wanky speculation as to whether or not the whole thing was a dream. Which is shit, because we all know that “he woke up and it was all a dream” is a huge narrative cop-out (or, in this case, a feeble excuse for an equally long-drawn-out and painful sequel) and we all know that a movie can only sustain this kind of wankery at interesting levels of debate if the movie itself was good enough, which this one wasn’t.
There’s a point I think where every movie director needs to recognize that the complexity of the movie is too much, not only for most of their audience, but also for their own skills, and the movie is suffering from the complexity. There’s also a point where movie directors need to recognize that sticking to existing relationship models in a new setting is better than trying to create complex new ones. In my opinion, the relationship between Cobb (one of the lead dream-snatchers) and his dead wife Moll was weak and silly, and all aspects of their backstory were unbelievable and silly. Also the resolution between them was stupidly weak and I think it broke a fundamental rule of the dreamworld and wasn’t a resolution at all.
So overall this movie was pretty ordinary – even the action scenes in the dream world were pretty uninspiring – so here’s my attempt at describing how this movie would have been better.
First, the attempt to plant a dream in Fischer’s head should only occur at a second level of dream, not in the third, and there should be no limbo. The extractors simply try to go one level deeper than usual, something they have shown they can do but which has also been shown to be unstable in the first scene. This creates the tension, with the second level of dream-adventure being shaken up by the actions in the first level. To add tension, the sedation used should imply that anyone who dies in the dreamworld dies for real, so Saito san’s injury is the cause of the race against the clock. Though I think they hardly need the death thing or Saito going along for the ride.
Also, all the scenes in the dreams should be more surreal.
Second, Moll should be treated as a straight-out environmental enemy, not some kind of weird psychological dooby-thwacker, and resolution can be obtained by Cobb finally having the balls to just shoot her in the face. Perhaps the architect, who discovered what was going on between them, can help him do this, giving her a somewhat more interesting role than “I know what’s really going on but all I can do is constantly appeal for Cobb to do something he doesn’t do.”
Also, the reason that Moll is vengeful and angry would be more relevant to the story if it indicated something fundamentally evil about inception, and Cobb. If Cobb had implanted in Moll’s mind the idea that she should marry him, and then she had committed suicide to frame him because incepted ideas always create suicidal confusion, then we see that the mission they are on is going to kill Fisher eventually, and Cobb is genuinely and truly a bastard. This also maybe gives the architect a basis for helping Cobb kill Moll (“she’s got to be put out of her misery . You didn’t know inception would do this,” etc) and he could even pull out of the mission to save Fisher, thus ensuring his own arrest in LA and a kind of redemption for killing Moll.
Three possible forms of resolution involving Moll:
- Cobb shoots Moll in the face
- Moll interferes with the dream so that all the extractors are going to die, unless Cobb confronts Moll. Then Cobb agrees to pull out of the dream, fail the mission, and arrive in LA to be arrested by the cops, in exchange for the safety of the other extractors
- Moll interferes with the dream so that all the extractors are going to die, and the architect (who twigged to what’s going on) confronts Moll. She talks to Moll and gets Moll to agree to disappear if they fail the mission, so that Cobb goes to jail when he arrives in LA. Since Moll is a projection of Cobb’s subconscious, this makes it a kind of reverse inception, or an admission of guilt by Cobb. Then Moll deconstructs the dream and they all wake up.
Then the last scene could be a redeemed Cobb lying down to dream normally.
Either way, the whole thing would be less complex, more coherent, and less wanky. Which was the problem with this movie.