The Thing About Inception


(system) #1

Fall is upon us and the Summer’s big blockbusters are finally cooling off. Perhaps some lone theaters are hoping to scrape a few final bucks out of the bottom of Christopher Nolan’s commemorative Inception popcorn buckets. But mostly, it’s time to let the film hibernate through the winter til it comes to a TV screen near you.

Inception has been talked to death, and its bones picked clean by critics and fanboys angling for a novel slant on the film, and Nolan gave them all plenty to chew on. The story literally takes us for a bone-jarring ride, made more harrowing by its slow-motion crash-and-roll sequences. The probing trip through inner space via shared dreaming makes for sometimes-shaky travel too. And the special effects...Let’s just say that even Avatar megastar director James Cameron might be jealous of some of the visual stunts Nolan pulls off.

All that being as impressive and gabworthy as it is, I feel like most of the people who have gnawed through every ounce of Inception's flesh, bone and gristle have missed the most obvious feature of all--call it the film’s heart, if you like. The film’s inescapable thesis seems somehow to have escaped most consumers’ reporting.

The thesis is this: Inception, the act for which the film is named, is inherently violent. It’s a fictionalized action, sort of. Inception means planting a thought deep inside a subject’s mind through shared dreaming in such a way that upon awakening, the subject believes the thought is his or her own. Cutthroat exec Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) and his all-star dream thievery team to execute the highly risky maneuver of convincing a young business mogul (Cillian Murphy) to break up his dead father’s energy empire--inception.

What none of Cobb’s cohorts seems to appreciate fully (and this is true of film critics in another way) is that inception requires commitment to inescapable violence. While in the film this is literally true--depicted through dimension-bending chases and shoot outs, in real life it is also the case. Inception is inherently violent.

Some commentators observed that inception is not entirely fictional. Indeed, one critic even opined that Nolan himself staged an impressive feat of inception when crowds believed the idea that Inception was the best film of the Summer, and that they arrived at that conclusion independently.

Whatever real-world applications we might assign the idea of inception, eventually we must confess that they all require acts of violence. Whether it be clever marketing, product placement, political propaganda pushing or other forms of covert coercive persuasion, they are inherently violent acts. In fact they may be crassly called acts of mind rape for their forcible penetration of inner mental space, despite their being paradoxically clandestine.

We religious folk should be watchful too, because many of us participate in inception, or at least hold the coats of those who do. We can feel more “moral” about doing it because we give it religious names like “theology.” However, that too may be inception, made possible by the vulnerability of shared dreaming.

Jonas Uribe lives in Vancouver, Washington where he works in electrical engineering and and imagines corporate espionage in his spare time.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2669