Saturday, 26 February 2011


"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling"

Amazon Synopsis
Visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan (MEMENTO, THE DARK KNIGHT) writes and directs this psychological sci-fi action film about a thief who possesses the power to enter into the dreams of others. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) doesn't steal things, he steals ideas. By projecting himself deep into the subconscious of his targets, he can glean information that even the best computer hackers can't get to. In the world of corporate espionage, Cobb is the ultimate weapon. But even weapons have their weakness, and when Cobb loses everything, he's forced to embark on one final mission in a desperate quest for redemption. This time, Cobb won't be harvesting an idea, but sowing one. Should he and his team of specialists succeed, they will have discovered a new frontier in the art of psychic espionage. They've planned everything to perfection, and they have all the tools to get the job done. Their mission is complicated, however, by the sudden appearance of a malevolent foe that seems to know exactly what they're up to, and precisely how to stop them. Emma Thomas serves as producer, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, and Ellen Page rounding out the supporting roles.

I'm not going to bother going into any siginificant amount of depth regarding the background or plot of Inception, as I'm sure most of you have seen it, and if you haven't then all I can say is... watch it.

I also won't focus on many of the good points about Inception in general, as you can go ahead and safely assume that most of it is brilliant. It's exciting, looks great and has top actors, specifically Joseph Gordon-Levitt moving past his previous, geeky roles:

To literally leaking more cool than DiCaprio as this guy:

However, the score is not great. It works alright for the film, I guess, but it doesn't really sound any different to anything else Hans Zimmer has produced over the past decade, and so doesn't really give Inception a musical indentity separate to, say, the Batman films. In this case however, Hans Zimmer doesn't have James Newton-Howard to save him with some awesome themes, so instead we get this:



Tension building group of tones.

More tension.

Some extra bass.




Which to be honest, is disappointing, but not really surprising.

The other, very small, negative about this film is the incredibly clumsy (to the point where it just stumbles into a scene midway through like an annoying drunk uncle at a wedding) expositional dialogue. It seriously should have been tightened up a bit, as even the brilliant actors can't convincingly repeat the rules of the film's reality over and over and over again, just to make sure that the audience doesn't have a brain-hurt. Anyhow, like I said, this is a small negative, and such simple and frequent exposition probably does help small children to understand the film...

Speaking of understanding the film, I feel that I'm going to have to offer my theories on what 'it all meant'. Because of obvious SPOILERS, the following will need to be highlighted for you to read it:

I honestly believe that it doesn't matter a single hairy elephant whether the film is all a dream or otherwise, as that is entirely against the point that the film is trying to convey.

On a character level, whether the spinning top keeps on spinning is irrelevant, as what really matters is the fact that Cobb simply doesn't care, and has found his own reality where he finally feels happy and complete. After obsessing over reality during the entire film, whether the reality where he is with his kids is 'real' or not finally doesn't matter to him, so it shouldn't matter to the audience.

However, I have a feeling that some of you won't find that satisfactory to shall list a few things that you may or may not have noticed that could lean the film in either direction:

Every single scene in the film is a dream
  • The foot-chase sequence early in the film is strong evidence for the dream theory, as it involves several instances of dream logic, such as narrowing corridors and Saito and his car just happeneing to be in the exact right place at the exact right time.
  • Saito himself is incredibly covenient, being able to buy out entire airlines on a whim as well as clearing complex murder charges with a single phonecall. Could Saito have just been a projection of Cobb's wish to go home?
  • Why is Mal sitting on the opposite ledge from their hotel room during her suicide scene? The window is open and the lights on in the opposite room, and yet no one appears to be home. It seems odd that they would book two rooms for their anniversary, so is this another case of dream logic in what Cobb thinks of as 'reality'.
  • It also seems odd that Ariadne shares her name with the character from Greek Mythology that helps Theseus escape the minotaur's maze. This may just be an artistic decision on Nolan's part, or may be something more.
Only the Inception and Extraction sequences are dreams
  • Although it seems that Cobb's children don't appear to age or change their clothes between Cobb's flashbacks and when he meets them again, the credits do show that two actors of differing ages play each role. Their clothes, whilst similar, are also slightly different, as are their shoes.
  • Cobb appears to wear a wedding ring during all of the obvious dream sequences, but not for any of the 'reality' scenes, including the final scene. This is obviously a subconscious projection within the dreamworld of his desire to be with Mal, so is it safe to assume that the absense of a wedding ring is a reliable indicator of scenes that take place in reality?
Another way to view Inception doesn't involve which realities in the film are real, but instead looks at the entire film as a metaphor for itself and other films.
DiCaprio has stated in interviews that he has based the entire character of Cobb on Christopher Nolan, and Cobb often appears to take on the role of a 'Director' within the story of the film. Arthur on the other hand, appears to be the producer, organising all of the practical aspects of each job. Ariadne could quite easily be the screenwriter or set-designer, creating the world that the dream/film will take place in, taking care not to alter the reality of the dream/film to the point where the subject/audience can't believe it. Meanwhile, Eames so obviously fits the role of Actor that he changes his appearance whilst sat in front of a traditional Hollywood vanity cabient. Finally, Saito is the guy providing all of the money for the dream/film. He obviously tries to get involved in the inner-workings of the dream/film but only serves to screw things up for everyone else.
Overall, this team aims to create a false reality in order to plant ideas in their subject's head. This is exactly what the film itself does to it's audience, with the idea planted being: "What is real?"

Here are the scores:
Acting: 9
Cinematography: 9
Script: 7
Soundtrack (in the context of the film): 7
Soundtrack (in the context of Hans Zimmer recycling the same stuff over and over and over and over and over and over): 2
Overall: 9 (not an average)

Here is a video that I've found on Youtube that quite adequately shows the ridiculous boring rubbishness of the scoring technique that Hans Zimmer himself calls "Transcendent":


  1. Personally, I think that the scoring of the movie fits in quite nicely (though not perfectly, I'll admit) with the SOUND EDITING of the movie itself. Given the 4 different time differences of the dreams within dreams, it was necessary for Zimmer to create a scale that balanced all of these layers, as well as built, maintained, and released tension. I think the reason for your low opinion of the score might be such that it is A) highly unvaried (compared to something like Pirates of the Caribbean) or B) the sound editing of the film did not enter into your evaluation of the soundtrack itself.

  2. As shown in the scores at the end of the review, I had no major problem with the score in the context of the film (although Zimmer has mentioned that he didn't even see any of the film until after he had written the soundtrack, and it was as much to do with Nolan that it fit as well as it did with the editing), the very low score is purely in the context of the way his compositional techniques are headed, specifically when listening to the score on album. Whilst I can appreciate the use of a very small number of tones to convey an emotion, and there are a couple of places in the score where this is done perfectly, I just prefer a little more depth and a little less repetition when reviewing a score on it's own merits.