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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

INCEPTION: Movie review Part 1: Cyber Crimes of the Mind

Click to watch Trailer                                                                                                                                     RATING: 3 out of 5
INCEPTION is a new blockbuster movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It has been dubbed a Science – Fiction action thriller but it may be more appropriate to call it a Psych – Fiction action mystery movie. The basic premise of the movie is that technology has made it possible to share dreams, and not always by choice. Any technology created by man will find a nefarious use and this technology is no different. DiCaprio is Dorn Cobb, an ‘Extractor’, a modern day bank robber with the exception that he robs information or thoughts out of people’s subconscious by invading their dreams. I did not fully understand the methodology of how the dreams were actually invaded except that computers and psychotropic drugs were employed for this purpose in the movie. Before doing a detailed analysis of the movie, followed by a Biblical perspective, I want to let readers know that this is a competent movie with an interesting storyline that will appeal to viewers with metaphysical mindsets who like exploring the subject of consciousness and the subconscious. The acting is efficient but not outstanding; DiCaprio, in my opinion is an overrated actor, and portrayed in way too sympathetic a manner, not at all deserving of his character. The whole movie has a feel of a well executed synchronized swimming drill, where everyone plays their part as choreographed, but there is always a sense of unreality that makes it impossible for the audience to fully relate with any of the characters. There are plenty of car chases, big explosions, and some fantastical landscapes and cityscapes; it may be more accurate to term these dreamscapes since they are not to be found in the real world. The movie holds one’s attention well enough and does raise some interesting questions about dreams and reality, and consciousness, to qualify it as a thinking movie rather than a mere adrenalin rush for two hours to be forgotten immediately thereafter.
Like The Matrix, Inception is a movie that will be much talked about, and analyzed for some time to come. The basic premise of the movie is that a person’s mind can be accessed by external sources by invading their dreams. This allows the invader to access areas of the person’s mind where their secrets are hidden (the subconscious.) The technology employed in this process is not entirely explained by the moviemakers but it is a technical process using computers and psychotropic drugs. The Leonardo DiCaprio character named Cobb is an ‘extractor’, a person who enters another person (the subject’s) mind to extract information from it, which is how he gets paid. Those of us who are familiar with mind altering and mind invading experimentation in the real world, such as the research of the Nazis before and during WWII, and MK (Mind Control) programs such as MK Ultra are well aware that those who mess with the mind are not sympathetic characters, like Dr. Mengele or Dr. Ewan Cameron, for instance. The very thought of going into someone else’s mind without their knowledge, is an invasion, little different than a rape of the body, and therefore the perpetrator can hardly be thought of as a kind or sympathetic human being. As an aside, pharmaceutical drugs are used by the ‘extractors’ in the movie to sedate their victims, which in my view is comparable to giving a woman a date rape drug before assaulting her body. It is a well known fact that LSD and other drugs were used by MK experimenters, the most renowned of whom, Dr. Ewan Cameron, used it even on children in his MK Ultra experiments. Viewers ought to keep these facts in mind when watching the film, that despite the beach with blue waters, the cities with French cafes and other visually appealing settings, invasion of a mind is a traumatic experience, which is the reason why the victim needed to be sedated before the invasion began. This is one of the major flaws in the film that it portrays these technologies as victimless in a very nonchalant way; the extractors come and rob the victim’s mind, leaving it undamaged without any long term negative effects. This is definitely not true in the real world, in which such extractors would have to be the most despicable of human beings, not kind loving fathers and husbands, and their victims would indeed be traumatized, possibly for the rest of their lives.
The extraction process in the movie involves making the person dream, the dream is the avenue through which the extractor enters the subject’s subconscious mind and extracts whatever secrets his client is paying him to extract. Unlike The Matrix, in which the process of ‘unplugging’ is well defined, this movie leaves out the details of the technology employed to create and share the dream with another individual or individuals. The technology where multiple individuals can share the same dream has to be very sophisticated but is portrayed rather simplistically in the movie, with all the necessary equipment fitting into an aluminum briefcase. Those of us viewers who enjoy Science – Fiction would have appreciated more detail on the technology that made it possible for dreams to be shared. From that aspect the movie is more of a psychological thriller than Science – Fiction. It may be compared to DiCaprio’s movie from earlier this year title Shutter Island. Since Inception will inevitably be compared to that movie, I would say that Shutter Island was a better acted movie, and was overall a better, more well rounded film than this one. Ultimately Shutter Island is an endorsement of modern day psychiatry, and therefore, in my opinion, a propaganda movie, which viewers ought also to keep in mind if they have seen or plan on watching that particular film. Shutter Island Trailer.
The title of the movie, INCEPTION, rather than Extractor, is based on the plotline that the Cobb character is forced to plant an idea in a subject’s (victim’s) mind rather than steal something from it. In my opinion, Conception might have been a better title but I suppose there is too much religious imagery associated with the word, which is probably why Chris Nolan, the writer / director chose to name it ‘Inception’. The word Inception means the beginning or commencement of something, which in a manner of speaking, is what the characters were attempting to do in this movie but it does not accurately convey the idea of planting, which was the goal in the film.
The idea of an outside intelligence or intelligences entering the mind or subconscious of another human has been explored in many films; Inception is somewhat original in that the avenue used by the extractors is that of dreams rather than a direct interfacing with the subject’s brain. An earlier movie from 2000 titled The Cell also explored this subject of entering another person’s mind to extract information. Starring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn the movie was poorly acted, at least by the main characters, but nonetheless it is one of the best visual representations of schizophrenia, of multiple personalities invading and inhabiting a person’s mind. Biblically speaking, such multiple personalities would be evil spirits that take up abode inside a person and take control of his mind and body. The aspect of how a dream invasion might effect a person’s body is also not well developed in the movie, so ultimately the movie becomes a psychological heist movie and ought to be viewed as such, it leaves more questions than provides answers on the metaphysical issues that the film itself raises.
The catchphrase on all the promo materials for the film reads: YOUR MIND IS THE SCENE OF THE CRIME! Therefore the person that commits the crime of stealing the victim’s thoughts is a criminal (the victim is cleverly misrepresented as ‘Subject’ in the movie, and is even cleverly made to participate in the crime). However the main character, Cobb is portrayed as anything but a criminal and the morality, or rather immorality, and the ethics of the crime are not discussed. The clinical nature of the deeds of these modern day Ewan Camerons makes the sympathetic portrayal of Cobb as deceptive, for in real life he would have been a cruel, cold hearted, and merciless clinician like Mengele not a soft hearted thief  like the Humphrey Bogart character, Rick Blaine, in Casablanca. By the way, this was also true in Shutter Island, where the crimes of Freudian psychiatry were cleverly covered up, and portrayed as good and beneficial for the victims (the subjects). Even though the horrors of modern psychiatry were alluded to, in the end were all shown to be justifiable, even lobotomies, such as shown in the brilliant Jack Nicholson film, One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest.
An interesting idea that is central to the storyline is that of a mind’s defences against outside intrusion. This is what makes both extraction and inception a challenging task. The training of the subconscious to defend itself against unwanted intrusions is an important part of the storyline, which also helps the filmmakers blow up things real good in the vein of ‘The Matrix’ movies, and provides the means to incorporate car chases, Hummers on skis and other innovative ideas for moviegoers who like big explosions. I believe the story would have been better if they had dwelt more on the psychology, the nature of reality versus dreams, rather than James Bond type incendiaries going off every few minutes but it is what it is, and I am sure the storyline was intentionally made action friendly to appeal to a larger audience, a mission in which the moviemakers seems to have succeeded. In part 2 of this review I will provide a Biblical perspective on the movie by exploring the idea of defending the mind against external information assaults.
One theme that is a major one in the movie but presented in a very low key form is the idea of ‘Sedation’. In one scene, reminiscent of the opium dens of 19th century China, patrons were heavily sedated to escape the real world. They had become so dependent on the sedation, and the accompanying dreams that the dream world had become their real world. The chemist, more appropriately the druggist, concocted powerful potions to provide the patrons with a hallucinogenic experience in the vein of Timothy Leary’s LSD induced hallucinations. By deceptively calling their powerful hallucinogenics, ‘Sedatives’ the moviemakers again introduce the idea that altered states of the mind achieved through powerful mind altering drugs are a positive thing for the ‘subject’. The very idea of a powerful sedative to induce a hypnotic sleep raises the question of how the extractors were able to maintain their own consciousness on a waking level, when they themselves were under the influence of very powerful drugs that were required to create multi layered dreams? Doses of sedatives such as benzodiazepines when used as a hypnotic to induce sleep tend to be higher than those used to relieve anxiety whereas only low doses are needed to provide calming sedative effects” – quoted from Wikipedia article on sedatives. The chemist had to concoct a very powerful sedative that apparently left the hearing function unimpaired in order for the gang to commit their crime. Even if the hearing function was left unimpaired, were the other functions not impaired for all users, how then were they able to function normally? And why where there no serious side effects for any of them, which is always the case with regular users of psychotropic drugs? And why were the sedatives not identified as dangerous psychotropic drugs, which they had to be, to produce the desired state of unconsciousness without which the mission could not have been accomplished? Viewers should pay attention to these issues when viewing the movie, and not be dazzled by the pounding music or hypnotic visuals.
In conclusion I would say that Inception is an above average movie with many layers, especially the subject of a dream within a dream within a dream, and how the mind is really like a networked computer that can be accessed by just about anyone with the right tools. However, it raises more questions than it answers, which in itself is not a bad thing because the process of trying to find the answers makes one think, and also makes for some interesting discussions. Nonetheless, the movie is far from ideal, and it is the ideals of the movie that are most troubling. Although the motto of the movie is that ‘Your mind is the scene of the crime’, none of the perpetrators of these insidious crimes is identified as a criminal. No one is held accountable for drugging people against their will, and stealing their most precious thoughts and ideas from them. None of us would approve of thugs who violently batter their way into a person’s home, and steal their most valuable possessions, yet this is exactly what the protagonists in this movie were doing. And did they hang for their crimes in the end? On the contrary they got a ‘Get out of jail free’ card! The hidden message seems to be that the end justifies the means, and that philosophy is never justifiable. So when viewing the film, please look at Cobb and Co. as violent criminals, not sympathetic villains, look upon their targets (no matter how despicable) as victims, not subjects; only then will you be able to see beyond the dream into the realities of dream sharing, which is the subject of this movie.  


  1. Very interesting article and trailer -- thank you for posting this review and analysis! Blessings, Natalie

  2. I think it is way past time to move the elite's focus of killing, torturing, maiming and controling Americans. We need to cut all funding for futuristic US security operations and technologies that would violate the constitution and human rights of America.

    The American elite need to be boring again. They can go for funds and interest elsewhere to play their meglomanaic games of oppression. Let some other poor society be on the receiving end of America's war wackos, aka researchers and enforcers.

  3. Interestingly, Hans Zimmer sampled a classical piece and slowed it down to create the theme for the movie.
    I wonder if this is to communicate the idea the audience is within or experiencing a dream. That is, within this "layer" we experience time at a more rapid pace than the "layer" above where we hear the music coming from and thus it sounds slowed.

    To paraphrase Cobb, 'While we're in the dream, it is real to us. It's only when we wake up do we realize anything was strange.'

    So can be said of the majority of mankind in this world who haven't awakened to the reality of what's going on around them and the relative few who become aware.

  4. I enjoyed reading your review. I think I have the answer to most of your questions in my own review of Inception titled "The mad world of Inception".

    I agree with you on the MKULTRA parallels. In fact I have taken this much more literally than you have. Ultimately the film puts the audience under mind control and "incepts" some very anti-Christian ideas into their minds about suicide.

    The reason the "science" of the "dream machine" is not revealed is that it is not a "dream machine" at all. The methods used in Inception are exactly the type of MKULTRA methods you describe in your article. It is only in the mind of the victim that these become "dream machines".

    My interpretation is that the whole movie is told from the point of view of someone who is a subject of mind control. The various characters in the movie may be the new personalities created under torture. Cobb might be getting programmed to be a "manchurian candidate". The "trigger" that he is being programmed to respond to seems to be the song that is so prominent in the movie.

    Many of the flaws that you point out in your review are I believe deliberate. All of the explosions and rampant action is just a distraction to allow the director to implant the taboo messages about suicide in his audiences mind. I believe the top itself is a hypnotic device to capture the minds of the audience.

  5. The part with the Opium Dens as you've described in your review were actually my favorite part of the movie - Remarkable Owe giving movie!