Have you been watching motion pictures recently and said, “Why can’t we have MORE special effects, MORE dark, apocalyptic imagery, MORE violence and non-stop motion?” Well then! “Inception” is the movie for you. More to the point, if you watched the Matrix series and thought, “Well, it’s an interesting alternate reality, but for goodness sake, can’t they make it MORE complicated and give me LESS information about how it works?” then “Inception” is really the movie for you.
If you haven’t done any of that, you’re like me, which is why I didn’t care much for this movie. All the same, it’s worth seeing, I think. Because the culture-makers of the world’s culture are describing their pain and their crisis. It makes for compelling viewing, even as it breaks your heart.
BTW, here’s a trailer of the movie, in case you haven’t seen it already. (My favorite special effect is at :43-:45.)
Let’s start with the basics. The plot: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a kind of corporate spy of the brain. He exploits a secret technology that allows him to break into people’s dreams in order to extract corporate secrets and sell them. With a team of fellow dream-invaders, he can manipulate people in their dreams, and he hopes to be able to plant an idea (that’s the “inception” in case you were wondering). That whisker-thin premise serves as a springboard to make the movie’s reality a constantly shifting set of rules that break and re-form almost at will. The writers threw a element of unrelenting danger in by saying that a person’s subconscious takes action against dream-invaders like white cells attacking a disease, and that allows every scene to include chases, shootings and explosions. And so the whole thing starts to feel like a holiday in a psychotic’s head.
And I don’t want to overthink things when I say that there’s a metamessage going on here. I know that a drive to make more action and show more imagination plays a part. But it’s the somewhat panicky feel of the thing that was speaking to me. Besides the rocketing pacing, there’s a complete lack of anything rock-solid and trustworthy. The creatives here are showing a restlessness and anxiety that I think they’re borrowing from the current headlines, and it’s feeding an obsession.
The people who make movies, by and large, aren’t big fans of the Christian narrative. They are very big fans of the humanist, materialist narrative. (No God or gods, except ourselves. No life after death, no mysteries, nothing to see except what we can rationally sort out and experience through the five senses.)
The problem is, it’s not working the way it was supposed to. When more and more people got their heads out of the clouds and started agreeing with them (as more and more people have been doing), things were supposed to get better and better. Instead, the whole notion of a godless universe has been kind of unraveling before their very eyes. Right about now, they desperately need to open up an escape hatch somewhere. The problem is, they can’t find one in any of the places they love best — not in fantasy, not in technology, not in politics.
But by golly, you can use the impressive tools we have at our disposal to flip everything we’ve ever known upside down and inside out, questioning every physical boundary, zipping past every mental barrier as if all of Creation were one big Chinese puzzle box we need to solve.
So, do we solve it? Ultimately, no, in my opinion. Movies like this are always bound to fail. They write a check that they can’t cash. What is the way out? How can you awaken from the dream of this unreal “real world?” Orthodox Christians know the answer so well that it seems like a trick question. But an entire generation raised to believe only in humanism — or only in their own ego — is apparently in the dark more than ever. And it’s not a nice dark.
Like I said, it kind of breaks your heart.