Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called The Pledge: the magician shows you something ordinary, but of course, it probably isn’t. The second act is called The Turn. The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now, if you’re looking for the secret…you won’t find it. That’s why there’s a third act, called The Prestige. This is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before.

Of course, that’s from another great Christopher Nolan film called The Prestige. But what Nolan does with Inception is nothing short of brilliance. Inception is Nolan showing you these same three acts with such disarming dexterity that if you don’t gape during the end credits then you probably need help.

First is The Pledge. We are shown something ordinary which probably isn’t all that ordinary. A man is washed ashore probably reminding you of Jason Bourne. Then you slowly get the hint that things are not exactly normal when Nolan jumps across time and offers little pieces of information about his concept that by now you are concentrating really hard to get hold of the happenings.

The concept of creating dreams at will, invading dreams and planting ideas seems all surreal[sic] at first. It’s all simple, stupid and brilliant at the same time that at one point Cobb(Leonardo Di Caprio) asks a matter of fact question,”Do you ever remember the beginning of a dream?” No. Quite similarly, we would like to ask Nolan how this idea originated. We probably know the answer already and we would be tempted to joke with him asking if someone planted this idea in his mind and how it took shape and rose into this gargantuan concept called Inception.

Next comes The Turn. You see the building blocks of the concept for which extraordinary is an understatement. This phase you see through the eyes of Ariadne(Ellen Page) as she is taken under the tutelage of Cobb as the architect of the dreams for their next mission. A million questions pop up in your mind about the mechanics of this world of dreams and Nolan attempts to answer each one of those with lessons to Ariadne(Here is another tangent we can go with – Ariadne in Greek mythology, The House of Asterion, dreams, the thin line between the real world and the artificial world). Who designs the world in these dreams? Who populates them? What happens when the subconscious is disturbed by entering into the conscious realm within a dream? How do you fall without gravity? How do you wake yourself up or when do you realize to wake up? I have to say the totem idea is one masterstroke. All that constitutes The Turn.

Courtesy: Inception Facebook Page

Ultimately, for almost the whole of the post interval portion, Nolan shows us The Prestige. Like it says, this is the part with all the twists and turns when the planned mission goes all wrong. This is where lives hang in balance and in some cases, quite literally. There is a subplot throughout the movie, probably the only plot involving a deep character study that till the end, despite the movie’s theme remains emotionally disconnected. Quite the contrary to what it tries to achieve. But as we fall further into the dream scape, this sequence comes alive, and will probably turn into the most heavily discussed portion of the film. That intriguing character becomes the deus ex machina in the larger scheme of things that forms The Prestige.

Inception deserves at least three viewings, maybe even to spot some of those flaws that aren’t obvious the first time. It’s a film that will attract lot of discussions and writings for some time to come and quite deservedly so. Chris Nolan is a magician, he may not be the best director ever -far from it, but he is a visionary. I can’t remember the last time I had such a jolting experience in a movie theater. Inception gave all that and more.


22 thoughts on “Inception

  1. Nice review! I felt confused at the end of the movie because it all seemed to end a bit abruptly, didn’t feel like I had enough time to grasp all that was happening. I definitely need to see it again. I don’t think I quite got the concept of limbo.

    Adi: It’s actually not as confusing as ppl make it out to be. Detail, metaphors maybe yeah. But the plot/logic itself, no.


  2. It took a movie like Inception to make you write again! :p

    And yes. The movie was really great and will probably require additional viewings.. Towards the end, everything was moving so fast, I couldn’t grasp everything that was going on.


    1. Oh and as always nice writeup! Its too bad this has become more of a movie review kinda blog though.. Maybe some posts from the old gradwolf would come by sometime soon ;)

      Adi: Haha thanks but yeah even I look for something to write about and then ultimately it ends up with a movie post. Have to do something about it


  3. Watched it yesterday..blown over…dreams are gonna be scarier :) but had a nice sleep with no dreams.

    I haven’t watched much of his earlier movies like Prestige,Following ..i should catch them all..

    Last scene was the best :) Dream or Reality!!

    Might become a clean sweep for Academy Awards this year..too early but DiCaprio must win once atleast…

    Adi: Not so sure about that but yeah, stellar stuff.


  4. Brilliantly written review man! And so true also.. I just watched it last night. So I’m gonna need some time before I can discuss the movie

    Adi: Thanks!


  5. The whole clan’s gone to watch it leaving me to babysit. :|

    I’ll go during the week and perhaps won’t get up and watch two consecutive shows to “get” it.

    Adi: Fast fast, like someone said, everybody and their uncles seem to have watched it!


  6. “I can’t remember the last time I had such a jolting experience in a movie theater”

    Same here! BRILLIANT was the only word that came to mind when it got over. I got outta the movie without doubt that i understood everything (like you said, i too thought it wasn’t allll too complicated) BUT that was when all the dicussions happened and now I’m convinced I need another 2 viewings. Kadaicha adutha ticket a book pani naalike poren ;) Great review as usual Wolfie!

    BUT (again) yea, get back to some wolfie writing review and all super only but…u know…!


  7. I finally watched the movie yesterday and was blown away! With all the hype from practically every0ne on my FB page as well as the critics, I went in with sky-high expectations and the movie managed to beat even that. I only wish he had spent more of the “Prestige” section exploring the concepts of the limbo state and the sub-conscious more instead of all those jaw-droppingly awesome stunt sequences :P Brilliant review!


  8. I loved the way Nolan kept us guessing about the ending! In a way, I don’t even want to find faults with this movie. I’m content with its treatment. I’ll probably watch it with the same excitement the next time too. And yes, ‘The Prestige’ connection is just brilliant!! Bravo!


  9. The first thing I realized when I saw this movie is that I need to see it again. I liked the comparison with The Prestige. The movie makes you think…a lot.


  10. Nice review! I like the way u guided it from point A to C….something that’s not easily discernible when u watch it the first time. It’s been a while since i tried deconstructing a movie to this extent!


  11. I liked the analogy you drew with Prestige as always well written..but the movie was quite complex and I really appreciate the complexity with which the film maker has conceived the idea and realized it !


  12. I really liked the connection you found with The Prestige: the Pledge, the Turn and the Prestige. However, I would say the prestige act of Inception was actually the final scene (not the whole post-interval part, as you mentioned). THAT was the scene that turned things upside down (at least, for me).

    For I found the final scene very perplexing (hence, fascinating!). You say in one of the comments above that it’s not as confusing as people made it out to be. I am curious, what did you infer from the final scene? Did Cobb actually meet his kids and saw their faces? Or was it a dream?


  13. Very well written…
    Only in my second viewing did I realize why Saiko was so old in his dream if they were sleeping only for 10 hours… thats the 4th level of dream which would last 200 yrs, ideally!
    The movie is very well made, and I am hoping they do a sequel as well! :)


  14. Hi Aditya. This is the first time I’m posting a comment in this blog even though I’ve been following it for a while now. This is a movie review of yours that I particularly enjoyed reading because of the Prestige connection. The way you’ve used the structure of a magic trick as a tool for deconstructing the narrative is something that I found fascinating the first time I read this post. In fact, I’ve used the same approach to analyse Paul Auster’s novella “City of Glass” in a book review that’s part of the December’10 issue of The Banyan Trees. By the way, it was through your blog that I came to know of the magazine.


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