Inception, the Movie

Saw Inception (after everyone else) and yet was gripped. My kind of movie – big, nerdy and fast. Now, the aural spectral response of my ears is a bit defective and I sometimes strain to hear sounds which others hear easily – a.k.a. I hear low! That factor, combined with low end sound producing transducers in my laptop/earphones could have made following the “train” of thought in this movie a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, that did not happen and I could hear all the sounds easily. Which meant I allowed my mind to move in step with the movie’s narrative and appreciate the nuances. And spot the flaws.

The nuances (numerous classical physics lessons sprinked everywhere):

1) Liked the usage of general relativity trick in dream world #2 at the end where Arthur invents the ‘kick’ by setting off a charge in the lift shaft of the hotel elevator. Idea being that in a zero – gravity world, an explosion would provide a differential acceleration to serve as the waking jolt. But I dunk that as a major flaw later on.

2) Restraint on part of Chris Nolan. As per the plot, killing someone in a lower level dream wakes him/her up in the immediately higher level, but the story avoids this tactic and adds to the drama by relying on an innovative invention of kicks. Chris Nolan spent 10 years on Inception! It shows. Perhaps.

3) The Penrose Strairs.

The flaws (I guess you can come across more, but these are the ones that hit me):

A) Cobb’s kids are with their grandfather in the US. He wants to meet them and that’s his motivation for all that dreaming. The movie makes you believe that he is on the run and needs to win his right of passage back to the US. But then there is one scene where he does meet with his father – presumably that meeting was in the US? How did Cobb get into the US then? The picture on the right, taken from also brings out a related thought.

B) Speaking of Physics, can you fight someone in zero gravity, stack your colleagues in a dormant layered sandwich, tie them up securely, cut off the wires supporting the elevator cabin and set off a charge – all in 3 minutes?

C) The totemic flaw of the movie: At the start, Ariadne is explained the solid reference points that the dreamers’ personal totems  provide. Idea is that by noting the physical behavior of one’s totem when spun/thrown/used one can determine if he is dreaming or awake. Now, Cobb’s totem is a top that spins. If it keeps on spinning then it’s spinning in a dream world and if it topples over then Cobb is in the same world in which you are reading this post! Now, what makes a top topple? Friction. What causes friction? Gravity. So, ideally the dream world should have no gravity. Which should explain why spinning tops keep on spinning. But the dream worlds 2, 3, 4 did have gravity, right?

This to me is the biggest flaw in the logic.

Did you know that Ariadne, the French student of architecture who helped Cobb create the architectural cobweb of dreams shares her name with the Greek mythological character also known as the Mistress of the Labyrinth? She had helped Theseus escape Minotaur’s labyrinth by giving him a sword and a spool of thread to mark his tracks through the maze. That was good symbolism in the movie.

Also, the first thought that came to mind when seeing the last few frames of the movie was that Christopher Nolan could be setting the stage for a sequel. I’d rather that he returned back to caped crusaders and left this plot just where it is at the moment – in a state of “limbo”. The point is that at the start of the movie, when Cobb shows his totem spin to Araidne it spins and drops. Count the time it takes. And compare that to the time that his totem keeps spinning during the last scene. The latter spin is longer. I guess the assumption here is that all along the force (or impulse) with which the top is spun by the totem owner remains the same all the time – hardly likely. Inebriated Cobbs, sweaty palmed Cobbs, tense Cobbs – would all spin the totem at differing initial speeds, right? And that would mean differing spin times, right? Anyway, perhaps the spinning top was never really Cobb’s totem – A thought that got ‘seeded’ in my mind was that perhaps the ability to see his kids’ faces was his real totem after all. In which case, it’s ‘limbo’ all the way…

If you have not watched this apparent brainteaser of a film, please do so – I recommend it. Moves fast enough and if not anything else it’s good to exercise those grey ones once in a while. In the end, I hope somewhere this leads to reality 😉 – in the sense that perhaps there will come a day when humans will be able to mine the data hidden in our brain (aka subconscious?) better. I read about the fourth fundamental electronic device called the memristor on the flight to Hyderabad recently. While discovered almost 30 years back, commercial production and application seems to be happening only recently. Couldn’t the neural synapses – many of them unused but full to the brim, represent something of a biological memristor? With deep, old memories that get “called” from functions that run during dream time?

Yaaaawwwwn. Good night. Sweet dreams.

About Kaushal

One Response to Inception, the Movie

  1. punit says:

    Cobbs totem was not actually his own. It was his wifes totem.
    The point where I got confused is..when they come out of 2,3,4 dream world, leo meet the same chines guy but the guy showed too old. That chines man died in dream n went into limbo. If leo was also in limbo then y so huge age diff?
    The time speed showed in the movie is that time run faster in dream…. as chines man was in limbo thts y he was old n still leo was young coz he want in limbo. I guess so


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