Taking a short break from game design because I’ve been thinking more about the movie Inception.  My parents really disliked the movie (whereas most of my friends I have talked to, and my sister, liked it) and I began to wonder what aspects of the movie have “staying power” to them.  You see, I’ve found that in general, I will like a wide range of movies that do cutesy action or have neat concepts or good acting, but in general it is a synthesis of all of these in service to some core kernel – an idea or a theme – that I will most strongly identify with.

Here’s a link to my Inception review the day after I saw it the first time.  Since then, I have seen it twice more and I still think it’s great.  I identified the theme as “if a thing (experience, idea, person, etc.) has meaning to you (or possibly, to someone), it is real.”  Here are the components of the movie that I think did an excellent job of accenting that theme:

  • The acting was (in my opinion) good not because of any particular performance (although all three of DiCaprio, Cotillard and Page have wonderful moments of performance) but because the whole ensemble of acting reinforces the dreamlike theme of the movie.  It’s not about what each actor brings to their character, but what is carefully left out to distill each character to an ideal.
  • The ending, in essence, asks the audience two questions: one overt about dreams and reality, and one subtle about meaning and purpose.   That the movie asks the *audience* the second question is a beautiful reinforcement of the theme.
  • The repetition of ideas (reflecting the plot) and the focus on specific moments (reflecting the tone) both combined to make a very odd experience that was at once visceral and intellectual.  The kind of thing that really moves you and then later, as you ponder the logic of it, you think to yourself, how did that move me?   Like a dream.

Inception may be the best constructed movie I’ve seen, if only because it captures its flaws (which, like all things, it of course has) inside its purpose.  That is its beauty, to me, and the power of its idea.