Flying Spaghetti Monster wrote:
As far Inception, I really liked Nolan's directing, and the broad canvass he paints on. He did such a good job. However, the plot with Cobb's wife was very odd. Some critics call it a subplot, but to examine the film it almost has to be the main plot, because it could be argued that this story is what the film is about. I don't know if that was intentional or not. In any case, I was puzzled by how detached I was. The performer who played Cobb's wife seemed to be taken out of a typical romance or a soap opera and somehow the emotion I was supposed to feel wasn't there, at least for me.
I think the problem with the Mal character was that she wasn't a character at all. She was a projection of Cobb's sub-conscious, and as a result, was a part of Cobb himself. In certain scenes, such as ones deprived from Cobb's memory, she's basically the summation of Cobb's interpretation of Mal. The Mal he remembers. We always remember people very specifically. Since his memory of her was close to her death, it was a very specific memory.
We didn't get to see the Mal that Cobb first met and fell in love with, or the Mal who wasn't obsessed with the dream world. In that sense, she wasn't really a fully formed or even reliable character, but an intentional enigma that was a part of Cobb. Essentially, Cobb is his own enemy in the film.
As a consequence, Marion Cotillard had to give a very one-note and often one-dimensional performance.
I think the main plot of Cobb and his team trying to get inception by planting an idea in Fischer's mind is the plot of the film, but the real story
and emotional through line of the film is Cobb's emotional turmoil. At the end of the film, Cobb achieves the same emotional catharsis that he and his team tries to do for Fischer. It doesn't matter whether or not he's in "reality". Fischer achieved the same catharsis in the dream state, so does it matter if Cobb achieved the same in the dream state as well? No, I do not think it does.
The film is essentially about overcoming grief. Cobb has to come to terms with his guilt over Mal's death, and Fischer has to overcome his grief over his father's death and never feeling loved. So in an essence both stories are intercorrelated and they intersect.
In any case, this "emotional story" was not the most powerful thing in the film for me. Far more powerful was the notion that 1) ideas are like parasites, 2) the simpler ideas are what would work the best for inception (the best part of the plot about Cobb's wife was the idea that he had instilled into her- that concept was more interesting than the actual performance of this subplot/love story) 3) Fishr trying to reconcile with his father. Yes, I was far more entranced by this than the story of Cobb's wife. That's just me.
I think ultimately Fischer's emotional catharsis could be more satisfying, but that is because in a sense Fischer's emotional state is the film's MacGuffin. His emotional catharsis is what the team is after, so instead of trying to obtain an object, they are trying to obtain an emotional response (which is another part of the film's brilliance in my opinion). Cobb's catharsis is probably the most earned, because we see his plight throughout the film and the lengths he'll go (by endangering the lives of himself and his team by narrowly, possibly
escaping limbo) to achieve that.
I can't be certain if Inception had too many rules or too few, but, as rigidly structured as it is, it seems to play fast and loose in its own universe. I wondered about the dreamboxes. Is this common equipment, or if not, how did Cobb procure the boxes? Why do they tap into a person's wrist and not their head/brain? Why is it that the projections of these boxes work as if they are real boxes?
I think one of the best decisions Nolan made was to not indulge into the scientific nature of the dream machines. To get too bogged down in the analytical, scientific nature of that would detract from the real story. People complain that Nolan over-indulged in his Batman films by exploring every facet of Batman's origins and thus removing the mystique of the character; I think people would have complained had we known every single detail of the dream machines or how Cobb and his team were able to acquire them. I had those same questions too, but sometimes knowing more is not always necessarily better.