The Inevitable Inception Re-Watch

If you watched Inception in the cinema then, perhaps like no film before it, you're probably either aching to see it again at home or have already grabbed it on DVD and sat down to partake of an inevitable re-watch. Maybe it's the twisty-turny narrative, or that final shot, or the theories that have cropped up since its days on release, or maybe you simply just wanted to enjoy it all over again. Whatever the reason, the likelihood is that, at some point, it'll be in your player. It was certainly in ours. Here's what we noticed on our Inception Blu-ray re-watch.

Slightly obvious warning: here be some spoilers. This article is intended for people who have already seen Inception.

The Script - If anyone wants to criticise Inception then the first thing they usually go for is the script, normally pointing out that it spends far too much time on exposition and not enough time on more skilled explanation. I gave that point some credence in our original review but on a repeat watch I'm willing to give it a little more. I still don't think it detracts from the film too much but on several occasions we do get the concept or the current happenings or some new rule explained to us in a very literal sense and on this watch, that fact did verge on distracting.

Inception's Origins - A reference that's all too easy to miss, at one point in the Paris-based garage, Cobb and Arthur mention that Inception's origins come from military testing and usage. Not that anybody really wants to see them but I suppose this small reference leaves all sorts of possibilities open for spin-offs and sequels.

The Children - During one of the dream moments where both Ariadne and Cobb are with Mal, Mal directs Cobb to look at his children in order to see what he is missing. This blurs the line further between fantasy and reality in the film - Cobb is missing his children both in the 'real' world and in the dream where Mal considers the children to be real. Arguably, this reflects certain things that happen at the end of the film: Cobb is happy to look at his children this time because he considers them to be 'real' whether they are or not - Mal and Cobb have both found a happy reality.

Ken Watanabe - In a true ensemble (which Inception absolutely is) it's all too easy to miss someone. On first watch, for me, that someone was Watanabe who I think is fantastic as Saito. His overstated style feels completely in place for his character - he's a rich businessman with flair and the daring to hire Cobb and Arthur - and his ultra pronounced lines have a habit of stealing scenes from anyone and everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed watching every minute of his performance.

Ariadne - 'Authors never do anything by accident', you learn in English 101. Why therefore is Ellen Page's character called Ariadne, an unusual name steeped in a huge amount of Greek myth? Perhaps just because Chris Nolan liked it? Perhaps for something more? The theories start here.

The Plane 'Wake-up' - The idea that the film is entirely a dream is given extra weight by the final scenes: from when Cobb and Saito wake up on the plane, till the end. Cobb meets Saito in his house, echoing the first scene, and the next we know, we're back on the plane. From there it's one long floaty, Hans Zimmer-orchestrated, ride back to Cobb's house. We never see a transition and we never see how anyone got anywhere - least of all from dream back to plane - exactly what Cobb tells Ariadne happens when you're in a dream during their conversation in the Paris cafe.

Mobassa and 'The Ring' - Someone, somewhere, suggested that there's something to be gained from noticing when Cobb has a wedding ring on and when he doesn't. I have no idea what that 'something' is or even who the 'someone' was but, during the Mobassa scenes (which are the focus of many theories about whether they're a dream or not) I don't think you see Cobb's left hand clearly once. Not even in the still above. Spooky? Perhaps.

The 'I Give Up' - In the end, I basically gave up trying to spot tropes and secret symbols and faces and rings and let myself enjoy the film again, something which I did immensely. If you want to interpret it as all a dream, I think you can. If you want to view it a little differently - as Cobb reconciling his subconscious - then I think you can. If you want to view it as simply a clever action film involving dreams, I think that's valid to. The main thing is that it's still magnificent, a wonderful film with a great ensemble cast and a genius director. Time for you to get it re-watched?

Notice anything more on your own Inception re-watch? Come across any interesting theories on what it's all about? Leave your observances in the comments!


  1. It's true we don't see a transition but when Saito handles the gun I think it's fair to say that the Nolan assumes the audience will pick up on the 'in order to wake up you have die' theory the film proposes.

    Cobb came back to remind him that this reality wasn't real and Saito shoots him, then himself.

    I think the end shot is just there to add some ambiguity and make it more open ended especially since we're dealing with perception and reality/unreality.

  2. You know, Inception, suprisingly, left me with little desire to see it again. I'm sure seeing it again would maybe help but instead it only left me with the desire to see The Presitge again which I feel is the same film but done much better.

    With regards to the ending, I think it's kind of a trick because, if you think about it, what purpose does it serve other than to send audiences off to talk about it. Whether or not Cobb is dreaming or awake at the end doesn't change the movie or how we interpret it in any way as far as I can see.

  3. kob - yes, I think that's a good call on what could happen at the end and perhaps shame on me for not spotting it once... or even twice! Still, plenty of excuse now for a third watch!

    Absolutely correct on the ending - regardless of where you think you are at that point it gives you enough doubt to make it interesting.

    Mike - interesting you mention THE PRESTIGE because its honestly always been my least favourite Nolan film, although I do need to go back and look at it again, I admit.

    Again, I think you're right and in the end it doesn't matter narratively: only to the audience individually.

  4. Interesting points Haven't re-watched at home yet but will be looking closely.

    There's probably no correct answer to anything it's just a good, thought provoking movie.

    My biggest problem with the film was the snow action sequence which seemed to be there for filler.

    Keep up the reviews, always worth a read.

  5. Thanks John, glad to hear you enjoy them. As I say, that was the same conclusion I came to and, much like my cinema viewing, I started to ignore interrogating the plot and focus on just enjoying a great film.

    I actually like the snow action sequence but I can see what you mean - it perhaps comes a bit too late on.

  6. The exposition has already become Godfather-ized, if that makes sense.

  7. Excellent article! I'm going to retweet it. I can't even explain how much I love this film. I've already seen it many times, and I can't say what new I noticed on the second and third viewing, but it definitely makes the puzzle more complete for me. Oh, and I have to restrain myself not to watch it again.

    After the re-watch, what theory do you adhere to? Was it all a dream? Did he wake up? How do you think?

  8. Simon - Not really (apart from the fact that you're obviously saying it links to THE GODFATHER some way!?

    Lesya - Thanks Lesya, glad you liked it! It did change my thoughts on it quite a bit to be honest. Before watching it for second time, I didn't think there was much truth in the theory that the whole film was a dream but having watched it again I think that argument is much more valid. Will watch it a third time and see what I come out of that watch with soon!

  9. I mean, the somewhat trademarked dialogue--exposition-heavy, over-complicated back-and-forths--has been parodied enough times that it's like the Godfather's 'I'll make him an offer he can't refuse' just can't take it seriously anymore.

  10. Something ELSE that's been bugging me about INCEPTION is the dreamworlds Ariadne creates. I think I may have heard someone mention it too, but I can't recall who.

    True, Page's Ariade is sort of bland but we're being told that she's smart and original and daring and whatnot but the world she creates seem to have no personality inasmuch as you'd expect a twenty-something woman to create. In theory you'd expect there to be some sort of symbiotic relationship between her creations and her, but strangely there doesn't seem to be.

    And, yeah, the dialogue is exposition heavy - but what can I do?

    (Hee, The Prestige is the closest I've come to loving Nolan.)

  11. Simon - yes, I see your point now. Almost like it's not even worth pointing it out in criticism?

    Andrew - that's a very interesting point and I think you're right; 2/3 of the dream levels are very clinical and industrial like, not exactly the reflection of a budding architect like Saito's house. Valid criticism I'd say.

    As I said to Mike, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone agree with me on THE PRESTIGE. I need to give it a second chance at some point soon-ish.