INCEPTION, by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is a summer blockbuster that many people are walking out of, feeling absolutely blown away by 2.5 hours of high-budget special effects and shoot-'em-up action, and a seemingly intricate plot. People are talking about this film as a "sophisticated, intelligent thriller", having been thoroughly hypnotized by the bright colors, loud music and sound effects.
We're interested in approaching popular culture to critique and engage. We simply didn't find much value in this movie. Here's why:
6.Glorification of Masculine Violence: Inception features millions of dollars in special effects, and is mostly men shooting at each other. Glorifying the violent male reinforces patriarchal patterns of violence. The film employs a few tricks to sneak by with a PG-13 rating: by placing almost all the violence in the "dream world" thus making it not "real"; by having almost no blood in the film; and by having characters use a silencer for many of the gun battles (a classic James Bond trick). To Hollywood studios, including Warner Bros. which released Inception, celebrating fighting and killing is easy money. To the Motion Picture Association (an industry group in charge of rating movies for family consumption) marketing violence to kids is okay when the victims are "projections".
5.No Originality: Inception borrows elements (like the ski chase, van chase, unlimited explosive charges, etc.) from action classics like James Bond, the Matrix and the Star Wars trilogy, but offers nothing original to the genre. The film' simple plot is boring despite the special effects. We were hoping for a characteristic Nolan plot twist at the end to save the film, but no such luck.
4.Normalization of Violence against Black People: There is not a single speaking black character in the movie. A scene of gratuitous violence takes place in Mombasa, Kenya (actually shot in Tangiers, Morocco), a city full of black Africans. In the five minute Mombasa chase sequence, many black Mombasans are pushed out of the way by Leo or shot by his pursuers. The black character who appears for the longest time exists solely to lose a fight with Arthur in a hallway with shifting gravity. Images of violence against black bodies reinforce the racist dominant framework that this is routine and acceptable.
3.Lack of Diversity: Out of a six-person dream infiltration team there are two male members of color and one white woman, but all of the impressive action is taken by the three white men. One man is a vaguely middle-eastern type, whose job it is to supply the drugs, and drive the van. He has few lines and displays no ability to fight beyond some shooting from the driver's seat of the van. The other is a benevolent Japanese capitalist who supplies the money and connections. Then once the action starts he gets shot right away, becoming dead weight for the other (white) characters and kept alive only to reunite DiCaprio's character with his family at the end. The lack of diversity is boring. Like all action films, this one has the potential to feature women and people of color in powerful roles, but conspicuously fails to do so.
2.Cheerleading for Capitalism: The film attempts to construct a moral foundation for the operation of sneaking into a target's subconscious to plant an idea. The central mission of the team is to bring down a near-monopoly (the Fisher family's domination of the "energy industry"), in favor of an oligopoly led ostensibly by the grandfatherly Japanese capitalist (Ken Watanabe) and a few other "smaller" companies. The message is that multiple companies in an industry creates competition, and thus is a check on corporate rule. In reality we see many corporations working together to profit from destructive resource extraction and exploitation of labor. The film attempts to persuade the audience to root for the victory of one corporation against another but fails to draw moral contrast between its protagonists and their target.
1.Cliché Hetero-Monogamous Love Story: The motivations of our hero, Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) are based in a cheesy subplot about his relationship with wife and kids. The attempt to "humanize" Cobb, an otherwise violent character, essentializes both woman and children. The wife is jealous, scheming, and hysterical while the kids are faceless, silent and angelic. We like the spunk of Ariadne (Ellen Page), a smart and confident woman but she serves merely as a foil to Cobb whose wife, kids and crush, Ariadne, hold the whole emotional weight that the plot rests on. The films' dependence on a shallow emotional story weakens the plot and characters.