Walking out of Inception, a film with enough stars lauded upon it to start its own galaxy, I reflected that there was something wrong with the film. When you have a film that is steeped in philosophical questions, dream worlds, dream levels, subconscious probing and enough mind games to keep a psychology student engrossed for weeks, it seems odd to think it rather dumb.
In honesty I don’t know why I have associated ‘dumb’ with what I have picked up in the film. I could easily swap in ‘the same as every other action film’. Because if you removed the headache inducing dream worlds, and rely more on the acting and performance, you find a very generic film. Why? Guns. Guns make it Dumb.
It appears that as soon guns are introduced into a film, the veneer of realism is removed. Some do pull it off realistically; Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, (i.e War films, and even then some fall short of the mark, such as Windtalkers). But Inception fell into the trap when they introduced guns, bullets and thin metal.
So real world part of the film. DiCaprio is running along a narrow alley, pursued by agents wielding automatic pistols. If either of them had been to any shooting academy other than the one reserved for Imperial Storm Troopers, the film would have been cut dramatically short by DiCaprio’s sudden death or incapacitation (and short trip back to America).
Dream Level 1. This is the one that got me more than most. The taxi, stationary, is set upon by four or five gunmen with automatic rifles, who whole heartedly open fire on the easy target. How many bullet wounds? One. Worse than that, the thin steel that makes up a taxi’s body wouldn’t take a shot from a pistol, let alone five happy gunmen. Yet all we see is small dents peppering the body. The same is repeated later, with the van. Stationary target, full automatic, no casualties.
I won’t bore you any more with recollections of faults in the other levels. Actually I think dream level 2 was done impressively well. Perhaps testament to what I have been saying, there is only one pistol in those scenes where Arthur is battling with Robert’s subconscious in zero gravity. And that is quickly lost and rarely fired.
What annoys me is that I think films like this would be considerably more enjoyable is the ‘gunplay’ was more realistic. Even if it means less shells on the floor, and less loud noises. It would immerse you into the film more, instead of simply looking, laughing and lamenting “that would never happen!” Inception is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a bad film. It is thought provoking, emotionally grabbing and well acted. But that only makes me wish, even more, that Nolan had taken the time to sit back and think how exactly guns work. Because for all the twisting buildings, zero-g fights and plain weirdness of Inception, the only thing I found unrealistic were the gunfights.