Is there a Christian interpretation of ‘Inception?

Josh Larsen

One of the many exciting things about the puzzle movie “Inception” is that there isn’t one way to solve it.

Since its July 16 release, this thriller about thieves who enter people’s dreams has been endlessly debated. Before we get into the theories, a quick primer: Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a dream thief who is hired by a mysterious businessman. Instead of stealing an idea from a sleeping subject, however, he is told to plant one. This heist in reverse will involve orchestrating dreams within dreams, as well as keeping Cobb’s own subconscious at bay. (His guilt over his deceased wife, played by Marion Cotillard, tends to seep into the dreams he’s infiltrating.)

“Inception” is intricately constructed, yet also exhilaratingly open-ended. You can read it many different ways. Is the entire enterprise a meditation on the film-making process, with Cobb and his team of dream constructors serving as stand-ins for a film production crew? Is it all a big joke, a lark that writer-director Christopher Nolan plants in the audience’s head in order to make us squirm? Is Cobb actually dreaming the whole time, or do the ambiguous final seconds return him to the “real world” within the film?

How you answer these questions depends on much more than what you saw. It also has to do with who you are – on the values, experiences and worldview you bring to the viewing experience. Which begs the question: Should Christians have a common interpretation of “Inception?”

I know that my own reading of the film is rooted in the Christian tenet of forgiveness (warning: spoilers ahead). As the movie proceeds, the thematic weight shifts from the heist itself to Cobb’s struggle to come to terms with the guilt that has been plaguing his subconscious. “Inception” ultimately is about achieving psychological – if not narrative – resolution, and I believe that goal is only achieved if Cobb is fully awake in the movie’s final seconds. In other words, in order for Cobb to genuinely, authentically forgive his wife and himself – to be redeemed - that spinning top has to fall.

Would you consider this a “Christian” interpretation? Or does it simply make me a cock-eyed optimist?

Topics: Movies