Cinema Influences Culture in Inception vs. Taken

Tiffany Tran-Kiem

Mr. Joseph Byrne


14 December 2013

Cinema Influences Culture in Inception vs. Taken

Chris Nolan’s Inception compares and contrasts with Pierre Morel’s Taken in many aspects. Both these action movies have proved to be very successful in the movie industry through various techniques used by the directors. While both being action films of the 21st century, they do differ in many ways. Nolan’s film is based off character Dom Cobb extracting secrets from one’s subconscious during their dream state. He is hired to perform the opposite, planting an idea in one’s mind- “inception”. Being on the run and missing his children, he accepts the task but his emotions and guilt make it harder to perform. The film concludes with Cobb reuniting with his children, but leaves the viewers wondering if the ending was a reality or just a dream. On the other hand, Morel’s film is about former Central Intelligence Agent, Bryan Mills’ attempt in rescuing his teenage daughter Kim, who has been taken. She lives with her mother Lenore and wealthy stepfather, therefore isolating Bryan. The movie concludes with not only the rescue of Kim, but Bryan’s relationship with his ex-wife and daughter are rebuilt. Although both films are categorized as action films, Nolan’s film challenges genre convention and classic Hollywood styles more than Morels’. Auteur cinema is also an essential focus on these films. Nolan’s passion for psychology portrays him as an auteur in the film industry, contrasting Morel, who is more influenced by other auteurs. The combination of mechanisms: genre, social context and auteur cinema, led directors to successfully influence the society and culture.

What makes Chris Nolan’s film Inception so unique from most films made in recent times is his focus on cinema and culture. Although his style contrasts the typical “Hollywood” film, his techniques keep his audience drawn in, if not, more interested. This science-fiction action movie challenges other films of the same genre. Inception reflects the classical Hollywood films while completely challenging its values simultaneously. The film incorporates elements of a classic Hollywood movie, from the action-packed thrilling scenes to explosions, keeping the viewers engaged. There was much thought into the convention of this film. The Hollywood studios typically rely on stars as a marketing device for society, the well known, Leonardo DiCaprio fit character Dom Cobb perfectly. The film does appeal to viewers of all different interests. But, the traits of a classical Hollywood film also consist of clarity, unity, goal-oriented characters and closure. Nolan’s storyline is harder to follow than the typical action films. From the non-linear story and multi-layered lines, this challenging story line contests the traditional style. For many viewers, it requires multiple viewings of Inception to understand the plot. There is a lot of confusion, especially when there is not a clear fine line between realities. Not only does the constant switch of scenes between the reality, a dream, or a dream within a dream already challenge the audience, but also there are many twists and ropes to the plot. The complexity was a good quality of the film, keeping viewers from being able to predict the outcome early on which typically results in a loss of interest. Inception does not incorporate closure in any way; the ending just leaves viewers wondering whether everything was just a dream. The outcome of the film completely contradicts this standard of a Hollywood film. Inception is a personal reflection of Nolan, his obsession with human states in a psychological standpoint are often the main theme of his films (Calvert 2011). His past films, such as Memento and Insomnia, also revolve around psychology, which is consistent to his prominent themes. Being an auteur appeals to Nolan’s potential viewers, who share similar perspectives or interests. Nolan’s auteurism positively benefits as a marketing strategy in the post-studio era, considered the “new Hollywood.”

Pierre Morel’s film Taken is an action thriller film made in the 21st century, yet it reflects the classic Hollywood values and styles. The plot of the film is very straightforward from beginning, middle and end. A standard plot from the beginning, climax, to the end makes the time and events easy to follow, producing clarity for the viewers. The connections between the characters are direct and complete. Father Bryan Mills and his daughter Kim’s rocky relationship are established in the beginning due to their separation, it almost seems like they are both strangers to one another. When Kim gets kidnapped, Bryan’s goal is to get her back doing everything he can to the best of his knowledge. The movie concludes with not only the rescue of Kim, but Bryan’s relationship with his ex-wife and daughter are rebuilt. Closure is definitely established by the end of the film, which comes to be a main component of portraying a classic Hollywood film. Morel is a French cinematographer and directed the well-known film, District 13. Although popular for his crime-based thrillers, both of these films were produced and co-written by Luc Besson (Corliss 2009). The passion for these animated crime dramas are derived from Besson himself, proving that Morel is in fact, not an auteur. Throughout Besson’s life, he felt as though he never fit in, his solidarity caused him to explore his imagination, giving him ideas for his work in film production (Wolf 2007).

Although Inception and Taken are both recognized as action films, the action throughout Inception is merged in with science, mystery and adventure while Taken combines action with crime and thrill. Both Nolan and Morel’s techniques of combining these categories draw in more viewers by appealing to multiple groups of people with different interests. The fusing of multiple genres creates a hybrid film, resulting in a more unique film. Both films do carry traits deeming them to be the classic Hollywood films. While Morel sticks strictly to characteristics that depict a classic Hollywood film, Nolan strays away by incorporating confusing plots and an unsure ending, leaving viewers with questions. The appeal to the auteur motivates marketing campaigns. Though both movies are based off passion, Nolan’s film was derived from his own while Morel’s was originated from others, making Nolan a true auteur.

Focusing on cinema and culture and investigating the simplest components of a film, such as genre, social context and auteur cinema, allowed a seeing of a new perspective on how cinema can strongly impact our culture. Both films combined multiple genres, allowing for the appeal to a larger and more diverse audience. Drifting away from the classic Hollywood style may actually make a film more successful, keeping the film industry non-repetitive and interesting. Auteurism is a great technique in marketing, specifically towards the film industry. Knowing what a director is passionate about will appeal to people who share the same interests, successfully keeping a steady group of loyal viewers. Even the smallest aspects of a film have an immense influence on our society today.  

Works Cited:

Leon Saunders Calvert, “Inception: Film, Dreams and Freud,” Offscreen 15.5 (May 31, 2011).

Richard Corliss, “Taken: The French Disconnection,” Time Entertainment (Jan 29, 2009).,8599,1874803,00.html

Jamie Wolf, “Le Cinéma du Blockbuster,” The New York Times Movies (May 20, 2007).


Inception out of class assignment

In Christopher Nolan’s film Inception, a constant theme throughout the film is what’s real and what’s not, reality vs. dream. The cinematography used is modern, but the current technology used in the industry makes certain scenes very powerful, there is a lot of action throughout this whole film. The concept of the use of this technology appeals to many types of audiences, making it a blockbuster. There is not a doubt in my mind to how Inception won Academy Awards for cinematography, editing, visual effects, etc.


Chicago 10

Brett Morgan’s film Chicago 10 presents themes of non-violence vs. violent militancy. The members of the newly formed activist group, the Yippies, were forbidden by the government to express their viewpoints and opinions. They were protesting the Vietnam War and wanted more freedom. They were more part of the counter culture in regards to sex, drugs and rock and roll. Their attitude caused many issues and disruption. The “pigs” (police) tear gassed and beat the non-violent protest. That sent a major message to the viewers, making Morgan’s movie powerful.


Morgan uses a couple techniques to make Chicago 10 a post modern documentary. The film shadows the characters and we see their lives first hand from the protests to the violence. Though bringing about much controversy, Morgan used real footage and animation to better reveal the anti-war protesters after the Democratic National Convention. Though there are arguments that the use of animation may blur the lines between fiction and the truth, this animated documentary is very different but powerful.


Utilizing animation was appropriate, the audience was kept entertained and allowed them to take on multiple perspectives of the film. It created a sense of engagement between the viewers and the characters while giving the film an artistic style. The animation added to the film and made it more interesting than normal documentaries that are too simple and plain.


Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story & Avant-Garde

The film The Karen Carpenter Story starts out showing Karen’s body being found in her parents’ home. Then flashes back on her life, showing many moments when she was suffering from anorexia. At first her and her brother Richard becoming known for their music. An unimportant review labeled Karen as “chubby” which increased her motivation to be anorexic. The film shows how much Karen cared of what everyone thought about her, that it even contributed to her death.

The Karen Carpenter Story is a prime example of a great abstract avant-garde film. From the start, director Todd Haynes begins the film by showing Karen as a Barbie Doll. Abstract usage focuses more on the objects than the actual people. Even though the use of dolls playing as the characters, the viewers can still stay engaged in the character’s emotions and feelings. The film takes on the viewpoint that the characters are objects, relating to the theme of the strive for perfection.

Karen Carpenter consumes the words of the media, leading up to her illness of anorexia nervosa. She struggles to obtain this image of perfection in the eyes of her fans and men. She is consumed by obsession to gain the perfect image. Her fans on the other hand, are consumed by her image. The two kinds of consumption throughout the film, are relative to one another. She takes in what the media says about her to make herself more easily consumable by people, especially men.


Weekend and Social context

Jean-Luc Godard’s film Weekend, incorporates a lot of social context throughout the film. The use of social context helps reveal a theme of violence. The violence in this film is very different from others, some seem like its fake but some are real. There are a lot of accidents, gun-usage, and murders throughout the film. Godard doesn’t try to hide the details from blood to dead bodies. It’s odd because the violence shown almost seems sarcastic and carries on a dark humor. Godard makes it apparent to use fake violence for humans and real violence towards animals. He shows the bodies lying around at the traffic jam with the burning cars. It’s very explicit. He does this on purpose to get a reaction out of the audience. He tries to make people feel more sympathy for the animals rather than humans.

Social context is what makes Godard’s film more artistic and different from most. His style is far from what’s considered traditional, it is highly artistic and controversial. His highly sarcastic portrayal on violence towards humans creates a dark sense of humor. He purposely does so to keep the audience from creating an emotional relationship with the characters. His sound design intentionally does not fit the scenes, especially during acts of violence. It creates a sense of discomfort making Weekend unique and an anti-Hollywood movie.

The act of alienation occurs once Godard’s use of violence keeps the audience distant from the movie. It makes it harder for the viewers to become emotionally attached to the characters of the film. Also, his inappropriate choice of music style in regards to specific scenes are purposefully done so to keep the viewers apart from the characters of the movie. Typically when directing a movie, one of the main purposes of the film is to connect the audience to the movie by trying to create a relationship. Godard tries to do the opposite, which makes the film more abstract and anti conventional.


Far From Heaven Ideology

The theme of bourgeois supremacy is prominent in Far From Heaven. There is a lot of conflict in social hierarchy. Cathy’s relationship with the black gardener’s son is very outstanding to the audience throughout the film. When Cathy turns to Raymond after realizing that her marriage was falling apart, the whole town begins gossiping about their relationship. Cathy’s husband Frank was furious and demands that their friendship be broken apart. Cathy ignores his demands and refuses. In the end, Cathy learns that Raymond’s daughter got beat up by 3 white boys. Raymond breaks off their relationship and moves away.

The film deals with a number of ideologies concerning class, race and sexual orientation. Cathy is deemed as the stereotypical housewife of the 1950s- she is the perfect mother and housewife. Husband Frank is constantly working and providing money for the family. Their relationship fits the social norm, Frank is the more dominant one and Cathy is submissive. The subject is of race is touched upon; the film reveals the segregation between the white and black races during the time period. African American Raymond is made fun of when attending an art show, which was a typical activity for the white race. This movie doesn’t just show the racism against the blacks, but also reveals how segregation was also against the whites. Cathy accompanies Raymond to a “black” restaurant but clearly is not welcome by their society. What also makes this film interesting is when Frank’s sexual orientation is revealed. Frank turns out to be a homosexual and is attracted to other men. Back in the 1950’s, this was completely against social normality. Frank, who is supposed to be this successful businessman, would draw upon negative attention when revealing his secret. The different ideologies shown through this movie reveals the other side that contrasts the typical “American Dream.”

Far from Heaven is set to be in the 1950s yet this movie was made recently in the 2000s. The film reveals how social acceptance has changed over these 50 years. Although racism and sexual orientation are still contemporary issues, Todd Haynes uses the film to show that our society is more tolerant than 50 years ago. It reminds the viewers and people of our society today that there are bigger issues at hand, such as global warming and war, than gossiping about someone else’s life.  


Casablanca & Genre

Michael Curtiz’s film, Casablanca, takes place in Libson, Portugal during World War II. The hopeful people, who wished to escape Europe to go to America, came to Portugal to search for an exit. Owner of a popular nightclub and casino, Rick Blaine is caught up in much controversy, from war to even love. A prominent theme throughout the movie would be the challenge of escaping the past. The film is even revolved around people trying to leave to forget their past and make a new future. Rick’s former lover, Ilsa enters the bar and she requests to play the song, “As Time Goes by,” which catches Rick’s attention. Later when this song is played, a flashback occurs, insinuating that the song reminded Rick of his past with Ilsa. The flashback composed of a time when Rick was waiting at the train station for Ilsa but is stood up. Ilsa explains herself by telling him that she couldn’t run away with him after she found out that her supposed dead husband, before meeting Rick, was in fact still alive. The theme of not being able to escape the past is re-occuring throughout the whole movie.

Usually, a film is categorized under one main theme. But, Casablanca is unique in the way that it differs from this stereotype. Curtiz uses components from different genres to compose his film. The use of combining multiple aspects of different themes adds variety. People have different interests therefore the hybrid genre appeals to a wider audience verse a select group that may only be interested in humor or romance. The movie constantly switches genres from a documentary, espionage, propaganda, romance, action and the list goes on. 

Curtiz’s use of mashing up various genres and making Casablanca a hybrid makes the movie more artistic and less conventional. I honestly think that the mixture of the multiple genres makes Casablanca the great film it is. The movie is comprised of aspects from different genres which actually makes the movie very original and appealing to viewers. The combination does not cause the viewers to be confused, yet simply keeps them intrigued and interested by the constant switches. I’m not surprised that Casablanca is categorized as an A-list film.