Inception is a very particular type of heist movie, but it is a heist movie, and as with all heist movies, Inception has a clear designation of roles on the heist team. The characters are designated like so…
In charge of the overall plans for the job.
Point Man: Arthur
In charge of research and details in the execution of the plan.
Designs the dream-space in which the extraction (or inception) will take place.
Creates documents or imitates people so that the dreamer will not know when ideas or interactions are planted.
Creates a compound suitable for inducing the type of sleep needed to complete the extraction in the dream-space.
And not necessary but an added role in Inception…
Who funds the operation and went along to ensure completion of the inception.
I will include him because he becomes necessary for the team’s success (No room for tourists in this operation?)
Because of the uniqueness of the world in which this team operates, the roles that they play are much better than a normal heist film, would you rather have a ‘lock specialist’ or a ‘chemist’? A getaway ‘driver’ or a goddamn ‘architect.’ It’s a no brainer.
But I was wondering which people from other action and heist movies would do well in an Inception-type heist with Inception-heist roles. Which great action heroes and heisters could shed their mundane roles on mediocre teams that do boring bullshit like, I don’t know…rob banks for millions… and instead take on extracting important information from people’s minds for cash?
Let’s look at each role in Inception and decide which characters from other heist films are in the running for that role, and ultimately let’s make the greatest Inception heist team possible.
The extractor is in charge. S/He decides what jobs to do, s/he creates the team, s/he invents the plan and process for extraction. This is an important choice. The team needs someone capable, discerning, and level-headed. Cobb showed us what can happen if the extractor is not balanced and focused.
The first person that came to mind who could do this role was President James Marshall (Air Force One). He has the leadership skills, he is thoughtful, commanding, discerning, and he has a military-background, so he is capable. There is no problem with his leadership or credentials, however, this is a job that involves leading heists in ethically gray (at best) spheres. The Great American may take issue with some of the tasks required of him as the head of this heist team.
So let’s make our options those who are ethically flexible. Let’s consider Neil McCauley from Heat, Doug MacRay from The Town, Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, Dom from The Fast and the Furious series, and Joh Wick from the John Wick series. They all seem capable of the intellectual needs of an Extractor, and they won’t have any trouble with some of the ethically questionable areas they will need to inhabit.
However, two of those candidates have never assembled a team. John Wick worked, and clearly prefers to work solo, so he is out. And Beatrix Kiddo worked with an elite task force, a huge boon in her favor, however, it was created by Bill, and when the chips were down and Beatrix had to enact a plan of her own, she chose to do it by herself. I cannot choose an Extractor that has not shown an ability to compile a team. Kiddo is out as well.
That leaves us with McCauley, MacRay, and Dom. These are three phenomenal choices, so we need to nitpick. McCauley is an old school worker, and I think the idea of invading people’s minds would be a bit much for him. I can’t imagine him working in a dream-space, nor do I think he would, he is out.
Dom seems like a good fit, he is okay with doing illegal activity, he created and led a terrific team, he is prone to do incredible things even inside the limits of physics, so we can only imagine what he would do in a dream. But he is a bit too formulaic right? How often can you try and accomplish a task with cars? If we choose him we gotta horseshoe cars into everything. Climbing a mountain? Let’s use cars. Jumping out of a plane? Let’s use cars. He dreams big but only in one area. Not a great skill for an Extractor.
Doug MacRay, on the other hand, seems just about perfect. He plays his cards close to the chest, level-headed, comfortable with illegal activity, but also has a heart, makes big time decisions, puts together and protects an awesome team, creates elaborate plans (that stadium robbery was legit), and is fully capable. We can easily imagine him shooting subconscious projections to extract sensitive data and bringing together a crack-squad team to do it.
Doug MacRay is our Extractor.
The Point Man
The Extractor plans the picture, and The Point Man paints. They provide the details and research necessary to make the extraction successful. In some ways they need to be more capable than the extractor but okay with following someone else’s vision and leadership. If we think of some great number twos in action and heist films, we have to consider Brian O’Conner from The Fast and the Furious and James Coughlin from The Town(who gets a boost for working with our Extractor in the past), and Chris Shiherlis from Heat. I also want to add one of the most capable men in film, and someone with experience as an elite member of an organization, Jason Bourne. Also add Beatrix Kiddo (who was already in the running for Extractor but seems capable of filling this role too). I also think Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive, who I’ll just refer to as Driver, should be considered. He is capable, and he would work well with MacRay.
Once again, the list is strong, and any one of them (or others who I didn’t add) would work well. So let’s look at the finer details to decide who would make the team most successful. I think it is wise to delete James Coughlin right away considering how The Town ended. He pressured our Extractor into one more job that eventually ended terribly. So even though his willingness (‘who’s car are we taking?’ is maybe THE great question in all of film) would be a great addition, we can’t afford our team to have that kind of volatility. I also am getting rid of Chris Shiherlis because he just gives me the heeby jeebies. I don’t trust him on the team like I should. The point man is the glue guy. He makes it happen. I want to know what I’m getting.
Brian O’Conner and Driver are interesting choices. They fill similar roles (both being expert drivers) but they are very different. Brian seems like a team guy, but Driver seems like he would be more capable. Brian seems like he would be better in a pinch, but that is mainly the Extractor’s role anyway (except for the rare instances where he may need to ad lib by himself). I like Driver a bit better as The Point Man than Brian. And yet when we compare him to someone like Beatrix Kiddo, he seems to be lacking. Beatrix has been the number two in an elite organization before (behind Bill), she has devised her own plan with her own details, she is very teachable (she learned well from Pai Mei), and she seems way more capable of handling herself against projections than everyone else on the list besides maybe Jason Bourne.
Which leads the ultimate decision of who is The Point Man between Beatrix Kiddo and Jason Bourne. Jason Bourne seems more suited to the work (and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reunited would be incredible) but the guy seems set on getting out of this line of work. If we could get Bourne to embrace the business, I think he is the choice, but since I am not confident anyone could do that.
I think we go with Beatrix Kiddo.
Finding the Architect is a different sort of ordeal. The Extractor and The Point Man were roles that many women and men could fill, but the Architect only has a select few who could do the job. We are looking for great minds that are also functioning at a high level (a surprisingly hard mix to find in movies, goodbye A Beautiful Mind and Rain Man), who is also creative and can think outside the box, not just a numbers guy (sorry Will Hunting). So that leaves us Danny Ocean from the Ocean movies, who is intelligent at planning heists and thinking outside the box, Nathan from Ex Machina, who maybe is the most intelligent person we can find who also has the necessary subversive thought processes, and also Louise Banks from Arrival who, as a linguist, brings a unique intelligence that I find appealing.
Nathan is highly qualified but also a train wreck of a human being. The world’s he would create would be impassable to all but him. He is too isolated and narcissistic to help anyone. Danny Ocean could do it, but he doesn’t seem to be the behind the scenes guy that the Architect is asked to be. He may have been a better Extractor (but we needed him for this list since it was smaller). And then we have Louise Banks, who seems the least qualified as a linguist but would probably adopt her role in the group better than the others.
So for this selection we need to find a reason to pick the person. I lean towards Louise Banks. Yeah, she’s a linguist, and that probably translates to world-builder the worst. But let’s be honest, this is an intelligence that anyone would need to learn (like the alien’s language), so I want a quick study, a team player, and someone who will go about their work in a way that helps others succeed. She showed all of that when she worked with the government to communicate with the aliens.
So Louise Banks is our Architect.
The forger may be the most technically difficult job in the heist, and I say this because of a serious lack of qualified candidates. I can think of two that could probably do the job, Frank Abagnale Jr. (Catch Me If You Can) and Verbal Kint (The Usual Suspects). These are the only two that indicate that they can both do the impressions and fake the documents in a convincing enough way. Admittedly, we don’t see Verbal Kint forging any documents, but he was at least able to get his hands on some or else he couldn’t have multiple identities that fool the police.
We see Abagnale do everything we need. He does great impressions, he understands people, and he fakes out people in the real world the way we need him to fool people in dreams. We also get to watch him make documents and forge checks in a way that would be beneficial to the team. He makes a strong case. The problem is that he is a man with an identity crisis, and we’ve already seen how poorly that works in the dream world (Cobb kept putting a wrench in all of his own plans), the dream world could easily become the opiate Abagnale leans on to overcome his issues, and I cannot be responsible for creating that addiction.
Plus, Verbal seems like the guy for a heist group. We see him work well with a group of people thrown together (besides killing them one by one that is), and he pulled off the greatest identity fake out in the history of film. When his leg starts straightening out as he walks down the sidewalk…that’s the type of genius forgery we need on our heist team.
Another list that is small and selective: Doc Brown from Back to the Future (even though we are just kind of assuming he can do chemistry; he seemed to know what he was doing with the fuel for the DeLorean), Robert Neville from I Am Legend, and I am going to bend genres here a bit in order to add Walter White from Breaking Bad even though it is a TV Show (no list of Chemists is complete without him).
This actually feels pretty easy to me. Doc Brown is too scattered to make it through levels of dreams (Could you imagine?), and I am not sure there is enough money in it for Walter White. On the other hand, Neville is a chemist who shows a capacity for invention (much like Yusef Of The Many Compounds), tenacity, commitment, and he will be better in the dream-space than Yusef was. Those subconscious projections chasing the van wouldn’t stand a chase with Neville fighting back, which would allow the group more time in their dreams, which would prevent Ariadne from having to tell Cobb the shortcut, which stops Mal from shooting Fischer and sending Cobb into Limbo. Yeah… Robert Neville is our Chemist.
This last role is optional, but let’s imagine we had a big money backer, like Saito in Inception, who eventually ended up on the job with the rest of the crew, who would we want? Saito was unnaturally suited for the job, the dream tourist (pun intended), so his standard makes finding a replacement a difficult task.
My mind first went to Pacino in his roles as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone. But they seemed a bit too street to adopt and succeed in this ethereal world. I also, like Walter White, went to a big money television character in Logan Roy, but his health is a big deterrent from him ever being able to go on the job like Saito did, plus, once again, he just didn’t feel right in this fantastical world of Inception. But who would be at home in the world of the impossible? Who doesn’t have any trouble adopting new technology and profiting from it? Who spares no expense on a job? Give me John Hammond (Jurassic Park) as my tourist.
So my team is set.
Extractor- Doug MacRay (The Town)
The Point Woman- Beatrix Kiddo (Kill Bill)
Architect- Louise Banks (Arrival)
Chemist- Robert Neville (I Am Legend)
Tourist- John Hammond (Jurassic Park)
Is it better than the original? Maybe…
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