Questions / Answers about the Reality of "Inception"

by Eric Melin on July 17, 2010

in Blogs

inception paris 2010 city ceiling“Inception” ending confusing? Questions / answers revealed here. What is real and what is not? Does the reality of the constant dream-within-a-dream of “Inception” have you confused?

UPDATE! 8/2/2010 below!!!!!!

Our instant on-camera review of “Inception” with clips from the movie is right here.

My in-depth print review, which covers theme and overall effectiveness of the movie, is right here.

What follows is a SPOILER-HEAVY interpretation and discussion of the ending of the new Christopher Nolan jigsaw puzzle “Inception,” which opened this weekend.

Again, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN “INCEPTION” already.

I’ve only see the movie once (I’m going again in a couple of hours so I’ll report back about whether this held up or not), but I have two interpretations of this reality-challenged film.

inception no gravity 2010Since the film cuts to black before the top stops spinning, that means we don’t know for sure whether the last scene with Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio)  reuniting with his kids was a dream. These are the rules Nolan created, and following those rules, the top would have held the answer.

Since Nolan chose to cut at that moment, it is clear that he wants the film to be left open to interpretation. Coming from the guy who wrote “Memento,” and knowing that he spent 10 years working on this script, I’m sure there are clues all over the place to point us in one direction or the other.

Because the kids look exactly the same as they do every time Dom thinks about them, I believe that the last images in the movie are a dream. His kids would have aged somewhat (yes,  I understand all the ‘time rules’ for dreams) and the circumstances of the reunion would simply not be the same.

If we go with that idea, then the question comes not from whether he his dreaming anymore, but where that particular dream started.

inception kickback tub dicaprioInterpretation #1: Dom’s dream started on the plane.

Remember when he told Ariadne (Ellen Page) that he couldn’t dream without help anymore? I  believe that after his kickback from limbo with Saito (Ken Watanabe), his conscience was clean. His projections of guilt (embodied physically as his dead wife Mal, played by Marion Cotillard) were purged and he falls asleep on the plane, able to dream by himself for the first time in a long, long time.

The final scene we see with Miles (Michael Caine) bringing him home to the kids is that first unassisted dream. It’s still a triumphant moment for Dom, but it isn’t reality. One can assume that when he wakes up, one of two things will happen: 1. Saito will have come through and he will be actually be reunited with his kids or 2. He will be double-crossed, setting up a sequel very nicely.

Interpretation #2: Dom is stuck in a dream loop that he can’t or doesn’t want to escape from.

Directors drop visual hints as to their main character’s true nature all the time. Remember the scene when Dom looks into the mirrors with Ariadne and we see that endlessly repeating image of him? That’s Dom’s reality. He’s lost within all of these dreamworlds and he doesn’t know where he is.

inception top spinningMal keeps appearing in every one of Dom’s dreams to break them up. If this interpretation of “Inception” is correct, then Mal is not a projection of his guilt, but a protector. An angel of sorts. She is part of Dom’s subconscious, yes, but she’s there to help him wake up, even if he thinks he doesn’t want to. She is trying to provide that kickback for him.

This interpretation is supported by another Nolan-dropped clue. There was a scene with Ariadne where Dom joked something about “Why would you want to wake up?” Foreshadowing?

Well, headed off to see it again. Please add your questions, your thoughts on these answers / interpretations, and anything else you want to discuss about “Inception” below. And let’s all thank Mr. Nolan for finally making the summer interesting.

UPDATE!!! The costume designer says the the clothes the children are wearing at the end of the film are slightly different than they were throughout the film.If this was a conscious decision on the part of Nolan, does it mean that Dom is in reality at the end of the film and that Saito has held up his end of the bargain? Does this confirm the happy ending? Discuss.


Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 107 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dustin.schirer July 17, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Based on the simple fact that the top wasn’t in a perfect spin at the last frame makes me think you are full of bologna. Yes, it held a perfect spin for a while but was off axis at the last cut. If he were dreaming it would have never done that.

Also, I like happy endings.

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2 George Hickman July 17, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Don’t forget there’s a scene fairly early on where he’s about the spin the top and he’s interrupted.

That moment on could be a dream…

Or the entire reality of the movie could be a dream, and his wife was actually right all along…

One thing, didn’t his kids on the phone sound much older than the ones at the end?

How long was he on the run? Just given what is alluded to, I’d say at least three years.

There is no way those could be his children.

And isn’t it convenient Michael Caine meets him at the airport in LA when he lives in Europe? (I think…)

Also, the top was his wife’s totem, not his. Who is to say it ever worked the same for him?

The more I think about it, the less I’m sure of.

Between this and Shutter Island, I want to start a band called Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dead Wife.

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3 JoJo Longbottom July 18, 2010 at 5:33 am

What an amazing movie! I think I agree with your interpretations that he is stuck inside the dream, but what has changed is that he has finally let go of trying to trap his dream of Mal (who is a representation of his guilt, hence her name mal which means “bad” in french. In her last scene, she tells him once again that Dom had promised to grow old with her, and he finally accepts and tells her that they already have (albeit in an alternate reality for 50 years which is actually a matter of hours in the real world). But what that line really tells me is that Dom has finally accepted and found happiness in the fact that he has lived out life with a loved one in something other than reality, thus he is ready to finally look at his children’s faces and live their lives together, even though it is within a dream. Like you said in your first interpretation, he is finally able to dream himself because he has forgiven himself and that peace within him is all the happy resolution that you need in the film. It even ties in the with the song of the movie, “je ne regrette rien” which means I regret nothing. It is an inner struggle that Ariadne finally helps him to overcome. Badass film and I love your interpretations!

P.S. The kids were in the exact same clothes and in the same position as all of his dreams in the end of the movie. The only difference was that he called to them and they turned their heads because he was finally willing to live out this fantasy without Mal. How could it not be a dream?

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4 Eric Melin July 18, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Dustin- The top wasn’t really off axis in a way we could see, but the sound effect right as it went to black was definitely of the top slowing down. I think how you interpret that is definitely about whether you want a happy ending or not. Or, at the least, some closure.

JoJo- I agree with you that he accepted his life with his wife is over and has relieved himself of the guilt. But you think he KNOWS he’s still in a dream and is ready to live his life with his kids, knowing they are in a dreamworld?

I pointed out the kids’ clothes above too. I think it’s a telling clue that he’s still dreaming.

George- I agree with you that the daughters’ voice on the phone sounded way older than she looks throughout the film. I also noticed the scene where Saito interrupts him and he grabs the top before it falls the second time. That takes place during the scenes in the warehouse when he is being willingly put under to try to relive/correct his memories with his wife. If he is still dreaming, that could be the origin of the dream that makes up the rest of the film and the crew could still be in the midst of planning their heist in the real world.

I also love the part about his wife’s totem. After he reveals that he incepted his wife by spinning the totem, you’re right, who is to say that it would work for him the same way? If he manipulated it once, he could be subconsciously doing it again.

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5 Jeff Gebauer July 18, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Eric – Interested to hear what you think of it after the second time around. Any change in theories or new theories? There are a few things you mentioned which I hadn’t considered.

I think the entire movie is a dream and the inception isn’t about breaking up the business but the inception of the idea that Dom can get back home and one monumental step away from getting out of the dream world. Saito’s character is the catalyst for the movie and plants the idea that he can go home through an elaborate plan. Saito makes Dom feel like the plan is coming from himself but it’s actually Saito controlling things until the last scene. After all, an idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.

Michael Caine’s character somehow is in France and the U.S. I believe at least his role in France was the work of a forger. This forger introduces Dom to Ellen Page’s character; a character that Dom doesn’t know but accepts into his realm. This character is the driving force in Dom ridding himself of his guilt therefore allowing himself to get home. Perhaps who he believes to be his wife had a similar role in trying to get Dom back but failed to Dom’s detriment.

I think that Dom in the end realizes he is in a dream but he is at least at peace and satisfied with being in the dream. As you mentioned he said earlier in the movie, “Why would you want to wake up?” He doesn’t want to wake but I like your notion that he sabotages his own dream by spinning the top at the end and letting it spin. Similar to what he did to his wife.

I can’t remember if the movie ever showed his top fall but remember that the totem only works if it is your dream. If it did fall it could simply mean that he is in someone else’s dream, maybe Saito’s dream.

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6 Eric Melin July 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Jeff- Hold it. The whole idea of the film is this shared dream, right? So even if he is in Saito’s dream (I like your theory about Saito running the show and incepting Dom, by the way, but as soon as we introduce the idea that someone was a forger in Dom’s dream, then we are really getting far out there, don’t you think?), the totem should still work the same way…

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7 Steve Golden July 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Personally, I like to think that Dom was in reality at the end, but regardless of whether he’s in a dream or not, it’s worth noting (someone else noted this on a forum, I’m just mentioning it here because no one else has yet) that throughout the movie up until the end where he was reunited with his kids – Dom was wearing a wedding ring – it’s not until he’s free of the guilt of Mal’s death that the ring is gone and he is able to spin his/Mal’s totem without worrying if he’s dreaming or not. That in itself I think is enough to say it’s a happy ending for Dom – he’s finally free of his past – even if he’s dreaming he still has that.

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8 Cassie Cowan July 18, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I agree with George, the part where he was interrupted makes me believe that everything from that moment on was going deeper and deeper into a dream so his wife was right….or something.

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9 Jim Wells July 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I am definitely going to be seeing this movie ASAP! Dark Knight and Memento were such intriguing thrillers; they gave me high expectations for this movie. From what I’ve been reading, it looks like it is going to live up to my expectations. Can’t wait to see what Christopher Nolan has done in this film!

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10 Eric Melin July 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Steve- That’s a really good point. Symbolism is obviously a big thing for Nolan, so that is in there for a reason. But–you ended your comment with “even if he’s dreaming he still has that.” So I guess that means Dustin can have his happy ending and Dom can still be dreaming…ha!

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11 Matt Brown July 18, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I felt like it was reality at the end. I have very little support, but I just took from him finally seeing the kids faces that he had made it back. Maybe I like a happy ending too. I guess it’s at the least the only reality that matters to him at that point.
Either way, great flick.

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12 George Hickman July 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Also, during the phone call to his kids when they sounded much, much older… Totally made me think of Synechdoche, NY.

In a lot of ways this feels like the true successor to “Memento” in that even after people see it multiple times they still can’t agree on what it all means.

Which I like.

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13 Kenny July 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I loved it! I’d certainly have to see it again before I can make any concrete observations, but one thing is for sure, the movie kicked a lot of subconscious ass!

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14 jack July 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm

has no one else noticed his wife climbs out a window, but is yet across the street? the point about michael caine being in france n then the u.s is a good one and it seems that michael caine looks after the kids so that whole seen with him could be a dream which leads me to think whole movie is a dream which i started to think after an hour only seen once tho so could be wrong

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15 Dan July 18, 2010 at 8:59 pm

I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I really like the analysis here and proposed theories.

I could have sworn that at some point in the movie it was mentioned that Cobb had been away for a few months from his kids – might have been in the phone conversation he had with them (although whether that was reality or a dream layer is not known). So my impression was that only a short time had elapsed since his wife’s death and his flight, that he had been working in Europe for just months. And that would be relevant only in that the kids’ faces at the end wouldn’t be all that much older than he should remember – just a few months.

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16 Eric Melin July 18, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Jack- I think Mal was across the street merely so Nolan could stage the scene with more drama.Not a good excuse, I know, but I think the moment was bigger because he was helpless to save her on his side.

Dan- After seeing it twice and looking out for a moment when the time in the “real world” was quantified (i.e. Cobb and his kids), I still didn’t notice it. If anyone else can say otherwise, please let us know. Even if it was just a few months, how does that explain the exact same position and clothes they were wearing?

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17 Totem July 19, 2010 at 12:08 am

I like your first interpretation alot, and love the idea of it having a possibile sequel. But the idea of Leo having spent the entire movie in one big dream or rather being lost in limbo seems highly unlikely and IMO unsupported: for one I dont think that after ten hrs of perfecting this magnificent price if art that Nolan would weave the web so deep as to possibly confusing the audience too far, secondly if it was one large dream we should have seen his wife more than we did, we only saw her after we see Leo being sedated resulting in sleeping and further more dreaming.

It was most defenitly my favorite movie of all time with it’s originality, imagination, thrilling, and even the truth behind dreaming. I’d love to see a sequel, the way you described it would fit in perfectly. What I really want to know is what Nolan wrote as the “real” ending!!

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18 Brit July 19, 2010 at 4:33 am

For me I would have to point towards a marked strangeness to the final few scenes. As someone said, Michael Cain meeting him in LA was a bit convenient, but also the whole montage feel on the plane and in the airport (with all the face-shoots of the main characters)seemed out of touch with the feel of the rest of the film. There was something about the cinematography that just didn’t feel the same as the rest of the film. The big clincher for me though were the clothes, age, and pose of his kids.

The real question though is weather the whole film was taking place in a dream (the mysterious super-corporation hunting him down doesn’t seem very real now does it?)and he didn’t know it (in other words his wife was right) or if he’s dreaming on the plane or perhaps he’s still in limbo?

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19 jack July 19, 2010 at 6:27 am

quick question if the whole thing was a dream as such would the time theory not ave worked as he may have gone into even deeper levels just a thought. read somewhere that there is a inception inside of a inception being cobbs lift?

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20 dustin.schirer July 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

“The top wasn’t really off axis in a way we could see, but the sound effect right as it went to black was definitely of the top slowing down. I think how you interpret that is definitely about whether you want a happy ending or not. Or, at the least, some closure.”

- Damn. I guess I missed that. I was just trying to be argumentative. Honestly to me, having the kids in the exact same position/scenario with a different outcome meant that he was able to move on in his dream but not out of the woods by far. Even though I beg for closure in movies like these, the unknown is far more intriguing.

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21 Mitt Umlaut July 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

Maybe I’m remembering things wrong, but I don’t think there was anything weird about Michael Caine being in LA to meet him. When Dom spoke to his kids on the phone, didn’t he tell them he was sending some presents home to them with Grandpa? I’m pretty sure something like that happened. So he didn’t just appear conveniently in LA.

But otherwise, yeah…it’s all quite confusing. I’m going to have to see it again.

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22 DF21 July 19, 2010 at 11:18 am

The whole thing is Mal’s dream.

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23 George Hickman July 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Eric:

“I think Mal was across the street merely so Nolan could stage the scene with more drama.Not a good excuse, I know, but I think the moment was bigger because he was helpless to save her on his side.”

Nolan didn’t stage it that way for drama, Mal the character did. She saw it as some sort of grand romantic gesture and fully expected that he would jump after her.

Besides, after hearing all the work she put into that moment (getting the kids taken care of, going to separate psychiatrists to have herself declared sane, staging a struggle in the hotel room, etc.) do you really think her figuring out where the room across the street was and how to gain access to it was much of a stretch?

I definitely think Cobb is in a dream at the end, but whose dream he’s in, what “level” it is, etc. is still kind of up in the air in my mind.

I have a feeling that there’s a case to be made that Mal was right, that the “level” Cobb thought was reality was still at least one level into dreaming, and that Mal is actually alive in “reality” and Cobb is stuck in a coma…

Or something like that.

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24 Kenny July 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I’m just hypothesizing but I think some important clues are in the scene where he first meets Yusef, but who knows.

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25 van dammage July 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Some good ideas. Here are some of my observations on the dream idea.

They told us that you always start somewhere in the middle of a dream, never the beginning. The movie started in a quite advanced stage, and featured over the top action sequences. Also, the whole chase scene after recruiting Eugene, with the two walls conveniently placed just enough for him to squeeze through is something i myself have used to escape in my own dreams.

I believe the movie started off in level one, we work our way down to 5(limbo) and Saito shoots Dom sending him back to level 1, but because he has lost track of reality, to him that was the real world. To the viewer its still a dream with the forementioned children. Nolan uses the totem just to try and throw off some people on the fence, and cause a great debate.

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26 Totem July 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Wow!! Your right how could I forget about that scene where Cobb talks to his father in law giving him gifts for the kids and he responds with something like stuffed animals won’t be enough something something etc…(I really need to go watch it again) setting up the fact that the kids grandpa would have been back in the states.

As far as Cobb dreaming the entire film and mal being “right” though a very interesting hypothesis there dosnt seem to be enough evidence to prove this all indications point to either he was dreaming at the end or he woke up via the totem we saw final clip of the movie. I believe the top wasn’t only cobb’s totem but the audiences aswell allowing us to never loose sight of “reality” and the final goal so to speak. (we never did see anyone elses totem in action…

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27 Nat Mills July 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm

So from the comments above I think it should be clear that everything that transpires is not happening in the “real world” but in a “dream world”.

Having said that I think that the above are all great comments but here are some ideas that no one has mentioned:
Think of the following…
a) Futher proof that Dom is living in a “dream world”: The dialog (in limbo) when Mal tells Dom to question whether his reality is “real”. I.e. who would get paid for Bourne Identity style “missions” by anonymous giant conglomerates for a living? —– This says to me that he is indeed living in a made up reality—-
b) Futher proof that Dom is living in a “dream world”: The facts surrounding the grandparents are a little iffy. How come there is a french-sounding woman on the phone with Leo’s kids when he calls them? One would think this is Mal’s mom, however, the kids live in LA and Michael Cayne lives in Paris. Something doesn’t add up. Meanwhile, why does Michael Cayne, who is supposedly the grandfather of Leo’s kids “teach” in France and is waiting for him in LA (as previously mentioned)? Who is he really?
c) Some thoughts about Dom. From b) one then thinks of another question. Why does Dom go to him for help? He says he learned everything he knows from him. What does he know? Who is Dom? Who trained him to go into people’s dreams? Probably same person who taught his wife. I think the scene at the classroom in Paris is very revealing. In it, Dom tells Michael Cayne that he can only do what Cayne taught him: go into people’s minds. That he needs someone as bright as he once was so that he can go back home. It is curious that this last journey home begins with Cayne signing off on it and then Cayne welcoming him back. But not before Ariadne (remember your greek mythology class?*) decides to go there with him. So let’s think of Ariadne for a second… doesn’t she seem pretty inquisitive from the get-go? Does she seem like a passionate architect type or more like a…… shrink??? AHA!!! ( take a second before we go on).
d) Why is it that Ariadne is so interested in finding out about Dom? Her entire participation in the movie has to do with finding out more about Dom and helping him deal with his issues with Mal. Remember the first time she went into a dream? (which happened out of nowhere as they were eating in a cafe – more on this later). All she wanted to do was to walk around and explore his world, or should I say mind and subcouncious. From the first time, it seemed she knew what buttons to press and was able to get to the memory of Mal right away. She was a good shrink indeed. Better than Dom was (yes I believe he is a shrink as well) and was trained by his mentor/teacher (Cayne). Let’s explote Ariadne a little more…. She was constantly trying to explore the most painful memories of Dom’s mind so as to bring the issues to life and let Dom resolve them (when she was going in the elevator). She was giving him guidance (when he told to shoot Mal for example) and as she kept getting deeper into his laberynth with him, she eventually helped him discover the fact of why he felt guilty all the time. He had “implanted” an idea into his wife’s mind that they were not living in a real world b/c after their long life together in limbo they had become unhappy. At that point however, comes another revelation… the fact that they did grow old together.
e) Why do I say they grew old together? Dom himself reveals this as he shows us a flashback of them talking together**. So how can she have committed suicide at a young age then? I believe that she didnt or perhaps she did at a very advanced age. The truth is that she lived an unhappy life after some time b/c of Dom’s fault. This happens in couples and relationships. If your spouse harps on about your bad cooking for 10 years and you believe it, it can get to the point where no matter if you win the iron chef, you will be convinced that you are a bad chef. — YOU BELIEVED IN THE SIMPLE IDEA —. The fact that she died unhappily b/c of Dom’s fault leads him to live with guilt and once he comes to terms with this issue he is free to attempt to tackle the next piece of emotional baggage – his kids. Perhaps the reason there is an older sounding french woman on the phone when he calls the kids is because this was a memory of Mal at home with the kids. Also, why do the kids in that conversation sound like a 2 year old and an 11 year old. Why does he talk about grandpa? Maybe its himself. Maybe he is really an old man (as he shows us in his memories as an elder with his with) and refers to himself as grandpa? Maybe when he talks to his grandkids the memory of his kids and the unresolved issues he had with them come to the fore?
f) All shrinks: So I believe that Michael Cayne found Ariadne to help Dom cope with his issues and once he had resolved his problem with Mal he was ready to deal with his kids. Now…. why do I think Dom is a therapist as well? I believe that this is what the movie is trying to tell us, as: i. Michael Cayne and Ariadna are definetly therapists and Dom is aware of the thought processes that Ariadne (who Dom ask for – I.e. he told Cayne he needed a good therapist) is having him go through ; ii. he calls Michael Cayne his teacher ; iii. He is , I believe, performing some sort of therapy on the Japanese man and cannot progress because he is bringing his own issues.
g)Japanese man: If you think about it, the Japanese man could very well be a patient of DOm’s who also has his own issues to deal with. Perhaps he was the high powered executive of a Japanese corporation in the past and now lives a life of regret b/.c of his ruthless tactics? Perhaps he inherited a ‘corporate empire” himself and did not know how to deal with it? Maybe the whole reason that Dom is treating him is so that he can get back into practice? Whatever the case, Dom needed help since his own subconcious was getting in the way of therapy. The therapy was probably hypnosys or psycoanalysis and maybe even a group hypnosys. This also means that perhaps Fisher was an additional patient and that the other 3 guys where a drug-prescribing psychiatrist, another shrink assuming roles for the sake of therapy and some other helping hand for the process.
Other random thoughts:
The whole Mumbasa scene- could it be a phase of Dom’s life where he was trying drugs in some third world country to get through his pain?
Someone said it was Mal’s dream… I find this doubtful because of fact #12 in this article: http://www.boredpanda.com/15-interesting-facts-about-dreams-dreaming/

Some facts:
*Ariadne and the minotaur
http://www.theoi.com/Ther/Minotauros.html
** You can only dream of stuff you have seen
http://www.eyebeemania.co.uk/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-dreams

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28 Jerry Springer July 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm

…It’s been mentioned many times, but I agree that the fact that the kids were in the same position and clothes at the end that they were in throughout the dreams proves that he is still in a dream.

How could it possibly be argued otherwise…?

…the kids did show their face before (at mom’s request), Leo just refused to look, that’s all.

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29 Oliver July 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Hey, great review Eric! I have one question though, d’you think its possible the film is a metaphor for filmmaking in itself? I do. It dawned upon me the day after I saw the film, when I woke up from an Inception-influenced dream. Here it is: Dom is the director, JGL is the producer, the Indian guy is the technician, Ellen Page is the screenwriter, the British guy is the actor, Ken Watanabe is the investor, FIscher is the audience and Cotillard is the (potentially dangerous) personal issue that a director brings up in everyone of his films…

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30 Oliver July 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Oh and dreams are the movies of course, the shared experience that emotionally affects us

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31 Mark July 20, 2010 at 1:08 am

Many keen observations up to this point some of which I apparently missed seeing as significant though I saw the film just today.

However, this recurring comment about the kids not changing at all throughout the film might ALSO be considered from this viewpoint……that how Cobb perceives them at the end is the same way he had seen them before(when in the “real” state) and so what we see is ONLY the way he experienced them at the prior time. In THAT sense, once he awakens while on the plane trip and then finally arrives to see them, it’s from the dream he’s had and NOW is again back in the “real” world, yes?

The fact that we find ourselves coming up with these multifarious explanations reminds me of the confounding issue I had with “Mulholland Dr.” and why I found it necessary to view it at least three times(and probably still couldn’t reach “closure” where completely unequivocal explanations/resolutions are concerned!).

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32 Dan July 20, 2010 at 6:10 am

Eric – \After seeing it twice and looking out for a moment when the time in the “real world” was quantified (i.e. Cobb and his kids), I still didn’t notice it. If anyone else can say otherwise, please let us know. Even if it was just a few months, how does that explain the exact same position and clothes they were wearing?\

That’s a good question. It’s possible that his mind places them in the position in which he last saw them sort of as a way to ease him back into reality; he immediately associates the two kids with that position and that clothing. But I concur with what someone – or several someones, I’m not sure now – said earlier, that he is actually still in a dream at the end.

If we assume he’s still dreaming, then we can say that he sees their faces for the first time because he’s one step closer to returning to reality. That’s my best guess, anyway. He’s in a shallower level of sleep than he’s been in years.

But the fact that the top is not his totem is telling, isn’t it? What was Dom’s totem, anyway? We don’t know – he merely holds Mal’s totem. So is Dom actually a projection of Mal?

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33 Sheldon July 20, 2010 at 9:41 am

Chris Nolan transmits story’s main structural message in between the characters’ conversations.
Let’s go down to the basic rule of inception:
1. Dream is made out of full circle by perceiving & creating. In other words, information not perceived does not get created.
2. Dream always starts in a sudden place. You don’t know how it started or how you ended up being there.
3. There are dreams so deeply embedded in your reality, at the end you are swept with dreams.

Story
1. We have seen Saito being young and old throughout the movie. Anyone else apparently changes the age? Dream creates things only by object perceived, which means Cobb has seen his father and Saito being old in his reality. Last time he saw kids was when they were that little. Did movies actually show Mal being old when Cobb said they have spent a whole life together? It showed Cobb being old but have we seen Mal?
2. The way story goes by is just like a dream. It doesn’t show us the progress of how they are end up being where they are. It’s jumpy from place to place throughout the whole movie just like a dream.
3. Cobb being washed away from the ocean three times (First & Final scene and when he visited the world he crated). Dreams so vivid, it’s like reality, but memory plays the trick and diminishes the reality (part of failing structures by the coast)

Summarizing all of above facts, is reality just like dreaming? Just like Codd was living in reality of dream?

Chris Nolan
From his movie Memento, he emphasizes on a central idea that human memory places a trick that deteriorates the perception of reality. Truth about reality has always been question for Nolan. Here’s another movie that telling us whether dream based on our memory of perceived ideas is reflecting reality or we are living in a reality so false of memory just like a dream.

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34 Abhimanyu July 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Oliver I think you have hit upon an excellent point.

On the whole I think that he infact is dreaming.
1. Gordon Levitt explains to Page that a totem is unique to a person to show THAT PARTICULAR person that he or she isn’t dreaming, and if somebody else used it, the purpose would be diluted. DiCaprio is using Cotillard’s totem so who is to say it works the same for him.

2. The kids are dressed the same and look the same as the last time he saw them and from the conversation he has with them it looks like he has not seen them for a very long time.

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35 Michael Bird July 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I know that the dreams serve as the device, but I don’t think Nolan’s point was to ask us to question what was a dream, but instead for us to question what reality is. Was the end a dream? With all things being equal, if Nolan meant the ending in a definitive way, it would have ended definitively. Pulling us out of the reality of the film, whatever it was, puts the moment definitively in your lap. It is the quintessential existentialist question, and one the Matrix asks in a more direct fashion.

Instead of fixating and puzzling over the movie, my thinking is that we are meant to ask ourselves questions about our own lives and what we take for granted.

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36 Michael Bird July 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

It’s funny. This reminds me of how people use to make mountains out of molehills in the details on Lost. Like the key to the whole show laid in Darma bunker wall colors.

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37 Michael Bird July 20, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Doesn’t it say something significant that he walked away before the top stopped spinning? As though it were a question he didn’t need answered anymore? Just as each of us must come to our personal conclusion about the film’s meaning and eventually walk away from it.

I must confess, I didn’t really find this quiite the masterwork people are hyping it. Ambiguity in film is easy to achieve and I think provoking people to question things, well, you can come up with more interesting questions than “is life a dream and who is dreaming it?”

Ebert tweeted the other day that Nolan isn’t the new Kubrick, he’s the first Nolan. As comparisons go, I find the questions Kubrick left me with to be far more significant, ambiguous and simultaneously specific questions. I felt like I learned something about myself after Kubrick’s films. Even at his worst (Cruise’s haplessly sandbagging Eyes Wide Shut), Kubrick gave you a question that you could answer about yourself that you might not have asked otherwise. I’ve already asked Nolan’s question of myself many times over, as have many).

It’s an entertaining way to spend 2+ hours, just not the most amazing, perfect film experience I had read about in advance of seeing it.

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38 Rebecca July 21, 2010 at 12:22 am

According to the people who say the whole movie infact was a ‘dream’ in level one and therefore when saito killed him he just brought him back to level one, how could he have spoken to his children earlier in the movie when they sounded ‘older’ — he can’t communicate with the outside world when he’s in a dream. So maybe that phonecall wasn’t real and the kids were still the same age. (The clothing and position of the kids at the end of the movie could have just been dramatic affect)

Get it?

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39 Kenny July 21, 2010 at 12:38 am

I know Nolan is very fond of Blade Runner so that might explain a few things about his passion for the themes of dreams and reality. I feel Nolan’s works aren’t as didactic as Kubrick’s, but like Ebert, feel that the two directors have different means for achieving their ends. I believe that Kubrick puts more objectives into his films whether they be comical or profound, while Nolan just lays everything out there for the audience to digest, both are certainly and equally great.

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40 Miki July 21, 2010 at 8:53 am

I didn’t read the last few responses, so I apologize if someone has said anything I post here.

I think that a MAJOR issue that no one seems to have pointed out here is that the totems are an idea created by THEM based on rules that they believe they should function by.
So, if they believe that they’re in “reality,” any function that the totem has in that level is going to be maintained in that level. Now, if they go down a level with the totem as an indicator – fully well aware that the world can behave how any of them believe it should – what means that ANYTHING would behave differently at all from their own perspective (everything else worked exactly how they perceived it in “reality” – why would these totems act any different?)? I think the whole concept of a totem in the movie was misrepresented.
It should not have been an indicator for them of anything (the argument could be made that if they handed their totem to another person in a different level – that person wouldn’t know how the totem was SUPPOSED to behave and it wouldn’t behave the same…but you could also suspect that the totem’s owner had again exerted his/her will onto that said item….again, negating the purpose entirely).
The totems are simply a comfort measure to the characters.

Now, I believe that the entire purpose of this movie was simply to get us to question our reality. That being said, I would like to believe it was Nolan’s way of relating reality to different dimensional theories (if you’re not familiar, video search “the tenth dimension”). The way he exaggerated the ripple effect of an action in the higher tiers of reality demonstrates this (Ie. if you were to stop time [4th dimension as we know it], our corporeal bodies would still exist – just cease to move. HOWEVER, if you were to modify anything about those corporeal bodies, time would be modified entirely and any subsequent dimensions below time would also be permanently altered). Also, the way that you could question the existence of infinitesimal other levels of dream state in either direction supports this (you could technically expand dimensional theory out in either direction – something ALWAYS has to come from something else <—my peeve about deities…lol) and just screamed dimensional theory to me.
Since the movie's entire perspective is about the inception that occurred, (and if you look at it from the different dimension perspective) the statement could be made that if you learn how to modify the parameters of the dimensions comprising your dimension, you could actually modify your actual apparent dimension in an unfathomable manner.

I was really insulted with the way it ended. To me, it was a way of pointing out even to the audience members that may not have been pondering if the whole thing was just a dream anyhow in a ridiculously obvious way that it could potentially not be "reality."
For me, a more enlightened ending would have been more appropriate: He goes to spin the totem, stops it before it gets a chance to spin and just throws it out. He already believed that level of dreaming to be his reality. To him, he could live an entirely happy and perfect life on that level regardless of what any freakin' totem says. I felt that sort of ending would have given more ambivalence to the "is it REALITY??!?" question – because it would have showed so many different concepts poetically: reality is just what we believe it to be, we should be happy in our reality regardless of if we question its authenticity, etc. The way it was insulted me by making me feel bad for Cobb for being potentially duped by the system into believing a dream is real – instead of just saying that he's too smart to care if it is or not because it's real to him.

Back to the movie concept itself… As above, with the totems, all of the rules of the dreaming are defined by the dreamers and their comprehension of the contrast between dreams and "reality" – which could, of course, negate ANY argument made to gauge if they were in a dream, other than death bringing them to a higher level of reality. This to me says – even if he was in what he perceived to be "reality" – who is to say whether he was EVER even born into a "reality" (I don't remember the first many years of my life or how I got here!!!) or if everyone's existence in their reality is defined by their ability to comprehend and process that which defines it (our world was flat until we had the ability to not only imagine that it was round, but come up with empirical evidence to support this)? Since the dreamers defined the rules in the dreams, they comprehended that it was no longer "real" any longer.
My point here being that reality itself is just a perception of those experiencing it. (Which apparently Nolan supports fully: The meeting of the individuals to have the shared dreamworld… "To them, this is the dream and THAT is the reality." or some similar statement was made)

As with any good movie, you could extrapolate to eternity on ways to add to it and interpret it (CRAP! Is Cobb even real or are all of the characters just projections of someone else's desires [or his own on a higher level]??!?!? AHHHH!)…. but, I chose not to muddle the concepts and morals of the movie up with any unnecessary persuit of those sort of derivations.

I loved the movie and I can go on like this for days. LOL

All I know is that this movie created a new come on line for me: "I would go three layers deep with you, baby."

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41 Miki July 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Oh, and I just read some of the comments I didn’t get a chance to earlier. I think some people are confusing the totem thing up even more in their heads.

He explained that the reason the totem was unique to one person and wouldn’t work to another was because only the person who owns it knows how it feels (the particular weight distribution, the way it moves around, the exact texture, etc). Henceforth, you wouldn’t want someone else to learn the details of your totem, because then they could recreate those same sensations in a dream to convince you it was reality and your .

Mal’s totem would have worked for him because she was no longer around to recreate it the way it was from her experiences and screw with his gauge on reality.

However, like I said (in my excessive rant above)… we saw that the subconscious thoughts and desires of an individual can modify any dreamspace (Mal being around all the time without him wanting her there, the train, etc)… Which means that the concept of a totem is nullified by the subconscious desire for a dreamscape to be your true “reality.”

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42 Miki July 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

That was supposed to say “(steal/etc) your (whatever).”

Silly comments section. ;)

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43 Miki July 21, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Crap, I’m a retard, I realized my sleep dep also made me name-jumble and misspell.. I meant DOM and Mal and Nolan. LOL

QUADRUPLE POST FTW!!

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44 ld July 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

i actually read this from another website, and went to check myself but if you go to IDMB.com, it lists two sets of actors for the kids, a younger set (3yrs for the daugther/ 20 month son) then an older set (5 yr old daugther / 3 yr old son) and the shoes they are wearing in the end are different.

who’s to say he’s not still dreaming but i prefer to believe he came back to reality.

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45 Inception July 22, 2010 at 11:05 pm

I believe that most of if not the entire movie was actually a dream. In the final scene Cobb’s kids are in the exact same clothes that they were in in his memories of them. As for the spinning top, did it fall? well it really does not matter if the top fell or not because the spinning top was mal’s totem not Cobbs. Do you remember when Ariadne learned that if you were to touch or possess someone else’s totem it would become useless, well Cobb’s totem was never his so it has always been useless. Whether he set it up that way on purpose so he would lose reality with his wife I am not sure.

Another thing, did anyone else realize that Mal and Saito mirror each other? They may in fact even be the same person. Mal always told Cobb to “take a leap of faith” , Saito also used this phrase at least twice throughout the movie. If you think that is just coincidence, Mal would also wanted Cobb to come back with her so they could grow old together. Saito promised Cobb that he would come back with him so that they could become young together. Saito is the one who told Cobb that there was a way back home, and if the ending was still a dream, Seiko was the one who ultimately led him back to that dream, and most likely back to Mal. Mal was always convincing Cobb that there was a way back to what she thought was reality. By using Saito, i think Mal tricked Cobb into coming back to her without him realizing it.

I also believe that it is quite possible that we are actually in Mal’s dream the entire movie. Cobb’s group that he put together could just be his subconscious that is trying to save him from Mal and losing his reality, while Mal is using Seiko as maybe an extractor, she could be using inception on him in order for him to make him believe he is back in reality.
-This last bit is a stretch but it could be possible.

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46 Will July 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

Two theories I thought about:

1. Cobb is still in a dream. Didn’t he say or infer at one point that if he looked at his kids he would want to stay in the dream, and by not looking at them he was able to get out of the dream. Note the scene toward the end when Mal says to the effect of “our children are here” and he tries to look away from them. Also, the fact that Saito held up the gun, but did not shoot him, thereby making Cobb still live in the dream state. Also note the faces on the plane looking at Cobb, Adriane and Joseph Gordon-Leavit’s characters look at him and smile, Fisher completely ignores him, and Saito calls the phone. Plus, Tom Hardy’s character was a baggage handler. Perhaps these are projections of his subconscious telling him that everything is ok and that it is ok to dream. Also, the final scene where he looks at his kids and hugs them may be the final step he needed to take to stay in the dream world.

2. The probably planted Inception in Cobb’s head in order for him to go back to his kids and forget about Mal’s death.

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47 Alberto C July 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

This is another theory, what if after he overcomes his inner struggle, he goes to sleep again on the plane but without the help, and now with a clear mind in his dream he imagines what would it be to finally see his children in a perfect setting with his father picking him up. Instead of all the complications of having to explain himself to them.

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48 Bram July 24, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Did I miss something? The only way of knowing if Dom still dreams is the top spinning forever?

Not if you ask me. The thing with the totem is that you know exactly how heavy it is and how it reacts in real life. I think the top would not have to be spinning forever in a dream. It could just spin a little longer than Dom’s used to and that would reveal the dream. Or it would stand still for a moment or do some other crazy stuff. So the simple fact that the top will fall at some point does not mean you’re experiencing reality…

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49 Steve July 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm

A few words about the totems to consider:

The top is going to behave as a top regardless of who spins it.

A loaded die will behave as the designer and maker of the die expects it to – no one else will KNOW which side will be up.

A gold chess piece – bishop I think it was – has no motion other than a tipping over. Why did she choose a chess piece, and what possible unique trait does a chess piece have? We never see or have it explained how that totem works. Why does she need a totem anyway? No one else in the dreams has one.

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50 dbmurray July 24, 2010 at 6:45 pm

This film had some problems, but overall, it’s the sort of movie I keep hoping M. Night Shyamalan will make someday. I like to think the ending was reality and the spinning top was just there to make you wonder…which is what we’re all doing.

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51 sanjorjo July 25, 2010 at 3:08 am

Dom is truly back in reality, even though the spinning top scene was cutoff.
Reasons:
1. Mal is not present to be with Dom and the Kids!!!!
2. Saito wakes up without a gun shot

However, could you postulate that it is all dream? yes, but then it is not consistent with the movie. i mean that if the top does spin out, which it should since Mal’s not there, then Dom’s totem is only for that consciousness.

One of the best movies I have seen in a looonnnnngggg while.

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52 Rhett July 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm

First of all, a response to DBMurray: Heaven forbid that that charlatan, Shyamalan, should ever make anything as good as “Inception”. Nolan is so far above Shymalan that it’s embarrassing. My theory is that since it’s mentioned early that Cobb is a Master Architect, himself, I think he creates his own world that is actually a fourth level. He’s tired and doesn’t want to fight the guilt of his wife’s death anymore (which I think is real) and wants to be with his kids in whichever form he can be with them whether it’s a dream or reality. The spinning totem is a red herring: It doesn’t make any difference since it’s not his totem.

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53 Mark July 26, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I’ve spoken to a few people about Inception and discussed the significance of the end. One person said that Cobb’s still in the dream(and cited the dream like imagery we see for instance when Cobb has landed at the airport and walking inside where he encounters Michael Caine’s character) and another said that due to the particular spinning of the top at that point, it’s uncertain whether Cobb is in fact still dreaming. If THAT were the case, then Nolan might want to leave us hanging in this ambiguous state of simply not knowing if it’s a dream or reality. Akin to this would be the notion that “reality” is essentially a dream anyway, a concept you find in the Eastern religions.

I can see now that just like that other dream related film, Mulholland Drive, I’m going to have to see this again and focus more intently to glean more clues that might hopefully provide a less “ambiguous” indication if that’s possible.

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54 Julie July 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I watched it for the second time today and I seem to have more questions.
One of it is the phrase “leap of faith” that Dom, Saito, and Mal used in the movie.
The first person who used the phrase “leap of faith” in the movie is Saito (based on the way that it has been sequenced in the movie) in the helicopter scene on the roof when Dom and Arthur was trying to run away. This is the scene where Saito is offering Dom the job. And he uses this phrase to convince him to do it. He says something like : “Would you take a leap of faith? or become an old man, filled with regrets, waiting to die alone…” This whole line is repeated when Dom meets Saito in limbo.

Then, Mal uses it when she is persuading Dom to jump with her from the hotel window seal. Third time, it is used by Mal again when they meet in limbo where she was keeping Fisher. Last time it is used is when Dom finds Saito in the limbo, trying to bring him back to the reality.

Now, considering this sequence… where did Saito learn this phrase in the first place to use it? Mal is the one who used it first time (given that window scene is a flashback) and it must have been in Dom’s subconscious. Does this mean that Saito can be just a projection??

Did Dom used it in their meeting in one of the first dream sequence when he was “auditioning?” Or is it just the same phrase that both Saito and Mal happened to come up with? The phrase seems to be important and bears some weights when used. Both of the characters using the exact word under different situations seem to have some connection. Or they just use it????????????

Maybe I’m just reading too much into it lol

I can’t wait to own it in DVD so I can rewind and fast forward to get the puzzle right!!!

Also, when Saito and Dom wakes up from the limbo, the layers were omitted on purpose just to leave us questioning?

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55 Brain July 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm

To whom it may concern,

Where the hell did anyone get Dom from?

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56 Mark July 27, 2010 at 8:00 am

Julie……

That particular message, “leap of faith” would seem to arise from some inner message being transmitted to Dom, perhaps some divinely inspired message telling him to “break out from” wherever he’s stuck at the time, like a metaphor to jump off a plane into the vast reaches of the unknown because he will presumably be alot better having done it. As used in the dream context(and with the dream characters Saito & Mal) it would suggest the message tells him he must probe into a further as yet unexplored layer beneath or beyond where he already is.

At least my take on it FWIW.

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57 kiwi July 27, 2010 at 10:12 am

I dont know if anyone noticed this, i did not read all the comments, but notice how when he was in his dreams he had his wedding ring on. and when he was in “reality” he did not have it on. in the last scene, he did NOT have it on.

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58 Mark July 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm

See how it pays to be observant of the seemingly most minute things! If he wasn’t wearing the wedding ring in that last scene, that supports the position that he had in fact awakened(I think most likely while in the plane just before it landed)and he was then free of the effect of the dreams or perhaps more appropriately the “nightmare”(i.e., guilt over Mal’s death).

Or am I just “dreaming” this up somehow? :-)

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59 tim July 27, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Seems like you all missed this… By staying in limbo to rescue Saito, Dom misses the kickback from the dream when they are in the van; and the van (and his body) is allowed to sink to the bottom of the water. How can he possibly return past that dream level when his body is at the bottom of the sea?

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60 Bella July 27, 2010 at 10:19 pm

The clothes on the kids are slightly different I paid very close attention, like in every scene they are barefoot, and at the end are wearing shoes… and Phillipa has a shirt underneath her dress, and although the children still look young, I believe that they have grown some, he was able to see their faces, and has moved on.
I think he is awake.

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61 Mark July 28, 2010 at 8:25 am

Aha!……..looks like the “Pro Awakers” might be leading in this “competition” for the “Truth” of Dom’s real status at the end(though I’m not so quick to dismiss the “Pro Dreamers” just yet). In fact, as I stated before one could argue that the director’s ambiguous about this and essentially leaves it up to each viewer to determine that for himself/herself.

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62 ash July 28, 2010 at 3:36 pm

liked the film but having read these threads like it even more now!
however i do need a couple of questions answering please. ok so fisher is tricked to believing he is in a dream and goes into his lawyers dream which is still really his own. So why is it that all the guys are still being attacked at the ski level? would his subconscious not be at ease believing he is in control? if it is still fishers subconscious/training to protect him from this sort of thing then why does he not question why they are all being attacked?

also who attacked dom (leo) when he was supposedly back in reality and recruiting his forger in the bar before being saved by salto. love the part when he was stuck in the wall then just escapes in time. this is very much like what would happen in a dream making me believe like many it could all be a dream.

answers very much appreciated!

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63 Celine July 29, 2010 at 8:21 am

Is there something behind the safe?

Fischer Senior keeps a document (testament) and a kid’s toy

Saito keeps a confidential document there (stolen by Leo)

Mal keeps a kid’s toy (her totem)

Isn’t all that just a question of time and space? Keeping secrets in safes, (Leo says it in the beginning, Saito looked at the safe when I pronounced the word “secret”), and in the basement (when Leo and the architect are in the elevator) ?

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64 Matrixjr July 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

Why over complicate things?…..Heres my take…its going to be black or white…reality or dream. In the real world, people walk, planes fly, dogs bark and there is no such technology that allows people to enter into other peoples dreams. (The setting seems like present times, not futuristic). However, in the dream world, people can float and fight, buildings fold over, stairs can disappear and there is a crazy technology out there that can allow people to enter someone’s dreams. Therefore, everything about inception is all a dream. So Cobb’s ability to go into people’s dream..its all a dream…because, no one can do that in real life. Had the movie stated that in took place in the distant feature, then I would be more incline to believe people can do this (futuristic technology)…but, it looked like our current present time…cars/vans/clothes are all current times…..therefore, Inception is a figment of the dreamer’s imagination…doesn’t exist…The whole movie is all a dream. Cobb and his team could have invented some sort of technology that would allow them to become flying unicorns…who cares, its not realistic..hence its a dream. The Matrix on the other hand was clear that the “real” world is run by robots and humans are batteries…by doing that, they created a bar for viewers reference….In Inception, it doesn’t look futuristic…but rather it looks like our own real world….and in our current reality or real world…we don’t/can’t enter into peoples dreams using wires and whatever else was in that brief case….all that is dream.

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65 Mark July 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Matrixjr………

I see your point but supposing that the director is asking us to simply suspend our disbelief in the real world state about something as “dreamlike” as the inception technique and allow for it to actually exist as a real world invention or concoction?

In that case, there’s then a dream/real world duality.

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66 Matrixjr July 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for the reply/comment Mark…

If we allow for it to actually exist as a real world invention or accept there is a dream/real world duality….then anything is possible and as a result its more difficult to determine a solid conclusion that explains everything, especially considering how the movie ended.

I’ve viewed other threads, blogs, and comments about the movie and its all an endless debate which is difficult to settle (unless we ask Nolan himself). I’ve seen online treads of people arguing about the totem/top toppling or not toppling, people arguing about plot holes…it was becoming ridiculous.

Therefore, I’ve determined an easy, uncomplicated, yet very logical conclusion/solution of understanding the movie. Our reality, to the best of our understanding is the basis of what reality is…and anything beyond the scope and laws of our own reality, is a dream. I think by accepting this “thinking” I’ve come to enjoy the movie more…as oppose to some people (friends included), despite enjoying the movie, still feel frustrated because they can’t find closure.

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67 Mark July 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Well, as they say “Whatever floats your boat.”

I was discussing the film with someone last night and said that in the Eastern religions it’s an accepted view that what we perceive as “reality” is in fact a dream anyway….in that sense not at all different from the habit of just going to sleep and having a dream. They’re both projections of the mind creating what APPEARS to be real but is nothing other than an illusion or dream. Something I have on a DVD that explains this from a neurological basis is that the brain/nervous system “abstracts” from billions of information bits in the essentially empty world “out there” and omits and omits till we’re left with what we then perceive to be a solid world.

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68 AcE July 31, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I had questions about the ending, like everyone else, after watching the movie. There are some things that I would like to point out.

First of all, I think Dom’s totem, the top, should stop, as all tops do, in reality.

Secondly, as suggested in some of the comments above, Miles (Michael Caine) was there simply because he was sending the gifts to the kids. He could have flown from France to US in a much shorter time than Dom. Dom was flying from Sydney to LA, which would have been 10 hours in reality.

Thirdly, they explained that 5 minutes in reality would mean 1hr in the first layer, and 6 months (if I am not wrong) in the second layer, and 10 years, in the third layer. In the part where Dom told Mal that they had lived out their lives in the dream, it would have taken at least, I would say 40 – 50 years. If that’s the first layer, that would be 29200hrs at the least! I just didn’t understand how did Dom and Mal ended up in the limbo in the first place. Did they sedated themselves with something that was even more powerful than Yusuf’s sedatives that Dom had to ask Yusuf to develop? If not, they should have woken up easily (maybe the children would have woke them up to bring them to MacDonald’s for breakfast, or something).
Could they have been in the 2nd layer? As suggested in the film, the 3rd layer was almost never attempted. So if they have been in the 2nd layer, it would have been slightly more than 30 mins in reality. Then, they killed themselves on the railway to wake up. So did they wake up to be in the first layer? If that’s the case, then Mal’s probably right about everything, and she would have woken up by killing herself, again, by jumping down the building. Dom would have been dreaming all along in the first layer.
However, if they were in a limbo in the first place, they would never have woken up to reality and be stuck in a vicious cycle of limbos.

Ok, I am confusing myself even more now.
I would really like it if he has awaken at the end, but the questions will never be answered unless more facts are established from the storyline.

Great film, nonetheless. It brought us into thinking through layers and layers, and eventually, we are stuck in a limbo while trying to figure out the end.

Just my piece of thought. I only watched it once a couple of hours ago at the cinema, and would love to watch it again on DVD.

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69 Prashant August 2, 2010 at 10:39 pm

You won’t get this before your second viewing, but look for his wedding ring. Then see which scenes he wears it and the scenes where he does not. I think that might add to the interpretation.

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70 Andrew August 5, 2010 at 11:51 pm

the ending has to be a dream because theres no way the asian guy could have been kicked through all of the levels when he was dead in the third one. He wasnt put to sleep into limbo but was there because he was dead. He must have put leo to sleep and gone with him to make the call, making leo believe that everythings all good. Leos mind takes care of the rest which allows him to imagine seeing his kids. so long story short, he is stuck in limbo

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71 Reed August 6, 2010 at 11:11 pm

A lot of really good comments here, and it seems like the consensus is that “it was all a dream.” I don’t see how there is any other valid interpretation, in fact NONE of the movie ever resembles real life. We can accept that movies can push the limits of reality, but even the concept of shared dreaming requires a “leap of faith” that is never explained. Besides, Dom’s particular business model is just too far-fetched. He would have gotten himself murdered several times over.

So given that it’s all a dream (it’s a given at this point, right? We’re not debating anymore?), we get to why this movie left me flat, despite all its impressive technical details. Since we have no displayed connection to the real world, we have no context for the dream. We don’t even know whose dream it is. It could be Dom’s, or Mal’s, or their family dog’s. So none of this means anything at all.

And it’s OK that there’s no substance because it’s all just a dream anyway. But throughout the film, I was awaiting the payoff. Waiting for when Dom intentionally or accidentally dies and wakes up next to Mal, and we get some additional explanation about his real life anxieties/passions/something that gives the entire dream more weight. That such things are missing makes it merely a good film, a technical wonder, that will proceed to get slightly less interesting with each viewing.

I couldn’t help but think of two other movies. First, “eXistenZ” which is now 11 years old and also makes people question the reality they see. The other of course is “Mulholland Drive” which handled the “it’s a dream” thing better than any movie ever. If Nolan really spent ten years on this script, as they say, I wonder if he watched “eXistenZ” the night before he started, and also why he couldn’t be bothered with a bedrock storyline. Perhaps he prefers to let us hash it out here on Scene Stealers, but I still feel like at the end it’s a cop out.

All that said, it should be noted that the music was REALLY impressive.

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72 Dan August 7, 2010 at 8:17 am

LOVE Reed’s comment. Reed says what I was thinking, only much more eloquently.

I didn’t dislike the movie, but I wasn’t wholly satisfied, either. The problem is one that affects most alternate-reality/dream movies: you can’t tell the reality from the alternate, which is fine for the characters but not so good for the audience. You need a control in order to see the madness, is all.

For movies in which things might not be as they seem, the writers can have carte blanche to do whatever they want and justify it with the ever-popular “maybe it was all in his head” trope. This is what sunk Shutter Island for me, and I think Inception hits this problem as well.

I liked the music as well, BUT… in many scenes it was extremely loud, completely overpowering the lines the actors were speaking. Not sure what the point of that was.

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73 Mark August 7, 2010 at 9:54 am

I think that if this movie can be enjoyed on the EXPERIENTIAL level as I did, then any point of view is gratuitous and probably couldn’t even be taken that seriously(and therefore no interpretation is more accurate than another). So in THAT sense, it wouldn’t really matter whether Dom was dreaming or awake at the end. Perhaps this is what the director wants from the audience anyway.

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74 Daniel August 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I only read about halfway through the replies, because I couldn’t stand that no one yet brought up something I consider the biggest clue of all (so if someone already mentioned this, sorry).

But first, let me say that I think he approached Michael Caine near the end of the term in the Parisian school; it would explain why he was sending presents home with grandpa and why Ariadne was free to start working.

So, on to my main point. Catharsis. The scene in Limbo where Dom tells his wife that she is just a shade. He would never be satisfied living with just a dream of his kids. Someone mentioned that he was happy to live a whole life with Mal in Limbo, but here’s the key: she was sharing that dream, so it was actually her. I think we can safely assume that Dom’s kids were not sharing his dream, so can you really believe that he wouldn’t care whether they were real or just projections?

Plus, in twenty minutes when it’s dinner time or something, Dom and the kids will come back in, and he’d see the top spinning if it was a dream, realize it, and kill himself. He can’t have just let go of Mal, his manifestation of guilt, and then be perfectly happy living in Limbo with a bunch of projections.

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75 Daniel August 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Also, about totems: the point of the totem is that it’s something that only YOU know the secret of, e.g. Arthur’s loaded die: only HE knows which side it will land on, so if he throws it in a dream and it doesn’t land on that side, it’s because the dreamer of that dream didn’t know. Therefore, since Dom knew the secret of Mal’s totem, it should behave the same way for him, although since he tells, I believe, Ariadne, how it works, then theoretically if she was the dreamer it would appear to him as reality because she would dream the top as having the behavior that only he knew about.

What she did to the bishop, by the way, was remove a lot of mass from one side of it, causing it to tip over with the slightest tap from that side (in another person’s dream it would require more force).

I may have been a little hard to follow because I am just typing what comes to mind, so to recap:

Totems have a specific weighting/balance that causes them to fall/spin/roll in an abnormal way. In a dream, if the dreamer knows about this, the totem will not work because the dreamer will incorporate this property into the dream. HOWEVER, if the dreamer does not know about this, the totem will behave differently, alerting the totem-bearer.

So, if anyone else knows the special property of your totem, they could recreate it in the dream, rendering it useless.

Dom clearly knew the property of Mal’s totem(we know that Dom already knew the property of Mal’s top when they were in Limbo because he uses that very property to perform inception on her), meaning that
1. It is NOT irrelevant when he spins it; it works just as well for him as it did for her.
2. Spinning the totem for the real Mal before she died would not convince her, because Dom knew its secret, and if he was the dreamer it would still behave as Mal expected it to. She would know this, and therefore not accept it as proof.

One thing that bothers me about all this is the top as a totem… wouldn’t any dreamer naturally assume, you know, gravity and friction, making the top fall in ANYONE’s dream? Now if it kept spinning forever in real life, THAT would be unexpected and therefore useful (unfortunately also impossible).

The weighted bishop and loaded die both behave abnormally in reality but normally in the dream; the top is the opposite. Why?

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76 Miki August 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Ahhh, but, Daniel… you missed my point where I said that dreamers and those in the dreams can directly affect the items in that dream. So, if I were in a dream with my totem, but wanted to believe that the dream was reality… I could subconsciously make the totem behave the same as it did in reality.

If they can make weapons appear or other kits to go a level deeper or Mal appear or a giant train appear… while not being the dreamer… they could easily modify the weight/reality of said totem to negate the function – even without being aware of it.

I stand by my previous statement that the totems are simply a comfort measure to the characters.

In regard to your Dom not being happy living in limbo: I concur… IF he knows it’s limbo. If he were not to find out that it was (if the top wasn’t still spinning), then who is to say that he would ever realize that he need to be unhappy?

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77 mark August 10, 2010 at 6:50 pm

If someone could answer….when dicaprio and his wife was exploring dream levels and they grew old together, she lost sight of reality, so he incepted the idea into her mind that her reality was a dream, which it was, however when they got back to reality, this idea was still in her mind, so she killed herself, thinking reality was infact a dream…..what i don’t understand is, i believe it was his wifes dream, so why didnt dicaprio kill himself, wake up in reality and wake his wife up…if a sedative was used, you can use a drug(bzd antagonist) to counter the drug then use kick to wake her?? also if they loved their kids so much why was they experimenting and living in dreams constantly not to mention the line of work…

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78 EL LEONARDO August 11, 2010 at 2:32 am

this movie is so cheap, who cares if he is in a dream or not, all the characters in this movie are robots, “oh he is dead is going to wake up” “no he is goint to the limbo” fuck all these shit, it looks that nola were inventing the rules. Besides all is over explained, in one moment the wife of di caprio says “maybe you are dreaming, you were persued as in the dreams” EVEN THAT YOUR ARE EXPLAING?!?. And who dreams with buildings and shootouts only, it seems that nolan lack from imagination. Sorry for my english, and for me was dreaming all along, his wife was right, but i dont really care

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79 Rodovespa August 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

I agree that there are many things that all of us have noticed, some of them perhaps have not even been thought by C. Nolan.

One key point, in my opinion, is that Cobb says and reconfirms that inception is only possible if you go very deep. Then he reveals that he has done it to Mal. Therefore, he must have been dreaming into few layers down, at least two, more likely three…

If that is so, we have only seen that the way they both (Cobb and Mal) wake up, and subsequenlty she kills herself, and that is when the train runs over their heads. Then the next seen that keeps coming up is that they are laying in the carpet and she starts to cry. however, that is only one layer of the dream. What if she was right, and Cobb got stock in the second layer, then Mal suicides and wakes up for good. Then is it her that is trying to get him to come back to reality.

Maybe she ploted all, Sato, Adriane, and all the team to make him believe that he wasn’t dreaming and take him into the limbo to incept him with the idea of wake up for good.

maybe not!

I have seen it twice and I just got more confused… I might see it again after reading a bit more…

Cheers,

RodoVespa

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80 Kenny August 18, 2010 at 3:43 pm

The story and action takes place in a dream may not work in our reality but it works in the characters’ and in Nolan’s framework. Nolan ultimately comprised a lot of elements in this film and I’m not upset by that fact. Inception is a heist movie, a character piece, action film and a work of science fiction, Nolan had to control some aspects of the film. There are things at stake for the characters and like everyone has pointed out the actors in the film play their parts well. Nolan is certainly a visionary director but he rightly felt the need to lay down some spoken and unspoken rules for the film to work. Inception is not perfect because there are plenty of things that don’t add up but I think it adds to the film. The film is not about limitless imagination and Nolan realizes that no film could do justice to that amazingly human concept.

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81 Trey Hock August 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Decided to weigh in. First for those others who felt a little flat or so so after this film, here is a little commiseration.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2010/07/26/100726crci_cinema_denby

Now I thought that this film was stunning, and the principle concept was compelling. The biggest problem is that there was never any time for real emotional development only action, and forced suggestions. If you felt emotionally attached, well great, but you brought that with you. It was not present in the film. Ultimately this was an expensive and brilliantly executed fireworks show. Unfortunately when the dust settles and the effects begin to show through (and believe me some day they will) there won’t be enough emotional story or character development to make up for the lack of sparkle.

This is “What Dreams May Come” with its original ending mixed in with a healthy dose of “The Matrix.” Not confusing, but just a big ol’ heisty popcorn movie.

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82 Eric Melin August 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Trey-
I’ll admit that with all the other plot machinations, it’s hard to connect at first to this film emotionally. Dom’s gradual acceptance of his wife’s suicide and his dealing with his guilt over his part in it serve as the emotional core of the movie.

Upon second viewing, detached from having to navigate the plot’s murky waters, it’s easier to feel that sense of loss and see how that pain drives all of Dom’s decisions. So I disagree with you on that aspect.

But what is frustrating is that the very makeup of the film – dreams within dreams within dreams, etc. – allows for a million different explanations of what is real and what is not depending on how early you think it all goes back.

This is where I put my trust in the filmmaker and say that Nolan wouldn’t make up some ridiculous story that would go back for that long. Instead, we have to use the cinematic cues he’s put in the film to tell us what’s going on. I hold fast to the idea that 99% of the story is contained within the film itself. Whether I know for sure if Dom is still dreaming…I guess that one depends on how the viewer interprets it. And that’s OK too.

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83 Trey Hock August 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Oh Eric,

You always go all reader response-y on me with your “how the viewer interprets it.” I think that you’re way too kind to the filmmakers you like. And please don’t take that as an insult. It is a difference I appreciate.

I would like to note that the following comments are in no way intended to convince anyone to not like Inception. I only want to encourage film lovers to hold filmmakers’ feet to the fire. One shouldn’t be able to dazzle you with one aspect and then not deliver fully elsewhere, only to be praised for achieving a cinematic victory. Give filmmakers hell. Insist they get as close to perfection as humanly possible.

Now to respond to your most recent post.

I didn’t find very much confusing about the plot. Nor did Jaime, and she can get lost quickly in these types of movies. So it wasn’t a sense of confusion over what we had just watched. Nolan is no David Lynch. He’s nowhere close to that poetic. Jaime and I both walked out unsatisfied, and thats because Nolan is relying the viewer to bring the emotion to the story instead of doing what a better storyteller does and providing it. Nolan offers hints and gestures, but not fully developed emotional or character arcs.

To prove the point that Nolan is consumed with stuff (plot, concept, the idea of the film) and not character or emotional development, make a list of what we learn about the characters, and how they change. Then make a list about the dream concept. I bet your list of all of the details and team members needed for thought extraction or inception would easily be twice as long if not three or four times as long as the list of character points.

None of the characters have any history or importance beyond moving plot, except for Cobb, and his history and development is stunted at best. We truly know nothing about this guy, and so it makes it impossible for us to decide whether he’s right or wrong, good or bad, and whether we care about him being stuck in his subconscious at the end. (It’s not a dream. It’s limbo, the movie’s term. Which means he stuck in his own constructed paradise/hell. He is a concept in his own mind.)

And I’d be okay with a movie just about Cobb, as long as he was a character developed enough to care about. Think of There Will Be Blood. It’s a movie about a single person, but we know that dude in and out. We also get a cast of exceptionally well developed people around him. Now I understand that Inception never aspired to be There Will Be Blood, but people are hailing it as a triumph of cinema, and it is a remarkable, visually dazzling, work of technology, but little more.

I did like this film, but as an interesting heist movie that’s visually compelling. I find arguments for it being much more than that unconvincing, and I’ve read a ton of them.

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84 Eric Melin August 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Well, Trey, obviously its a heist film. Now go back and think about how much character development there usually is in any heist film. Not a lot.

Sure, it’s mostly about the plot/puzzle. What I’m saying is that the thought of a man who must come to the realization that he spent a lifetime with his wife outside of reality and now has to live another lifetime without her is terribly tragic and – even though you may have a heart of stone – I felt that pain and that part of it worked for me. It was enough.

Remember when I accused you of having a heart of stone? That was cool.

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85 Trey Hock August 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

“Well, Trey, obviously its a heist film. Now go back and think about how much character development there usually is in any heist film. Not a lot.”

So true. I totally agree with this. But you gave this film the highest rating possible. Had you given it say a minor rock fist up or even a solid rock fist I wouldn’t argue, but this film is as good as Citizen Kane, The Godfather. Lawrence of Arabia? Is this the best possible heist film that can be made? Will we look to this film to tell us how imaginative heist films should be constructed for years to come?

I’m only trying to put the rave reviews into perspective.

Jaime agrees that I have a heart of stone. Now I’m off to weep my dusty tears.

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86 Eric Melin August 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm

It is true that, using the Scene-Stealers rating system, a Rock Fist Way up = highest rating possible. Our rating system allows for three positive ratings (way up, solid up, minor up), two negative (way down, minor down), and one neutral (Swiss fist). It’s a very simple 5-point system.

On RottenTomatoes, I am able to use a 9-point system (0,.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4) and on that site, I gave it a 3.5.

That’s one away from perfect. (I HATE rating systems, by the way.)

This year, I have zero 4-star reviews. And, yes, Inception should be looked at to tell us how imaginative heist films should be constructed for years to come.

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87 Alfred of Wessex August 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm

In the end he is still in a dream. The clues are given throughout the film. Here is why.

1) The children are a metaphor. He sees them like that throughout the film. When he arrives back, they are in the same position.

2) When he returns, the children are in the same position as when he left.

3) When he arrives home, there is nobody looking after the children.

4) In the dreams, he is constantly being chased by Matrix like agents. In Mombassa, he is also chased by the Matrix like agents of the corporation.

5) Mal tells Cobb that the Matrix like agents chasing him are a sign he is in a dream (big clue)

6) In Mombassa what was with the very narrow alleyway?

7) At the end, the spinning top is not shown falling. This is another clue – but it is designed to leave doubt.

Mal has returned to reality. Cobb is still asleep and she returns to try and place the same idea in Cobb’s mind as he did to her.

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88 Alfred of Wessex August 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm

The wedding ring is not important.

In different dreams, they are wearing different clothes.

Not wearing a wedding ring is as significant as not wearing a hat.

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89 Mic August 30, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I believe the entire movie was a dream. He was just in a higher level from his consciousness. I believe that Mal was right when she jumped out the window. The entire movie he’s in his mind, and his mind is trying to get him out.

All the characters were to similar. With to many holes. Statements like, “Take a leap of faith.” His wife says it, his new employer says it, and most likely he said it to Mal to get her to die in limbo.

Plus! No one seems to address the fact that his adolescent kids were able to reach him in a obscure hotel room by phone, but these professional bounty men couldn’t find him.

We were never out of his dream.
It was his subconscious trying to wake him up even down to the last moment showing his “young” children that obviously shouldn’t be that old.

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90 Sahar September 18, 2010 at 7:21 pm

may i just ask why he’ll be dreaming…as everything is already done & the mission successed ?!!

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91 Nikolet Ivanova November 24, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Hello, i love everyone’s responses, but
if Cobb was actually only dreaming why would the top tip over in the first place in the beginning of the movie.
They say that if it does its reality and if it doesn’t its a dream so it couldn’t have been a reality if the top tipped in the beginning.

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92 Abhimanyu November 28, 2010 at 10:43 am

Im replying to Nikolet. I think he was not dreaming the entire movie. If you remember correctly, after experimenting with Yusuf’s compound he was about to spin the top in front of the washbasin but Saito interrupted him. My guess is that everything after that was just a dream.

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93 melody November 30, 2010 at 10:52 am

Anyone thinking that it could be just Cobb’s ordinary dream without any dream devices like suggested at the end of this article?
http://www.reviewmaze.com/2010/11/inception-ending-interpretations.html

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94 b December 2, 2010 at 10:36 pm

In an interview on The Chris Moyles Show, Michael Caine stated that “[The spinning top] drops at the end, that’s when I come back on. If I’m there it’s real, because I’m never in the dream. I’m the guy who invented the dream.”

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95 Skwashbucket December 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Why does the initial kick (van beginning its descent) create an avalanche in Saito’s dream, yet somehow doesn’t affect Arthur’s dream? If one dream can’t affect the other (no anti-gravity in the snow), why does Ariadne’s dream have such an impact on Saito’s, essentially skipping Arthur’s?

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96 Andrew December 15, 2010 at 6:10 am

IF THE TOP STOPS SPINNING, THIS DOESN’T MEAN IT IS NOT A DREAM

RULES OF PHYSICS CAN STILL BE APPLIED IN A DREAM.

IT IS ONLY IF THE TOP KEEPS SPINNING, THUS DISOBEYING THE RULES OF PHYSICS, THAT IT MUST BE A DREAM.

HE IS ONLY CHECKING TO SEE IF IT KEEPS SPINNING.

IF IT STOPS SPINNING, THIS PROVES NOTHING, AS IT CAN STILL BE A DREAM OR REALITY.

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97 Alex Frantz December 27, 2010 at 2:22 am

I have 2 questions after watching the film for the second time.

1) If hitting the water is the “kick” to bring the crew out of the 1st level of dreaming and back to the plane…then why do we see them swim out of the van, shouldn’t the synchronized kicks of all the levels lead them straight to the plane? How do they get out of the 1st level then?

2) Why doesn’t fisher remember any of his dreams after he wakes up? shouldn’t he be able to recognize the people around him and suspect foul play?

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98 Bram December 31, 2010 at 8:56 am

@ Alex Frantz:

1) The ‘kick’ in the 1st level is NOT meant to bring the crew back to the plane. It’s meant to bring them out of level 2. They wake up in the plane simply because the sedative wore off after exactly 10 hours. There is no kick needed for the 1st level of dreaming.

2) Fisher thinks that his training prevented him from being ‘extracted’ by the criminals. He thinks the opposite has happened from what really happened.

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99 Bram January 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Got a question myself. Is it true that the subconscious of ONLY the dreamer can create projections? I thought that was what Cobb said to Ariadne in his ‘instructions-dream’.

If so, all the projections in Yusuf’s dream are his, all the projections in the hotel are created by Arthur, etc.

If that is correct, the only explanation for Cobb’s projections entering the layers of all the dreamers (Yusuf, Arthur, Eames) is that everything is a dream and Cobb is dreaming it all.

In ‘Yusuf’s dream’: the train
In ‘Arthur’s dream’: his children
In ‘Eames’ dream’: Mal

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100 jim January 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm

in the movie he said “i won’t look at my children in dream state” therefore at the end when he hugs them he must know he isn’t in a dream anymore.

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101 Ian January 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Cobb is not dreaming at the end of the movie. The children are wearing exactly the same clothes every time he see’s them except at the end. Throughout the movie his daughter is wearning an all pink dress and his son a plaid shirt. At the end of the movie his daughter is wearing a white shirt with a pink dress on. His sons shirt is still plaid but it is a different pattern. Also both kids are older at the end on the movie. Also, in a dream, Cobbs totem spins flawlessly but at the very end of the movie you can hear it begin to falter. Very subtle but important details. That’s the advantage of watching it on DVD and being able to rewind. :)

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102 ...... January 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Some of you guys are reading way too far into the lines

1)Michael Caine was Cobb’s father in law. Mal was his daughter, When Cobb left, he was appointed godfather and his wife godmother. He is originally from France (his daughter, Mal speaks in a French accent).

2) He travels from LA to Paris because he probably teacher semester courses in a Parisian university (visiting professor).

3) Cobb always wears a ring in his dreams, in the ending scene, he does not.

4)The totem falls–you hear it in the credits, confirmed by Dileep Rao( Yusuf) interview–”Use your ears, not your eyes”.

5)The kids were older at the end.

In the credits, two children portrayed 1.5 year old James and 3 year old Philippa.

Two children portrayed Cobb’s children in the ending ( James-3 years old, Phillipa 5 years old). They have obviously grown older.

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103 ...... January 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Also, limbo is unstructured dream space. If the world of structured dreams (eg dream within a dream) is a universe, then Limbo can be seen as the anti/parallel universe (no structure). Since there is no structure layers, you only need to die once to get back to reality. The problem is, if you’re like Saito and die in a dream with levels, you get swirled into limbo and don’t remember reality. However, if you manually enter it like Ariadne and Cobb(through the drug method), you remember your previous dreams, reality, etc. The problem is, Limbo is so far down you got to be crazy to go down there, you “get lost”. After Cobb died in Limbo, he only shared it with one other person: Saito. What took years for Cobb to get to Saito in Limbo probably took minutes in the real world. Cobb was only able to remember because he was such a skilled dreamer/extractor (remembers 100% of his dreams).

Also, if Cobb didn’t make it out of Limbo, then he would be projected into a further limbo state. Before, he barely remembered who Saito was and needed to be reminded what he was looking for (bringing Saito out of there). When he wakes up, he remembers his arrangement with Saito.

Therefore, it is REALITY, not a dream. And Mal knew Cobb was being chased by corporate agents around the world because she is part of his subconscious.

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104 ...... January 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Also, limbo is unstructured dream space. If the world of structured dreams (eg dream within a dream) is a universe, then Limbo can be seen as the anti/parallel universe (no structure). Since there is no structure layers, you only need to die once to get back to reality. The problem is, if you’re like Saito and die in a dream with levels, you get swirled into limbo and don’t remember reality. However, if you manually enter it like Ariadne and Cobb(through the drug method), you remember your previous dreams, reality, etc. The problem is, Limbo is so far down you got to be crazy to go down there, you “get lost”. After Cobb died in Limbo, he only shared it with one other person: Saito. What took years for Cobb to get to Saito in Limbo probably took minutes in the real world. Cobb was only able to remember because he was such a skilled dreamer/extractor (remembers 100% of his dreams).

Also, if Cobb didn’t make it out of Limbo, then he would be projected into a further limbo state. Before, he barely remembered who Saito was and needed to be reminded what he was looking for (bringing Saito out of there). When he wakes up, he remembers his arrangement with Saito.

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105 Man January 26, 2011 at 1:48 am

#102 POSTED BY ……, Jan 25th, 2011 4:53 pm
“5)The kids were older at the end.”

[...]
“Two children portrayed Cobb’s children in the ending ( James-3 years old, Phillipa 5 years old). They have obviously grown older.”

You can grow older in dreams, look @ Saito in Limbo, he’s like a billion years old. Like dreams are bound to rules… lol FAIL.

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106 joroelcapo January 31, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I think that almost all the movie is a dream. The architecht from the dream is michael cane (an architect could be in the dream or not) who wants to make an inception to his son, the idea that he wants to puts him is that he is not guilty for the death of Mal ( because he wants to make cobbs comeback to the EE UU to meet his kids again)and as the movie shows in the last scene he achieved this. All the character are part of the Michael Cane “team”, and that maybe includes Cillian Murphy. These are my clues.
-Saito quoted Mal when he is in the helicopter with he the” leap of faith”. Because he know that the phrase will work with Cobb
-The totem that cobbs use is from Mal and that is what it mees the Totem function throw the film
- His father, told cobbs to come back to the reality in the class room.
- The architech of Ellen Page is recommend it by cane, and her principal function in the Cane team is to make Cobbs think about his past events and open himself.
-Look michael cane face in the end.

If you remember Memento from Nolan, the main character of that film invented a trouble to live his life with purpose. In this film i think that the Michael Cane character try to do this with Cobbs, he gaves to his son the Saito work to give him a reasonto comeback with his kids. The Cillian murphy inception is to demostrate to the audience that these kinds of work are possible. It works with Cobbs too. If you think the movie in this way you can answer all the possible plot holes with your imagination

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107 joroelcapo January 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

About the last reply sorry for my english my nature language is spanish

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