UPDATE! 8/2/2010 below!!!!!!
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.
Since 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.
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.
Mal 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.