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Inception Explained (Spoilers)

As I promised when I reviewed the movie last week, I went back for a second viewing to test out some theories that I had. What follows is an analysis and explanation of the plot of Inception based on two viewings, some research and discussions with friends who have seen the movie (including one who has seen it thrice).

Do I Really Want It Explained?

Before I get into it all — fair warning! Spoilers ahead. In fact, nothing but spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, why not? You really should see it before it gets spoofed and spoiled too much by everyone else.

And let me also just warn you that this analysis is going to be a pretty straightforward reading of the film. That’s not to say other readings aren’t ‘supported by the text,’ as it were, but this is the one I personally believe is best supported. If you are one of those types who prefers to have your opinion untainted, read no further. UPDATE: For a more complete breakdown of the film beat by beat, see this one at thestorydepartment.

Before The Explanation

First of all, I charged in the review that the way the opening scenes abruptly cut into each other was needlessly confusing. On second viewing, these scenes are not at all confusing. It’s fairly clear that the opening scene, between old Saito and Cobb, is a conventional “start at the end” teaser, as with Fight Club or Sunset Boulevard and that the bulk of the film is its flashback.

This is not, however, apparent to a first-time viewer, who recognizes that the ages of the men have changed and not the location. I know I assumed this was just how dreams were going to skip around in the film. So, yes, a bit needlessly confusing. Add to that Mal showing up — and disappearing — before we really know who she is, and I can see why the movie has been disorienting people. The good news is that audiences haven’t seemed to mind, so I guess I’ll just cop to being a film snob in thinking this was going to alienate ‘Movieplex Mike.’

Ariadne as Extractor

I also seem to have over-reached the opposite direction in thinking perhaps there was a further game Nolan was playing outside of the scenes we see. I wasn’t alone in thinking the character development was poor for Ellen Page’s character, an audience-surrogate if there ever was one. Why, after all, does she keep pushing for Cobb to confront his wife? The best explanation I could come up with is that she herself is an extractor, perhaps Mal in disguise, and that Cobb is her mark. I wasn’t alone in this, either.

Unfortunately, this theory just isn’t supported by the movie. What the movie calls the ‘real world’ is established twice by Leo spinning the top and it falling over — once in the hotel room after the failed job on Saito, right before Arther (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) enters; an almost time after testing the Chemist’s wares in Mombasa; the second time, my memory is hazy, but I think it followed the dream which Ariadne invaded.

Mal’s line in Limbo, where she questions a reality where he is chased around the globe by faceless corporations who are much like subconscious security definitely does explicitly raise the possibility that what the film presents as reality isn’t. But I think the spinning top is Christopher Nolan’s way of dismissing this idea.

You could still have this theory, or a similar one involving Saito or Arthur or Michael Caine’s Miles as the true extractor. It’s just that the film gives no clues that directly point to this. The only real question that Nolan explicitly leaves for the audience to decide is whether the top falls after it cuts to black at the end (and the movie audience screams).

So, Was The Happy Ending All a Dream?

There actually is no answer to this — sorry if this sounds like a cop out — unless there’s a clue I’ve missed. Some have said you can hear the sound of the top falling over after the credits start. This would indicate that, yes, it truly is a happy ending.

Alternately, I thought perhaps we were supposed to believe that because we do not see Cobb go back through each dream layer — he goes directly from Limbo to the plane — that the happy ending was a false self-deceptive dream. After a second viewing, it doesn’t seem like this is what Nolan intended. The only strange thing is that the dialogue between Cobb and Old Saito is different the second time around, with them taking each others lines.

So it really all comes down to whether you are a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full type of person, whether you believe Cobb reuniting with his kids is a dream or not. I’m a positive guy, so I’m going to believe that the wobbles of the top mean that it fell over shortly after the cut to black.

What about the rest of the plot?

It’s genuinely easy to miss the small signposts that Nolan and his collaborators leave to follow the basic plot, nevermind all the crazy theories that can be piled on top. Here is my brief summary, reconstructed from memory, so please just leave any corrections in kind language in the comments…

The first scene is Cobb in Limbo, rescuing Saito, who died in the third level of the inception attempt against Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy).

We then flashback to an extraction attempt against Saito. We are two levels deep. Arthur and Cobb are pretending to be consultants who can train him to defend against extractors. Unfortunately, Mal, as projected by Cobb’s subconscious, shows up and tips off Saito and his “sub-security” – the militarized subconscious that defends against such extractions. Nevertheless, thanks to a sleight-of-hand switch of envelopes, Cobb does get to see some of Saito’s secrets just as the dream collapses. But the documents have black censor lines, meaning Saito did not actually make his secrets vulnerable.

In the next dream level up, a fight ensues while an angry mob storms closer and closer to “Saito’s love-nest” apartment. When Saito’s face is slammed into the carpet, he realizes that he is not in his actual love-nest, he is in a dream version. This wrong detail is blamed on the architect, Nash (Lukas Haas).

The party breaks up on the train, with the minder for the top level of the dream, Tadashi, getting his pay from Cobb. When Saito wakes up, Cobb and presumably Arthur have already gotten off the bullet train in Tokyo.

Cobb in his hotel room that evening (next morning?) spins the top, the totem that was left behind for him by Mal the night she committed suicide. He sees flashes of this. He holds a gun to his head, ready to pull the trigger if the top doesn’t stop spinning. (At this point in the movie, the audience has no idea that this is what this means.) He is interrupted by a phone call from his kids, James and Phillipa. Phillipa is older, and angry he has left. James still doesn’t understand that their mother is dead. This suggests Cobb has not been on the run for long. A grandmother with a French accent ends the call, just as Cobb says he’ll send presents with their grandfather, meaning he is already planning to visit Miles.

Arthur comes to the door and tells them the helicopter is ready. Once they get up there, they find it occupied by Saito and Nash, the failed architect, who apparently sold out where they were. Saito offers them the “satisfaction” of killing Nash, but they don’t do it. Saito’s goons drag Nash away, and imply that rival corporation Cobal (sp?) will kill him.

Saito reveals that he was testing Arthur and Cobb, and proposes a job requiring Inception. Cobb initially balks, but takes the job because he believes Saito has the power to fix the charges against him in the US, and clear his name from the accusation that he killed Mal. It is unclear why Arthur also does the job. (Before you bring it up, the theory that Arthur has a homosexual attraction to Cobb is weakened by the scene where Arthur asks Ariadne to kiss him as a distraction.)

Cobb risks extradition to visit his father (father-in-law?) Miles (Michael Caine) at the university where he teaches, to give him stuffed animal gifts for the grandchildren and to recruit one of his students to be the Architect in the con they will pull on Fischer.

Cobb trains Ariadne, who demonstrates some cleverness when she uses mirrors to create the illusion of a long walkway, then shatters them to reveal that same walkway. Ariadne also learns that Cobb cannot control his projection of Mal while in dreams.

While Ariadne carries on training with Arthur, he goes to Mombasa (“Cobal’s back yard”) to find Eames, a master Forger. After a street chase where he is rescued by Saito, and they all go visit Yusuf, the Chemist, who demonstrates that he can create the powerful tranquilizers necessary to get enough sleep time in the various dream levels.

The team plans the job, with Ariadne teaching everyone but Cobb the layouts of locations – since different people will be the Architect for each dream layer. Cobb does not want to know the solution to the mazes, because that would mean that Mal would know them too.

The con will take place on a plane from Sydney to Los Angeles. If it is successful, Saito will make one call and Cobb will be able to clear customs. Saito buys an airline and arranges for Fischer’s private jet to have maintenance issues so that he’ll have to take a regular flight. They begin the con, with Cobb and Eames using sleight-of-hand to steal Fischer’s passport and subsequently drop the drug into his glass of water.

In the first layer of the dream, Yusuf is the architect and it is raining (thus the jokes that he should have peed before he went to sleep). They discover that Fischer’s subconscious is militarized, meaning he has had training to defend against extraction. This will be used against him in the second layer with the “Mr. Charles” gambit.

Before going deeper, however, Cobb reveals to Ariadne the full backstory of what happened to Mal and why he knows inception is possible. When they were stuck in Limbo, she chose to forget that it was a dream, symbolized by her locking the top in the dollhouse. Cobb had to convince her that they needed to leave and planted the idea of “your world isn’t real, death is the only escape” and their scene where they kill themselves on the train tracks provides the dialogue for her when she jumps from the hotel window in real life. This explains how a freight train ended up crashing through all those cars on a busy city street — it was created by Cobb’s subconscious.

There is a seeming discontinuity between Cobb’s later assertion that he and Mal grew old together and their ages when they commit suicide. My best explanation is that you can be whatever age you want in a dream, and that they chose to be young at that moment. Saito, because he is unaware he is in Limbo until visited by Cobb, ages normally.

The next layer of the dream is the hotel and it is Arthur’s dream. The reason the gravity is all funky, is that it is tracking exactly with the van driven by Yusuf. So when the van flips over 360 degrees, we get the awesome 360 degree hallway fight shot, and when the van is falling, the hotel has no gravity. This is bad, because Arthur can’t do the “kick” as he planned, and must improvise using the explosives and the elevator shaft.

The third layer of the dream is controlled by Eames. He leads the security on a ski-bound goose chase while Fischer and Saito infiltrate the base. Hearing the music, the team realizes there’s no time to do the normal route through the maze and they send Fischer and Saito through the ducts. Of course, if Cobb knows this route exists, so does his projection of Mal. Mal drops in and shoots Fischer, with Cobb unable to pull the trigger on her, confused as he is by his love for her. (But, he still shoots her anyway?)

There’s some confusion about why Saito can’t be revived by the electric paddles and Fischer, Jr. can. See the link at the end of this to get CinemaBlend’s take. Anyway, Ariadne, for no established motivation, encourages Cobb to drop into Limbo and confront Mal while they “save” Fischer and Saito.

In Limbo, we see what was “left there” by Mal and Cobb way back when. They designed the house they first lived in together, as well as many identical buildings. Cobb confronts Mal, Ariadne shoots Mal, she saves Fischer and jumps off the building in order to ‘wake up,’ leaving Cobb to find and save Saito.

Now we arrive back at the scene from the beginning, where Cobb washes up on the shore of the unconscious, seeking Saito. Presumably he kills Saito after Saito recognizes him, or Saito kills himself. Either way, they both wake up on the plane, and Saito makes the call that will lift his charges.

Stepping off the plane, Cobb is met by Miles, who takes him to see his kids for the first time in a long time (or a short time, since they don’t appear to have aged). We get the payoff of seeing their faces, perpetually denied throughout the film. The camera pans to the totemic spinning-top on the table, which spins and spins before… we’ll never know.

(See above for a discussion of the implications of this.)

Isn’t it weird that Nolan wrote a movie about someone struggling with the guilt of inducing a suicide after the death of Heath Ledger?

Yeah, kinda. But I think this is a stretch. I hope Nolan doesn’t blame himself for pushing Heath into a deep dark place for that performance. And, if he did, and this is his way of forgiving himself — well, then it lead to great art.

What’s that crazy French song all about?

This is a very famous song by French singer Edith Piaf, whom coincidentally Marion Cotillard portrayed in a biopic for which she won an Oscar. The title, “Non, je ne regrette rien” means, “No, I regret nothing.” It’s a song of defiance, like Sinatra’s “My Way.” The song has a long history with all kinds of associations, which you can read about on Wikipedia. Buy the song on Amazon.

My best guess is that Nolan chose it because it is a well-known song that has the right tonal qualities for the intentional ending of a dream. I doubt he would choose so central a song just as a joke reference to Cotillard’s famous Piaf performance, but maybe he did want to take advantage of knowing audiences’ subconscious associations.

UPDATE: Reader GU points out that the theme “I Regret Nothing” is the type idea one would want to plant in a friend’s head who is dealing with guilt over something, say, his wife’s death. This is hardly a smoking gun for the “all of it was a dream” theory, but it does seem like a good thematic reason for Nolan’s choice of the song.

FURTHER UPDATE: YouTube user camiam321 demonstrates that the main theme of the film is a slowed-down version of “Non, je ne regrette rien.”

What do all the names and numbers mean?

The names of the characters seem carefully chosen. I don’t think they have any meaning that is actually important to enjoying the story, just sort of easter-egg type stuff. Some of these are wild guesses based on themes of design, architecture, chess and dreams; others, like Ariadne and Eames, I’m pretty sure of.

Ariadne – In Greek mythology, Ariadne is the princess of Minos who helps Theseus solve the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur. The thematic associations are pretty clear, although Inception‘s Ariadne is a maze-creator, not a maze solver. And she takes the lead in slaying the beast that is Mal.

Arthur – The most famous Arthur is King Arthur. If you really wanted to get conspiratorial, you could imagine that Arthur is actually in control of Cobb (see theory above) or that Arthur, because it sounds like Author, is the author of Cobb’s reality. Other possible inspirations are mystery writer Robert Arthur or Eric Arthur, Canadian architect.

Browning – The poet Robert Browning is probably the most famous Browning. Maybe some scholars can point out if any of his poems feature dreaming. Almost certainly incidentally, there is a WWII admiral named Miles Browning, who, according to Wikipedia, is the grandfather of actor Chevy Chase.

Cobb – There was a Canadian architect named Andrew R. Cobb, and there is still living an American architect named Henry N. Cobb. I think more likely, if Nolan had anyone in mind, it was Stanley Cobb, a psychiatrist who was a good friend of Carl Jung.

Cobal (sp?) – This unseen corporation has a very comic book feel to it. The name sounds like “cabal” or “cobalt”.

Eames – Charles and Ray Eames were famous husband-and-wife modern designers, just like Mal and Cobb are modernist designers in their shared dreams. While they are best known for their furniture, they also did architecture.

Fischer – Maurice Fischer and Maurice Fischer, Jr. run a large company that is based out of Sydney and seeks to control the “energy market.” While I can’t find a company that matches the description in the energy sector, Australian-American Rupert Murdoch of News Corp and his heirs certainly have some similarities. The name Fischer could be a reference to German architect Alfred Fischer or, more reaching further afield phonetically, the “Fisher of Souls” Jesus Christ or the “Fisher King” of Arthurian legend. Fischer also evokes famous chess player Bobby Fischer.

Nash – Possibly a reference to English architect John Nash or the schizophrenic mathematician of the same name.

Mal – Judging by this baby name website, Mal is a real French name, and my suspicion is that it is short for something like Malorie. Mal in French and Spanish means “bad” or “evil” and she certainly is the antagonist of Inception in many senses. Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) is the title of a famous book of poetry by Charles Baudelaire. Once again, I’ll leave poetry experts to determine if there are any poems in the volume which may have inspired the character.

Miles – This could refer to British aircraft designer Frederick George Miles, or British chess player Tony Miles.

Saito – American audiences probably best recognize the name Saito as that of the Japanese colonel in Bridge on the River Kwai. There is also a Japanese psychologist named Tamaki Saito who researched people who withdrew from society.

Yusuf – This is the Arabic version of Joseph. In the Bible, Joseph is the human father (step-father?) of Jesus. In the Koran, Yusuf/Joseph is granted by God the power to interpret dreams.

528491 – These are the numbers that pop into Fischer, Jr’s mind when the ‘kidnappers’ demand a safe combination at gunpoint. I heard rumors that these numbers show up earlier in the movie than this moment. They do show up as the number that the Blonde (Eames in diguise) leaves for Fischer, Jr. in the hotel dream, and as the numbers of the hotel rooms in which most of the action takes place (528 & 491). Presumably, they are the combination that Fischer, Jr. enters at the center of the ice fortress to view the 2001: A Space Odyssey homage.

No doubt some crazy theories are going to be advanced about these numbers being a cipher for something. And they could be. But a simple alphabetic substitution doesn’t seem to fit. It’s too short a string and the 1 and the 2 don’t indicate digraphs. A ROT0 translation would be E-B-H-D-I-A, aka gibberish. More likely, these numbers or parts of them will be found in previous works by Nolan, just as one can find CRM 114 in the films of Kubrick, or A113 in PIXAR movies, or the number 42 throughout the works of Lewis Carroll.

That’s all folks.

Hope you enjoyed this early reading of Inception. It’s a dense, clever film and I’m sure more interesting things will emerge when we all get a chance to watch it on DVD.

UPDATE:
Inception explained using computer folder structure…

MORE:
Cinemablend explains many nagging questions
No Country for Old Men Explained
Synechdoche, New York Explained
The Limits of Control Explained

24 Comments

  1. Long ago… I was forced to watch a film by Alain Renais called LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. I hated it. I thought it was masturbatory. I cannot say the same thing about INCEPTION…The two films have been compared as similar in style, tone, etc… Both films purposefully leaves things un clear for you to fill in that void. But as much filling as you do, with this and that theory… None of it can be anything but a theory. Like the last moment of THE SOPRANOS, INCEPTION makes for great water cooler talk (even though no one I know has a water cooler at work), but nobody should believe their theory is ‘right’. There is no ‘right’, as that is this films’ very modus operandi. Accept that as you constitute your next theory. It’s too bad Alain Renais didn’t throw in a few explosives.

  2. cobal engineering, right at the start of the film cobb(mr cobb) and Mal

  3. “if he did… then it lead to great art.”

    I really enjoyed your read of the film, and agree with you about everything except the line I’ve excerpted above. The whole thing was such a colossal disappointment that I truly feel sorry for anyone who has to sit through it more than once. I can just see an intelligent script with labyrinthine subtexts landing on an executive’s desk. He reads it and says, “interesting, but where’s the video game? I know, I know… how about a ‘militarized subconscious’?” Add guns and action, and you’ve ruined a perfectly good film idea.

    That said, your plot analysis was interesting, articulate and accurate, as best I can tell. Thank you for posting it.

  4. I liked your articles about Inception, but I thought I would mention a few things. You say that Yusuf is the Architect in the first level of the dream. Ariadne is actually the Architect of all the levels, it’s just Yusuf’s dream. Also, when the Mal dropped in and shot Fischer, Cobb didn’t shoot her. Saito did, although it was off camara.

    By the way, the whole music clip KIND OF blew my mind. Thanks for the article!

  5. ‘The team plans the job, with Ariadne teaching everyone but Cobb the layouts of locations – since different people will be the Architect for each dream layer.’
    not the Architect, but the Dreamer?

  6. ‘They begin the con, with Cobb and Eames using sleight-of-hand to steal Fischer’s passport and subsequently drop the drug into his glass of water.’
    wouldn’t it be easier if the flying attendant dopped the drug into Fisher’s glass of water? She was with them anyway

  7. ‘There is a seeming discontinuity between Cobb’s later assertion that he and Mal grew old together and their ages when they commit suicide’
    Later on, when he tells Mal that they grew old togehter in the Limbo, you can see elderly people lying on the tracks… they also wake up as old souls in young bodies.

  8. There’s some confusion about why Saito can’t be revived by the electric paddles and Fischer, Jr. can.

    Because Fisher is shot, dead. He is in the limbo with Mal, so Ariadne finds him easily and drops him from the building, which is his ‘kick’ , and whean Eames is using electric paddles at the same time – that is Fisher’s synchronised kick. But Saito is not with Mal, he is lost somewhere in the Limbo and he don’t know that he’s still dreaming. so he can’t be brought back so easily, because cobb needs more time to find him.

  9. ‘In Limbo, we see what was “left there” by Mal and Cobb way back when. They designed the house they first lived in together, as well as many identical buildings. Cobb confronts Mal, Ariadne shoots Mal, she saves Fischer and jumps off the building in order to ‘wake up,’ leaving Cobb to find and save Saito.’

    you missed the most important thing. Mal stabbed Cobb with a knife. in the chest! so he is dying in a limbo, which means waking up. but he is too late hor the kick in the fortress, and the kick in the hotel. so his, let’s call it ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ is trying to wake up on the 1st level, but he is unable to do so. so he drowns in the van and dies. and that means going back to the limbo. That explains why Saito is so much older. I think that it’s the most confusing part for most of people.

    nice review though. sorry for my english and 7 comments.

  10. I read about the significance of the name “Cobb” on some website; I can’t believe I didn’t catch this before: It sounds similar to the Urdu/Hindi word “Khwab” which means “dream” :)

  11. Oh I looked up “Dom” and it means means “lord”, so I guess Leo’s character literally is “Lord Dream”.

  12. Is there any commentary revolving around Cobb being the one that killed himself, or the one that’s gone, and not Mal; these people and scenarios being representations of Cobb’s subconscious knowledge from his life, experiences, schooling and his professor father, but all actually him? The lyrics to ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ seem to support this. And the song itself in the film seems to be a self-reference to Cobb. And I’m wondering if the “afterlife” is what is being presented here. “Of course, there are cases where only a rare individual will have the vision to perceive a system which governs many people’s lives, a system which had never before even been recognized as a system; then such people often devote their lives to convincing other people that the system really is there, and that it ought to be existed from!” This can be read on page 528-491=37 of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. And I think Inception is an homage to this book.

    In GEB, the main chapters alternate with dialogues between imaginary characters, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “What the The Tortoise Said to Achilles.” Could a “kick” in Inception be the equivalent to “popping” in DEB? Is ‘Inception’ (i.e., Cobb’s desired destination), the same as a ‘call stack’ discussed in DEB? A ‘call stack’ defined as: a data structure that stores information about the active subroutines of a computer program, the main purpose for having one is to keep track of the point to which each active subroutine should return control when it finishes executing. This is a summary of a conversation between two characters in DEB: “Entering a picture in a book would count as “pushing”, entering a picture in a book within a picture in a book would have caused a double “pushing”, and “popping” refers to an exit back to the previous layer of reality. The Tortoise humorously remarks that a friend of his (a weasel) performed a “popping” while in their current state of reality and has never been heard from since; the implied question is, “Did the friend simply cease to exist, or has the friend achieved a higher state of reality?” Also, since the reader is “pushed” into the world of Tortoise and Achilles, would the friend have ascended to the same level of reality in which the readers of GEB reside?” Sounds familiar, no?

    There are also many puzzles in DEB. “One puzzle (in the dialogue “Aria with Diverse Variations”) is a speculation concerning an author who writes a book and chooses to end the story without actually stopping the text. That an author cannot make a sudden ending (with regard to the story) come as a surprise, when the fact that there are only a few pages left in the book is obvious to the reader. Such an author might wrap up the main point, and then continue writing, but drop clues to the reader that the end has already passed, such as wandering and unfocused prose, misstatements, or contradictions.” Hmmm… So, did ‘Inception’ end with the spinning top? Or had the conclusion of the story already happened prior to the film physically ending? Is there a question about the ending…? Is it, actually, open-ended and open for interpretation? My guess? NOPE. The “end” is before the end.

    Fascinating stuff.

  13. Whoops! I meant is a call stack what would have tracked the different subroutines after entering and kicking to determine each actions point of return, i.e., the inception.

  14. he was dreaming all the time, maybe he was even in limbo, and there are some small hints in the movie that show this. let’s start with the totem in the safe when he was in limbo. they say u should never touch others’ totem because only u should know the way it works, the way it feels. so in limbo, mal created the totem and placed it there. when cobb picked it up and started spinning it he tought he performed inception on mal but the totem became his the moment he touched it(as it was for the rest of the movie)..and so he did it on himself without knowing it. maybe they alternated as they went deeper with the dreams(at first being in cobb’s dreams and then, to the end being in mal’s). So, as the totem didn’t have any effect in mal’s subconcios(as cobb made it his own) mal knew that that wasnt reallity and wanted to go back.they went back and back(still being in her dreams)until they got to cobb’s dream (the so said reality of the movie). when they got there, even though he spun the totem, it would stop because he knew how it worked(he touched it in the safe)..so he tought that was reality(and the totem would continuously spin in that subconcious of his not letting him back to reality).so mal was right, they had to die to go back. but tu sustain this theory there are a few more hints. when cobb looks for the new architect and talks to his dad, he explains what he needs to do to go back to his children, that that is his reality, so forth and so on, his dad, has a misterious way of saying “..please, come back to reality, come back to reality..” as if cobb’s subconcious would say “ur still in a dream,your totem is spinning in the safe”..but he doesnt want to listen, his only reality is thinking that he is back with his kids even though it’s not real, paradoxically. the second hint, is exactly like this one, but further in the film. when he finds the chemist, the guy takes him underground to show him the ppl dreaming. he tells them “thats the only way thay can dream..the dream is their reality now”..and the old guy, a stranger to him..comes, and tells him, the same way his dad told him, misteriously, “that’s something u are very familiar of” (or smth like that:P cant remember exactly, but check it out). that’s another small alarm in his subconcious telling him “u are in a dream and u think it s reality, come back to reality”. these ppl were just perceptions of his subconcious that was still linked to the safe, and to the spinning tottem he placed there, not knowing he performed inception on himself :) and that’s it. and when he arrived home, that’s the reality he wanted to believe in.. even if it wasnt real.

  15. Can’t Cobal been heard as COPAL? it makes more sense for me:)
    Trapped in a copal for eternity.

  16. Actually, there is something you need to think of. How did he get to america to get the new architect!!! just waltz on into America to talk to good old dad? Makes the ending a bit melodramatic no? Dan, you are 100% right, about the totem. Also, through out the movie, subtle hints are given to Cobb. Saito “Do you want to be an old man, waiting to die from regret?”. And saito also asks cobb if he wants to go home to be with his children, just like his father when they met..in AMERICA where he is not allowed to get his architect :-)

    The extraction team was there to get out Cobb, period. The totem is the nail in the coffin. HER totem. Which Cobb should not have been touching. Which skewered him to be stuck in Limbo. Trapped in a miasma of his own dreams, layers upon layers.

  17. There is a seeming discontinuity between Cobb’s later assertion that he and Mal grew old together and their ages when they commit suicide.

    Not really. Cobb and Mal went into dreams several times. They built elaborate structures, worlds and continued with dreams within dreams and eventually real memories. The time lapse of 50 yrs presumably occurred in one of those dream within dream within dream as accounted for in the time compounded phenomenon.

    It was when real memories were introduced is when Mal’s subconscious accepted some of those dream states as real; she could not distinguish. Thus she became reluctant to leave. This why Cobb had to plant the idea that it is a dream and the subsequent suicide. But because her mind had lived in a dream world with real memories and for long periods of time (50 yrs), she had trouble believing the real world was in fact reality. and then the suicide…..

  18. Glenn – He doesn’t meet his dad or Ariadne in the US. They are in Paris.

  19. Cobb’s totem is his wedding ring… he’s wearing it in the dreams but when he’s awake it’s not there… check it out

  20. one thing is still not making sense to me….WHAT IS SO BAD ABOUT LIMBO IF ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS KILL YOURSELF TO GET OUT OF IT.

  21. I have one question because how come only the 2nd level ha no gravity when the van is in free fall? Why is the 3rd level normal?

  22. It’s okay for Cobb to touch Mal’s totem. Arthur points out that he breaks the rules all the time. Plus that incident may have happened before the corporate rules were delineated. Also, it’s CoBol, as in the language.

  23. So… Eames is dropped fro the tower in Limbo, which is the first Kick, and the heart machine was the second, but that means he was shot unconscious. I don’t know whether he is dead or alive in the snow base when he gets shot.

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