662 Responses to INCEPTION: Wait.. What happened?

  1. so i stumbled upon this post by accident, and i’m so glad i found this. i’m gonna have to see it for myself, though, if all of this is really true (another excuse to come back to the theater and see the movie). but this is a very thorough observation. this excites me even more to see the movie. 😀

  2. Jennifer says:

    Brillant, darling, brillant. I hadn’t noticed it and it’s the most obvious thing. Damn you, Christopher Nolan, being being a genius.

    • Thank you for your kind works, keep checking this blog for more reviews/interpretations in the future. It was a lot of fun to research and write this article.

      • check your facts dude says:

        the only reason that imdb shows that different children were cast was because when Cobb was talking to his kids on the phone before he took the job, they sounded older. Those children on the phone were the second (older) set cast as his kids that imdb has recorded. Phillipia especially sounded older. She did NOT sound like a 5 year old. However, when you saw her at the end of the movie she still looked like a 5 year old.

        therefore, he was still in limbo at the end of the movie.

        did you also ever think about his children wearing the *same clothes*?? If they were older, they would have grown out of their old clothes- the ones Cobb last saw them in. especially the younger one. apparently you seem to forget that children grow like little monsters. in *months* time, they can grow out of clothes at that young an age.

        Think about this some more because you have a lot of facts to check

      • Crigby says:

        @check your facts

        If they were only cast for the telephone segment then they would be billed as “Voice of James” and “Voice of Phillipa.” They were different, older children wearing similar clothes to make the audience to a double take.

      • Taz says:

        @check your facts dude:
        According to an interview io9 did with Inception’s costume designer, the children might not wear the same clothes at the end of the film.

        http://io9.com/5602799/did-inceptions-costume-designer-just-give-away-the-secret-of-the-movies-ending

      • roughy says:

        Do you think that it could have been just a regular dream as suggested at the end here:
        http://www.reviewmaze.com/2010/11/inception-ending-interpretations.html

    • This post is full of fail. says:

      How do you know that even “reality” is reality. What if he was in a dream for the entire length of the movie?

      • bootycALL says:

        @checkyourfacts. They were wearing the same clothes, but if you look closely at the closing scene the kids were wearing different shoes than in the rest of the movie.

      • Mitch says:

        Well think about it, why would one assume that it wasn’t either? Maybe we are all in a dream right now? Would you be included to believe that as well? “what is reality” argument is raised, which is a weak one, it’s like asking “what is normal”.

        Hence, Your argument isn’t really the most plausible one out of the set of possibilities..

      • Mitch says:

        This is said time and time again, it’s a weak argument.

        Well think about it, why would one assume that it wasn’t, either? Maybe we are all in a dream right now? Would you be inclined to believe that as well? The “what is reality” argument is raised, which is a weak one, it’s like asking “what is normal”.

        Hence, this argument isn’t really the most plausible one out of the set of possibilities..

      • Emily says:

        The whole movie could have been a dream.

        But if it was the real twist behind it all, that’s just simplistic and shit.

        So really, get an imagination.

      • Brad says:

        I agree. His wife is alive, one layer up in reality. We never see reality — at most we’re one layer down the whole movie.

      • asmita pal says:

        Dom touches Mal’s hand after coming back to reality, wearing the ring. If the ring really is his totem then this means that it is still a dream. That after entering a dream, they jumped to limbo. So when they lay on the rail tracks ready to die, they are escaping limbo, but a funny thing, after coming back to reality, he is still wearing that same ring. But when Mal dies, the second time, it does not show, whether or not he is wearing the ring. So my question is one and a very simple one. Was the entire movie just a dream? Was the ring just a factor or really a totem?

  3. lisa says:

    spencer you’re fucking awesome.

    your friend,
    lisa

  4. Kevin R Wright says:

    Same comment from Facebook, but I figured I’d share it here for the sake of conversation. I’ll wait to get flamed by the Inception nut-jobs for speaking blasphemies against the film, I’m sure:

    Who is to say if the ending is the real world though? He doesn’t have the ring, but maybe that is because he has finally cleared his subconscious of guilt. He could, at the end, finally be free to dream in a Mal free world. I don’t think there is any way to truly know.

    This being said, you know how I feel about the film. Overrated. I liked it just fine, but take extreme issue with the suggestions of this being one of the greatest films of all time. It borrows from everything and offers very few (no?) unique ideas of it’s own. It’s a AAA production on all fronts, but is our culture so used to shitty movies being the reg that when a well made summer flick comes along we hail it as the second coming?

    I think David Edelstein’s review is fairly on point.
    http://nymag.com/movies/reviews/67155/

    • You make a good point Kevin,

      Except for a few little things. Sure, if we choose to ignore the ring as jordan put, a small detail, we can’t ignore the way the top behaves. The two times we see the top spinning endlessly, it spins perfectly, there isn’t even circular movement in the top, yet in the end, we see the top spinning, moving around the table, we see it move. I wouldn’t want to go as far to say “wobble” be we see the top move. Also, consider the symbolism of the ring. The wedding band shows Cobb’s dream, to be with Mal. Even if he had gotten over his guilt, why would he stop wearing it simply because he had reconciled with his guilt?

      But, I don’t think it it’s too small of a detail. This film is designed to be picked apart and to be answered. Christopher nolan, like David Edelstein wrote in his review, is logical. I don’t think he would want the film to be that ambiguous. If the ending were a dream, there would be more evidence to support otherwise.

      I still stand by my interpretation, I feel as if it’s not quite easter egg material, but it’s close.

      • Cage Effect says:

        Well, what if Christopher Nolan wants the ending of the movie to be up in the air? The whole premise of the idea questions our reality and what we perceive to be real or fake, and it seems easy enough to justify both sides of our argument: was he dreaming, or not. Maybe he wants us to chose our own reality (ending)…. and be happy with it!

      • anon says:

        I agree with the general idea of the “happy end”, but not with the specific reason. Cobb pretty specifically abandoned his dream to be with Mal right before he entered limbo. He explicitly told her that she was an imperfect shadow of her true self and that he couldn’t live with her in their own little dream world. That’s more than just reconciling guilt in my view.

      • Nathan says:

        Even the dream world has texture, hence Saito talking about the difference between the carpet when he put his face to it. You can then assume that wooden tables have texture and that it has imperfections which might make the top wobble.

        I believe the Inception was pulled on Cobb and hence the wedding ring can disappear as his mind has been tricked into believing that Mal is gone.

        Watch Ariadne she is supposedly new to being an architect but is surprisingly good at it. She is probing Cobb all the time about Mal and knows more than she lets on.

        She is always pushing Cobb by saying that Mal will appear in the lower levels to spark his sub conscience into action.

        I think Saito and Ariande were hired by Miles (Cobb’s father in law) to make Cobb get over Mal by inception.

        I believe Fisher was to Cobb in the same way they used Browning to Fisher. They had planned that he would kill Mal to protect Fisher and get over her but when he hesitated Ariande realised it was not completed and then she had to improvise and take him a level further.

        It was Cobb’s limbo, he and Mal designed it, how did Fisher know about it. He didn’t.

        When they go to that level Ariande is always getting Cobb to describe his limbo world because she wants his sub conscience to power it and keep creating it.

        I am liking your theory but I believe Cobb was the target of the inception all along.

      • Tanner says:

        Your interpretation is flawed.
        You make two arguments:
        1. Mal isn’t there; therefore, it isn’t a dream.
        2. The ring isn’t there; therefore, it isn’t a dream.
        Both of these can be dispatched EASILY. They are basically the same argument – that Cobb’s subconcious isn’t projecting, so it can’t be a dream. BUT, if Cobb subconciously believes that he’s in reality, then it’s impossible for his subconcious to project anything.
        Don’t make a hypocritical argument by saying “ignore the ring” then “but look at the ring.!”

        I don’t see how Nolan being logical applies to the fact that he left the ending ambiguous, please explain. Following your train of logic, there would be no ambiguity at all; but there is, so it doesnt hHold up.

      • Ryan C. says:

        Nathan – I posted my theory that Cobb was the target of Inception as well on IMDB as well as on this page listing facts that lead to that belief. I need to see it again to pay more attention to the ring, but I think that may be a correct assumption about his totem which doesn’t take away from the idea that Cobb was the real target.

      • Nathan says:

        Sorry I didn’t get far enough to read your theory, good to have some backup though.

        I reckon the ring is a red herring, when Cobb knows he is in the dream world he is still married to Mal and his ring is there but that is only when he believes he is in the dream world. If he doesn’t realise he is dreaming then the ring might not be there.

        The top is the constant in my eyes.

      • Brandon says:

        One thing I’d like to point out is that Cobb describes the Top as Mal’s totem not his. I believe Spencer’s point about the ring to be spot on.

      • Smarter Than Tanner says:

        Tanner, you’re an idiot. Like, real, grade-A idiot.

      • shane says:

        From Cage:
        “The whole premise of the idea questions our reality and what we perceive to be real or fake, and it seems easy enough to justify both sides of our argument: was he dreaming, or not”
        The keyword in this sentence is IDEA.
        An IDEA has been planted in most of the minds of those who have seen the movie and therefore, the ‘virus’ has been spread.
        Game, set, match.

      • Josh says:

        “Well, what if Christopher Nolan wants the ending of the movie to be up in the air?”

        Bingo. That is the whole theme of the movie: reality is what we make of it. Therefore a logical ending from Noland is one that points out that Cobb is content with his reality. He doesn’t stay to see if the top would stop spinning, he doesn’t care, and neither should the audience.

      • Mitch says:

        I don’t mean to come at your assertions yet again Spenser but I just had a thought – if I had a totem to determine the dreamworld from the real world, something only privy to me, wouldn’t my mind be capable of tricking me into thinking I was holding it (and so forth) in MY dreams? Perhaps not someone else’s dreams, but mine ?

        PS> I agree with your conclusion but think the proof will not be found in the final sequence..

      • RemyDuron says:

        The top does not spin perfectly other times it spins infinitely. Watch it again. I did a couple days ago and specifically watched for this. It wobbles other times while in a dream.

        Also, if the clue was that simple, why not show it fall? That’s the problem with the “well, it wobbled so obviously it will fall,” explanation. If it’s obvious it would have been shown falling. It’s very intentionally kept ambiguous.

      • Claudie says:

        This theory can easily be verified by reading the script. Nolan, knowing he was directing his own story, omitted to use the term “ring” but very often suggests close-up shots on Cobb’s hand. He even uses “Cobb’s left hand” at some point.

        The accent on Cobb’s hands is a very good indicator that the ring theory is not only plausible but most likely true. Not only is it true, but it is the very core of that movie.

        Thanks for the brilliant interpretation!

        P.S. You can all find the scrip on http://www.mypdfscripts.com

    • Jay says:

      If the ring was just a symbol of his guilt, then why does he still have the ring on when he finally finds Saito in limbo?

      • Ashley says:

        ….because Limbo is part of the dream world…figured that much had been established.

      • Leyla says:

        this other person knows that limbo is part of the dream world.
        they are disputing the theory that the ring is a symbol of guilt because when Cobb is in limbo after he gets over his guilt over killing Mal, he is still wearing the ring. which means that the ring is not attached to guilt.

      • Yes. Leyla, you’re right about that.

      • Hello there says:

        Why does the ring have to be a symbol of his guilt? He clearly loved her and misses her very much. I’d like to think that if I was widowed, and only got to see the love of my life in my dreams, we’d both have our rings on. Just a thought…

  5. Jordan Paul Miles says:

    Good article, though Nolan is a director obsessed with justified dishonesty (lying to yourself to be happy i.e Robert Angier’s Tesla magic trick and wanting to fool the audience, Leonard rigging his clues so he can be satisfied with his pursuit, Batman covering up Harvey Dent and rewarding their faith, etc.) so i feel the idea of him being stuck in a dream is more fitting of the director. Also, I almost feel as though the wedding ring is something so in the background, he almost didn’t expect people to notice it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t significant, but it would have passed as a minute detail if no one said anything about it. Good article though.

    • Thats a good point Jordan, except Nolan was working on and off for this film for what, 10 years?

      I don’t think that the ring theory can be put down as easily as “he didn’t think people would notice”.

      I mean, costume isn’t something that is overlooked. Costume is very important in story telling. Also, it’s consistent, it isn’t something that seems random, and it’s connected to the story.

      • John says:

        I *might* think it was accidental, if there was some sort of randomness to it. So if someone finds a scene during the inception where his ring is off or a scene that’s *supposed* to be reality where its on. Then it could be random. So far it seems to be pretty accurate.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Jordan Paul Miles is right about Christopher Nolan’s Recurring Theme of happiness through self deception, and the Ring is not Cobb’s totem. All the other totems are Toys and have an Action, saying the owner is not part of the dream but a “player” – Loaded Die, Bishop, Poker Chip, Top. The ring is Serious and has no Action. What is Cobb’s totem?
        It isn’t the ring. The RING is the Red herring.
        Cobb can’t do his job of creating dreams because Mal is interfering.
        He has tried to get rid of her by Locking her in a “Memory Prison” that Ariadne finds – this didn’t work
        The obvious first thing he would have tried to get rid of the Shadow Mal, would be taking off his wedding ring – some people do this to move on after the death of a spouse. – this didn’t work.
        The ring and the Shadow Mal are linked. Shadow Mal is his psychological projection of his guilt and self loathing, and the ring is his psychological projection of his eternal love for her – he can never take that ring off his hand in the dreams, even though he tried and doesn’t wear it when not dreaming. That is why it isn’t in the “real” world. I have a theory on his real totem, hit me back if you are interested.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Also, how do you explain the fact that the ring is on when they grow old and are walking hand in hand in their dream neighborhood. And when they make their suicide pact they are both old, lying on the train track, old hand in old hand with the wedding ring???

      • jl74 says:

        I am interested in more of Scudmissle’s theory although the site wouldn’t let me directly reply to him here.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Also, following Spencer’s theory that new actors mean reality. what about the old Cobb and old Mal being played by other characters that would mean that they really did grow old together. form IMBD:
        Jack Gilroy … Old Cobb
        Shannon Welles … Old Mal

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Hey, JL74
        If we start from the assumption that the whole movie is Cobb stuck in a dream and someone is trying to wake him up then, Cobb’s totem would be similar to Mal’s (A child’s toy that spins forever when in the dream) and would be the only unclaimed totem we also see locked in an identical safe to Mal’s. This leads to the next question, who is trying to wake Cobb up? and did they fail

      • WL says:

        I don’t think the totems work quite that way. Let’s think about what Arthur tells Ariadne about her totem:

        1) She should make it herself
        2) A dreamer must know their totem inside and out
        3) Once made, it is best that no one else touches it.

        I think that Eames’ poker chip and Arthur’s loaded die were made because of the connection to games between those things and the top, which they thought was Cobb’s totem. Likewise, Ariadne remembered the totems she knew about, the top and the loaded die, and also decided to go with that. If she only knew about the poker chip and the loaded die, she might have gone with “gambling” instead, and used, e.g. a pack of cards with one card missing. If she played solitaire with herself in a dream, she would find that card present because the architect would not know about that detail. In short, it might not be a coincidence to us the audience and to Nolan, but it might as well be for Team Inception. How does this extend to Cobb’s ring? If he kept it, there would have been some detail about it unknown to the rest of the team, by definition as his totem. That detail could be an inscription on the inside, it could be the makeup of the stone (assuming there is a stone) it could be the weighting of the ring. All easily tested qualities of the ring that would be unknown to the architect of the dream. The reason he doesn’t test it in dreams is because he knows its a dream when he has it on. Why? He abandoned it somewhere, trying to exorcise his projection of Mal. But he still needs a way to test whether he’s in a dream, so he takes Mal’s top and uses that to test.

    • oldcrowtodd says:

      Staying in the dream state to see the kids as an example of justified dishonesty which is a major part of Nolan’s films (a point I totally agree with) is an interesting idea.

      But, couldn’t the theme of justified dishonesty also be found in Cobb’s actions to get back to his kids? Extraction/Inception are illegal and the process of inception itself is incredibly controversial throughout the film. Yet, the plot revolves around the inception of Fisher and the destruction of his inherited empire for the benefit of Saito as being justified since it helps Cobb to get back to his kids.

      So there is an interpretation of the film where Cobb is awake and where Nolan’s primary theme of justified dishonesty is still present.

      Also, I agree with the other comments that since the lack of wedding ring correlates to scenes where he is awake/could be dreaming that he is awake, and is not present when he dreams/is dreaming that he is dreams, then it is probably not an insignificant point at the very least.

    • Andre says:

      Well, i saw the movie a second time, and i was always watching cobbs left hand in every scene, and this thoery is fuckin correct. Maybe Nolan decided to try a different end, though, hidden.

    • Jordan – I’m impressed. This is by far the most logical point I’ve seen on all the forums I’ve read.

      I think there’s clear evidence to support either theory (was he dreaming or not dreaming). Any Hollywood sequel writer could point to evidence on one side and discredit or deemphasize points on the other side to take it in either direction. There is no smoking gun. The ring is not a smoking gun. (Perhaps an intrepretation could be that the ring is a physical manifestation the guilt that Cobb has regarding Mal. When he is finally able to let go of Mal, the physical manifestation also disappears. Disagree with that if you want or call it a stretch, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that’s a completely implausible explanation).

      Point is – it could go either way, and to look to the writer/director’s tendencies is incredibly insightful. I’d personally agree with Jordan when he says that the intellectually more satisfying ending for Nolan would be the acceptance of the dream state/Cobb’s relinquishment of his obsession with reality. Since when were Nolan’s stories “Happily ever after?” Press for a sequel though, and I think they can do whatever they want.

      • shane says:

        The ring and the ending are all intentional. An idea has been planted in all of your minds, an inception if you will, you cannot deny that. With that note, I declare this movie a great success.

      • Cobb's Totem says:

        If the ring was a manifestation of guilt, it should have disappeared when he let go of Mal in Dream State Level 4.
        Now how would you explain the ring still on his finger in Limbo when he fetched Saito?

  6. :) says:

    The top is Mal’s…
    and he uses it…
    Maybe the top spins perfectly because she still lives.
    Maybe in the end scene it doesn’t perfectly spin, because she is gone.

    So maybe… The ring theory, which may I add BLEW MY MIND, is correct.

    Or maybe he lives in limbo, without the guilt he once had.

  7. Ron says:

    1) but how can the ring be his totem? the ring doesn’t help him determine reality from dream. he has to be trapped in limbo in the end. he spun the top because that is what tells him the difference between dream and reality.

    2) the grandfather can’t be in America. he’s in Paris teaching at the university

    3) even if he flew stateside, where’s the grandmother taking care of the kids?

    4) as he walks out through baggage claim in LA and passes each member of his team, they merely look at him and say nothing. this is because they are pure projections of his subconscious.

    5) and going back to the ring, it really could be just his internal struggle in his guilt in tampering with the mind of his late wife which explains why he isn’t shown wearing the ring so many times – he’s trying to make up for his wrongs.

    • Steven says:

      1) if he uses the top as an indicator, then why does he not watch it until it falls? it is because he knows that he is in reality through some other indicators, such as the absence of the ring, noticeable age change in his children, the fact that he woke up in the plane with the rest of his team. spinning the top became irrelevant because he could finally look at his kids, something that he could not do in his dreams, even when mal called them over for him to look at. in his dreams he had to look away.

      2) cobb brings gifts to him to bring back to his children when he is recruiting an architect, if cobb was to get home before the grandfather, then he would not have needed to give him to gifts.

      3) just because you don’t see the grandmother does not mean she does not exist, she is just not in the scene. not a strong argument.

      4) when he walks out of the baggage claim, fischer clearly looks/glances at him.

      5) sorry i really didn’t understand what your statement meant. as for the “making up for his wrongs,” i highly doubt that delving back into the dreams of others to extract knowledge ( as a thief) is compensation for the inception he performed on mal. if anything he is just committing more wrongs.

      • Aubrey says:

        1.) he can’t use Mal’s totem…because that’s just it. It is Mal’s totem. What did he use before? Each person has their own totem, to differentiate between their own dreams and their own realities. So i don’t think he’s allowed to use Mal’s totem as his own…ever.
        ps, the ring wasn’t just some ordinary ring. i got a good look at it and it was obviously made specially…as if he created it for a purpose.

        2.) Well obviously, airplanes exist in this movie, so the grandfather could fly home…

        3.) If the grandfather lives in Paris, I would think the grandparents could be divorced, ecpecially since the Grandmother doesn’t seem to approve of extraction, and the grandfather taught Cobb everything he knows.

        4.) The team members can’t talk to each other because robert is still present and as far as he knows they are all strangers on a ten hour first class flight to Los Angeles.

        5.)Wedding rings aren’t just on and off. He wouldn’t just get upset and take it off and then put it back on. It’s not random, it is clearly meant to have meaning when he is or isn’t wearing it.

      • Joey says:

        Warning, long comment ahead:

        Firstly, I think the way totems work is that they do two things:
        a) They have some quality that changes depending on if you’re in a dream or reality: ie the top spins forever in a dream, the loaded die rolls a certain way in reality, but a different way in a dream, a chess piece that falls a weird way in a dream (my evidence for this is that we see Ariadne toppling her chess piece as if it’s important).
        b) They have a certain weight/uniqueness that ONLY the owner of the totem knows. This is so that someone can’t replace the totem without the owner knowing. This prevents them from architecting them a totem that lies about whether or not they’re in a dream. For example, I put you in a dream and give you a totem: if I matched the weight/uniqueness of your totem, I could make you think you’re in reality by altering its behaviour, like making the top topple even if you’re in a dream. Basically, you’d be double screwed, because you wouldn’t be able to know that if you’re in someone else’s dream, or even a dream at all.

        Regarding Aubrey saying he can’t use Mal’s totem: Someone is free to use someone else’s totem, it just becomes ruined for the original person because then someone else knows the uniqueness of it. So there’s no problem with Cobb using Mal’s totem, because the worst thing about it is that he could potentially trick her with it by architecting an identical one, which isn’t really a problem at all because she’s dead.

        Also, I don’t think he’d use his wedding ring as a totem before Mal’s death because that would mean he would leave it off in reality, and only have it on in his dreams. Alternatively, but not much better, he would have it on in reality, but off in the dream. Either way, it would upset Mal, I think, lol. He did say that Mal was the person to come up with the idea of totems, so maybe he never knew about totems until he found it, or maybe he never thought it was important until after the whole ordeal. And finally, he could have just had some miscellaneous totem before, and then used Mal because he loved her, or felt guilty, or something. I don’t think the wedding ring is a true totem for him, because I think it’s just something his subconscious does when he’s in a dream, because he’s spent so much time in dreams trying to live in his past with his created version of Mal, that to him, he is still married to her and she still exists in his dreams. If he doesn’t keep the wedding ring with him in reality, someone could easily strip him of it in his dreams and he would just think he’s not dreaming if he uses it as his totem, because he has no way of verifying that someone tampered. I don’t think he keeps his wedding ring with him because we never see him check it / look for it; we only see it on his finger in his dreams, and we never even see him pay any attention to it so he’s probably not using it to check what state he’s in. Because of this reasoning, I don’t think it’s a totem at all, just that we can be fairly sure that he’s dreaming when it’s on because it’s in his subconscious.

      • nikki says:

        1) he HAD to look away because he KNEW that he was still dreaming. but in the last scene, if he thought he was awake (but still dreaming), he didn’t stop himself from looking at his children.

      • AD says:

        Steven’s point got me thinking about the “ring as totem” assertion. Here’s my problem with it. The totem is supposed to be an object in the real world with properties nobody else knows. So if the ring is *off* in the real world, how can it be a totem? It’s an object that only exists in the dream world, not the real world. It can’t be a totem.

      • Niamh says:

        2) Cobb meets the grandfather in Paris to give him the toys, then he travels to Austalia with the team so that they can fly to LA on the same plane as Fischer. Paris to Australia is almost a 24 hour flight which gives the grandfather plenty of time to get from Paris to LA.

        Although, as the team is never shown travelling to Australia, they just show up at the airport there’s always the possibility that it really was a dream.

    • John says:

      Totems if I remember correctly aren’t supposed to tell you whether you’re in a dream or not, but rather if its a dream of your own creating. Another architect will not know what number the loaded die will always land.

      • TK says:

        regarding the following:

        2.) Well obviously, airplanes exist in this movie, so the grandfather could fly home…

        3.) If the grandfather lives in Paris, I would think the grandparents could be divorced, ecpecially since the Grandmother doesn’t seem to approve of extraction, and the grandfather taught Cobb everything he knows.

        The grandfather (michael caine) being at the Cobb house at the end is explained. If you remember, when Cobb first visits grandfather in Paris, he gives him some toys to give to the children and says something about the paperwork needed for moving from Paris to the States.

      • Jon says:

        But then why does Cobb even have a totem at all? He stopped doing the role of architect. There would be no point to him having a totem if there was no chance of him being in his own dream. And you would know if you’re in your own dream–you wouldn’t need a totem for that.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        I agree with you on the Totem being active. We see: Loaded Die, Bishop, Top, Poker Chip. . . and I think Cobb’s Totem, which is locked in a safe that looks just like Mal’s is the Pinwheel.
        If Mal and Cobb both decided to stop their totems from spinning in their own safes at the same time, they would both think the dream was real and they would both grow old together. To come back to Reality, they would have to start their totem spinning again in the safe. Cobb’s Pinwheel wasn’t spinning and they didn’t start it, so he didn’t wake up.

      • Ninjaneer777 says:

        Exactly. It seems that 95% of the comments I read on the Interwebs don’t understand that the totem DOES NOT help you find out if you are in a dream. It lets you know if you are in some one else’s dream. Arthur explained that explicitly to Ariadne in the warehouse.

    • Jeremy says:

      1) I believe the ring was mean to be the audiences totem.

    • Mary says:

      In response to #4: The other members of his team are pretending to be strangers who happened to all be on first class in front of Fischer. This is why they don’t speak to him.

      I do agree that he is dreaming at the end though, and that the ring isn’t proof of reality, just that Cobb has given up the “shade” version of Mal. My big question at the end was – was this whole thing a dream, and were all the characters besides Cobb just Cobb’s projections? Was Mal right and their children have been waiting for them to wake up this entire time? I’ve only seen the film once and I can’t remember, does the top ever fall earlier in the movie? And even if it did (I think it probably did), who says it is accurate?

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Mary, I think you are asking the right questions. If the whole movie is Cobb’s Dream. And everyone in it is an aspect of Cobb, then who is doing the inception? I think all the team is a different aspect of Cobb except for Ariadne and Saito and the inception is being led by an undercover Real-Mal (the one that woke up – pretending to be Saito) and Ariadne who is some Therapist coming in to help Mal wake Cobb from his dream.

      • Jon says:

        Wrong. Mal and Saito both exist simultaneously in an early scene–when Cobb is trying to get the information from Saito’s safe.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        RIGHT,
        But there is the Real-Mal and Cobb’s psychotic image of Mal. The One with Saito is Cobb’s crazy projection. Saito can be The Real-Mal, if she is actually alive and plugged in to Cobb’s dream to try and wake him up.
        What would you do if you woke up from a crazy “drug” experiment you were doing with your wife and she didn’t wake up? And you couldn’t wake her up? What would you do next?

      • Josh says:

        Why would Mal be performing Inception on Cobb? Are you implying that Cobb is in a sleep he can’t wake up from? That would be a coma. They never said you could slip into a coma by dreaming yourself into limbo. They just said the time difference in limbo was amplified so great that you could spend decades in there, it would only be minutes in the real world.

        If Mal was right all along and she awoke by jumping off the hotel building, then she literally could wake up, turn around and shake Cobb, and he would be awake. If they were using sedatives, according to your theory they would have been worn off by then, because she would have fell right back into limbo by killing herself if the sedatives were still in effect.

        So many people keep forgetting that these people are just asleep, they aren’t trapped in some world. Even if you forget you are dreaming, you will still wake up eventually. You may have lost your mind at that point (the movie says “scrambled eggs”), but it doesn’t mean you are in a coma.

    • Rob says:

      1) It can very well tell him he’s in reality or not. The top technically shouldn’t be his totem because he states that no one else can touch his totem. Since it was Mal’s totem, it couldn’t be his. But the whole totem idea was directly created as part of the Inception of the idea that her life isn’t real. So the totem isn’t anything real or anything that should be really used as concrete evidence. It’s just an idea that convinced Mal that her world wasn’t real.

      2) Cobb gives his father toys to give to his children, so clearly he does go to the United States to see Cobb’s kids and mom.

      3) The grandmother is at home taking care of the kids at their house, I don’t quite get that question.

      4) You are thinking way too far in to that. It’s just a beautifully done piece with no words. That doesn’t suggest anything about them being real. Plus, them talking together in front of Fischer could make Fischer remember the dream too well and ruin everything.

      5) As people said before, the fact that he is wearing it after Mal died and his guilt was relieved proves that it is not connected to subconscious guilt.

      • Jon says:

        Wrong. It can be his totem. You just SHOULDN’T let anyone else mess with it so that it can’t be recreated anywhere else. But that doesn’t matter to Cobb since Mal is dead.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        John is right. You Shouldn’t let someone touch it cause then they could mimic the totem. but Mal is dead so who is he going to fool with it? Think of the ring like this.
        Cobb can’t do his work since Mal shows up. He has to get over Mal to do his job. He tries locking her in a “memory prison” , as Ariadne puts it and that doesn’t work. The first thing Cobb would have tried to forget Mal would be to take off the ring in the “real” world. But since his love for her is so strong the symbol of the ring has become a part of Cobb’s Dream World personna. He can’t take it of when he is dreaming, but when he thinks he is in the real world it is probably in a drawer somewhere.

      • Bee says:

        The “toys” brought to the children could be their own totems so that they, along with the grandfather, can visit Cobb in limbo after the inception that the grandfather orchestrated, with Ariadnae’s help, failed.

    • sylvester says:

      Cobb gave presents to the grandfather because he knew that he was going back to America anyway to see the children.
      So the grandfather was already in the US.

      The grandmother could be just out of the picture watching the children outside…its a pretty day.

      His team doesn’t look at him because they are still near Fisher and have to pretend that none of them know each other,
      or the inception will not hold because Fisher will make the connection between his dream and the people on the plane

    • Bill says:

      I don’t agree w/ #4…as Cobb walks by Fisher at baggage Fisher notices Cobb and has a befuddled look. As if he is trying to remember where he saw Cobb’s face before.

  8. Bob says:

    Spencer,
    2 questions for you:
    1) Can you honestly say that you completely understand what happened in Memento?
    (I only ask this because you base Nolan’s thought processing and goals in making a movie on the fact that he is logical, which at times I am doubtful of.)

    2) What is the purpose of introducing the top as his totem if it in fact isn’t?
    (simply to introduce the idea of a totem? Nolan generally keeps fact as fact in his movies, if Cobb’s totem was going to change i don’t think any specific one would have been introduced….they may have alluded to it but I don’t think Cobb would have just come out and said this is my totem)

    On another note, Great article pointed out things i definitely didn’t see

    thanks,

    • Muffin says:

      1) Yes. It’s really not that complicated if you watch it a few times. Would you like me to explain it to you?

      2) It’s not that the top is not his totem, it’s that at the end there were so many other indicators that he was not in a dream that he knew he didn’t need to watch the top topple, he already knew that it would (kind of like Nolan trusted that we should have…)
      Yes, the ring thing is a little closer to an easter egg and is really neat, but the real indicator was the fact that he was able to look at his children and see their faces. HE COULD NOT DO THIS IN A DREAM. I thought this was made clear. It was at that point, when he saw his children’s faces (and likely noted the absence of his ring) that he knew the answer. There are, after all, other ways to know if you’re in a dream (Saito’s rug being a different fabric, for example). These little inaccuracies, the faces, the rug, the ring, etc… are all indicators. It’s the same basic concept as the totem.

      • Nathan says:

        What if the inception was pulled on Cobb? He couldn’t do it before because of his guilt but with that guilt gone he is able to.

      • Bob says:

        There is nothing ever established in the movie that he cannot see his childrens faces because he is dreaming…..just because he doesn’t see them before does not mean it was an impossibility.

        “there were so many other indicators that he was not in a dream that he knew he didn’t need to watch the top topple, he already knew that it would (kind of like Nolan trusted that we should have…)”

        He would have just shown it fall over if that was the message he wanted to send…… he didn’t he left it up in the air

      • TK says:

        the whole point of the “it’s still a dream” theory is that they were pulling inception on Cobb the whole time so that he can finally accept seeing his kids faces at the end (and let go of Mal).

      • AA says:

        TK, what i dont understand though is this

        Inception is to trick the Outer body, not the inner one…you dont pull an inception on someones first level of subconscience

        What good would it have done to convince Fisher to break up the company if he had been stuck in the first subconscience forever? (the one with the van, not the plane) It would do nothing

        If the inception was to get Cobb to let go of Mal, what good would that do anyone? IF this was the case, he would have to fully wake up, which either he did, and the end of the movie shows him Awake and with his real kids…or he didnt wake up, he is still dreaming, and then if that is the case, no one needed to incept him anyway, because that is not the real world, and who cares if he goes back to his dream world kids? They are not his real kids and thus it hurts no one to not go back to them

        I am very intrieged by this idea, but until someone comes up with a more solid case as to why someone would care to incept an idea into a dream version of Cobb, i dont see this one standing up much on its own

    • Joey says:

      I don’t think the ring is a true totem, but more a projection of his subconscious. I don’t think he keeps his ring with him in reality, so if someone was architecting his dream, they could probably prevent the ring from showing up on his finger, and he would think he’s in reality. This is why it’s not actually a totem, because he can’t depend on it to be there if someone is tampering with his dream. So if it’s on, he knows he’s dreaming, but just because it’s off doesn’t mean he’s not dreaming. The top however gives a definitive answer.

      • Cobb's Totem says:

        He gots the ring in his pocketsess all along.

      • sam says:

        i agree with you and the ring!
        but the top is also flawed..

        any architect would make a top that topples.

        But if the top was some special top that spins infinitely in real life and the architect failed to know that and made a toppling one in the dream, THEN it could be a useful totem

    • Scudzmissle says:

      Good point, Bob. In Memento his character forces himself to forget that he already solved the murder case years ago – he does this by NOT putting the last tattoo over his heart, where he said he would put it once he solves the case. But he realizes, if he solves the case, he would have no reason to live, so he purposefully hides clues from himself, so he has to find them again.

      In this one, Cobb is willfuly keeping himself IGNORANT that he is in a dream. Just like Mal was willfully TELLING herself that she was in a dream – this is symbolised by the Top spinning forever locked in her subconscious safe. So Cobb’s Ignorance must be symbolized by a Totem that is stopped, just like Mal’s Top was stopped when she was Ignorant of being in a dream. Her’s started again, his didn’t.

  9. inceptionlover says:

    In addition to that, I believe this analysis compliments your interpretation and counter some other arguments others may suggest: “First off, it is wrong in saying that it stopped spinning faster earlier in the movie, in the hotel room after the Saito job it spins much longer, second of all, the top clearly starts to lose momentum and ‘wobble’ right before the movie ends. Thirdly, for those who do not understand how he escaped limbo, how he got back is not even a cliffhanger. It is explained by the chemist in the first dream state when they first talk about limbo. when the sedation wears off you can be killed to be awaken, when the van hits the water in the first dream it kills Cobb. That is why he rewashes up on shore near Saito in limbo because he is coming back to limbo, because he died in the first dream state. The sedation is about to wear off on the plane, and then in Saito’s palace you see Saito grab the gun right before the scene cuts. Saito and Cobb shot themselves and therefore were able to come back.”

    • Joel D says:

      Remember his wife was questioning him about big corporations,was she trying to incept his mind,trying to save him? And the Train that messed up their first level plans,was the same train cobb and his wife killed themselves with,he saw ellen page’g work before they went to dream

    • Nathan says:

      This is the key, Cobb only wakes up in limbo when he dies in the van. So what was the supposed Fisher dream? Was that because he wasn’t dead 100% yet, Now I’m not sure and will have to watch again.

      I was basing my theory on Fisher being dead and Ariande tricked Cobb into thinking they went into ‘limbo’ with him they went into Cobb’s dream, hence why when Ariande fell off the building she needed to ‘ride the wave’ back and he went to real limbo.

      I’m so confused now.

      I am going to have to watch it again now.

    • Bill says:

      I don’t think the van hitting the water kills Cobb, otherwise it would have killed all of them. The van submerged in water is supposed to wake the dreamers, just like how Cobb was thrown into the tub of water in the beginning of the movie.

      How Cobb washes ashore to Saito’s palace is where the movie loses me. How the heck did he get there after sitting next to Mal in that apartment?

      • Jon says:

        Yeah the ending is pretty confusing! It’s because he died when Mal stabbed him. It never finishes showing that, but he died and was then in limbo by Saito’s palace. I would tend to think that where Mal stabs him is a fourth dream state, not limbo. Fischer went to limbo when he died, but was sent to the fourth dream state when they zapped him with the defibrillator.
        And you’re right that hitting the water doesn’t kill Cobb, but it also is not the water that wake him up. It’s supposed to be the falling backwards part-I saw him falling in the tub at the beginning as a way to catch him when he fell. The way I see it is that they couldn’t be woken from the hotel because since they were in freefall in the van, there was no gravity and they couldn’t be dropped. So as soon as the van hit the water, freefall ended and the kicks could come into play. Thoughts?

  10. Ron says:

    going back to the end scene: it plays out exactly the way dom was told by saito it was going to happen given he succeeds with inception:

    1) he wakes up on the plane as it prepares to descend in LA

    2) the team wakes up. Saito wakes up next to him and without question, gives a look and picks up the phone and makes the call that supposedly gets him through U.S. borders safely (remember earlier in the movie saito says, “i make one phone call…….” and then something about him coming home.

    3) dom passes through customs with flying colors and the customs agent flips through his passport and says “welcome home” – the words dom wants to hear.

    4) dom goes home and finds arthur and the kids – the people he wants to see at home. the grandmother isn’t there because there is obvious disagreements he has with her so she being there would not complete his happy ending.

    oh and for clarification the top does wobble, but it straightens itself out and continues to spin stronger. when tops begin to wobble, they continue to wobble faster and in bigger motions until they fall off balance. regaining a center of balance is impossible.

    • Steven says:

      sorry if this seems like i’m just trying to prove you wrong, but this kind of goes against what you said earlier.

      your argument makes it sound like it must be a dream because everything goes according to how cobb wants it. however, that is irrelevant, because even if it wasn’t a dream (which it isn’t), things would still have gone according to the agreement made between cobb and saito. saito is powerful enough to make cobb’s wishes come true, because he says so in [undisputable] reality. ergo, stating that cobb is in a dream simply because he gets what he wants is not a valid connection. people can get what they desire in reality as well.

      1) he wakes up. and he is exactly where he was when he fell asleep. that in itself should indicate that he is not in the middle of a dream, because he knows exactly what he was doing before he got to where he is.

      2) you said that saito gives him a look and makes the call, but before in your previous post you said that “4) as he walks out through baggage claim in LA and passes each member of his team, they merely look at him and say nothing. this is because they are pure projections of his subconscious.” firstly, if they are all projections then they would not be looking at him. his subconscious is uncontrollable, it does not focus on him. the subconscious looks for the dreamer, as shown in the first lesson cobb gives ariadne and in the 2nd level of inception, when all of fischer’s projections look wildly for the dreamer. yet on the airplane and in the airport, his team acts completely normal, nobody is giving him those chilly glares and saito makes the call because it was part of the deal, not because cobb is dreaming it. secondly, saito making that phone call can hardly be considered “doing nothing” because it is what gets cobb safely home. if cobb was in a dream, he would not know how he got into the airplane, yet he clearly understands the situation around him, for it was where he was before he started inception.

      3) once again, this is due to the influence of saito. it is without a doubt that he has the power to grant cobb asylum in the states, otherwise cobb would not have agreed to the job. his passing though customs is not an indication that he is dreaming.

      4) 3 things. first, you can’t say that his grandmother’s absence equates to him being in a dream. like i said before, just because she is not present does not mean she does not exist. she is simply out of the scene. second, you cannot say that he is in a dream and still call this a “happy ending” as you put it, because his happy ending is meeting his children in reality. and finally, if it was a dream, his subconscious would have made sure that the grandmother was in the house, because that part of his mind acknowledges her existence. he can’t will her to be gone because it won’t be “happy” with her presence. his subconscious understands that she is existent and in the household, so she would had to have been there as a projection for it to be a dream. the fact that she is missing confirms that she is simply missing from the scene, not from existence.

      and finally, i’m sorry to say that the screen cuts to black while the top is still wobbling. there are no signs of it spinning stronger, because that would imply that the top returns to its center of balance, and that he would indeed be in a dream. if that were the case then millions of viewers would rage and be angry with chris nolan. but since it undoubtedly wobbles, we can continue to argue each side. those who want it to be a dream can argue that it would have stood back up. those who want it to be reality (like myself), argue that its wobble signifies its inability to spin indefinitely. this, along with the rings, should indeed be irrefutable.

      questions i have to ask to those who believe cobb to be dreaming:

      1) if cobb was dreaming/in limbo at the end, then how are there 2 saitos (the old one near the shore that cobb washed up on and the young one in the plane)?

      2) why does cobb wake up in the airplane in the first place? if it was limbo, should he not wake up in a place unbeknown to himself? since you can never trace back to the origin of your dream, how does he end up in a place that he can explain his presence?

      3) how do you make the connection between old saito with his hand on the gun (ready to kill himself and cobb) and cobb reawakening in the airplane?

      4) what makes you think that the top will continue to spin? in all the dreams the top spins unfalteringly, yet it wobbles at the end, which, like ron said “when tops begin to wobble, they continue to wobble faster and in bigger motions until they fall off balance. regaining a center of balance is impossible.”

      • John Paul says:

        On your question:

        1. The only logical answer to this 2 saitos is, two dreams. In the Old Saito scene, Cobb is convincing Old Saito to come back to him as young. However, the decision was left to the audience of Saito killed himself or he continued living with his empire as old saito. If he continued, then Cobb must have to decided to end his reasoning with saito and return to his own dream, his own limbo. If Saito killed himself, then he would wake up in the level before that as young saito together with Cobb. But I highly doubt these two scenario. Because their connection, level 3 (snow level), is long gone thats why there’s the blackout screen after destruction of Level 4 with his wife. His already in his own limbo. And as explained Limbo is a dream land. Anything there is just a projection of your memory with some minute difference depending on how you constructed it.

        2. Generally, Dreams and Limbo are projections of your memories without a third-party architect. Cobb woke at the airplane simply because he has a memory of that airplane.

        3. refer to my answer in number 1

        4. Simple, the top coming from a wobbly state regains it center of balance as seen in the last scene. The totem was only spun once, when Cobb noticed that the spin of the top is “not stable” eventually concluding that it will fall or stop he never finished checking if the top would really stop. BUT the camera angle never lose sight of the top, the spin if you will observe is getting stable, coming from a huge orbit, the orbit is getting smaller and smaller until the top spins on one spot but of course it still wobbles therefore making it controversial. The fact still remains that the children age were not change together with their clothes.

      • dundundunnn says:

        With regards to their being two Saitos–an old and a young one–I think it has to do with the timing in which they went into limbo. As dream levels go deeper, age goes by faster, which is why Cobb and Mal were able to spend a lifetime together in limbo, and then wake up in reality a whole lot younger. In Saito’s case, he was put into limbo sooner than Ariadne and Cobb, so he had a lot more time to age, thus causing him to become the haggard old man we saw at the beginning of the movie and the end of the inception. Because Cobb and Saito were killed in limbo, they were able to return back through the outer dream layers and eventually into reality, where they had not aged but 10 hours during the plane flight. There are two Saitos just as there are two Mals: the real one (that killed herself) and Cobb’s imperfect projection of her, with which he was finally able to let go.

  11. Bry-man says:

    I’m gonna have to agree with Ron.

    The end was what can i say, Utopia? Everything was perfect, the team made it, Fischer had no idea what happened (even though he was trained to fight off the team or anything doing the same), grandma was not there, etc.. And we cannot forget, Cobb hears what he wants to hear in the end and basically saw what he wanted to see. His dad was there (supposed to be in Paris), and grandma was not, which we, earlier in the movie hear grandma saying “he is not coming home.” That’s why she is not there because he does not want to hear nor witness her pessimistic ways.

    • las enchiladas says:

      bry-man, his dad is not supposed to be in paris. cobb gives him gifts to give to his children because he knows that the grandfather will make it to the states before he does.

  12. Lisa says:

    Agreed. I’ve watched this 3 times and I noticed the ring — it’s true — he’s wearing them in all dream scenes (he wore it on the balcony scene with Mal, but that was when she was still alive and they were still together. I believe he started using the ring as a totem AFTER she died.)
    ALSO, pay attention the the boy’s shoes. In the dreams and memories, the boy is wearing black sandals. In the ending, he is wearing WHITE SNEAKERS. Totally, totally different.

    • Khat says:

      yeah, and not only that, notice the dress of Philippa. in his memories, he was wearing an all-pink dress. in the last scene she was still wearing a pink dress but she had a white shirt on top of it. 🙂

      • somethoughts says:

        Clothes mean nothing, Cobb constantly changed clothes in the different dream layers he was in. Suit, Military gear etc.

  13. I should be writing a post about the level of participation for this post. I’m so happy that everyone is talking, conversing, arguing.

    If anyone has anything they would like me to discuss in the follow up post. Let me know at SpencerStarnes@gmail.com

    -Spencer

  14. Ingrid says:

    Wait, didn’t Saito die in the third layer? If so, then why was he alive on the plane? And right after they woke up, the machine wasn’t attached to them.

    • Amber says:

      He died in the third layer and went to limbo, where he became old Saito; he has the gun at the end, so he and Cobb could have been freed from limbo.

      Also, the machine wasn’t attached to them because they were in that private cabin where all the crew were technically owned by Saito. They would have taken away the machine before Fischer regained consciousness.

      My take, anyway, having only seen it once.

      • Nesa says:

        if saito killed Cobb and himself, then they would just be moved to another level of limbo, because the sedative would not be worn off yet

      • Nathan. says:

        in my opinion, it’s all the time that screws up all our thinking.
        based on a estimation of 5 mins real world = 60mins in dream. and using this to compute level 2 and so on.
        Real, TEN HOURS FLIGHT.
        Level 1 – Raining car chase, 5 days?
        Level 2 – Hotel, 60 days
        Level 3 – Snow, 720 days.. close to 2 years.
        Level 4 – Cobb’s World, close to 24 years
        Limbo – too many years to count.
        when they woke up on the plane, the plane was going to land. so i can safely say that Saito did live that long. 🙂

        What say you?

      • Lucid Dream says:

        Nathan. As stated in the movie, you are right about 5min in the real world is 60min the dream world. A 12x increase in each dream level. But this is using normal formula dosing.

        What they used is in fact a sedative that translates 20x increase.

        Level 0 (real): 10 hours

        Level 1: ~ 1 Week (said in movie)
        (actual calc: 200hrs = 8 days and 8 hours)

        Level 2: ~ 6 Months(said in movie)
        (actual calc: 4000hrs = 166days and 16 hours ~ 5.5 mos)

        Level 3: ~ 10 Years(said in movie)
        (actual calc: 80,000hrs ~ 9 yrs 1.5mos)

        Level 4 (limbo): ~ 200 Years (based on movie calcs)
        (actual calc: 160,000 hrs ~ 182 yrs 7.7mos)

      • Lucid Dream says:

        Nathan. That means Saito lived two lifetimes before escaping limbo.

        Wow!

        Will you feel more withered? most likely. Will you feel wiser? maybe. Will you remember 180 years? prolly not.

      • WMFJ says:

        Nice work on the math LD.
        But one thing I think we should point out, is you don’t exist on the lower, longer time period levels, until you enter them. Saito dies towards the end of the time period, so he doesn’t spend the entire 10 hours (180 years) in limbo, just the end portion… We have to assume that the van goes off the bridge at the end of the first level week, to coincide with the kick to bring them back.
        So Siato spends only a few real world seconds (minutes?) dead, (he’s seen as already dead when the van hits, then presumably Cobb drowns a couple minutes later) which seems to translate into roughly 40-50ish years in limboland. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

      • LogicalDude says:

        Along with Lucid Dream’s calculations, if each succesive dream level increases the amount of time spent, how could the ending NOT be reality?

        If it were a dream, the time spent there would be less than in the van level, not more.

      • Jthrock says:

        All of this math is true… kind of.

        If all of the dream levels started at the same time then the hours would be real world *12*12*12*12 but they did not. For example it seemed like the crew were only in the snow level for ~1 hour (complete guess on the hour) before the woke up from Cobb’s level. So 1 *12 = 12 hour and then Saito going into Limbo would be 12*12 would end up being 144 hours.

        Another thing. I do not think that you can count the additional *12 of Cobb’s world since Saito did not go there. He died in the snow world and was sent to Limbo from there. So let me take a stab at a new calculation assuming Saito dies in the snow world when the Van was about (very generous) 20 seconds from hitting the water.

        Car Chase World 20 seconds
        20*12= 4 minutes in Hotel
        4 * 12 = 48 minutes in Snow World
        48 * 12 = 9.6 hours in Satio’s Limbo (I may get bored but not old.)

        And just for the sake of argument we will add Cobb’s world that Saito was never in. It would be 9.6*12 = 4.8 days.

        I call BS on him becoming an old man and living for 200 some odd years.

        That being said, love the movie a lot. Also, sorry if someone else said this already, I have been reading all comments to this point but I had to do a reply.

      • AA says:

        JthRock

        What you guys are not realizing here is that the van hitting the water pulls them up from the hotel to the raining level…nothing will pull them up from the raining level (1st subconscience) until the sedative wears off…

        That is why Saito gets old…they only spent 2-3 hours in the raining level before the van hits the water…they had to spend 9 days and 20 hours more in there…boring, sure…but not something you cant handle…

        now take 9.8 days and do the calculation again

        9.8 days * 12 = 117.6 days [hotel conscience]
        117 .6days * 12 = 1411.2 days (3.86 years) [snow conscience]
        3.86 years * 12 = 46.39 years [limbo]

        also, there was no “Cobb’s world” That was limbo…they even stated it 2-3 times in the movie…Ellen Page’s character says they have to go down and then try to figure out a way back…but she knew the risks of going into Limbo

        Remember when Saito got shot, they were talking about limbo, someone asked what it was, and they said it was a common dream place alone to you ‘and anyone who has been to Limbo before” meaning that this was not Cobb’s world, but rather Limbo, just as Cobb and Mal had left it before…

        The scene where Cobb washes up on the beach was not a new level, but rather the same one, years and years later..the reason Cobb was not as old was because time had passed between Cobb entering Limbo and when Saito had, plus the fact that Saito was still older than Cobb to begin with (I think at least) Cobb had been searching for Saito in this limbo for many years before he found him.

        As for whether Saito killed them to allow them to wake up from Limbo, i dont see how that would matter…I know it was shown in the flashback to be how Mal and Cobb got back to reality, but because there was a sedative involved in this one, they said that you will still wake up, but you will have spent a very long time by yourself and may have cracked up…but what would killing yourself do? time still has to pass for you to wake up

    • Scudzmissle says:

      The machine was attached to them. They are seen rubbing their hands where they just had the cords removed and the stewardess is putting the case away. About Layers of the dreams though – Do you remeber Mal in the Kitchen rubbing the knife almost scornful of Cobb’s childish notion that there are LAYERS. Mal says Up, there is no UP. meaning the whole dream within a dream is a fiction created by Cobb. There is only dream or not dream and Cobb is dreaming and can’t wake up.

      • KayKins says:

        But if Cobb is dreaming everything, even Mal, then why should we take anything that Mal says as truth?

  15. Ryan says:

    Or maybe it is an open ending. Maybe we’re not supposed to believe in just one reality anymore. After all, don’t you have any creeping doubts?

    • Kevin R Wright says:

      Exactly. This kind of analysis to paralysis is fun, but ridiculous. It’s an open ending. There is no way to prove that any interpretation is 100% correct. My question is this: instead of disputing about plot, what does the film mean? What is the thematic message Nolan wants us to take from this? I have yet to see an discussion on that, because, I suspect the film is void of any true meaning. It’s a surface-smart film.

      • Kevin, I’m afraid that no one wants to discuss that specific topic.
        I don’t think anyone wants to discuss it because it isn’t any fun to discuss.

        It’s much more fun to pick apart plot points and logistics,. It’s something that we all can feel like we can prove, although we can’t. Thematic message? Come on, thats no fun at all!

      • Kevin R Wright says:

        That’s an absurd generalization, Spencer. To dismiss theme as “no fun” is disconcerting, especially when it comes from someone who aspires to make films. Every film needs a controlling idea or message. For example:

        Fight Club is about contemporary manhood.

        Avatar is about imperialism, militarism, corporate greed…

        Every classic novel and film is about something other than what it purports to be. The plot is just a tool to convey that message.

      • Sorry for not making my slight sarcasm more apparent. Of course theme is important.

        I do think that inception has an underlying theme. It isn’t enforced well, at all. But, I don’t think that the lack of a well enforced theme disrupts the “fun” of a film. I also don’t think that it brings the film down to the level of just another summer blockbuster.

        Jordan suggests that the theme of inception could be Solipsism. or, your own reality is the only constant.

        I think along the same lines, Cobb mentions “a leap of faith” many many times. Faith in reality is required to function in our world.

        That could be examined more. of course.

      • edmon says:

        “What is the thematic message Nolan wants us to take from this?”
        Answer: You cannot sleep and dream forever, you need to wake up and pee!

      • lisa k. says:

        in the movie, the characters had to go through several dream layers to achieve one goal – to incept fischer. i’d like to think there’s more depth to this movie and it’s not all about practicing the audience’s interpretation skills and logic. i believe there is a takeaway: that in order to achieve a goal, you go through obstacles. in this movie, the goal is to incept, to plant (and later on, to sow); the obstacles would be the layers of the dream. but i think it’s too simple a lesson to make a movie out of, hence the suspenseful script.

        i don’t think this is the best forum to be discussing the lesson of the movie and i should end this before i get myself eaten alive but great post, mr. starnes. i enjoy seeing people get really involved in the subject just as much as reading everybody’s point of view.

      • Daskalam says:

        Not every film has a controlling idea, though.

        “Un Chien Andalu” has no controlling idea as its creators have clearly stated.

        But I also agree that this particular film is food for thought for those who haven’t thought a lot before that…

        I mean I respect it as a product of Pop Culture, and a product of good cinema “techniques”, but nothing beyond that. It’s shallow and it addresses the numb-minded masses who think they were mind-blown beyond return just because it didn’t give them a regular ending like they are used to.

        I know many people will disagree with me on that, but I will question their background as film-viewers if they do. Which is not important as I mean nothing to them, but hey… downvoting is fun…

      • Jon says:

        Daskalam, I feel like you’re being quite eager to talk down Inception. There is plenty of depth to it. A clear conflict was if it would be better to live in a dream world and be “happy,” or the real world and take it as it is. You can go pretty far with that. I would definitely tend to believe that not only was Inception an amazing summer flick, but had some deeper meaning as well.

  16. xnikolai says:

    Remember the scene where Cobb is touring Ariadne around a dream and lets her change the place? After that scene, Donn rushed to find his totem. He then spins his totem and it fell down, implying that he is in reality.

    • wfb says:

      Actually it doesn’t certainly imply reality. It implies that it is either reality OR the dream of someone who knows how the totem would act in reality. So it could be reality or Cobb or Mal’s dream (assuming that Cobb and Mal are the only ones who know how the top will spin)

  17. John Paul says:

    I commend you for the great observation of the ring. But You forgot the fact that Cobb was able to let go of his wife and forgive himself for what he did to his wife. As explained by his “new architect” (i forgot her name), he needs to let go of his wife in order to free himself so that her wife would not anymore return to any of his dream (and ruin everything). Obviously, since he was able to let go of his wife, his wife would not be anymore present in last and final scene where he hugged his son and daughter. Her wife cannot anymore appear to ruin that scene. If anything, the ring would serve as his guilt due to the “inception” he made against his wife which changed her view that she was still not in the real world.

    Second, as to the two characters for her son and daughter. Did you fail to see that in the scene where he was being convinced by his wife that he stay in limbo together with his “pseudo”-family the children there were a lot younger? The child there was Philipa when she was 3 years old. BUT if the change happened in the LAST and FINAL scene where Cobb hugged his son and daughter then that would suggest that Cobb was really in the REAL world because he could not have memory of their present state because obviously he wasnt able to see them for more than 2 years.

  18. Neel says:

    My interpretation was that there is no way you can tell whether the dream was real or not. The concept of totem is false. The presence of totem was the inception done by him to convince his wife that the world she is in is a dream. That was also the reason why when she came to the so called real world she did not believe it was real since the totem kept behaving the same manner:) just my interpretation

  19. Unknown says:

    The top was mals totem. He has kept it though as a memory of her.
    When ellen page wanted to show DiCaprio her chess totem he said to put it away because no one should know the totems secret.

    The ending therefore is reality.

  20. Christina says:

    My question for those saying that Cobb’s wedding ring is his true totem- if that were the case wouldn’t the ring only be present in reality and not in dreams? Since he’s only wearing the ring in the dreams it seems to me that it can’t be his totem.

    • I don’t know. .

      A totem doesn’t have to be something that exists in the physical world. It could be an idea, and idea that only exists in your mind. Something you share with no one but yourself. It still has the same function, but it doesn’t have to be real.

      • danfanclub says:

        agreed– if his wedding ring was unique to him in any secret way, (an inscription, pattern, special kind of metal, whatever) then he would know if he was in a dream an architect made for him when he examined it and saw it was mundane. Even if he buried the ring with his wife in reality, or threw it in the ocean, or doesn’t wear it. The totem argument seems to be moot, since we never see him effectively USE a totem in the movie– either the ring or the top would work for him (since his wife is dead, and we know he has her top in reality)

  21. jennifer says:

    I might have missed this throughout the discussion but were Cobb and Saito in limbo in the very beginning scene?

    • edmon says:

      watch it again, i just did! and it answered most of my questions. 🙂 btw, to answer your question, Yes! for me, the whole movie was just a recall between Cobb and old Saito, to remind them of reality and go back.

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  23. Sasha says:

    I definitely loved that theory. The way I see it, Cobb had to have a totem before Mal died and he used hers. Perhaps it was the wedding ring, perhaps not. But I think that after Mal died, he removed the ring (maybe too many memories held in the ring) and used Mal’s top. Of course, he really shouldn’t have, but, as Arthur says in the movie, Cobb spends a lot of time doing things he says not to do. Then when the ring started appearing in dreams, he used that as another totem, noting that it didn’t have any special properties that couldn’t be duplicated by another dreamer. The top was there to remind him that he wasn’t in his own dream.

    You also have to remember that the top is the only totem with “magic” properties in dreams. Arthur’s die, Ariadne’s chess piece, and Eames’s poker chip (presumably), only serve their purpose because they have a special weight or balance that only the owner knows, so no other person can duplicate it in their dreams. Anybody who had seen Cobb spin the top would know exactly how to duplicate it in a dream. Therefore, it may not have been the perfect totem. The ring was an extra precaution (probably the more reliable one since it wasn’t talked about) that Cobb took, something Nolan probably wanted us to pick up on ourselves.

    • Sasha says:

      Also, he obviously washed up on the shore again in limbo after saying goodbye to Mal and going to save Saito because he drowned in the first dream world shortly after and Mal clearly stabs him with the knife in limbo.

      The rest of the team is woken up because the sedation wears off and that is how Cobb and Saito are able to come back to reality when the sedation wears off.

      My mom pointed out that in reality throughout the film, we see Cobb spin the top and it only spins for a short time before falling, whereas at the end, the top spins for a good ten seconds or so before the film cuts to black. The way I see it, the times we see the top fall, Cobb spins it very exasperatedly and hurriedly, such as after Ariadne’s first frightening encounter with Mal. He wants to make sure he’s in reality quickly. At the end, he is calm and collected when he spins it. And who’s not to say he spun it on the plane after waking up. Sure, a moving plan isn’t the best place to spin a top, but Cobb tends to test reality immediately after waking up.

      • John Paul says:

        Do not input things which are not within the movie itself such as Cobb spinning the top in the plane after waking up. If he really spun it, then why would he even bother to spin it in his house to confirm reality.

      • danfanclub says:

        john paul — ” If he really spun it, then why would he even bother to spin it in his house to confirm reality.”

        well, you’re making an assumption, too. He doesn’t watch the top after he spins it, so he’s NOT confirming reality, hence the whole argument. He doesn’t watch it spin at the end because he doesn’t care anymore, or because he already knows he is in reality somehow.

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  25. edmon says:

    The ending was Saito’s subconscious with Cobb in it and his projections. He made it clear to Cobb that he will fulfill their agreement whatever happens as long as the mission is completed. The rooftop/helicopter scene when Saito was offering the job to Cobb, he has started Inception – giving the idea to Cobb that he can clear all his charges and come back to his kids. Cobb even questioned him how does he know he can do it and Saito answered “you dont! but I can”. After being shot at the 1st level, Saito continued with his inception to Cobb, reminding him about the agreement. When Saito died on the 3rd level, he was lost in limbo. Cobb told Ariadne (the architect) while they were on the 4th level, that he believes Saito is somewhere ‘here’ and he’s going to find him. Cobb himself went to limbo after clearly missing the ‘kick’ on the 3rd-2nd-1st level of dream state. Cobb managed to find the old Saito who already spent so many years in his limbo. They reminded themselves about the mission, the reality and the agreement. It was not clear if they shot themselves to get out of limbo since it was not shown in the movie. I think Saito managed to let Cobb enter his subconscious and fill it with his guilt-free projections and fulfilling his promise in the end. Points why he was still in a dreamstate:
    1. Both Cobb and Saito were not connected to the machine anymore when they woke up.
    2. There was little or no reaction at all on Ariadne’s face who knew that he just came from limbo for who-knows how long.
    3. Cobb’s father was already waiting at the airport in LA. Does that mean that he called his father immediately to tell him he’s free of all charges, when his reaction at the airport security was a little bit uncertain.
    4. His guilt free projections of his son and daughter finally made him see their faces again. The top will definitely stop spinning since he already forgave himself and his dream is now Mal-free.

    Whew! That’s my ending of the movie! If Saito dies due to old-age while in limbo, Cobb and his 2 kids would have lived long enough together.

    • Thierry says:

      1. Both Cobb and Saito were not connected to the machine anymore when they woke up.

      Perhaps it would be best if Fischer did not see himself connected to the machine with various random strangers upon waking up?

      2. Ariadne smiled at him if I was not mistaken? Either way, she already said before, she knew that he would come back.

      3. Saito said that Cobb would go back to a ‘welcome’. Perhaps that was it?

      4. Nowhere in the show does it mention that the top has anything to do with his guilt. Asserting that would be claiming that the whole show was basically a dream. None of it was real. Also, it would make the scene where Cobb made the top spin in Mal’s sub conscience meaningless.

      • edmon says:

        1. Yes, i see the point, but how would Cobb and Saito be connected in the dreamstate if there’s no machine involved? If they were disconnected even before the sedative wears off, how would Cobb find Saito?

        2. I was expecting more reaction from Ariadne since she’s the only one who knew what happened down there. That itsy-bitsy tiny grin is not enough for me to address that his back from limbo.

        3. Not enough. Remember, Saito is also familiar with the dream technology, so by architecting the scene in the plane, at the airport security gate, and Cobb’s home were all part of the plan for Cobb to fill up with his projections.

        4. It was implied, I supposed, as he was telling his wife Mal, about his guilt, of tampering with her an idea between what’s real and not. The top (totem) was purely a manifestation of his wife since the idea of the totem itself is from Mal. If it spins continuously, would mean Mal’s presence, thus a dream.

        Nolan is not successful enough with his Inception to me. The idea about the totem, whether its the top, the ring, or the chess piece, will tell you if its reality or not. It was part of the plan, I think, to plant the idea of the totem to the viewers.

  26. Tiffany M says:

    But.. It isn’t about the wedding ring. It doesn’t matter whether he was in the real world or still dreaming. That wasn’t the point of Nolan’s ending; the point was to make US question reality – to plant a seed of doubt in every audience member’s mind as to whether to believe or not. He successfully planted that idea in everyone’s mind, and achieved.. exactly what his movie is about: inception. The entire message of the movie, culminated, proven, in a final scene.

    • I LOVE IT.

      That’s it. That’s how it is.
      Tiffany M, you ma’am, are a smart one.

      • cristina says:

        Been reading the comments here and i will have to agree with tiffany m. Nolan is brilliant..he made us question whether the end was a reality or not. .. he was able to make us think crazy after the film. Hence all the arguments here. and the fact people are not only watching it once but twice.. thrice… well Nolan got you going (brilliant right?) .
        Good movie guys 🙂 enjoy it. Its an absolute thinking movie which we all need from time to time.

        p.s i just have to say the kids were wearing SIMILAR outfits but not completely the same…. its part of Nolan’s idea to make us think ….

        p.p.s Stephen – awesome job on the site and write up. 🙂 you made people thnk and write as well 🙂

      • Damian says:

        It’s also a perfect idea to implant so as to get people to rewatch the film, therefore making it more successful and sending more money Nolan’s way! 😀

    • John Paul says:

      For us to question reality?! OUR reality?! wahahah thats funny ma’am. Only stupid people would question reality based on that movie… LOL

      • edmon says:

        @john paul – you’re funny! try to read Tiffany’s post again. why would you suggest that Tiffany was talking about OUR reality. how stupid is that? It’s the reality in the movie she’s talking about.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      False facts. Remember think of an elephant. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

      An inception must be an idea that I as a person thinks of. Otherwise we find the origin of this idea and reject it as one of our own. Thus the inception unsuccessful.

      Since you and I know where the idea the reality is not true is not ours (Aristotle’s cave, matrix and inception) it is not a true inception.

      Sorry, your theory doesn’t work.

    • JP says:

      Tiffany M is the enlightened one. Nolan is loving this argument right now and Tiffany is the only one that gets it. Think bigger. The clues are there. He tells us, the audience, for god-sake. It’s almost like Nolan is mocking us. He tells us that dreams start in the middle and you don’t really know how you get there. How did this movie start? With the Saito dream? In the middle of a shit show. How did we get there? Details are missing. Details in dreams are vague. When you are in a dream, everything kinda makes sense at the moment, when you wake up, things don’t exactly add up. Cobb’s dream device? The science is so vague, never explained and never talked about.

      How do you get from one place to the other in a dream? You are just there bamn! all of a sudden. Watch the ‘reality’ part of the movie. There are a lot of details left out, Cobb just appears to be where he wants. Jumping from one country to the next? (wasn’t he on extradition? Hmm, details missing)

      What about when he’s running from the authorities in that one ‘reality’ scene. He squeezes through an alley that seems to be closing in on him. Does anyone know of an alley like that in real life? One that goes from 6 feet wide to 1 foot? These are huge metaphors in dream land. When he’s recounting his wife’s suicide.. broken glass, open window in one room; crazy wife in a completely separate room across the way. He couldn’t help her even if he wanted to. Huge dream metaphor.

      I study lucid dreaming i.e. knowing you are in a dream and your ability to control it. Watch it again. I’ve only seen it once and it was obvious to me because I was searching for it. There are several ways to recognize you are in dreamland. A totem is just one of them and not 100% accurate. It is very hard to stay in a lucid dream, your subconscious doesn’t want you to know you are in a dream, and will trick you to to think you are dreaming. Everyone seems hell bent on the totem.

      Another way to tell if you are dreaming is to look at a clock, look away then look back. The details of the clock (unless they pertain to the dream story) are irrelevant and the numbers or hands on the clock will be inconsistent. Look at the clocks in the ‘reality’ scenes.. oh wait, there are none.

      Whats the whole point of the movie? To plant some idea inside some young businessman’s head? Sure, on the surface, makes for good cinema. But what was the whole movie culminating to? Cobb confronting his guilt, his fears aka Mal. Obviously he lost Mal and he feels tremendous guilt and has been living with that guilt. He needed to confront it. The whole story is his way of dealing with his ‘issues’ (subconscious) and finally confronting the source of his guilt, head on.

      Nolan gave you clues about dreams but you only wanted to use them in the pre-canned ‘dream’ scenes. How many times is a ‘dream within a dream’ referenced in the movie. Well done, Nolan, well done.

      • danfanclub says:

        Hm, i was a firm believer in the reality ending. I just figured he HAD to leave the top spinning at the end, you know? Like, obligatory “can’t close the book so easily on such a complicated movie.”
        But, i like this post. Think i’ll see this movie a 2nd time.

      • Yadidameng says:

        “What about when he’s running from the authorities in that one ‘reality’ scene. He squeezes through an alley that seems to be closing in on him. Does anyone know of an alley like that in real life? One that goes from 6 feet wide to 1 foot?”

        Not every country builds the way we might be used to in the US and other super developed countries. That part didn’t really bother me at all.

      • KayKins says:

        I was pretty set on the happy ending, but you make some really great points. What I love about your take is that it’s still a happy ending. It’s a dream, but the kind that he can still wake up from now that he has confronted his guilt.

        If it all really was his dream then there’s no such thing as limbo, no such thing as inception and his wife must have died in some other way. It was just a nightmare that he finally overcame.

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  28. Thierry says:

    I don’t understand why you people keep on whining about whether Saito killed or didn’t kill himself. Cobb woke up as if his plan succeeded, as if he knew that it was over. In the first place, the only reason why he would ‘wake up’ is if he died in limbo. Why did he act as if everything was going according to plan, why didn’t he question the validity of his reality the moment he wakes up? The obvious reason to this, is because he saw Saito kill himself, and he killed himself as well. That would be the only way he could have ‘woken up’ in limbo and the only way he could have been so assured after waking up.

    As for those who keep on talking about the top spinning endlessly as a symbol of Cobb’s guilt.

    1) The show already clearly establishes that it is a totem, which will help you tell reality from dream world. Everyone else has a totem in the show no? Are you trying to say that the way the totem acts is a symbol of some form of guilt

    2) The way Cobb inserted the idea into Mal’s head that the world she was in was by making the top spin endlessly in Mal’s head, clearly showing that a top spinning endlessly represented dream world.

    3) The only way that the top spinning could mean anything in Mal’s sub conscience, was that if it meant that she was in the dream world.

    • John Paul says:

      As i said in my earlier post: this is why Cobb is not in reality. This is my counter argument to SPENCER, the author of this blog

      I commend you for the great observation of the ring. But You forgot the fact that Cobb was able to let go of his wife and forgive himself for what he did to his wife. As explained by his “new architect” (i forgot her name), he needs to let go of his wife in order to free himself so that her wife would not anymore return to any of his dream (and ruin everything). Obviously, since he was able to let go of his wife, his wife would not be anymore present in last and final scene where he hugged his son and daughter. Her wife cannot anymore appear to ruin that scene. If anything, the ring would serve as his guilt due to the “inception” he made against his wife which changed her view that she was still not in the real world.

      Second, as to the two characters for her son and daughter. Did you fail to see that in the scene where he was being convinced by his wife that he stay in limbo together with his “pseudo”-family the children there were a lot younger? The child there was Philipa when she was 3 years old. BUT if the change happened in the LAST and FINAL scene where Cobb hugged his son and daughter then that would suggest that Cobb was really in the REAL world because he could not have memory of their present state because obviously he wasnt able to see them for more than 2 years.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      1) The show already clearly establishes that it is a totem, which will help you tell reality from dream world. Everyone else has a totem in the show no? Are you trying to say that the way the totem acts is a symbol of some form of guilt

      – Cobb’s top is a mislead for other people to think that’s his totem. That way they won’t search for a real totem. The ring covertly hides how he determines what is real and what is not. He spun the top at the end as a farewell to Mal, since at the end he sees the faces of the kids. He can now look without the shadow of Mal weighing his guilt down.

      2) The way Cobb inserted the idea into Mal’s head that the world she was in was by making the top spin endlessly in Mal’s head, clearly showing that a top spinning endlessly represented dream world.

      – It was Mal’s totem. To let her know that it’s a dream. See Mal hid it so she wouldn’t have to know it’s not real. So that the limbo will be a reality to her. When Cobb found it and spun it, it let Mal subconsciously know that it’s still a dream.

      3) The only way that the top spinning could mean anything in Mal’s sub conscience, was that if it meant that she was in the dream world.

      – I think the top symbolized Cobb’s hold on Mal. As in his regret, his sorrow, his memory of her. Like keeping the memories locked up in his dream, the top is where he keeps all that is Mal locked up. I think it’s the only for Cobb to keep her locked up. Notice he spins it when he’s thinking of her. Especially when he just saw her in a dream.
      Moreover, though Cobb was able to make it spin eternally, but so could Saito. Notice in the beginning/end Saito spun it, and it spun eternally. I’m guessing if you did spin it once, you can project your own top as well. Then it’ll defeat the purpose of having a totem. Giving more evidence that the top was NOT Cobb’s totem.

      • Jonny says:

        actually, not everyone has a totem. do you remember Yusuf’s totem? how about Saito? some bloke with lots of money not knowing the true consequences of not being able to ascertain whether you’re in reality or not?

        btw, i’m glad someone caught that Saito spins the top.

  29. Reverend E says:

    The ring theory is flawed from the beginning. A totem is meant to be something that will NOT show up in a dream. If only you know it or know the details of it, no one else can make it. So in a dream made by someone else it will not be there or will be wrong somehow. Something showing up only in a dream is in no way a totem.

    Of course, I have problems with the idea of a totem to begin with. If a subject will populate a dream with his secrets (whatever one wants to steal a code, a document whatever) then why would he not also populate it with the secret of his totem?

    • edmon says:

      well said Reverend. you’re not one of those who Nolan successfully planted the idea of the totem. It’s the idea, but not the thing itself. The top (totem) is purely an idea that would represent Mal’s presence, which would mean he’s still dreaming, since his wife is already dead.

      • John Paul says:

        Both of you are wrong. The ring symbolizes his connectio with mal not the TOTEM (top).

      • edmon says:

        for you to say that we are wrong is your idea, and it does not make any difference, it’s yours and not ours to keep.

      • John Paul says:

        both of you are inputting things which is not stated in the movie. its like saying saito was not shot well in fact he was. Do not change the facts of the totem. As pointed out in the movie, the Totem behaves differently in dream than on reality. Thats why totem serves as the “CHECK” if you are already in reality or not.

        As for you edmond, the totem was not his connection to his although he uses the totem of his wife as his own. It is the ring. The ring serves as the connection of Cobb to his wife. Cobb manifests his guilt over his wife through the presence of the ring. That is why when he was able to let go and forgive his wife the ring was no longer there both in dream and on reality.

        please base your arguments on facts as seen in the movie and not enter new set of facts such as changing the totem’s use.

      • edmon says:

        we are not inputting but interpreting. we are convinced that the totem is but an idea, an idea that will lure the viewers on how to identify which is reality and which is not. you pretty much accepted that idea, and you’re having a hard time reading other ideas that is out of the story line. you may counter-argue but please do not say we are wrong and you are right.

      • John Paul says:

        what’s the point of you questioning others point of view then if there is indeed no right and wrong for you? Why are you questioning others point of view base on your “interpretations” then? i saw many of your posts here and you question others too..

      • edmon says:

        if i answer your questions, then it will be not fun anymore.
        consider this as an online inception! 🙂

      • John says:

        Totems act the same in reality as in the dream world. however there is a secret about a totem that only the holder of it knows. That way you know whether its your dream or a different architect.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      It does work. It only doesn’t work if people notice it. But if he’s the only one who notices it and everyone focuses on the top as his totem, no one will think to recreate the ring in the dream world.

      I don’t think the totem is built with instructions. And that if you create a vault, you’ll fill it with the totem and an instruction of it. I think the only think you’ll see is the totem itself. No document included. Evidence of this is when Mal chose to place her totem in the vault. No instructions.

      Also, I’m pretty sure you’ll have far deeper and stronger subconscious thoughts rather than your totem. Like daddy issues and the feeling of guilt.

      • LogicalDude says:

        “It does work. It only doesn’t work if people notice it. But if he’s the only one who notices it and everyone focuses on the top as his totem, no one will think to recreate the ring in the dream world.”

        But he doesn’t wear the ring in reality so why would they create one in the dream world?

  30. TK Jaros says:

    I’m glad you’ve done your hw regarding this theory. Yet I’m not fully convinced. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made no hard conclusion on the matter.

    But why could it not be the case that Cobb’s best dream is a dream that seems more and more like reality (Mal-less). So the fact that he doesn’t have his ring means that he thinks he’s in reality, when he really isn’t.

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  32. Leslie Mejia says:

    WOW!!! I had a feeling that it ended happy also only the fact the spinning top stopped at the end of the film & in the dream it doesn’t (which u see at the start of the film) I must say that I agree with this article. It makes sense to me

  33. Melody says:

    First of all, I agree with you completely that he does in fact end up in reality. For all the reasons you listed but mostly because you can clearly see the top start to wobble at the end. But the person I saw the movie with brought up an interesting point that I cant get out of my head and Im curious as to your thoughts.

    He said that, as we know, Cobb was in limbo with his wife for so long that they both lost a grip on what was real. Mal came upon the realization that they were in fact still dreaming and killed herself to wake up. Cobb is actually still stuck in limbo and does need to kill himself to wake up as Mal instructed. Other things that may make it seem like reality are just projections that his mind is constructing to make his dream seem more realistic and he is falling victim to them. The whole movie was Cobb’s dream while in limbo.

    Again, I agree with you Spencer, I’m just interested in thoughts on this theory.

    • edmon says:

      if every thing was a dream, then would it mean Cobb thought of his wife killing herself? he then created his own problem in the first place. Sorry but I’m just lost with this thought, it would sound like its a psycho movie if it’s like what your friend is thinking about…

      • Lucid Dream says:

        If everything was a dream, then how do you have a basis for logic? You can trump almost everyone by saying no that was a dream. The totem rule was a dream, therefore it wobbling wasn’t real. The ring was a dream too. He made it up in the dream.

        It’s insufficient in theory and lacks evidence. Because all evidence would technically just be a dream.

      • edmon says:

        i take my questions back…i am now convinced that everything was Cobb’s subconscious…everything as in everything…the dream machine, the sedative, the totems, the mission, the dream team…except for Mal his wife and his two kids James and Philipa.

    • Ashlynne says:

      They were in limbo for an extremely long time, yes. But they both let themselves get killed by the train, remember? It was only Mal who still thought that they were dreaming. She was so convinced that limbo was reality I suppose she didn’t take into account that they already woke up. So when she jumped off the ledge, I think she did kill herself, not wake up.
      I’ve only seen the movie once though so I could be wrong.

      • Darryl says:

        One thing you must realize is what Cobb said about an idea being dangerous and can grow like a cancer. With that said, the fact that he incepted the idea in her that what she is experiencing isn’t real sticks with her no matter if she is dreaming or awake. That was the whole point of this movie. No matter how many times she gets kicked, or comes to reality, the notion that what she is experiencing isn’t real will remain until Cobb somehow reverses it.

      • dundundunnn says:

        They did both kill themselves in limbo, but remember for the Fisher operation, all of the deaths had to be timed with kicks in order to get out of all of the levels simultaneously and back to reality? If they were in limbo, there had to have been prior levels of dreams, but killing themselves through the use of the train was not utilized as a result of feeling/hearing/etc. a kick. So this may have brought him into a deeper level of dreaming, so deep that he had formed his entire new reality around it.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        We only see Mal get killed by the train. And only Mal had the idea (the spinning top inception in her safe) that they were dreaming. What if Cobb’s guilt feelings about Mal wasn’t that he had preformed Inception on her, but that he didn’t follow through with getting hit by the train, and he stayed in the dream?

      • dundundunnn says:

        But aren’t they both lying on the tracks? I have only seen the movie once, so I’m not positive, but it seems as if they had both killed themselves because then they woke up in the living room where he kissed her and Mal was crying…

      • Scudzmissle says:

        To dundundunnn
        They are both on the tracks, but we only see Mal get hit. Then we see her wake up in the living room crying, and Cobb isn’t moving the first time.
        The second time we see that scene from Cobb’s perspective, He kisses her – that is his dream version of the scene.

  34. Dr. Moogle says:

    really?

    Nolan’s best movie to date? imo The Prestige, Memento and Inception are all pretty close in greatness; Dark Knight truthfully wasnt THAT good, just the joker did a damn good job. Shame on you for not even mentioning The Prestige!

  35. vbt140 says:


    All of Mombasa. No Ring.

    Mombasa was a dream, isnt it?

  36. Deborah says:

    Apparently (sorry if this is mentioned in the comments already), the top in the bathroom scene was still spinning after it dropped on the floor from the bathroom sink, but we were not able to see it stop before Cobb picked it up. I have only seen it once, so I can’t confirm it, but a lot of people have been saying that.

  37. Jason says:

    I think the cast was what broke it for me and not the ring. How can you argue about the cast? They just look the same probably due to the clothes but they aren’t.

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  39. Alex says:

    I disagree with the interpretation of the ring being Cobb’s true totem. If he doesn’t have it with him all the time, it can’t possibly be his totem, especially if he never has it in the “real” world. You need to have your totem at all times for it to actually be helpful in determining whether you’re in a dream or in reality. Also, I’m pretty sure now that the very end of the movie is definitely back within reality. If you count the number of levels down and back up, it’s the same, and we are fairly certain that we started in reality because the totems are perfect in the beginning (which means that they can’t be in a dream or else everyone’s totems – except for that of the actual dreamer – would be off). Plus, the very end shows the top (Mal’s/Cobb’s totem) starting to wobble a little, but in the other times that we saw it spinning during dreams, it was perfectly spinning infinitely. So for it to start wobbling a little means that it was no longer in the dream.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      It’d be a great totem if you don’t have it in real life and yet you can imagine it into being in the dream world. To keep it hidden from everyone. If you can make it physically appear in your finger then it’s in the dream world.

      Also, though I don’t believe in the dream ending anymore, your top wobble is non-sufficient to prove a non-dream ending. Physics can be altered in the dream world (i.e. a wobbling top can regain its center of balance)

  40. Sam says:

    The way I see it, the ring is not Cobb’s totem. It is the AUDIENCE’s totem.

    The reason I believe this is because it seems Cobb is not even aware that he has the ring within dreams. He never seems to notice it, play with it or even look at it, all things you might expect.

    Even more convincing is the fact he uses the top as his indicator, even while alone. Just before the phonecall from his children in the early scenes, he is holding a gun near his head while he spins the top. It looks as if he is about to shoot himself if the top does not stop spinning in order to wake up, but then it stops and he puts down the gun. If he was aware of the ring, why would he do this? He’d just glance at his hand.

    If he is unaware of the ring being a totem, he obviously would not be wearing it in the real world. It is simply a projection of his subconscious that informs the audience whether he is dreaming or not.

    I really hope the ring theory is the correct one, because it adds that little extra to an already great film.

    • edmon says:

      i was looking the ‘Like’ button, forgot this is not facebook hahaha! nice one Sam! i’ll call it Spencer’s totem!

  41. don says:

    why Saito became old in his own limbo?

    • Lucid Dream says:

      He had no totem. He had no way of checking dream or reality. So he assumed and visualized himself as getting old because he thought it was real.

      • timread says:

        Also – saito was quite a few levels of dream down – where time goes way more quicker, so he was down there a long time.

  42. Jordan Paul Miles says:

    Going back way far up the thread to what Kevin Wright stated about discussing themes, not unreasonably of course. I think that the film has to do with what the human mind does to trust reality. Cobb states frequently about taking a leap of faith, which could of course lead us to believe that though the whole film may not have taken place outside of the dream that it doesn’t necessarily end outside of reality. As it has been stated before, Nolan is a solipsist (for lack of a better word) director who always uses the “justified dishonesty” theme. It could be said that in the end that Cobb is simply replacing the dream world with reality. If what a person perceives and experiences personally is what makes up their reality, then if you have enough faith and belief in your dreams being real then theoretically speaking your dreams will come to act as a reality. So basically, Cobb has been assimilated into the dream and it has become his reality.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      Well another motif that I thought was a bit poetic when I had first assumed a dream ending is a tragic story.

      Notice, Cobb has a tragic flaw, that he couldn’t let go of the guilt from Mal. Notice this flaw ruins his plans consistently and he tries to deal with it. (Macbeth or Hamlet anyone?) At the end he finally gets a chance to confront the flaw, namely Mal, but he is stabbed and thus dies. He recognizes to late. Which ultimately leads to the very bleak and dark ending, a death beyond death. Cobb is a tragic hero. That’s why I instantly assumed a perpetual dream until brain dead ending.

  43. Gunther says:

    I dont know if this was mentioned but isn’t the top Mal’s totem in the first place? In the movie, it clearly showed that Mal was the one who kept the top inside a vault so as for her to forget that she was in the dream world because she was already so attached to it with Cobb. The movie never showed what totem Cobb had initially nor explained if a totem can be transferred to another person or if someone can make other’s totem as his own. Though from what I understand to their explanation of totems, it has to be unique to each own, Cobb told Ariadne the rules with regard to totems yet I can’t believe Cobb has to be the one breaking it right from the start of the movie. He is holding and using Mal’s totem throughout the movie, which has let me to believe that he was already in limbo right from the start till the end.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      I don’t think Cobb touches it at all in the first travel to limbo with Mal until the safe part. That’s when he found out about her totem, and I guess the grave danger of finding someone’s totem is that you can then trick them to whatever you think. But more so to the fact that the limbo is in fact a dream and that they should die to get out of it. Which perpetuated to the real world as she started thinking that’s fake too.

      • dundundunnn says:

        The one thing I don’t get is if the top is such a pure indicator of reality, why wouldn’t Mal have spun it while she and Cobb were back in reality (after the train death) to see if it toppled over or not? If it toppled, she was back to real life, thus destroying the need for her to kill herself because she simply believed what she was in was still a dream.

  44. AaronG says:

    your theory is certainly an interesting one but it still doesn’t answer the key question of why cobb spins the top at the end. if his totem is really his ring, then why doesn’t he simply check his hand? why does he spin the top, not only at the end, but in the hotel room with the gun and in yusuf’s bathroom? the top can’t signify anything to him since it’s mal’s totem. another thing: the totem merely tells someone if they’re dreaming or in someone else’s dream. whether or not the top spins or falls at the end isn’t the point, the point is that cobb no longer believes in it. the inception is the belief that the totem holds no power.

    but even that doesn’t add up.

    if the totem was part of cobb’s inception on mal, then he should never have believed it held any power to distinguish one level of consciousness from another, but again, he spins it to see if he’s in his dream or someone else’s. this suggests that cobb tricked himself/mal was the one incepted him. recall, the whole fischer inception was an elaborate ploy to convince fischer that he himself had come up with the idea about dissolving his father’s corporation, when in reality it was the team that planted the idea. i think mal incepted dom, convincing him that he was the one who came up with the idea of the totem distinguishing one realm of consciousness from another. he then couldn’t distinguish his waking state from his dream state and she and miles incepted him again, convincing him to let go of the totem.

    i just literally came up with that theory as a i was typing this comment, so go easy on me.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      He spun it as a farewell to Mal. Sort of a good bye, since he knows he’s over Mal because he saw the kids’ face.

      Also your theory is a far cry. To share dreams you need to be hooked onto to the apparatus. Yet she was never there. The only exception is the limbo in which is a shared space. In any case, Mal was there in the second level of the first job, and the third level of the inception job. Point is Mal needs to be physically there and she wasn’t.

    • Lucid Dream says:

      Sorry, also the top is a way for him to lock Mal up. He spins it furiously especially when he sees Mal in the dreams.

    • dundundunnn says:

      I really like the idea that Mal used the top as part of her inception on him. This makes sense because she was able to convince him that a totem could distinguish between the two different worlds. This idea was planted in Cobb’s mind, thus creating Cobb’s dependence on the top during reality checks. If the totem was simply an idea Mal used to make him believe he was in reality, when he really wasn’t, then she would have had Cobb fooled all along.

      This logic, however, doesn’t make sense when put into context with Mal’s motives. If she planted the idea of a totem into Cobb’s head, then manipulating the top to spin or not spin would prove useless to Mal if she were trying to pull Cobb out of the dream work and back into reality because it made Cobb think that reality was when the top stopped spinning, and if those of you who believe that the whole thing is a dream, then Mal’s motive is unclear except that she does this to keep Cobb dreaming, but that would be pointless for her because it blocked Cobb from escaping to “her reality,” or the one she went to after she jumped off the building. I don’t think the whole thing is a dream because Mal using the top as part of the inception backfires on her since Cobb is supposedly still dreaming at the end. The end is reality in my mind.

  45. RaginBull says:

    WHY WAS SAITO SO QUICK TO MAKE THE PHONE CALL AFTER THEY WOKE WHEN HE HADN’T EVEN WITNESSED OR RECEIVED CONFIRMATION THAT THE INCEPTION WORKED? SAITO DIED BEFORE FISCHER WENT INTO THE VAULT. COBB WAS IN 3RD DREAM/LIMBO WHEN IT HAPPENED. HMMMMMM…..

    • Lucid Dream says:

      I think because Saito is a logical man. He thinks if Cobb came to get him, that means he’s there to remind Saito to uphold his end of the agreement because he already upheld his end (i.e. get Fischer in the third level to be inside the vault and complete the inception.) Otherwise, he’d run away like he did in the first job we saw that failed.

      Also he could be grateful because Cobb just saved Saito’s mind.

      PS: don’t write in all caps. Sounds like you’re screaming

      • darryl gatan says:

        I’m sorry but your theory is way too convenient. Remember, the deal was never to save his mind, nor was it reminding him of the arrangement that would initiate the call to free Cobb. The original deal was the success of the inception, and that Saito will promise to deliver.

        Here are the issues:

        1. Niether Cobb nor Saito witnessed the inception, nor were they told the inception occurred or even worked.
        2. Last thing Cobb witnessed was that Fischer had waken in the 3rd dream/limbo. It does not tell him anything more than that he is alive which means there is a 50/50 chance the inception either did or didn’nt occurr, and if it did occurr whether it worked or not.
        3. When Cobb found Saito, there is no implication that Cobb knew the Inception occurred/worked. Yet, his focus was not to discuss the inception but rather to GTFO of limbo

        Whether he saved Saito and he wa grateful or not is irrelevent and should not even be considered to be the motiviating factor for the call. The motivation based on the plot and original deal was again, whether the inception worked or not. Both Cobb and Saito are oblivous when they wake in the airplane.

        IMHO, this is a script flaw

  46. Lucid Dream says:

    Sorry I commented before about how I believed the ring to be the top but could it not be switched instead. As in the totem = top, guilt = ring.

    Think about it. Assume dream ending. Also , assume that the ring signifies the memory of Mal. It makes sense for Cobb to still have it on at the old Saito confrontation since he can’t fully forget Mal until he sees the kid’s face.

    The only thing that could trump this (and prove this inquiry false) is if when Cobb woke up in the plane, he doesn’t have the ring on. Because assuming that is a dream, then he should have the ring on there too. If he doesn’t then my inquiry is wrong.

    Can someone indicate if during customs Cobb had the ring on?

  47. CCB says:

    His kids didn’t seem to age because Cobb didn’t really see his kids yet, he was just imagining them as they were shown all through out the movie, sorta like a flashback of the projection of the kids, because that’s how he remembers them. But when he approached them that’s when he actually saw his kids already and wasn’t viewable for the audience to see to give a sort of cliffhanger feel.

  48. Celina says:

    I’m just curious cause everyone keeps including the top.(btw the ring theory is awesome) Isn’t the top Mal’s totem? I’m pretty sure Cobb said so himself. And isn’t the purpose of the totem to tell you whether it was reality or a dream and that no one other than yourself should know how that totem functions… cause through out the film he keeps telling everyone how it works which is why the audience (including me) was left hanging at the end when they didn’t show what happened to it. Well what I’m trying to say is that the function of the top is insignificant cause it’s not his totem… Yeah, you can argue that Arthur revealed how his totem worked but unless you know how much it weighs exactly it’s useless, but the top… well all you have to do to confuse him was to make it topple over in the dream. And yeah you can say that it can’t really spin forever in the real world but my point is we can’t really use the top to say whether he was in a dream or not cause it’s not his totem, so the ending wasn’t really ambiguous it was just confusing cause we don’t know what his real totem is… i do hope it’s the ring 🙂

  49. cokebaby says:

    Makes sense. That’s a nice observation. We all have our own theories about the movie, and I appreciate hearing everyone else’s. For one thing, I’ve been wondering what Cobb’s totem is – if the top is Mal’s totem. And he told Ariadne not to tell others of how one’s own totem works. Since he showed Ariadne how Mal’s totem works, clearly it is not what he uses for himself. The ring COULD be HIS totem. I really like your theory.

  50. edmon says:

    i am now starting to believe that the ‘ring’ is his totem. that fact that he never mentioned it, or showed it to the audience looking at it, and for most of us to not notice it, is in fact a way of telling us that it is his idea of knowing which is reality or not and the viewers do not need to know. he explained it to Ariadne, but he never mentioned that the top is his. Arthur, Eames and Ariadne do have their own totem but were never shown being used.

    As for the ending, with Cobb wearing no ring, I think is subconsciously telling us viewers that he’s finally letting go of the past and moving on together with his 2 kids whether it’s limbo or not.

  51. Ninja says:

    Maybe he did have his ring. Just like his grandma, just because she isn’t present, doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. The ring might only be on his finger in dreams, but perhaps in his pocket (or somewhere unseen) in reality so that no one actually ever sees it in the real world…keeping it a pretty well protected totem.

  52. Marisa says:

    But if in the last scene, he really is in reality due to the absence of the ring and due to his children ageing etc, then how did he get there? He didn’t go through the kick at all the necessary levels to go back to reality.

    • Ninja says:

      the sedative wore off…in the last scene many years had passes, so in the “real world”, only 10 hours had passed. The sedative only works for 10 hours. After it wore of, Saito shot both Cobb and himself, bringing them out of the dream.

  53. Ninja says:

    P.S. I think that Nolan successful achieved his own inception. Though we can’t know where the idea originated from, and we have to believe we came up with it ourself…even Fisher can trace the thought of breaking his fathers business apart back to Browning. He’s the one who suggested it in the second level. But if he thinks he is in a dream, then he’ll think he concocted the thought himself anyway.

    The genius of this is that it makes you question reality. If it gets you thinking that far, then you might wonder if, perhaps, you planted that idea in your own head subconsciously and that the movie is the catalyst that brings it into your awareness, and makes you question if you yourself are dreaming or not. I mean, I don’t really remember the first few years of my life…kind of like how I don’t remember the beginning of my dreams. I’ve built my early memories around the things people (or projections) have told me…and maybe I kept on creating this reality by building on top of that. True or not…just makes you wonder 🙂

    Brilliant.

  54. Devon says:

    Unless I missed something, nowhere in this article does it say that the ring is the totem. That’s not what the article is saying. It’s saying that in his dreams, he wears a ring because in his dreams Mal is still alive. The top is STILL his true totem.

    To people questioning the airport scene: Not only did they have to pretend to be strangers because of Fisher, but you have to remember they just committed a crime together. When you commit a crime like that, the people involved usually go their separate ways without saying a word to each other not to create suspicion.

    I think it’s funny that no one is stating the most obvious thing about the totem before the final scene cut off. The top started to fall, the spins got wider as it spun. Maybe it was because I was watching it on a domed IMAX screen that I could see this? I don’t know. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the top fell. But the dramatic exit still was genius.

    • Ninja says:

      you have to read the entire thread to see where the idea of the ring as the totem comes into question 🙂 it’s a *very* long thread :/ we never really know what Cobbs totem is…he just says that the top was Mal’s totem…never says it’s his. The ring is just speculation due to it’s absence in certain scenes.

    • Ninja says:

      btw, the wavering of the top is mentioned throughout this thread as well. I agree too, I saw it falter in the last scene 🙂 But weather it fell or not was of no relevance to Cobb because he already knew.

  55. Mae says:

    i am SO glad i wasn’t the only one thinking about the wedding ring!

    i’ve seen it now 3 times and still walk out going “no, he woke up.” “no, it was a dream.” etc…but now, i feel better. haha.

    thank you!

  56. OJ says:

    The Ring was his totem. It was the perfect totem because it only existed in Cobb’s dream world. Anyone trying to perform an extraction would no doubt track him in real life first and since he wore no ring in the real world any architect or dreamer would not know to recreate it in the dream world. The top is simply a distraction.

    As for the movie the entire thing was set up by his father as an inception to help him deal with the guilt of murdering his wife with an idea. Saito and the fischer job were ploys used to keep his subconscious busy as well as an easy way to get him to agree to moving deeper and deeper into dream levels without much fight.

    In one scene when Ariadne was trying to ask cobb about the levels she was designing he shunned her. The model buildings in that scene behind them are the same models and skyline from Cobb & Mal’s Limbo. Ariadne was designing all the levels not just the first 3.

    Want more evidence that it was all Cobbs dream and part of an inception on him?
    1. The idea of “facing Mal” “dealing with this guilt” or “killing Mal” are all ideas planted by Ariadne and his dad in the first 2 levels. After that Cobb takes on the idea of having to face her himself.

    2. The movie tells us the the Architect designs the levels, the dream team learns it and navigates it and only THE DREAMER fills it with their subconscious projections of peoples. This explains how Mal is able to keep popping up and ruining missions she is from Cobbs subconscious and he is the dreamer not fischer or Saito.

    3. In the hotel when they run the Mr. Charles plan and he pushes Fischer into the bathroom the guys chasing are coming in guns drawn and about to fire on Fischer because Fischer is the foreign object in Cobbs dream not the other way around.

    4. The train coming through the city was the same train Cobb used to commit suicide with Mal. the tag numbers on the front of both trains were the same either 3052 or 3852 hard to read in those fast frames but definitely the same. Why did the train come through the city? It was Cobbs defense mechanism not fischers because they were in Cobbs dream.

    • jl74 says:

      interesting. one of the best i’ve read here. must look at these things in a re-watch.

    • darryl says:

      4. The train coming through the city was the same train Cobb used to commit suicide with Mal. the tag numbers on the front of both trains were the same either 3052 or 3852 hard to read in those fast frames but definitely the same. Why did the train come through the city? It was Cobbs defense mechanism not fischers because they were in Cobbs dream.

      Araidne said to Cobb in the Warehouse while Saito lay dying “You have to let the guys know or else you will be bringing in Freight Trains….” It’s not his defenses, it is Mal interfering.

  57. ziarah says:

    Have you considered that Dom himself may have been “the victim” of an inception?

    Ariadne the architect picks up rather quickly both on the dream construction and the emotional problems of Dom, and she seems mature beyond her age. The reason she is on the team is the grandfather (Caine) who recommends her. He is also the one who taught Dom “everything he knew”, and he says that Dom has to choose reality. Ariadne seems to understand Dom on a deeper level, and she insists to be part of the actual “job”. Could she be there to plant an idea within Dom?

    • CoolHandLuke says:

      ziarah, I was thinking same….while agreeing with the whole ring concept (having seen the movie only once) I find myself more concerned with the motive for the whole movie. The construct of industrial espionage works, but seems cheap or common. Given the overall complexities of the movie, a deeper causality would be more appropriate. Was this really a deep trickery to get Dom to go in with this group of men to self actualize and pull himself out of the dream world? To meet his children ultimately, all orchestrated by the master — the grandfather? Clearly, need to see the movie a few more times…

    • jl74 says:

      Yes, I think this is entirely possible and this exact topic was the subject of several hours of theorizing by me & my friends just after we saw the film. Her inception into Dom has been discussed. Was she there just to make him let go, much like Dom’s inception of Mal? And did it succeed or backfire? Or was she there to make sure Dom stayed in the dream world, thus taking his place in the real world?

  58. omg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for this! The first time I saw it I thought it was real and then saw it again last night after every one told me it was a dream. Now you put the missing pieces together. I didn’t think Nolan was the kind of director to leave you hanging like that but would make it possible to figure out. Yay, now I need to see it a third time!!!

  59. Ira Haber says:

    I stumbled over this on twitter. I was blown away with Inception.
    Good article and great job noticing his wedding ring. I compare the ending to the Sopranos when the show faded to black. Everybody was wondering what was going to happen inside the restaurant. At the end of Inception everybody in the movie theater was in shock when the movie went to black. The theater erupted in theories.
    Looks like I’ll be seeing this movie for a 2nd time.

  60. Bradley says:

    I think the imdb page that shows multiple child actors actually disproves your theory. Near the beginning we hear Cobb on the phone to his children and they sound much older (which explains the older child-actors) and at the end we see them and they’re still very young, the same age as when Cobb last saw them, which points to it all being in Cobb’s head.

    • Marc says:

      1) The girl is older. Longer hair, taller, and her features are much more that of a 7-year-old than the toddler in the flashbacks. Her dress is also different (white sleeves)

      2) The shirt the boy is wearing is different than in the flashbacks. The shirt in the flashback appears to be red plaid, whereas in the ending, it is more white plaid. His hair is also slightly longer.

  61. Mark Mueller says:

    I think the entire movie is Cobb’s dream, including the end. Otherwise, how is Mal showing up in other people’s dreams?

  62. Ben says:

    Maybe I missed something. So it seems there are two possibilities that everyone is considering: 1) level-0 in the movie was reality and 2) level-0 in the movie was actually a dream.

    If Mal was able to exit this highest-level dream (by jumping), wouldn’t she do a “kick” to wake up her husband?

    • Peter says:

      Agreed. I keep wondering this, but I haven’t found much discussion of this point. Seems like this eliminates possibility 2.

      • Bram says:

        does not eliminate possibility 2, like I said, she will do a kick but it will only ‘kick in’ 😉 after 40 or more years in Limbo, but the movie wasn’t long enough to see that happening!

  63. wisemonk says:

    its a classic case, nolan purposely didnt show us if the top would drop to put thoughts in our heads of wat realy happened instead of just giving us a flat answer and ending all the curiosity he left us to think of an ending ourselfs by giving us limitless possibilitys and probabilitys. if he gave us a flat answer if the top dropped or not then none of this conversation or talk would exist. bc of him not showing us if the top droped or stayed going, he distinguished this movie from that of others wich gives u exactly a good or bad ending. this movie has no real ending it has limitless endings for us the viewers to pick from. in turn a good movie

  64. wisemonk says:

    the ring on his finger signified the connection he has with mal explaining him only having it on in dreams

    • wisemonk says:

      so realy he had two totems his ring not being on his finger and the top falling over meant he wasnt dreaming and the top not falling over and him haveing the ring on meant he was still dreaming so realy we have to see if he has the ring on or off at the end of the movie to tell if he was realy dreaming or not

  65. jl74 says:

    Lots of great questions and theories all around here. Very different from others I’ve read. The 1 other theory that I thought was extremely well thought out is below. I did not write this. It was a comment underneath an Inception story on EW.com.

    ————-

    LEO’S FANTASTIC DREAM DURING FAMILY BEACH DAY – NOLAN STRIKES AGAIN!
    A Nolan film is never what it appears to be. There’s always a straightforward plotline, but buried within 5 layers of complexity is a completely diffently story he’s telling us.
    Like an unsolved Rubik’s cube, a person might twist it and turn it hoping that there might be an actual solution to the whole puzzle – and in a Nolan film, there always, ALWAYS, is a definite solution. The answer of “leaving it to your imagination” is the simple answer, and the Rubik’s equivalent of solving one side. Many can be happy with that accomplishment, enjoy the puzzle, put it down and never think about it again.
    But there are those of us who can’t let it go. We have to keep twisting and turning the problem in our mind. Because, no matter what, we have the agonizing belief that the entire thing can be solved… and in Inception’s case, there is most definitely a solution. Nolan is that clever, and not that cruel to leave us hanging infinitely.
    Nolan caters to the intellectual elite who can strip back the main story, dig past the brilliant cinematic misdirection and find out what is Nolan exactly trying to tell us?
    HERE’S THE ANSWER (after all of that premilinary buildup) – The spinning totem at the end is part of Nolan’s classic misdirection. The totem is the seed of doubt that Nolan plants in our mind, forcing us to wonder that “the movie we’re watching isn’t real.”
    The truth is that at the end Leo is still asleep, but just about to wake up. He has been asleep on the beach. When the totem stop’s he’ll be kicked into reality and back with his family.
    The only “real” moments in the film are in the first few seconds of footage. Leo is at the beach with his wife and kids, who are building a sand castle. Leo has fallen asleep too close to shoreline, and is briefly awakened by a wave crashing upon him. In his waking vision, he sees his children from behind, but is too sleepy to awake. He falls back asleep, and the wonderful, bewildering, funtastically complicated dream begins.
    His dream has one singular mission – return to your children.
    In the main plotline of the film, Nolan demonstrates how a small seed planted in a dream can have gigantic effects in shaping a life. The demonstration that he’s planted in this film and left us fellow geniuses to figure out is the opposite: how dramatic the effects of the real world can have on our dreams.
    It is the
    fleeting, sleepy glance of his children that form the motive of the dream. It is the waves crashing upon him that provides much of the environment of the dream. Water being “washed over” is prevalent throughout the dream world:
    – Leo splashes into a bathtub and emerges, just like a wave of water at the beach.
    – The city on the first level of the dream is drenched in water. The van splashes into the river
    – The bar on the second level of the dream suddenly erupts into storm.
    – The freezing cold nature of the himalayas… a place you might find yourself in a dream if you were wet and cold in real lifem leading to a wave of freezing water (avalanche). Immediately after the avalache, one of the characters cracks the joke “geez couldn’t he have dreamed he was at a beach?” Nolan’s brilliant sense of human shines again!
    – Leo wakes on the fourth (and fith) levels at the beach.
    Add to this that the very top floor in the elevator of his “dream prison” is a sunny day at the beach with his family. This is the highest level of the dream – the level that is closest to reality.
    In reality Leo was asleep at the beach with his family. Though he wanted to be with his children he also wanted to stay asleep – hence the struggle over reality and the dreamworld in his dream. Each wave crashing upon him drew him deeper into sleep, producing a stranger and stranger dream, with stanger and stranger representations of each wave in the dream.
    The really fun nature of the film is that the logic all makes sense in the dreams, because it’s “dream logic” that we’ve all experienced. But this logic can not work in the real world.
    For example, the “dream machine” that enables sharing of dreams itself is a piece of fantasy. The machine is deliberately simplistic – with simple wristbands and a big rubber button in the middle… something you might find in a dream – mighty in conept but not fully realized in the imagination. Even if such technology existed in the real world, your group would enter the first dream together, but within that dream the machine is not real so it could not then plunge your whole party into a second shared dream. The sedatives in the first dream are not real, so they couldn’t induce sleep strong enough to start the next dreams. However, this planning and logic seems rock solid in your dreams while they occur.
    There is so, so much more detail and wonder in this film but I couldn’t proceed without first determining simply which scenes were and which scenes weren’t real, if any.
    This is all that I’ve figured out so far after three viewings in two days. I’d love to read everyone else’s reaction to this. What’s I’d really love is if Mr. Nolan wrote me back to tell me if I’m right or wrong!!!

  66. Peter says:

    I agree with your interpretation. This evidence isn’t direct, but would lead to a pretty egregious plot hole if the other interpretation were true:

    Supposing Cobb was wrong and Mal was right. Mal’s”suicide” would bring her back to reality. From there, the first thing she would do is give Cobb a kick (and a big “I told you so”), to bring him out of this dreamworld. Since that hasn’t happened in months/years of “dream” time, it should be clear that Cobb is in reality, and that Mal is dead. Even if they’re still a few layers deep, Mal would definitely kick him from the next level up. The acceleration in time from one level difference shouldn’t be enough to stretch the time it takes her to set a up a kick into months/years.

    • Bram says:

      I do not agree Peter, you disregard the facts.
      Cobb went into limbo some 5 minutes (tops) after Saito, and Cobb found Saito roughly some 40 (!!!) years later as an old man!!
      This was also just one level difference!
      So if Mall came back to reality by commiting suicide, it will her another 40 years to kick Cobb!!
      that plus the impossibility that a man like Saito with no political power makes the charges against Cobb disappear with one phone call leads me to believe Cobb was still dreaming (in limbo). + the projections of Cobb (train, mall,…) means he’s in his own dream!

    • dundundunnn says:

      Also, if Mal were actually awaked to reality, couldn’t she simply go back into the dream and convince Dom to kill himself? Even if he killed her multiple times, she could keep re-entering the dream until she persuades him. She finally disappears for good..making this an impossible task, so it leads me to believe the end is reality.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        SHE DID!!!!
        She comes as herself (in the kitchen with the knife) and tries to talk him out of it.
        She comes again during the anniversary Hotel scene to talk him out
        after that the Mal we see is only Cobb’s projection of her.
        So Mal comes disguised as her father, Miles, in the Classroom and he says come back to reality, Dom.
        I imagine she throws water on him to try and wake him up- hence the water and floating in most of the scenes.
        She (disguised as Miles – her father Michael Caine) brings Ariadne in (some form of Psychiatrist) to help her figure out how to wake Cobb up! Mal is doing everything she can to wake Cobb up, but he refuses. Because He believes that he IS in reality, because Mal did the opposite inception on him!

        Where Cobb started her totem in her safe and Mal stopped his totem in his safe.

      • dundundunnn says:

        Yeah, but if the ending is still a dream, Mal should’ve still been present because she would have let herself in the dream YET again to convince him that what he thinks is reality is, in fact, not at all. If he were still dreaming in the end, don’t you think Mal wouldn’t have allowed it to run so smoothly and would have instead gone back to try to indicated to Cobb that he is STILL dreaming?

      • scudzmissle says:

        That is what the sequal is for.
        Mal’s love for him is eternal and she will always try to wake him up.

  67. Paul F says:

    I like the explanation, and it’s all something for me to keep in mind when I see it for the third time tomorrow. But I have one little nit-picky point.

    You cite the two different sets of actors to show that they were trying to show the kids had aged for the final scene. However, I believe that the older actors were used for the telephone call only, as the voices on the phone were clearly older than the children in his dream. Taken together with the vision of the final scene, where the house and children are just has he dreamed them, it seems to suggest the possibility that he is still dreaming, in which case the absence of the ring would indicate (as others have said) that he has finally let go of his “fake” memory of his wife.

    Just a thought.

  68. Dan Buck says:

    Just a thought: You’re “ring” theory doesn’t really work if the entire film has been his dream. If his “top level” dream contains the death of his wife, then of course, he would also dream that he takes off his ring. So all we can safely assume by seeing no ring is that we are as close to reality as we we’ve ever been. But the whole thing could still be a dream.

    Of course, so could life. Perhaps we’re all just at our top level dream when we think wer’e awake. 🙂

    Fun post, thanks for sharing.

  69. Ryan C. says:

    Brilliant analysis. I remember thinking when it’s revealed that the top is his wife’s totem that he replaced for Inception on her “why is he using his wife’s totem”. If that’s supposed to check for reality, he wouldn’t know the characteristic of her totem. Cobb even explains the importance of the totem and why not to reveal or show it t other people. The ring makes perfect sense now.

    Here’s a theory I had before I read this article that I posed on IMDB:

    Upon analyzing this complex but intriguing movie further, I believe the true point of the movie is for Cobb to reveal his secret for him to be able to move on with his life and that the Fisher Jr. job is a MacGuffin device.

    Here are some facts that are the basis for my interpretation:

    1 – “Limbo” (the intro scene and final dream scene in the castle) is actually Cobb’s dream because in the 2nd scene where Cobb is trying to steal Saitos secrets (the first dream within a dream), Cobb reveals the castle is Cobb’s dream within the first Architects dream. So the castle is a creation of Cobb’s mind.

    2 – Saito keeps reminding him that the Fisher Jr. job will allow him to see his family again and not grow old alone.

    3 – Cobb explains in the level 2 dream (Fisher Jr job) that they are going to use the lawyer Browning as a means for Fischer Jr to cooperate with the team to reveal the code to the safe to penetrate his subconscious.

    4 – Ariadne is “probing” what is Cobb’s secret all along. She knows that Cobb’s memories of his wife is effecting the team and putting them at risk for every job they do because the memory of his wife compromises each mission.

    I believe that the team is working together in order to get Cobb to reveal his secret in order for him to move on in life. He cannot let the memory of his wife go and needs to realize on his own the self destruction this is causing himself. Given the chance to have all charges dropped about his wife’s death if the job is completed so he can see his family again, he reveals to Ariadne that the first Inception he did was on his wife which ultimately caused her death. He realizes in dream level 4 that she isn’t real in his memories and has to let her go in order to find Saito in limbo, his own dream sequence. Ariadne is the one probing his mind just as we are supposed to think Cobb is probing Fisher Jr’s mind in the Fisher Jr. job. Upon waking up from the Fisher Jr. job, Saito can confirm that Cobb has given up the memory of his wife and thus is mentally able to see his family again.

    • jl74 says:

      I like your thoughts about Ellen Page’s character and had the same conversations with friends. Did you read the comment I posted about the entire movie being a dream? I didn’t write this, but found it very interesting, thus I copy & pasted it here.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      Ryan C and JL74,
      I like where you are going with these thoughts. Here is where I am at. it is a little out there so hang on and let me know what you think.
      • The whole movie takes place in Cobb’s dream in Limbo.
      • All the Characters are Cobb or an aspect of Cobb’s Psyche except Ariadne and Saito – Ariadne is a Therapist trying to wake Cobb up, and Saito is being impersonated by The Real-Mal to get him to wake himself up (aka Kill himself)
      • The other Team members are aspects of Cobb – Arthur = Rational Mind, Eames = Creativity, Fisher Jr = Cobb’s Childhood and relationship to his father.
      • Cobb’s Totem is the Pinwheel in the safe and it was stopped spinning when we find it.
      • Before the movie – the backstory – Mal and Cobb were playing in limbo, and wanted to grow old together in Limbo.
      • The only way they could grow old in dreams is if they believed the dreams were real; otherwise they would just be pretending to be old.
      • To believe the dreams were real they would have to stop their own totems from spinning. Mal’s Top, Cobb’s Pinwheel
      • They would then have to make themselves forget that they stopped their own totem (Remembering that they watched the other stop their own totem. We see from Cobb’s Point Of View that Mal stops her Top and locks her safe, but we don’t see Cobb stopping his Pinwheel because he doesn’t remember doing it) If they remembered stopping their own totem, they would know that they tricked themselves and it wouldn’t work– this is almost taken directly from Memento; forced forgetfulness to enjoy a lie.
      • Then they could live a full life thinking limbo was real and they would grow old together.
      • When they were ready to go back to reality, they would have to go into each other’s safes and start the other person’s totem spinning again.
      • Cobb started Mal’s locked in her doll house. But Mal couldn’t start Cobb’s Pinwheel because it was locked in the GI Joe/James Bond Fortress.
      • So they lay down on the train tracks as an old couple and Mal “dies” (escapes back to reality) and Cobb doesn’t because ultimately he believes that Limbo is still real, since his Pinwheel isn’t spinning.
      • If he dies in a dream in Limbo, he would wake up in Reality. But since he believes Limbo is Reality, he would believe he would die. But since Limbo is only a dream he can’t die. So when he gets hit by the train, or stabbed in the heart by Mal, he just stays in Limbo. So he can’t escape the circle he has locked himself into, until his Pinwheel starts spinning again, telling him that he believes Limbo is a dream.
      The whole Inception Part of the Movie was the Real-Mal (the awake one) sneaking in with Aridane’s help (the Therapist) to get into Cobb’s safe and to start his Pinwheel.
      It goes wrong when Mal Kills Fisher. Ariadne realizes that if they kill Cobb’s Childhood self – they would damage Cobb’s brain forever, so She tells Cobb to kill the Real-Mal (knowing she will just wake up in Reality). Then Ariadne has to improvise to save Fisher, AKA Cobb’s Childhood Self.

  70. Kimberley says:

    Whoa. WHOA. Thankyou!
    I’ve only seen it the once (but I would not hesitate to see it four times.. though it would be slightly more expensive for me lol) but I have been searching for theories, and why we would be left with what would *seem* to be an ambiguous ending. Or one where we would have something to interpret. But now you’ve given me something else! And something to look for in the next viewing… thank you 🙂

  71. Kimberley says:

    On another note… all of these comments are SO compelling, I feel as if I should take notes, and take it in with the cinema to keep track of during a rewatch! (or 3…)

  72. vivzizi says:

    I believe you missed the biggest thing of all.
    The spinning top was MAL’S TOTEM not Cobb’s.
    That is revealed in one layer of the dream(s) where we see MAL has the top that never stops spinning inHER safe. Didn’t you notice that and find it odd when it popped up?

    So the big reveal at the end is that it is MAL who has worked to awaken Cobb from his depths and reunite HIM with the children.

    MAL is the one mastering the whole thing NOT COBB.

    MAL pulls Cobb from the deepest depths.
    To do so she must construct a depth of dreams that causes cobb to want to come back to the kids. Cobb must feel in the dream that he is of course running it.

    Mal created the inception in COBB’s mind so he would come back to his children and be in her life.
    The construct had to be sophisticated. it just had to be one more layer of sophistication that we all thought becuas eit was MAL who constructed it to make COBB believe he was in control and that HE WANTED to come back to join the family- but that was all MAL’s construct to create inception in Cobb’s mind.

    • jl74 says:

      wait, so is Mal alive or dead then?

    • Johnny says:

      That’s dumb because Mal is dead. And, it doesn’t matter WHOSE totem it was originally as long as you were the only one who knew how it’s supposed to behave.

      • darryl says:

        wrong…This is Mal’s Totem period. Which means when Cobb spins the Totem, he is spinning it for Mal. The Totem tells Mal and only Mal whether she is in someone elses dream not whether she’s is dreaming or not. Again, when Cobb spins the totem it is telling him that Mal is either in her dream or in someone elses.

        Why didn’t the totem topel when it was spun in the safe by Cobb? That meant they were living in Mal’s dream not Cobb’s. The reason why you don’t show anyone your Totem is to prevent exactly what he did to Mal. Someone can take advantage and use it with ulterior motives.

        Think about that one….that’ll keep you busy for some time.

  73. imon says:

    your mind makes it real. If you want to see a happy ending where reality is assured then you will look for and find the evidence. If yours is the sort of mind that demands that explanation and will not tolerate the uncertainty you’ll find it- Nolan’s put it in there for you. After all, he’s not the sort of director who would leave you hanging in ambiguity is he….? The mind, beginning to search desperately for its totem, for its bearings,at last finds it…ITS THE RING!. Phew! Thank god for that. Rationality has resumed normal service.

    A million theories sprouting up like so many ‘dream layers’ or ‘levels of reality’. Each one hoping that they’ve found the ‘right’ reality and finally worked it out. ha! like rabbits lost in a maze. The ‘ring’ people have got a good one going. lot of people will gather round it for comfort. Whatever ‘reality’ or ‘dream’ cobb is in… the one thing we DO take for ganted (in every explanation i’ve seen to date) is that HE is real. Maybe Cobb’s just a projection beginning to wake up to his own un-reality. Or that it was cobb who underwent an inception… or probably not….whatever..man

    But my favourite is that the question of whether the ending is ‘real’ is a red herring. Its doesn’t matter- which is why cobb doesn’t wait to check if the totem falls… What is REAL is that he has overcome the grief and guilt of his wife’s death. He doesn’t need a totem to tell him that- it would be true of whatever level of ‘reality’ or ‘dream level’ he’s currently on (just like the crushing guilt was there at every level before). And, of course, the ambiguous philosophical implications (which so irritate certain literal minds) are that we are all dreaming- but the dream is still ‘real’ on its own level…on its own terms.

    ahhh! i’ve found my totem…..my bearing on reality. may you find yours too..

  74. Sam says:

    I thought there were 2 actors for the children because one was for the children themselves and one was for the voices on the telephone? (I heard this from a regular Joe Schmoe, so I don’t know this to be fact.)

  75. Alex says:

    Something that’s been bothering me. I think the first job we see (Cobb and Arthur trying to Extract from Saito) is proof that the subject WILL recognize the people from his dream that were trying to perform Extraction. We know this because Cobb nervously checks his watch when they wake up and disconnects Saito from the machine (there is still a bit of time left on his sedative). He then tells Arthur “I’m getting off in Kyoto.” Arthur then replies, “He’s not going to look through every car.” I think this is evidence that if they stayed there, Saito would have recognize them as the Extractors. My question, then, is why does Fischer not recognize anyone on the plane after the Inception is completed?

  76. NikolasM says:

    Maybe if the movie had gone on a little longer we would have cut to one more scene of Mal, his dad, and maybe Ariadne waking up next to Cobb, still asleep, and look at each other and say, well we tried… The top was Mal’s totem, perhaps she could make it do what she wanted. Great movie.

  77. Namira says:

    since the top wasn’t even Cobb’s totem to begin with, i kept wondering what his was.
    the ring may or may not be the indication of whether Cobb is dreaming or not, it may or may not be his original totem. but still, Nolan definitely wouldn’t randomly tell DiCaprio to simply wear it in random scenes and then take it off in other scenes, right? so now that you’ve brought it up, it’s obvious that it’s supposed to indicate something.
    great observation 🙂

  78. Rob says:

    this was a good find… I’ve been a big fan of Nolan for a while… ever since a friend of mine showed me “The Following”… before “Memento” came out..
    There are some great theories up here… and i think all can be supported in one way or another..
    I have only seen it once, but i am about to go a second time. I am a believer in the “ring” theory… but of course not completely convinced. Nolan made sure of that…

    I agree with “Sam”… the ring is the totem for the audience…

    I also agree with “Imon” about the ending…
    Whether the top falls of not.. it no longer matters, only to the audience. The movie to me was a tale of a man that could not let go… he made a mistake that cost him the love of his life. Since then he has carried around this guilt with him, and his kids have been without their Dad because of that.
    I believe that Miles may have performed an Inception on Cobb with the help of Ariadne.. to help Cobb get over his loss.. and to help reunite Cobb with his kids.
    And at the end of the movie… the kids are older… and wearing different clothes.. that is for sure.
    Nolan has created an amazing film… despite the disputes that followed the film, I thought the movie was completely engaging. I do believe that when the Blue Ray comes out, these debates will live on even more.. and i guaranty that there will NOT be a commentary .. nor will Nolan ever give a definitive answer that would end these debates…
    Nolan has pulled an Inception on us… and that is why we are all here typing about it…
    Thank you Mr. Nolan… and your team… loved the music… and i thought that Wally Pfisters work was stunning..

  79. James says:

    I was wondering if anyone mentioned this before:

    Let’s assume that Mal was right. That the world which we and Cobb consider to be “reality” was in fact all a dream. Well, if that’s the case, and Mal did wake up after jumping off the building, why didn’t she give Leo “a kick” to wake him up? Unless, of course, she actually did die.

    • KSno says:

      I am/was definitely on the more optimistic side after seeing the movie, that Cobb was in real life at the end of the movie and that the top did fall because I did see it waver, and I don’t remember it doing that in the dream scene. And it makes sense that if he planted the seed of inception into his wife, she would obviously kill herself in real life.

      HOWEVER, after reading these posts, there are 3 points I cannot get over that point to him dreaming:

      1) In Mumbai when Cobb is running through the alley and it gets smaller and smaller – that doesn’t happen in real life.

      2) When his wife was about to commit suicide she was on the other side of the building – how did she get there?

      3) That Ariadne was the one who planted the seed of dealing with/facing Mal to overcome his guilt. So, in turn, Cobb was in fact the one being incepted.

      I never once noticed the ring on his finger. AT ALL. The only thing that confuses me are the scenes that he is obviously wearing the ring while he is married to her in real life. For example, is he wearing it when Mal jumps? If so, does that mean he is dreaming? Or does it mean it was in real life in the past?

      Also, some of you have asked that if his wife woke up after killing herself, why didn’t she “kick” him out of dream state? Could that be because he is so deep into limbo that even 1 minute in real life could be hundreds of his dream years?

      Whoa, my mind is melting. I think Nolan achieved his goal with me!! I welcome thoughts to my questions!

      • Scudzmissle says:

        I believe she did try to “kick” him. i think Mal woke up, found Cobb still asleep next to her and at first she cries- we see this scene where she wakes up on the living room floor, she is crying and he doesn’t move – That is the ONLY scene we see in Reality. Mal’s point of view of waking up and Cobb still being asleep. we see that scene played again from Cobb’s point of view and he kisses her cheek – that one is Cobb’s dream interpretation. i think her first reaction was to shake and slap him, making the weird movements felt on all levels. Then she probably threw buckets of water on him or put him in the tub to wake him up, hence all the water on most levels. She would play the trigger music – but time is sooo slow in Limbo that it only comes across to him as a Frightening Fogg Horn. Then she would take him to a doctor, and the doctor would come into the dream to investigate – and play Ariadne – a made up name. Ariadne is the Misstress of Mazes in Greek Mythology. The Real-Mal has to do what Cobb did to here – she has to start his totem spinning again in His safe so he believes Limbo is a Dream.

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  81. dream time says:

    I havnt read all the posts so excuse me if someone else posted about this already but did anyone notice that when the other people made it back from limbo they woke up to each dream before it, going from limbo to the snow place, to the hotel, back to the first dream, then back to the airplane, but when cobb wakes up from limbo he wakes up straight back to airplane and not into the dreams within dreams before it like everyone else

  82. TheAnswer says:

    Dear OP and Secondary Posters,
    To me the answer is simple. Why did the team need Yusuf? Because after each layer is added, the world becomes increasingly brittle. To date, two layers was surprising (to Saito), three layers was an unexplored depth. Four layers would have been risky. Five layers would have been impossible.

    Just another possibility

    **Can I just settle something for the record as well? I am a Jewish person and I have played with a spinning top (dreidel) thousands of times. It can, in fact “wobble” before briefly regaining an upright rotational axis. (proof – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIgzlSBjl9s 0:12-0:14)**

    • m@ says:

      no one is stating that it cant “wobble” and then continue… more the fact that it spins perfectly in all other sequences in the film…..

      supposedly you can hear it topple over when the credits are running (I am going to listen hard at the end of my 2nd viewing :P)

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  84. Aaron says:

    Interesting find. I spotted this as well. Beat you to it on the interweb, though haha. But who am I kiddin’, someone else probably had beat me to it as well. Good stuff.

    http://www.nolanfans.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=2227

  85. jasmineluv86 says:

    WOW!!! Really impressive! I had doubts but i had a feeling my inclinations were right. His totem looked like it was about to topple over right at the end and i truly believe he saved his friend from Limbo. Another suggestion my friend made was that the kids had white shirts underneath their outfits in the last scene but they didn’t have them on before. Also i think the reason they didn’t look much older was because Cobb and his team had only been gone a couple of days, tops a week.

    ps.. I am a new blogger and would really appreciate ur comments on my site. Thanks!

  86. Bert says:

    So from what I’ve been reading here, everyone is focusing on what they see and not really what they hear. Did anybody else notice the fact that when Saito was talking to Cobb about the job in the helicopter, that he had to take a “leap of faith”? And when the wife was about to jump she said that he has to “take a leap of faith”? Personally, I think the whole movie is a dream and that he is still dreaming at the end. Forgetting about all the totems which would be the obvious thing to follow, think about how every time they showed the kids, they were playing in the same exact position! Whether they were indoors or outdoors, they were always in the same position! Now do you really think that 2 years later, they would be still playing in that same position? I think I’m gonna go with the person who said that he is dreaming on the beach and the dream gets weirder and weirder as the waves touch him. And you would ask yourself why the wife wouldn’t just wake him up, right? Well unless he’s about to drown why would she? Let the man enjoy his sleep!

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  88. 7thDirection says:

    I noticed this as well, so I took a very metaphorical take on the final scene. The top endlessly spinning means it’s a dream. Well, what just happened? In reality, his dream has come true. From the reality he used to experience before the job, this wonderful place was simply a dream. But now his dream has become reality.

  89. Gene says:

    Hi Spencer,

    Did Robert Fischer continued his dead dad’s energy empire legacy, or split the company up?

  90. Jacob Chapel says:

    I came out of the theater believing that the whole movie was Cobb’s dream, that it was all apart of an inception on Cobb himself to get him back to reality. You sir have crushed my belief, have smashed my hypothesis, made my thoughts nothing but conjecture. I thank you for that. You might think this knowledge might ruin my experience with the movie, but I am even more interested in watching it again, and again, and again. This is just masterful, how awesome is Nolan to hide something so important in plain sight like this?

  91. Jessica says:

    Spencer, you have made a keen observation.

    There are many comments on here about how the theory of the ring can easily be done away with and these people are obviously not in the film industry. The entire JOB of a script supervisor on a film is to maintain continuity. Now there are many films where you can see minor things like he’s holing the glass in one shot and in the other he’s not and that kind of hiccup is probably the editors fault.

    The argument about the kids is not so solid though- it’s possible that they shot a scene with a much younger set of kids that did not make it into the movie, and that would account for the actors.

    Something like “the ring” in this theory, where there are deliberate shots of his hands- a ring or no ring- is the first thing you worry about as a script supervisor. I’ve no doubt the ring on or off is intentional. “The top” as a totem is what the director made you as an audience believe. That is the job of a filmmaker, to make the audience believe what that filmmaker wants you to believe. The top is Cobb’s totem- the ring is ours. Good job Spencer.

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  93. Jojo says:

    everyone seems to be forgetting the point after Cobb first takes the sedative and wakes up shaken, drops the top before he gets a chance to spin it…
    has anyone entertained the fact that from that point on the whole thing could be him dreaming?

    how about the fact that Mal was right and they were infact in a dream and Mal was able to get to reality but Cobb was the one in denial about what was reality, effectively making the whole movie a part of Cobbs dreams?

    The whole ruleset about totems and limbo etccould have been created in Cobbs dreams which throws everything out the window.
    We are never really given a concrete establishment point to work from, and everything is a consequence of other facts that are assumed.

    • Rob says:

      If Mal was awake after the fall “back to reality”… couldn’t and wouldn’t she just give Cobb a “Kick” to wake him up?

  94. Fed says:

    The ring argument is good but i had a different idea. Perhaps it represents Cobb’s guilt of what he did to his wife which is why it appears in dream sequences. However, he comes to terms to with that guilt when he confesses to his wife, or rather admits she is not his wife but only a cheap projection. If subconciously he let go of that guilt, thers is no need for the ring to be projected from then onwards. Also, the movie revolves around being able to connect to other peoples dreams with the machine. When Fischer gets shot, the only “real” person in Cobb’s limbo is the architect girl, since she is the only person who links up with machine. Saito, Fischer, and everything else are Cobb’s projections of them (how is Saito there?!). But once his guilt is gone, he can project the faces of his children, whom he knows aged. At least thats my take on it. The transition to Cobb’s dream, I think, happens at the very end.

  95. Bob Bobberson says:

    1. The stated purpose of a totem is to tell whether you’re in someone else’s dream or your own (not to distinguish waking from dreaming, as people seem to be asserting).

    2. Yes, the top was originally Mal’s totem, but Cobb may have spent enough time playing with it to learn the way it behaves by now (2ish years after Mal’s death).

    3. The ring may or may not be a totem; Cobb may have still another object that he uses as a totem, but which we do not happen to see. Or maybe he doesn’t have one of his own at all, and it is another case of him ignoring his own advice.

    Question: I thought I recalled that the danger of limbo was NOT that you’d be stuck in a lucid dream, but that when you woke up you’d be insane. If he is dreaming at the end, it’s a pretty solid dream. If he’s dreaming, he appears to be in substantially better control of the dream than he earlier, in the elevator sequence.

    Another question: could the plane landing have been a kick? Yusuf says he keeps the inner-ear function intact, so that sensations like falling waken the dreamers.

    Finally, I kinda wish that Cobb and Saito had awakened a little bit AFTER Eames and the others (to account for some extra time spent on the lowest level).

  96. edmon says:

    haha nice…there’s a rate thumbs UP/DOWN now. after reading so many insights about this film in this thread, i am now retiring. this is an endless loop, no ending at all. this movie is still fictional, so i now believe that everything is but a dream. all ideas…all were what if’s…all has no definite beginning…all were subconsciousness of Cobb. if you think about it, in reality…since when did a dream had an ending? 🙂 now i’m back to reality!

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  98. Brian Clark says:

    Interesting thoughts, and the theory of the wedding ring is one I had in my mind when the movie was over. It’s great to find out so many people saw the same thing. It also leads me to believe that it is, in fact, the totem, and not the top.

    I need to think about it more. At first I was going to refute your point about casting different children by pointing out that children that young are only allowed so much time on a film set by law. I understand that they are basically in one maybe two shots, but who knows how long they were on set.

    But then, why list them as different ages? Damn you IMDB for spoiling theories with your FACTUAL evidence from the real world.

    Great post.

    • Pete says:

      I think the older set of kids were used for the telephone conversation he has with them in the present. The girl sounded much older there though, almost 12!?

  99. Ambien says:

    Whoa great review and explanation! Thank u for this I have some closure now… 🙂

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  101. ukyo says:

    How do you show a top never falling? No matter how long Nolan shows it, you could still say “well, maybe it was going to fall right then, right after the camera cut away!” He showed it for a very long time. If the top was going to fall, he would have shown it fall. There is nothing ambiguous about it – the the top stayed up.

    I take this to mean the end was a dream. Combine the top not falling with the fact that we have no plausible means whatsoever for Saito and Cobb to exit limbo. And Saito picking up a gun, presumably to shoot Cobb. This plausibly sends the sedated Cobb into another limbo, where he can live out the inception Saito created by suggesting he could get Cobb through customs.

    The ring is interesting. My take on that is the ring indicates Cobb has done away with Mal, resolved his issues with her as Ariadne wanted him to. The ring being gone is part and parcel of why Mal doesn’t show up in the ending dream, and never will. Cobb has finally let her go, with Ariadne’s help.

  102. Alex says:

    I would normally comment and say theres only one word to say…. but this film happens to have many.It is a totally unique film and you either like it or not. I personally respect all views of the movie because i understand that i may like a movie that you dont care for but either way this movie gets you to think. Great post, thanks 🙂

  103. Jason says:

    1. In the ending Cobb is still in a dream.

    2. When Mal and Cobb killed themselves to wake up from the 50 year dream, they only went one level up.

    3. To have a 50 year dream you would have to be several levels deep.

    4. Mal knew this and tried to convince Cobb. Cobb lost track of how deep they were.

    5. Mal killed herself and went another level up. She is not dead.

    6. Cobb believed she was dead and she was not. She only went up one more level.

    7. Cobb’s reality is a dream. There was no Cobalt company after him. Everyone in the movie were Cobb’s projections. He was alone in the dream that he thought was reality.

    8. In some cases I believe Mal went back down in the dreams to convince Cobb again. “You know were to find me. You know what you have to do.”

    9. Upon returning home, the kids are in the same pose, same clothes, and have not aged a bit. Cobb had been gone several years by this time.

    10. How did the father know that Cobb would be on that flight AND that his charges would have been fixed. He was in Paris remember.

    11. How would a foreign Japanese business man just make one phone call and have charges dropped in a matter of minutes. Yeah right?

    12. The Mombasa fight scene was way to dream-like, Cobalt agents coming out of no-where and the narrow escape was all to dream-like.

    13. If Mal is still alive and staring at Cobb’s sleeping body, you would think she would be able to “kick” Cobb out of the dream. However, he is many levels deep and the kick needs to come from the bottom up. He is trapped.

    14. The top not falling over or falling over is irrelevant. It is not his Totem. He abandoned his real totem and picked up Mal’s after she died. Believing he was in reality, he started using it.

    15. Cobb is trapped in a dream that he believe is reality. Mal was right and is alive with the real kids in reality.

  104. zombieduck says:

    The wedding ring is one thing, the clothes are different thing. Not sure if someone brought this up already, cause Im lazy and dont want to read that many comments. but yeah, the kids, wearing the same clothes.. thats THE only brain fart for me. Ending the movie before the top falls over or is obviously gonna keep going, well as a filmmaker, of course youre gonna cut it there. If the shot stayed on the top and showed it fall over, the ending would have been, for lack of a better word, gay. So, theres no deeper meaning there, its just a good way to end the film, with or with out implications. when i watched the film i repeated ‘end, end end” in my head during that shot, and sure enough it ended. any other way would have been… gay, or disappointing. So the top is not a mystery, just a good way to end the film. The kids wearing the same clothes on the other hand, is annoying..especially since we must assume that He has been awake at some point of the movie, what with tops falling over and wedding rings missing etc… right, so lets say he is dreaming, with his kids in their same clothes n all, he can only have been asleep for so long.. so maybe he’s what, still on the plane? No biggie then, kill youself and wake up on the plane, you’ll be home in reality in a few hours… no real profound predicament there…

    thems my 2 cents 😮

  105. Aaron says:

    Ok wow this is a retarded post (no offense). First off this wedding ring thing leaked online like last week. Second thing is the clothes as mentioned before (of the children). Now to simply say that Nolan had an “ending” and wouldnt leave it open ended is being bias. You seem so sure that since Mal was not there he deff was not dreaming. OK but when Arthur had his dream with the whole zero gravity sequence we didnt see Mal their either…we saw the kids hunched over in the same position on the hotel lobby floor. Did it ever cross our minds to wonder maybe Mal was not there because the GUILT that plagued him the ENTIRE film had finally been let go. He came to terms with what he did by admitting his actions indirectly were the cause of her suicide and madness. Now if you saw the movie four times like you have claimed then you would have HEARD that the totem is used to determine if you are IN YOUR DREAM AND NOT SOMEONE ELSES………Last time we saw the top spin like that was in Mal and Cobb’s limbo. However it was most likely her dream because there was a SAFE and she filled it with her secrets. The subjects mind who they always go after ends up filling the safe with their ideas. So to say that Nolan had a deff ending is being bias. You dont know that for sure and either do i because no of us know Sir Christopher Nolan and what his DREAM for this movie was. The ending no matter if it was a reality or dream is ambiguous because what matters is our character let his guilt go. Plus in ending like that will make people talk and cause buzz which is why a lot of people went to see this movie because we were all shocked at the ending. More viewers=More $$$$$$$ for a movie that cost a lot more to make then what its yielding.

    • dundundunnn says:

      Are people really using the words “gay” and “retarded” to describe other’s thoughts or interpretations of the movie? If you’re intelligent enough to come up with your own supposed theory, you should be wise enough to replace those words with more fitting ones that aren’t politically incorrect and make you sound like a moronic teenager.

  106. Stink hole says:

    Ok that’s a pretty good theory.. But the truth is (spoiler alert) Cobb was actually not even real. He was a character built by the subconscious of neo in the matrix while neo was attached by the neck in the gooey pod thing. Neo and Cobb are the same person! Only not really.. But kind of!! WTF

  107. Max says:

    He kept Mals totem, thus taking away from her, the only way she knew whether it was a dream or not, albeit, the totem was locked in the safe, in their limbo. So we surely don’t actually know what Cobb’s totem is.

    Another point to make is, what if the ring being off in the final scene, is still a dream, but following the ring theory, if the ring being off doesn’t necessarily mean it’s reality, but just that he has finally accepted Mals passing?

    This film is amazing in the way its created so many possibilities, with only one possible answer.

    • Mitch says:

      I disagree about the totem, the totem was the one which he consistently used, Mals’. Also, if the wedding ring were the totem, why is that fact never mentioned, why does the ring not appear in reality like all the other totems…. according to the “ring hypothesis”…

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  109. Ari Lopez says:

    Hey dude. I just stumbled upon this entry while going through my Facebook. I just want to say you’ve got some pretty good ideas there. I’ve read some of the comments here and I agree with one of them that says that this movie is meant to be taken apart and talked about constantly. Your ideas made me want to see the movie again (and I’ve already seen it 3 times). 🙂 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful read!

  110. Jodi says:

    I like the ring theory. One question I have though (unrelated) is he makes a comment about him and Mal growing old together in the dream world and there is a shot of them walking together old. But when the train runs them over they aren’t old. It seems like they should’ve been old then. How do you explain this?

    • Rob says:

      I think since it’s their dream maybe they lived multiple lifetimes together? Or made themselves young again because it was after all, a dream. That confused me too though!

    • Kim says:

      After the part where were seen walking together old, they showed Cobb and Mal getting run over by the train but with old people hands. They didn’t show the faces though

  111. Gil Meriken says:

    Thanks, that was a suburb analysis!

    But with such sharp eyes, I am surprised that after presumably watching the credits four times, you would be able to spell DiCaprio!

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  113. Pete says:

    I felt the need to clarify this, as a few people don’t appear to understand. A totem only tells you if you are in someone else’s dream, or not. Arthur actually says somehting along these lines.

    So if your totem reacts in the way logic would dictate (spinning top would eventually come to a stop) it just means that you’re not in your own dream. However you could still be dreaming, albeit in someone else’s dream.

  114. Kim says:

    Mal was the reflection of Cobb’s guilt, actually. Even if he shot Mal in the snow layer, he’d still see her in limbo cause he hasn’t let go of his guilt yet in the snow layer. So Cobb might still have been dreaming during the end

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  116. Stefano says:

    Quoting: “I’ve seen Inception four separate times in five days. That’s 9.4 hours, 38 dollars and 12% of five days. Obviously, I’m in love with the film”

    –> You definetely have nothing better to do…

  117. Saherndon says:

    I like the theory that the ring is the audience’s totem and that it’s an indicator of when Cobb is awake and asleep. I have a hard time reconciling a couple of scenes with this theory, can someone help me out?

    1. Why is Miles wearing the exact same clothing in the scene in Paris and the ending scene? It seems like that would be different if it wasn’t Cobb’s projection of his father.

    2. Why is Cobb holding the gun to his head (presumably to shoot himself to wake up) when he is in the hotel before he speaks with his kids on the phone? It seems in this scene that Cobb is spinning the top to determine if he is in his dream. If the ring is his totem, why would he do this?

  118. Brandan says:

    Remember when Mal was teasing Cobb in the dream about seeing their kids faces? Why did Cobb turn his head when the kids faces would clearly be revealed? They were in the same exact position and did the same exact movements when he “really” saw their faces.

    Why can no one answer this question legitly?

    • darryl says:

      He didn’t want to look at the kids because he knew they were only projections, yet Mal was trying so hard to convince him to look at his own kids. Mal, “See Look..” Cobb “No…” Why would he acknowledge them as the real thing when he was trying to convince Mal otherwise?

  119. Brea says:

    Not sure if anyone mentioned this and/or if I am mistaken (because I’ve only seen the film once and haven’t had time for my second viewing yet) but wasn’t the top Mal’s totem and not Cobb’s anyway? He got the top because she died, not because it was his to begin with. That’s why they made a point of saying that once someone else touches it, it’s purpose is no longer served (or relevant). Doesn’t it stand to reason that the top was basically meaningless in deciding whether it was a dream or not in relation to the validity of Cobb’s reality because the top totem wasn’t his?

    I have to say the wedding ring concept is a thing of beauty!

  120. ariasparrow says:

    great explanation!!! yes i totally agree with you!!!

  121. musicnothing says:

    My question is this: If they were trying to do Inception on Cobb, then who was behind it, and what was their movitation? I used to think it was Mal–that she’d actually gotten out when she killed herself, and that she was trying to get him out–but it doesn’t make sense to be her, because she goes to great lengths trying to get him to stay.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      This is exactly what happens, Musicnothing. There are 2 Mal’s maybe more. There is the Mal that was in Limbo with Cobb for years and grows old with him and then kills herself with Cobb on the train tracks. She has gotten out as you said. I call her Real-Mal. Then there is Cobb’s idea of Mal. She is the one that is killing everyone in the dreams. She isn’t the Real-Mal, she is Mal the embodiment of Cobb’s guilt. I think the Real-Mal is trying to pull Cobb out of the dream and she comes in many different times to talk him out of it. She even is a Forger and comes in to talk him out of it, dressed as her father, Michael Cane who says “come back to reality” in the Paris School Room. The Real-Mal also comes in Forged as Saito too, we know this because Saito is the one who starts the whole process moving.

      So, if Mal is doing the inception on Cobb, what is the inception she is trying to do? And did she succeed?

  122. Mako says:

    It’s a great theory – but I do think – it can be challenged. I mean this because when Cobb is in his dream state, we normally see Mal and we normally see his ring. In the end… Cobb learns to let Mal go. When he does this… his ring is now gone. There is a link between the two.

    So my feeling is that Cobb is still in limbo at the end.

    Now for a really far out theory… I actually think Cobb is in a dream state in the entire film… and Ellen Page plays his daughter (looks older) comes into his subconscious to use INCEPTION on him… so that he can “rest in peace”. Crazy… I know. But there is never a sexual moment between the two. Page’s character is just as good if not better than Cobb. And she seems planted there to help Cobb more than help the team. She’s the only one that can somehow get thru to him.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      I THOUGHT THAT TOO!!! She maybe his daughter and it may have taken years for them to get to wake Cobb up. And then I thought, she really is more of a Psychologist or Therapist. She asks questions of him to get him to describe the rules of his Nuerosis – his dreams. This is a technique invented by Carl Jung – where you don’t try to shatter the dellusion, you try to work your way out of the dellusion by the rules the psychotic has put on it. She is in there to figure out what rules Cobb has made up for the dream world so she can follow his path out of the dream. She fails, BUT she does make good progress with him. she will be back for another session to try to wake Cobb up. . . in the sequal

  123. Adam White says:

    My theory is that the top is meant to break the 4th wall. It’s meant to remind the audience that Cobb is a “dream”. At some point Leonardo DiCaprio will “wake up” and Cobb will be no more. We as the audience who are sharing this “dream” should also realize it’s a dream and that Inception isn’t real.

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  125. Mike says:

    Has anyone said anything about waking up yet. When you’re dreaming, you can’t remember the beginning of your dream. Cobb clearly remembers waking up in the airplane.

  126. Babs253 says:

    I agree about the wedding ring, I think that’s his real totem, the top belonged to Mal. But I coulnc’t see if he wore his ring in the last scenes. My one confusing part was his father in law (Michael Caine) if he was really teaching in Paris, how did he get to the States to meet Dom at the airport and take him to his children, who if we believe the phone call were living with Grandma. More questions.

  127. leeo says:

    idk if any one touched on this yet but
    no one seems to recognize that the whole concept of a totem
    was an idea created by Mal. i feel like this has a lot more relevance
    to the story than is being given.

  128. Emma says:

    Miles was wearing the same clothes at the beginning of the movie in Paris and at the end when he was at the airport.

  129. Chasemcb says:

    A lot of your theories are nice but a lot of your are forgetting some crucial points… the only reason Mal was in the room with Fischer is because Cobb learned about the route from Ellen Page. So, if Cobb is the target for inception then it would of had to be planned for them to give Cobb the information and Ellen Page would have WANTED Cobb to know that information. “Cobb’s dream” was not part of the original plan, so the plan would have had to be putting Fischer into “limbo” which the movie clearly says is dangerous. I doubt they would risk putting Fischer into limbo.

    None of Nolan’s movie suggests he is a trickster. Good theory and pretty accurate. Remember that the Totem is useless if someone else knows the exact balance both Mal and Saito know the balance… so the totem there for is useless.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      Who else knows the balance of the top? Mal. Eames isn’t the only Forger who can immitate people.

      What if Mal (the real-mal, the one who is awake, not Cobb’s Shadow Mal) was planting an inception on Cobb? And she needed to get into his safe to do it and Ellen Page was helping her get in? BUT Ellen Page couldn’t let the Real-Mal kill a part of Cobb = Fisher, Cobb’s childhood self, to do it.

  130. Tim says:

    This is really excellently done. Well found. My entire thought on the film though was that it doesn’t matter if he’s in a dream or not. Nolan wants people to have a belief either way strong enough that they will believe it in the face of evidence to the contrary, just like Cobb — if the ending is to be taken as a dream — believes that is his reality. The most telling line of the film is from the old man in Yusuf’s basement in Mombassa. “The dream has become their reality. Who are you to say any different?” I will believe what I believe about the film (I think the top fell) no matter how many people propose how many brilliant theories to the contrary. That’s my reality. Who are you to say any different?

  131. Michael says:

    As far as the totems: it seems to me that it is your individual awareness of the unique characteristics that your totem possesses that make it useful. It is mentioned over and over that it’s Mal’s totem so it seems to me if he gets to it in the vault it means nothing: that still doesn’t give him the knowledge that is necessary for him to use it as his own. That knowledge only exists in the real world. That is the very crux of the totem’s power to it’s owner. No one can steal it or use it because no one knows it (really knows it) but you, regardless of how they might think they do.

    It could never be his totem unless Mal was truly dead and he inherited it as part of the estate (salvaged it after her death). That might be assumed but it is never shown, only the implication that he “stole it’s power” in the limbo level when they were there together and he set it spinning inside her vault. Which makes no sense at all on it’s own. He could have “incepted” her in several ways but never by using her totem.

    • darryl gatan says:

      Since the totem tells Mal whether she is in her own dream or someone elses, it will always be hers and only hers. Meaning when Cobb spins it, and it doesn’t topple he is in Mal’s dream. If it topples he is in someone elses. Thus, Mal is alive and he is going in and out of her dream.

      • Michael says:

        I think that the totem only tells the owner something, no one else. To others it’s just one of many objects in the dream, projections. If it’s your dream then your totem behaves as you expect (because you know how it should) but if you are in someone else’s dream then they don’t really know it and so can’t get it to behave in the way that is unique (because they don’t know how). I think that only if Mal is dead and Cobb has gotten and kept (for obvious sentimental reasons) the actual totem then he can make it his own. No one else would know it and it could serve the same function.
        Of course he could think that is the case in a dream and it not be true. If in fact Mal didn’t die but went a level up then he’s left to think whatever he wants in his dream world. He has only his own totem to rely on, the one he went in with.

    • m@ says:

      as a viewer that does not know what level you enter the movie at; the totems are useless to us (and possibly even to the characters)

      if i am in someone else’s dream and I dont know about it; and I think I am in reality and so build a totem for myself… i might fool myself into thinking that the totem works when I go one level down, but since I created it in someone else’s dream they can affect it right????????

  132. Apart from the steps that keeps you upon the edge of your seat, the romance and principle of ambitions vs. fact completely develop this cinema. The acting in all factors was immaculate. I got chills every time Marion Cotillard arrived on screen, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt altered my opinion of him on this video, he did great stunts (not having a double) and did an awesome work as Leo’s right-hand man. And as for Leo, well, have you ever in your life viewed a overall performance where he does badly? His sensible romantic relationship with Mal during the dvd movie coupled with his conniving tricks to obtain into people’s minds blew me apart.

  133. Scudzmissle says:

    Has anyone thought that, just like Nolan told the story of Memento that happened forwards – backwards, that maybe he is telling the story of Inception that happens out of order in an orderly way?
    Meaning: In Memento we see the story backwards, in Inception we see the story told in order, but it didn’t happen in order.
    Dreams don’t follow linear time so these things could be happening all out of order, but will make sense in a dream.

  134. Pooh says:

    This is an excellent theory – thank you for writing and posting it :).

    For those who keep saying that the top was Mal’s totem, here’s a thought: totems were Mal’s idea, and she would have told Cobb what the concepts would be. Cobb could have come up with the idea that nobody else could touch it, and it’s not unlikely that Mal would have told him the example of the top – “Since we’re in a dream, my top won’t stop spinning.” Mal and Cobb trusted each other deeply; totems seem to be more of a way to assert whether you’re in a malicious place.

    Many of the comments seem to imply that Cobb’s goal throughout the movie was to get rid of the guilt associated with Mal, but I disagree. He wanted to keep her trapped in his memories, and what he wanted to most, it seems, was to be reunited with his children so that they would have a father. He didn’t want to do it for himself and his own comfort, but in order for his children to have at least one parent left. I can’t imagine going through all the trouble to set it up so he could go back, only to give up and settle, so to speak, for a dream. That’s one of the main reasons I think the end is reality, because the result he wants is not necessarily to be guilt-free [this doesn’t seem to be something he really thought about when he started entertainig the idea of inception for Saito], but rather be there for his kids.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      I agree that Cobb’s motivation is to finish the job, Get back to his kids, and never go into anyone’s dreams again. But what if the inception was to be done on him?

      As for the totems, they are being used in 2 ways.
      1. Marker of reality, as you say, to tell if you are in a malicious place/dream. Everyone’s totem will react differently in the dream world than it would in real life. We don’t know how the, Bishop or the Poker Chip would react differently in the dream from how they would react in reality – we don’t even know what number the Loaded Die would land on in reality and which number in a dream, it s a secret, only the owner knows those answers. That’s the point. The only one we know is the top – it spins forever in a dream and falls flat in real life.

      2. Totems are the simplest form of an idea – a Symbol. The strongest way to communicate a complex idea across cultures and languages – or directly into the mind.

      Remember Cobb says the Inception idea has to be the simplest form for it to be accepted by the dreamer. Mal believes her inception because it is so very basic. When she wanted to stay in Limbo and believe it to be real, she stopped her top and locked it in her safe- meaning: since the top falls flat here, this must be reality. When Cobb wants her to wake up, he spins the top forever again in her safe. Making her believe the dream is a dream again.

      So what would the symbol be if someone was doing an Inception on Cobb?

      • m@ says:

        “. Marker of reality, as you say, to tell if you are in a malicious place/dream. Everyone’s totem will react differently in the dream world than it would in real life. We don’t know how the, Bishop or the Poker Chip would react differently in the dream from how they would react in reality – we don’t even know what number the Loaded Die would land on in reality and which number in a dream, it s a secret, only the owner knows those answers. That’s the point. The only one we know is the top – it spins forever in a dream and falls flat in real life.”

        again this is not the case. The totem does not tell you if you are Awake or Dreaming … what it does tell you is that you are not in SOMEONE ELSE’S Dream …

        however as I wrote earlier… it is flawed if dont know where you are when you create your totem…. ie if you create the totem when in someone else’s dream then it is unreliable!

  135. CliffyD says:

    Agree with the ‘it was all a dream’ mob here. Agree with others who say Mal kicked herself back to reality when she ‘killed herself’ but Cob could not accept that the life they have built there – the kids who might not even exist in real life – were not real.

    One giveaway the filmmaker included is in the music – some of the score is slowed down re-worked version of ‘Non, je ne regrette rien”:

    This to me says Cob is still asleep somewhere and perhaps Mal is trying to wake him with the song, the slowness/distorted version of it maybe because he is so deep down in his subconscious. Of course he doesn’t hear this, but it is a wink from Nolan and co I think.

  136. Bram says:

    Here’s another argument against Cobb being awake in the final scenes:
    Think of Saito as Steve Jobs and Fisher as Bill Gates (2 men with economical power).
    How could it be possible in reality for Steve Jobs to convince the government to drop the charges against Cobb??? He does not have any political power to pull such a thing off (let alone with one phone call!) He passes security at the airport too smoothly if you ask me… Which is why I am starting to agree with Nathan posting that the inception is really done on Cobb…

    • m@ says:

      if you can believe there is a reality where people can share dreams.. then i guess you should believe that there are people that can sort things out with just one phone call 😉

  137. Creep Cavalier says:

    I like the idea that the base level aka cobbs “reality” is actually limbo and that the inception cobb performs on mal is his subconscious’ way of getting mal back to reality so she knows to perform inception on him because he has forgotten he is in dream limbo which cannot be overcome with a simple kick. The subconcious is really what powers dreams isnt it? It hasnt really been discussed why after cobb and mal “wake up”, mal is so sure they are still dreaming. The way i see it the totem serves two purposes. 1) The size, shape, feel, etc. establish that you either are or arent in someone elses dream. 2) The action of the totem establishes whether or not you are dreaming at all. So after the awakening the one thing mal would look to is if the top would stop spinning. Why would she kill herself if it stopped? Also mal couldnt have let cobb hold her totem in reality because that would defeat its purpose so the top in cobbs dreams is his interpretation of the real top. Thusly even if the top stopped spinning it wouldnt necessarily mean he wasnt sleeping if he believed he wasnt sleeping because the top is all a projection. I havent thought this all the way through but its what i got….. Also early on when they wake up on the train, saito is still asleep. Couldnt they have done this to fischer to give them time to get back to the front of the plane and remove all traces of the dream invasion? Instead they just all show back up in their original seats which to me hints at cobb still being in a dream. How did they get there? Either hes still dreaming or some very heavy lifting took place before fischer woke up.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      I am totally with you, Creep!
      (not about him being senile old guy) but about him being asleep and that he had to preform inception on Mal to get her to wake up. and most of this movie was Mal trying to preform the same inception on Cobb to get him to wake up. by doing the same thing to him that he did to her – She had to spin Cobb’s totem and lock it back in Cobb’s safe.
      They Failed and he is still dreaming

      the Totem also work as a 3rd thing. As a SYMBOL (the simplest form of an idea that speaks directly to the subconscious) of an idea. ie Stopped top locked in subconscious safe = the top will eventually fall in this place, so this place is reality. and Eternally spinning top locked in subconscious safe = it will never fall in this place, this place is a dream.

      • Jon says:

        But there is NO reason to believe that. It’s like you guys are pulling things out of thin air that COULD be true, but for which there is no real hard evidence. According to that explanation, real Mal hatched that whole plan involving Saito at the beginning of the movie (when Cobb steals the information from the safe) all the way to the end. That she orchestrated EVERYTHING in order to get Cobb to come back to reality, with hardly any results to show for it. There is little attempt at all to nudge Cobb in that direction. The basis of the movie is the main inception, and Cobb letting go of his guilt. Anything more complex is a huge over analysis with little to no fact.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Yes, John there is a huge reason to believe that is exactly what happened: That Mal orchestrated the whole thing. It explains the whole movie

        Just ask yourself this question:
        What would you do, if the person you loved most in the world was asleep on your living room floor, but wouldn’t wake up, because of something you did?
        You would:
        -Slap and shake them (this is felt in all the dreams)
        -Throw cold water on them (water is in almost every scene)
        -Go back into the dream and try to convince him to wake himself up (aka Kill yourself)
        – Play your wakeup song (but in dream time it is soo slow it sounds like a Freightening Fog Horn)
        -Bring in help (maybe a Psychiatrist who would call herself Ariadne to figure out why he is trapped)
        -Maybe bring in your father (who is obviously someone who teaches on the subject of shared dreaming)

  138. Creep Cavalier says:

    and what about the idea that mal doesnt exist in real life and cobb is just one of those old people who dreams all day long to be free. He met or saw mal earlier in life and never pursued a relationship but always regretted it so he created a dream life with her. The whole movie is actually an organic inception performed by his subconcious to make him realize that an obsession with a dream relationship isnt healthy. Thats why he kills her in the end and isnt wearing the wedding ring in the base level. Because its closest to reality. Just a thought.

  139. Bram says:

    Here’s another hint on Nolans part to show us that Cobb is really the one dreaming:
    Ariadne is a mythological women who gave a long rope to Theseus so ho would find his way back out of the labyrinth. So what are the odds that Cobb is not dreaming and this women who designs the levels is really called Ariadne??

  140. Matt says:

    there are two sets of kids. But i believe on set are the voice actors we hear on the phone. And the other are the ones we see.

  141. matt says:

    Cobb accepted that he needed to let Mal go down in limbo, aka the depths of his subconcious. So even if the ending still was a dream, Mal wouldn’t be present because Cobb has finally moved on. Another issue besides the kids looking the same age is that they are wearing the exact same clothes in the end as they are during all his dreams of them… Ultimately I think Nolan left the movie without an answer because it doesnt really matter whether he’s dreaming or not. He has let Mal go, he believes he’s finally in reality, and hes finally with his kids..

  142. matt says:

    In regrds to Cavalier’s question,
    When Cobb and Mal are in limbo, they are in the depth’s of their own subconcious. There is no further level to go down. When Mal locks her totem away in her childhood home, she puts it on its side in the safe. In doing this, she is locking away in the deepest part of her mind, that the totem doesn’t infinitely spin, that she is in reality. Cobb breaks into the safe and spins the totem, which will spin infinitely since it is a dream, and locks it back away in the back of her mind. Thats why even when she wakes up she is possessed with the idea that she is dreaming, because in the back of her mind, the totem is ever spinning.

  143. maxwelldog says:

    I thought I’de go see it, today, actually…but now that you’ve ruined it for me…

    nah.
    Get over yourself.
    “Spoiler Alert”?
    Tell me one person who hadn’t seen the spoiler alert about Marley.
    Good movie, kind’a short, actually.
    Knew Beethoven would die.
    duh.
    That’s what made K-9 with John Belushi good…the dog lives!
    I knew Golum would be the one to take the ring in for the final ten yards for the win.
    So?

    I’de rather have a spoiler TELL me if some nut case commits suicide in the second to last scene, than sit through two hours and ten minutes of movie, investing my mind into a winning scenario…and THEN find out.

    Thanx for the tips of watching for the ring.
    (and, speaking of “Ring” just in case anyone wanted to know how I knew Golum would be the winning hand? Books. I read the books. Also read One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest…then saw the movie (closest match I’ve seen yet) as well as Flowers for Algernon (Charlie) ….Catch ya later!)
    d=))

  144. Jon says:

    Okay, big questions.
    1. Towards the end, when Cobb confronts Mal, and Ariadne jumps off the building, was that limbo or a 4th dream state? Fischer was shot and presumably died in the 3rd level, but Ariadne and Cobb hooked up to the machine–so how did they end up in the same location?
    2. The time elapse doesn’t seem to make sense. I get the idea that time multiplies through the levels, but… In the first level with the van, how much time elapses? Hours at most? But yet 10 hours of time in the plane (the reality) was supposed to have passed by.

    • Pete says:

      1: This might help. They were in a Level 4 dream, which was Cobb’s. I don’t think Fischer died in the 3rd level, he was dieing though, so I think Cobb took him and Ariadne to the fourth level because going down a level slows down the dieing process(?)

      Ariadne and Fischer jump from the building and get transported back to the 3rd level. (I find this strange, as the kick should be from the level below you. You can’t give yourself a kick, unless say, you kill yourself, which might be what they were doing.)

      Cobb died from his knife wound and went to limbo, where he found Saito.

      2. This confuses me too. If they were on the plane for 10 hours, this should have translated to 1 week on the Level 1 dream. But it felt like these were only in the level 1 dream for a couple of hours. …Meh

    • m@ says:

      dont have an answer to 1

      but i think with regards to 2. we are not shown the whole dream sequences… ie we see them escape from the Van but we dont get shown what they do from then till the time they wake up.

      one think that i dont get is that the sedative used supposedly increases brain function by “50 times” which is more than then 12 times that we would “expect”..

      so 10 hours should actually mean 500 hours at STAGE ONE… that works out to like 2.6 million years at stage 4???… someone explain to me please 😦

  145. Bob Bobberson says:

    No, no, no, you all have it wrong. Cobb is Vader’s son. And Rosebud is the sled, which is actually Neo’s totem.

    Seriously, the clothes and the positioning of the children at the end are SIMILAR but not the same as in the dream sequences. And the children DO look older, by 1-2ish years. The similarity in the clothes is just a head-fake to make the question a question. So is the cutting off of the shot with the top.

    As for Miles’s clothes: he’s an old guy and a college professor. How many different kind of outfits do you think an old-guy college professor wears — especially when they have to travel (perhaps often) between France and California? I personally am wearing a blue shirt and tan pants right now. I have probably worn this outfit, or one basically indistinguishable from it (a slightly different blue shirt and tan pants), a dozen times in the last few weeks.

    For me, the statement is simple: it’s a happy ending with a dash of “…OR IS IT?!?!??” thrown in just to keep it from being too sickly sweet. Compare the ending of “Miracle on 34th Street.” The cane is just a coincidence …OR IS IT?!?!?! So Cobb is awake; the “…OR IS HE?!?!?!” is just cinematic icing.

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  147. Anthony says:

    Quick question, I can’t remember but is Cobb the first to wake on the plane?

    If so, what I don’t get is how. From when you enter you dream, to waking up would be the time you are asleep. So on the plane, for Cobb to awaken first (assuming he is in reality) and have his teammates awaken after him, would mean that in the closest dream level (Being the one with the van) he would have to get the kick first. [Which quite frankly I didn’t see how any of them got out of that dream because even after the van-falling-into-the-water kick they stumbled upon the shoreline so wouldn’t that mean they missed it?] But he was still underwater so he might’ve.. died again? So my questions are:

    a) How did the rest of the team get out of the first dream state? If they weren’t affected by the kick, they’d have to stay there for, what another 4 days? I think they were only driving around the van for a good couple hours.
    b) If they made their own kick, like jumping off a building, how could Cobbs wake up at relatively the same time as the rest of the team on the plane?

    • m@ says:

      the sedative prevents being able to use a kick in level 1… (remember the first time we meet the chemist they show the stability by slapping a dreamer), you just have to let it wear off!

  148. Scudzmissle says:

    The main question for me is: Did Mal and Cobb really grow old together in Limbo? Mal keeps asking Cobb
    Mal: Do you remember how you asked me to Marry you?
    Cobb: I told you I had a Dream where we grew old together.
    Mal: That’s Right, you owe me that.
    Cobb: But we did grow old together. Don’t you Remember?
    Then the 2 scenes of them as old people in Limbo. – Walking hand in hand in their dream Neighborhood (with the ring on) and holding old hands while lying on the train tracks together (also with the ring on)
    Mal also keeps telling Cobb –
    Mal: You know how to come back to me.
    So Did they grow old in Limbo together?
    And if so, HOW do you grow old in a dream?

    • dundundunnn says:

      Mal and Dom MADE that dream their reality for quite some time, and if they wanted it to be as close to reality as possible, they would HAVE to grow old through that much time because it wouldn’t be mistaken for reality if they were to stay young forever.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Right. But what method would they use to make them think their dream was reality?

        We see Mal stop her top from spinning and lock it in the safe?

        Why?

        So she would Believe she was in reality and grow old.

        So what if she did the same thing to Cobb in his safe so he would Believe they were in reality and grow old with her?

        Then Cobb spins her totem in the safe, but Mal doesn’t spin his.

      • Jon says:

        What is this about Cobb’s safe? Did he have one?

      • Scudzmissle says:

        John wonders if Cobb had a safe.

        He must have. And we see one that is the exact same as Mals. Where her’s is the the safest place a girl’s psyche would keep it – in her old room in her childhood house in her doll house and it has a toy in it that can spin.

        Cobb’s would be in the safest place a boy’s psyche would keep it. In a GI Joe/James Bond like fortress surrounded by guards and it would have a toy in it that could spin.

  149. jl74 says:

    Has anyone here read Screenrant’s breakdown of each character, each “dreamer” and each dream level? I’m not sure I agree w/their final analysis of the end, and I think they tended to over-simplify Mal and Ariadne, BUT, the character & level breakdown is great. It explains who the dreamers are in each level and some notes about the top as totem. Their levels stop at 4 (Limbo) but I think Limbo could be broken up to Cobb’s prison and Saito’s fortress.
    http://screenrant.com/inception-spoilers-discussion-kofi-68330/

  150. selina says:

    UNLESS EVEN THE REALITY MOMENTS WERE A DREAM

    Because in actual “reality” you can’t share dreams- so Nolan in the end was also kind of ushering the audience to WAKE UP from this movie-

    • Jon says:

      What is that supposed to mean?
      My whole view on the thing is that IF the whole thing were a dream, why would real Mal (who would then be alive and trying to get Cobb to leave his dream), not go back in the dream and talk to Cobb? That explanation also assumes that Cobb has a VERY loose grip on reality, and I didn’t really get that idea. Guilt over Mal, yes, but he knows when he’s in a dream and when he’s not. Also, Mal is very much portrayed that way (especially in scenes like when she actually does kill herself), with more of a loose grip on what’s real and kind of a darker character. To say that Cobb is in a dream the whole is to shift the whole idea of the movie to something that’s not really necessary.

  151. Sam G says:

    Cobb dropping his totem in the bathroom of Yusuf’s basement is not a Red Herring. That scene explains why Saito recognises the top (“from a half-remembered dream”) when Cobb shows up in his limbo castle.

  152. DVS says:

    Pardon me if this was mentioned already as I stopped reading the comments after the 10th page or so…but in regards to totems, didn’t Cobb state that its function was Mal’s “theory”? Perhaps her theory was wrong all along and totems are not true indicators of consciousness at all, unless you subconsciously believe you are conscious and thus the totem works (falls, in the tops case).

    • DVS says:

      Re-edit of my last sentence:

      Perhaps her theory was wrong all along and totems are not true indicators of consciousness at all, unless you subconsciously believe you are conscious thus creating the illusion of the totem working (falling, in the top’s case).

  153. BluBery says:

    he could see his children’s faces if you notice in the beach scene his children are sitting there with his wife playing in the sand. and in the dream state he refused to look at their faces cause that would make him think that the dreams were real. i don’t think he “couldn’t” see their faces i think he wouldn’t.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      Agreed.
      And by both ignoring the top and looking at his children’s faces he decided to accept wherever he was as reality.

      He will never go into another dream again.

      So how what crazy scheme will Mal try in the sequal to wake him up?

      • Jon says:

        How are you so sure that it’s a dream? There is NO reason to think that

      • BluBery says:

        there is no reason not to believe that

      • Jon says:

        Yes there is! There’s plenty. If that were the case, then why would Mal simply not enter the dream (what Cobb thinks is reality) and attempt to convince Cobb of the truth? In your theory, Cobb is blatantly ignoring reality, and I did not get that feeling AT ALL during the movie. You only get that feeling from Mal.
        And you can’t use “no reason not to” as an argument–give me one solid reason (no implications or convenient theories) to believe that Cobb is in a dream the whole time.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Ok, Jon.
        When Mal is first trying to convince Cobb that he is dreamig, it made me ask what if she is right?

        Just because Cobb is telling the story doesn’t mean he knows everything. Or as Nolan has done in other movies, Cobb could be confused or lying, like in Memento.

        This made me ask Why would Mal think she is in a dream?
        Because Cobb did an inception on her so she would think she is in a dream.

        So Why did she do an inception on herself to stay in the dream (by stopping the top in the first place)?
        So she could believe it was real and she could grow old.

        Well since she did grow old in the dream with Cobb (we see this with the 2 scenes where they are old in the dream) then Cobb must have done an inception on himself to beleive the dream is real to grow old with her.

        For Cobb to “forget” that he did an inception on himself seems like a very Nolan thing.

      • Scudzmissle says:

        Also, Jon
        She DOES come back into the dream and try and convince him it is a dream.
        First she comes in the kitchen scene where she is rubbing the knife saying those aren’t our children, this is a dream.
        then she comes in and does the Hotel room death scene – who has 3 psychiatrists and 2 lawyers declair you sane when you tell them your husband is trying to kill you – that sounds like a weird dream backup.
        She does come in and try and convince him, but he won’t believe her.

      • Jon says:

        I’m sorry, but I can’t accept that.
        You mention Memento (which I actually finished watching today–great movie, loved it!). However, in that movie, there is a solid reason to doubt the main character (memory loss), and there are no secrets about that. In Inception, there is no clue that Cobb is mentally disabled in any way–it seems like you’re creating that idea.
        Also, I never got the idea that Cobb believed the dream where they grow old is reality. Neither did Mal. They simply lived in that life because it was one that they liked. (One thing I am a little confused on though, is the timeline and dream levels of the following–dream level where they grow old, the one where they kill themselves with that train, and what I see as reality–how do those work chronologically?)
        Please read the following with an open mind, I promise it makes sense and is straight from the movie.
        It just doesn’t follow logically that Cobb would keep himself trapped in a false world (i.e. through the whole movie). He WANTS to be with Mal, as is evident by the fact that he spends his nights in dreams so that he can be with her and sort out his thoughts. So the only option according to your theory is that he forgot he was in a dream–not likely. He was the one telling Mal and planting the idea in her head that they needed to kill themselves to get to REAL LIFE. He does not want to live in a fake dream life, no matter how good it is. As he said when he finally lets Mal go, they lived their life, and he needs to let go of her and his guilt for good. That does not sound like a delusional man who either doesn’t know dream from reality or chooses to ignore it. That sounds like a man who is finally at piece with himself and ready to live a true life.

      • scudzmissle says:

        I like your point, Jon, and this is a good interpretation. My point is that even though he wants to be with Mal, he is too scared to be with her – kill himself.
        And he doesn’t go into the Dream Prison to only be with her, he goes there to try and let her go. Ariadne even says this _ “you think locking her away is a good way to deal with her? it’s not going to work.”

        Also if you take what mal says in the kitchen when Cobb says maybe we do have to go up one level – She says (with contmept) Up, There is no UP. Meaning there are no levels just dreaming or not dreaming.

        THis is why i mentioned Memento. That story was told backwards but happened forwards – this story was told in levels, but is really only one level = Cobb’s Dreams. Look at every scene change as a new dream.

        Finally, I mention Memento not because Leonard (the hero)had a mental problem (no short term memory), but becaue at the end when he solves the murder, The truth is too hard for him to deal with so he chooses to ignore it. He doesn’t put the last tattoo over his heart to tell himself that he is finished. he also destroys his own clues so he can stay ignorant and happy. THAT is what Cobb is doing too.

      • scudzmissle says:

        Also my theory: That cobb is asleep and all of this is one dream and Mal is coming into try and wake him up – solves that chronology problem. Like this:
        Mal and Cobb Play in dreams.
        They laydown on their living room floor and take some drug to go deeper into sleep – a coma like sleep say.
        Live in dreams (aka limbo) for “years” where “they soon got bored playing Gods”
        Mal stops her top so she believes the dream is real.
        (speculation here) she stops Cobb’s “top” in his safe (we don’t see her do this)
        they grow old together in the dream since they both believe the dream is real (like the poster says)
        Cobb Starts her top.
        they lay on the tracks as old people to die. Mal believe to wake up since her top is stopped and Cobb believes to really die cause her inception (of stopping his “top”) won’t let him really BELIEVE it is a dream.
        Mal “dies” and wakes up
        Cobb goes to another dream – where he is alone on the shore of his unconsciousness depressed and not moving for “years” until Saito’s guards pick him up.
        This starts the whole chain of events.
        (Over simplifying but) The WHOLE Movie is Mal coming in as Forger to try and sneak into Cobb’s safe and spin his “top” (the pinwheel) lock it back in the safe and then kill him.
        All to wake him up.
        In the real world – Cobb is still passed out on the living room floor. (we see that scene x2) once where Mal sits up crying and Cobb doesn’t move- THIS is the only scene of the real world we see. And then we see Cobb’s version, where he kisses her cheek.

      • scudzmissle says:

        SPINNING. I MEANT her top is SPINNING (not stopped)
        in the sentence above. STOPPED shouold of been spinning.
        Like this:
        they lay on the tracks as old people to die. Mal believe to wake up since her top is STOPPED and Cobb believes to really die cause her inception (of stopping his “top”) won’t let him really BELIEVE it is a dream.

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  155. somethoughts says:

    The entire movie is a dream, with Leo still stuck in Limbo at the end.

    The ring represents Leo’s confused state, the totem belonged to his wife so it doesn’t work, regardless if it falls or keeps spinning.

    If you watch the scene where his step dad/grandfather to the children tells Leo to come back to reality and come home. This is suggesting that Leo is still lost in Limbo and for him to have a chance to come back to reality he must complete this mission.

    The inception isn’t to plant a thought into a rival corporates head to dissolve the company (ruse) but rather to plant a thought into Leo’s character to wake up from his Limbo, to take a LEAP OF FAITH. His wife realized that they were still in the dream and suicide to wake up, and Leo believed it to be reality so much he created these series of dreams and reality to support his idea.

    At the very end of the film, Leo has completed his mission and is finally home to his kids, he may wake up from this fantastic dream, or keep being in Limbo as he is happy with this dream.

    Ask yourself this, who gets chased around the world by faceless corporations, who has the power to buy a airline, who has the power to make one phone call to waive murder charges. During this point of the movie we don’t question it as it appears normal and real, but once the film is over you question it because its to fantastic to be real. The film itself is very clever because Nolan wanted to show you a 2hr dream layered with dreams and the very end is to signal to you the viewer that the dream is over and it’s back to your reality, ie. go home from the theater.

    • Jon says:

      I can’t agree with that. What reason is there at all to believe that, besides some vague hypotheses? If the point of the inception was to plant an idea in Cobb’s head, it was poorly designed and even more poorly executed.

      • somethoughts says:

        It’s not poorly executed. If Cobbal corporation is really Cobbs mind, and the mission of planting a thought into Fischer’s mind (Leo’s subconscious) is to be his own man and dissolve the company, this could really mean dissolve Cobbs Dream and wake up.

        If Saito was really Mal trying to help Leo to wake up by telling him to take a leap of faith and created this mission to allow Cobb one step closer in going home to his kids or another words wake up and come back to reality.

        Saito: You don’t know I will fullfil my end of the bargain, you will have to take a leap of faith
        Mal: Falling and taking a leap of faith
        Saito: We were once young men, and now we are old filled with regrets.
        Mal and Cobb grew old together, except Mal realized it was all a dream and suicided to wake up from the dream, leaving Cobb grieving in the dream.
        Mal: You know how to find me, you know what you have to do.

        I propose that Saito is really Mal in disguise and when the two are together on screen one is a projection of Cobbs subconscious.

        Saito’s/Mals mission is to plant ideas into Cobbs head by subtle means so that it will appear self generated. Taking a leap of faith, finishing a mission to go home to his kids.

        The mission is the key, Cobb and Cobbal corporation means Leo’s characters mind. They want Leo’s character to dissolve the dream and to wake up.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      Right On, Somethoughts!!

      Your last paragraph hits at a great point about the signs that point to him still dreaming.
      He also has other characters talking to Cobb that say things that seem out of character – His father in law, Miles, saying, wake up. come back to reality
      Saito – let’s go back and be young men together again (a couple of times) Mal (many times wake up, trust me, you didn’t kill yourself at the tracks, “You know what you need to do to be with me again”)

      But Nolan’s driving force is usually something more personal and his conclusions more simple and direct. For instance the end of Memento he chooses to lie to himself to be happy. this is the same. Cobb chooses to lie to himself and believe he is happy at home, even though he is dreaming.

      • Jon says:

        You guys are seeing what you want to see. What the father-in-law says could easily be the straightforward meaning. And for Mal to say that to Cobb and mean it in the way you’re implying, that means that Cobb does know what he needs to do to be with her, and is refusing to do it. Which kind of gets in the way of his whole feelings of guilt. Cause he could be with her. And not feel guilty. Win-win. But yet he doesn’t. Because that is not true.

      • somethoughts says:

        Exactly, 100% agree.

      • scudzmissle says:

        Jon,
        Cobb does know what he has to do to be with her and he IS refusing to do it. That is what is causing the guilt feelings.

        To be with her he has to kill himself. He is a coward and doesn’t trust/love Mal enough to take that leap of faith and kill himself with her.
        He Lies to her about the Train Riddle:
        You’re waiting for a Train
        You hope it will take you somewhere you want to go
        But you are not sure where it is taking you
        You don’t care
        Why don’t you care?
        Cobb: Because we will be together.
        He SAYS that, but he doesn’t believe it. He does want to know where he will go before he takes that trip even with her. He is too scared to get on that train with her (or actually get under it)
        🙂

      • Jon says:

        I just can’t agree with that. Cobb is no coward. He came up with the idea of killing yourself to get back to real life (which was NOT planted by inception because if it were, it would have multiplied in him the same way it did in Mal and he would have killed himself anyways.) And he even clearly did so to leave the dream from when he and Mal aged together. He is the brave one who does what needs to be done to be in reality–Mal is the one who was mentally unbalanced by the inception, which is made very clear to be the source of Cobb’s feelings of guilt, that he was the reason she died. I’ll repost something I did a while up that further explains why it is simply not feasible to believe that the whole thing is a dream.
        It just doesn’t follow logically that Cobb would keep himself trapped in a false world (i.e. through the whole movie). He WANTS to be with Mal, as is evident by the fact that he spends his nights in dreams so that he can be with her and sort out his thoughts. So the only option according to your theory is that he forgot he was in a dream–not likely. He was the one telling Mal and planting the idea in her head that they needed to kill themselves to get to REAL LIFE. He does not want to live in a fake dream life, no matter how good it is. As he said when he finally lets Mal go, they lived their life, and he needs to let go of her and his guilt for good. That does not sound like a delusional man who either doesn’t know dream from reality or chooses to ignore it. That sounds like a man who is finally at piece with himself and ready to live a true life.

    • somethoughts says:

      Here’s a link that shares my opinion on the film, it should help explain why we believe the entire movie is a dream.

      http://chud.com/articles/articles/24477/1/NEVER-WAKE-UP-THE-MEANING-AND-SECRET-OF-INCEPTION/Page1.html

  156. BluBery says:

    i think the top falling in earlier stages of the movie can easily be explained: it was cob’s dream, and while he watched the top in what he thought was reality (the first level of his dream) would fall as long as he was watching it. in all other levels of his dream it spun forever. also on the phone it seemed to me there were 3 kids talking :a young boy, a young girl, and an older resentful boy? did anyone else hear the third voice?

    • Jon says:

      Yeah! Totally didn’t understand why there seemed to be another voice…

    • Scudzmissle says:

      yeah I heard this. I thought if Cobb was asleep and Mal was next to his unconscious body she would have her kids try to talk to him to get him to wake up. And Cobb would hear it as a phone call.

      The part where it changes voices is
      Cobb: I can’t come home I am working and have to stay here
      Child: Where? (as in where do you think you are?)
      Then
      Weird Older Child voice: Grandma says yer never coming back.

  157. somethoughts says:

    Recurring message to Leo’s character is to TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH

    That is the idea they are planting into Leo’s mind. This is the true inception of the movie.

    Nobody, not even Bill Gates can pick up a phone and have murder charges waived, too fantastic to be real, so to conclude the final scene is dreamy and not real. Who leaves children playing in the back yard with no supervision while the grandfather picks up Leo at the airport? Why are the children always playing in the backyard? These are Leo’s memories and put forth into his dreams.

    The elevator buttons represents the different layers of dreams Leo is in. His wife is trying to help Leo realize that he is still dreaming and for him to come home to her and his children is his dream both in the dream world and in reality.

    The ending is genius and creates discussion and allows for people to go back and look for clues.

    • Marcelo says:

      Nobody said Saito was going to make the murder charges disappear. He could have someone hacking into the systems to remove the red flags from the systems or bribed someone into letting Cobb pass the immigration officer without being bothered.

  158. BluBery says:

    wow my friend helped me see something. how is cob asleep for so long?after a while the sedative wears off and he wakes up

    • Scudzmissle says:

      2 possibilities:
      1. We don’t know what sedative Mal and Cobb used they don’t mention it- maybe it was something that put Cobb into a Coma
      2. If Cobb believes he is in the real world when he is dreaming and his consciousness doesn’t know to wake up – he would never wake up. He would be stuck asleep without the need of a sedative.

  159. bluecheesedude says:

    I haven’t read all of the comments, because there are many and so if I’m repeating something, forgive me.

    I just saw this movie again and just in regard to the ring theory, I kept note of when he had the ring on and when he didn’t. The thing about the final scene, in which he spins the top (the only time you can see his hand) and is supposedly without a ring, the issue is that he spins it with his right hand. All you can see is his right hand. His left hand, where one wears a wedding ring, is obscured. You can’t see whether or not he’s wearing the wedding ring because you can’t see his left hand. So it’s still something of an ambiguity.

    Unless I’ve gotten something wrong. I think though, that it makes a more dynamic story if he’s still caught in limbo at the end. Because that really makes the point of whether or not you believe in the reality you’re living. Or something. 🙂

  160. Checksum says:

    One point everyone seems to be missing is the fact that the totem has nothing to do with qualifying if you are in a dream or not. What the totem does do is tell its owner (maker) if they are in their dream, or someone else’s dream. That is the whole point of not letting anyone else know what your totem does.

    • Jon says:

      But that doesn’t make sense for Cobb to have a totem then, since he gave up designing dreams.

      • Checksum says:

        He gave up designing them, he didn’t give up being in dreams.

        The spinning top is Mals and the consequence of it falling/not falling is only to show her if she is in her dream or someone else’s (e.g. Cobb’s). It has no meaning to Cobb.

        If his totem is the wedding ring and he is not wearing it at the end then he knows he is in his dream, not Mal’s.

  161. jlogg says:

    i’ve only seen the film once and haven’t read all of these posts (yet), and i really appreciate learning about the ring as it fits nicely into a theory i have (which i’d like to share).

    i believe cobb has chosen to stay in the dream and construct his own reality. the thing keeping him from being a “dream addict” was his guilt about mal and her projection in his dreams. once he was able to have that cathartic moment towards the end of the movie and release her, he became free of both the guilt and the projection. this allowed the idea that the dream world is as real as reality to take hold and grow in his mind.

    allow me to explain my theory and my reasoning…

    if creating from memory makes it imposible for you to tell what is real and what is dream…

    then at the end of the movie when cobb is with saito he looks around the room and knows that saito had grown old and created from memory because the room is the same one they were in at the beginning of the movie. then he asks saito to come with him and be young men again.

    he asks him because he knows he can’t tell saito that this world is fake. he had told his wife that their world was not real and he believes that the “inception” of that ideal will do to saito what it did to his wife.

    seeing that saito had also lived a long full life in a mater of minutes is in itself also an “inception” of an idea for cobb.

    the idea that he too can live another full life. maybe he spins the top in end, not to find out if he is in the dream world but to remind himself that he is (that’s why he doesn’t wait to see if it will stop spinning – he knows it won’t). like all those people in the dream opium den, he has become addicted and the dream world. perhaps cobb believes that he can live another long life and then wake up back on the plane if/when he choses to. that’s why the kids are doing the same thing and in the same position as when he saw them last.

    so in the end when he is talking about an idea being an unstoppable disease, he was talking about himself and his idea/disease is that the dream world is as real as reality (which is also what his wife was trying to tell him).

    thanks for reading. thoughts?

  162. Shaun says:

    The different ages for the children can be easily explained: the older children were never seen but heard while Cobb was talking to them on the phone. The children that were seen were the younger actors and we never saw the older ones.

  163. david says:

    The question of the ring being the totem doesn’t apply. the totem needs a gravity point. being on Cobb’s finger or not does not act as a totem, thus, Mal’s top remains the main idea of reality defined by Cobb to us and the characters. In other words, his own reality, a dream.

  164. Weber says:

    The kids clothes are different. The little girl has different color shoes then earlier and in the end she has a white tee shirt under her dress.

  165. Tom says:

    i don’t know if this has been discussed before since this talkback is gigantic, but here’s my question: so their plan is to plant ideas into Fischer’s mind on the 3 levels, which i think was an absolutely great and beautiful story idea… on level 1, Eames took the shape of Browning (Fischer’s godfather) and planted the first seeds of the idea into him… but then the strange stuff begins… on level 2, the next part of the idea is planted, again by Browning, but this time it’s NOT Eames (he’s in the room at the same time!) but it’s Fischer’s projection of Browning who tells him what he needs to hear! and then on level 3, the same thing happens again… Fischer’s father gives him the third part of the inception, and again it’s NOT Eames (who’s right outside the door at the time) but Fischer’s projection of his father! now if it’s their big plan to plant those 3 seeds of the idea into Fischer’s mind, then why do 2 of the 3 seeds get planted by Fischer’s own mind???

    • somethoughts says:

      So Fischer doesn’t question it to be planted and that it is self generated, that is the only way the idea will stick and not seem planted.

    • Jon says:

      Good question! I would explain it by saying that once Fischer believed Browning to have a certain view in the first level, it carried over into his projection of Browning in the second level–and once the idea begins to grab hold, it comes to completion in the third level because that is what Fischer begins to believe.

  166. Rob Stevens says:

    There are a lot of clues that the entire movie is a dream. I could go into exhaustive detail on all of them, but I’m going to stick with the analytical stuff, stemming from knowledge I picked up in a screenwriting class.

    Nolan’s movies (and movies in general) are all about establishing the rules, letting the audience know what the rules are, then seemingly breaking the rules (which creates conflict). But the biggest rule of filmmaking is that you must have rules that your movie lives by, and you can not truly break them; to do so would be cheating. Frequently, Nolan uses an “unreliable narrator” as his protagonist, and he uses that as a way of not truly breaking the rules, because sometimes you don’t know what all the rules are until the movie is over (like in “The Sixth Sense”).

    So let’s establish the rules that the movie presents to us.

    Rule 1: Your totem can tell you if you are in reality or a dream.
    Rule 1a: Your totem can not be trusted to discern dreams from reality if it’s been touched by anyone else.
    Rule 2: The architect must never let anyone know what the dream world looks like, or it too, cannot be trusted.
    Rule 3: Time operates at a fraction of normal time in a dream, so dreams feel longer.
    Rule 3a: Time dilation is cumulative in successive dream states.
    Rule 4: Music from reality can be heard in a dream.
    Rule 5: Physics from reality can be observed in a dream, but dream physics don’t necessary operate like those of reality.
    Rule 5a: Physics from reality can be used to wake you from a dream (i.e. the “kick”).
    Rule 6: Because of Rule 3, the effect of Rules 4 & 5 can be slowed music or shifts in gravity.

    That said, in the first scene of the movie, Saito has Cobb’s top, his totem. Cobb can not use this to determine reality … this would violate Rule 1a. It’s curious that someone else in possession of Cobb’s totem is the first thing Nolan chooses us to show us, even presumably in Limbo (which we’re only allowed to know at the end of the movie).

    Later, Nolan goes even further to explain that this is not Cobb’s totem; It’s Mal’s. Cobb is not the only one who knows how this totem behaves. Mal knows, and there is no way for Cobb to know if anyone else knows how this totem behaves as well. In fact, even the audience isn’t allowed to know how the top truly behaves … we’re never allowed to see it stop spinning. Again, if we adhere to the rules, it’s like Nolan is further reinforcing Rule 1a.

    When Cobb spins the top at the end of the movie, it can not be trusted. Further, we have to question everything we’ve been presented, because we have yet to see a totem used that wasn’t touched by or was in the possession of an outsider.

    Then there’s the music … by now you’ve probably all heard the YouTube clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVkQ0C4qDvM). The song “Non, je ne regrette
    rien” (“No, I Regret Nothing” in French) is used as the musical cue for the kick. Hans Zimmer, the composer for “Inception”, used a slowed version of this song as the basis for his score in the film. In the film, Cobb states that the music for the kick was a favorite of his wife, Mal.

    By now you know that things in films are done for a reason. Looking back at the rules, we know from Rule 6 that time can effect music. Even in the reality scenes, the film’s score is still based on the music used as the kick, and it’s playing slower and slower the deeper they go, even if the music of the kick is playing, to the point where the music may overlap. This suggests heavily that even “reality” may still be a level of a dream.

    Lastly, there’s the unreliable narrator issue. Nolan has used this before, notably in the film “Memento,” a story about a man with no ability to create memories. (Spoiler Alert!) He uses tattoos, notes, and photos to substitute for his memory, but we’re shown over time that these are being manipulated. Eventually you learn that even his memory of Sammy Jenkis is unreliable … the narrator IS Sammy Jenkis, and it turns out he is responsible for his own wife’s death, which he’s been trying to solve. Each time he figures this out, he intentionally leaves himself some clue to another murderer, perpetuating a terrible cycle. The suspected murdered, Teddy, is the only one that knows the truth.

    Would Nolan use this trick again? Directors tend to use variations on a theme, just like the music in “Inception” is variations on a theme.

    Throughout the movie, key elements are presented as having been ideas or concepts coming from Mal. In fact, two of the rules themselves were Mal’s ideas … the totem and the musical cue for the kick. You need to choose who you can trust in the movie, and frequently the one that you can trust is the one presenting the rules to you. We’re led to believe that this is Cobb, when in reality, the rules are coming from Mal.

    Lastly, on the music note (no pun intended), there was a news article suggesting that when they cast Marion Cotillard as Mal, Nolan wanted to change the music used the in film. Eventually, Hans Zimmer convinced him not to. But why? What’s the link? Marion Cotillard played Edith Piaf in a film about the french composer of “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Was it too good of a clue?

    My theory, like many have suggested, is that Cobb is actually the one stuck in a dream (possibly in a coma), and that Mal is the one trying to convince him of this, to get him to wake up. Everyone in the movie is a projection of his subconscious except for Mal. If you watch the movie with the idea that it is Mal who can be trusted, the movie ends up with very different tone to it.

    • Jon says:

      You attempt to make several points but don’t close on any of them. You said the following:
      By now you know that things in films are done for a reason. Looking back at the rules, we know from Rule 6 that time can effect music. Even in the reality scenes, the film’s score is still based on the music used as the kick, and it’s playing slower and slower the deeper they go, even if the music of the kick is playing, to the point where the music may overlap. This suggests heavily that even “reality” may still be a level of a dream.
      How does that it suggest that? Music plays normally in what I see as reality (the “base level” of the movie”)
      The problem with referencing Memento is that in that movie, we have a reason to disbelieve the main character–memory loss. In Inception, there is no reason to believe that Cob is unreliable. His guilt is over having a hand in his wife’s death, not in being a coward or anything of that sort. His issue is NOT with distinguishing between reality and dreams (there is NO reason to believe that) but with giving up his wife and moving on. He can clearly tell the difference between dreams and real life–he simply wants to be with his wife, a tender feeling that certainly is cinematic enough to not have to construct some alternate theory. Also, you suggest that Mal and Cobb NEED to be in conflict.
      Throughout the movie, key elements are presented as having been ideas or concepts coming from Mal. In fact, two of the rules themselves were Mal’s ideas … the totem and the musical cue for the kick. You need to choose who you can trust in the movie, and frequently the one that you can trust is the one presenting the rules to you. We’re led to believe that this is Cobb, when in reality, the rules are coming from Mal.
      Why is that a problem? So what if Mal suggested the rules? Her and Cobb worked together, and it would be safe to believe they came to the conclusion together, or at the least agreed on it.
      And what’s the problem with using that music in the first place? How is that a clue in the slightest?
      To further disprove the idea that everything is a dream, I’ll repost from above.
      “It just doesn’t follow logically that Cobb would keep himself trapped in a false world (i.e. through the whole movie). He WANTS to be with Mal, as is evident by the fact that he spends his nights in dreams so that he can be with her and sort out his thoughts. So the only option according to your theory is that he forgot he was in a dream–not likely. He was the one telling Mal and planting the idea in her head that they needed to kill themselves to get to REAL LIFE. He does not want to live in a fake dream life, no matter how good it is. As he said when he finally lets Mal go, they lived their life, and he needs to let go of her and his guilt for good. That does not sound like a delusional man who either doesn’t know dream from reality or chooses to ignore it. That sounds like a man who is finally at piece with himself and ready to live a true life.”

  167. Anonymous says:

    LOL you basement dwellers were all trolled.

    ITS A MOVIE WHO GIVES A SHIT

    Go outside and find something to fuck.

  168. Edlanti says:

    Alot of good theories in here.. I am in the group of people that think the whole movie was a dream.. Why? Because If Fisher and Saito are so powerful as he claims he is, Wouldn’t Fisher recognize him when they were in the airplane? That’s like saying Bill Gates wouldn’t know who Steve Jobs is or what he looks like? That to me looks very suspicious there

    • Joshua says:

      But not all powerful men are necessarily “famous”. If it were someone very high up in the CIA, they wouldn’t exactly be handing out business cards.

  169. somethoughts says:

    Every scene offers clues that he is dreaming.

    Being chased by faceless global corporate hit man, walls closing in and being freed and saved by Saito.
    Father in law: Come back to reality, come home.
    Mal: You know how to find me, you know what you have to do.
    Mal suicides on opposite side of building, how did she get there? obvious dream logic.
    Kids: always playing together in beach, hotel, house, derived from memories put into dreams.
    Saito: buying airline, making phone call to waive murder charges, fantastic dream logic.

    The above clues verifies each scene in the movie is in fact a dream, Leo hates trains and we see the train as the first level he wakes up from in the opening scene where they failed to extract all the info from Saito. I believe he is still dreaming and he’s maybe one floor down, at the end of the movie. I believe he finally wakes up once the credits roll as his wife successfully planted the seed in his mind to take a leap of faith.

    He trusted Saito that he would be allowed to go home simply by making a phone call, perhaps this idea to TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH will allow Leo to trust Mal and finally wake up.

    • says:

      This is a good one. But if this is the case, that means Mal’s inception just failed. Because Cobb either believes he is in reality or he doesn’t care anymore. That’s why he looked at his kids as they turned back which he couldn’t do in the other dream. He accepts where he is now no matter it is reality or any level of dream. So even if Cobb is in his first level dream, Mal will not be able to convince Cobb to leave.

  170. saxyjorge says:

    Wow! 5 times! That is definitely impressive! No wonder you caught all these nuances of the movie! And if what you said is true then this movie IS better than Dark Knight! Good job to clarifying this CRAZY Twist! I’m gonna be sharing this link to my blog/twitter followers!

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  172. Tom says:

    @somethoughts… sure, i did get that… but that doesn’t explain why Fischer’s own projections (= his own mind) plants those ideas into him…

    • somethoughts says:

      Fischer’s own projections plants those ideas into him due to the work done in level 1 kidnapping/van via forger Tom Hardy and level 2 hotel his own projection reinforcing what the forger Tom Hardy suggested already. Tom Hardy and Saito, “let’s follow him to see if it worked, projection walks into hotel room and confirms Fischers suspicion, Leo and team convinces Fischer to go through shared dreaming to see what his godfather knows, Leo wants Fischer to break into his own subconscious to see the final message/idea planted and starting to take shape, to not be like his father and to dissolve the company and be his own man.

      • carlos says:

        My take on fishers inception:
        – level one: put fear in him, make him think there is something to protect, something valuable.
        – level two: reinforced the ideas in level one, get him on their side.
        – level three: his subconscious put the false idea that his father didnt want him to be like him in the vault, the safest place. They let him think he is discovering it on his own, leading to a catarsis and inception.

        So it boils down to creating a false idea and trick him into accepting it.

        Fishers subsconcious helps by adding his own personal feeling into it, that his father longed to be with him but never had anytime because of work. That his dissappointment was at himself for being a bad father.

        Beautiful

  173. Jess says:

    I like your argument here, but, I’m gonna play a bit of Devil’s Advocate since I gotta give Nolan major kudos for coming up with a real mind-puzzling ending :D. keep in mind, I only saw this movie once. However, as a writer/fan of horror/mystery, I tend to determine things according to how *I* would’ve set up my audience. XD

    Therefore…

    Even if we’d like to use the ring and the absense of his wife as a way to determine the ending, that still doesn’t close the door on several other possibilites. For example, considering that Leo finally *did* confront Mal and admit to his guilt towards the end of the film, it stands to reason she would no longer haunt him from that moment on. Thus, he’d find closure in his dream. Metaphorically speaking, his subconsious would let go of her and no longer require to wear the ring, which symbolically tied him to her.

    This is how dreams typically work in the real world anyway. If you’re bothered by someone/something, they’ll appear in your dreams and continue to stalk you until you eventually face the threat. After you face them, they disappear along with anything that symbolically held you to them. That’s what could’ve happened to Cobb and why Mal didn’t appear to him anymore.

    We’re also overlooking a major scene that happened at the beginning of the movie, which makes the ending still open-ended for me. In fact, I only remembered it when I asked myself: provided this was a dream all along, at what point did Cobb go to sleep to have this dream? The answer lies in an early scene, the one where he’s introduced to the sedative his team would use for the mission.

    Remember when he was taken undergound and saw all these men sleeping? I can’t remember the old man’s exact words, but when Cobb asked why these guys would deliberately put themselves to sleep for a long time, the old man who answered told him they sought to dream again. Through dreams they found their own reality.

    This would’ve been the perfect time for Cobb to go sleep and have this massive/complex dream. Let’s also remember Cobb saying how he had trouble dreaming again. If he *was* put under this sedative, then he’d not only dream again but, like the old men, find his own reality (which he did when he finally confronted Mal and got rid of her). The other thing to consider is…we’ve no idea what happened to him when he was put under that sedative, a sedative that was supposedly powerful enough to keep the dreamer asleep for a long time. In fact, we see him sleep and seconds later, he wakes up.

    But what happened to him when he slept? What did he dream when he was put under that sedative? We assume he simply fell to sleep and woke up to pursue the job since we’re presented with a quick cut scene. But what if that cut scene was simply setting us up? What if he *didn’t* wake up? What if he simply dreamt of himself waking up? ^_^

    See, that’s the scene that leaves too many questions for me. I imagine Nolan intended it to be ambigious to keep people guessing over the ending. Hell, if *I* had written the story that would’ve been the perfect spot to leave for open interpetation.

  174. Jess says:

    Because I assume people will be reading my argument and already be asking why Cobb didn’t see Mal whenever he ‘woke up’ if he was still asleep… I’d like to suggest that, in lucid dreams you have the ability to sway things according to your thought, which comes in handy if you’re having a nightmare.

    I mention this because, for Cobb, he could’ve made himself ‘believe’ that he was awake in the ‘real world’. Therefore, he’d have made himself believe Mal was not a threat and could not be seen. Contrarily, the moment he entered his ‘dream’ world, he’d make himself believe Mal *was* a threat and therefore, he *would* see her there.

    This is the power of mind persuasion. XD

  175. Karmic says:

    I think the ending is simple. Cobb is still trapped in limbo. on the last scene of the movie, Nolan shows the top spinning endlessly and then credits starts rolling. I think Nolan wants to tell us, “the top will spin endlessly so we’ll end it right there”.

  176. eamyvi says:

    oh my god. never noticed the ring. i guess i have to see it more than once like you did. but i was distracted by joseph gordon levitt’s sheer awesomeness. hehe

  177. Barry Dilemma says:

    what if Ariadne is actually Cobbs daughter? Has that theory been tossed around yet?

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  179. somethoughts says:

    Cobb and Cobal Corporation, I am betting they both mean Leo’s characters mind. The mission is to be his own man and dissolve the corporation, ie. dissolve the dream and wake up.

    Two themes here, take a leap of faith, go home and dissolve the corporation/mind dream.

    This all infers to having Leo take the leap of faith like his wife committing suicide to wake up, so he can go home to reality by completing this final mission, to dissolve the mind dreaming, ie. to wake up.

    • Jon says:

      After seeing the movie for the second time today, I am even more convinced that the “base level” is indeed reality. Anything that Mal says implying that he is not in reality is because she indeed does believe that he is not in reality–she believed he was dreaming ever since she killed herself. So naturally Cobb’s projection of her follows that belief and tries to tell him that he is dreaming–but that does NOT make it correct. (Example: Towards the end, when she tells him something along the lines of “Are you sure you’re in reality? No creeping doubts?” And earlier, “You know what you have to do to be with me.” She THINKS that he has to kill himself to be with her, but that does not make it right. Mal does not have the final say.) There’s no reason to think that Cobb messed up and was in a dream and didn’t know it. There is plenty of reason, however, to believe that Mal is confused–Cobb was successful in his inception on her–too successful, leading to her nagging doubts that she is not in reality.

      • somethoughts says:

        Assume for a second Mal was correct because of what Cobb did to her, making her realize that they were still in a dream. Now consider this, Mal did not return the favor to Cobb and Cobb is left dreaming alone grieving for the person who he loved gone.

        Mal could simply go back as Saito and plant a seed of thought into Cobb to convince him to take a leap of faith and dissolve a company called Cobbal, or dissolve his dream. Scenes where there’s Mal and Saito, one could simply be a projection and the other a forger in Mal.

        You have to look for dream logic such as Saito having the power to make a phone call to waive murder charges, this is only possible in a dream world and not the real world.

        All signs point to Cobb being stuck in limbo and Mal trying to rescue him.

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  181. Felix says:

    I agree with this theory but I want to input my own twist.

    Cobb figures out if hes in a dream or not by way of the wedding ring ryt?
    If its not there, he’s in reality. If it’s there, he’s in a dream.

    I think Cobb’s totem is not having a totem. (hence not having a ring in reality.)

    If he did use his actual ring as a totem, it would not make sense since during a wedding, the wife (Mal) puts the ring in the husband’s (Cobb) finger.

    Mal touched the ring and didnt Arthur explain that no one should touch another person’s totem because it defeats the purpose.

    Thats my interpretation.

  182. syakir says:

    at the end of the movie, i think he’s still in the limbo but succeed on deleting or erasing mal from his dream. he’s just not in love with the infected mal

  183. Ashley says:

    Mal has his wedding ring in his dreams because he hadn’t accepted that his marriage was over. What if the last scene is a dream, but he doesn’t have his ring because he’s come to terms with it?

  184. Roger says:

    Didn’t read all the millions of comments (sorry). Your theroy is pretty strong evidence towards the reality of the final scene. But there are many factors pointing towards the false/dream solution.
    Firstly, COBALT. As Mal points out, a un-explored, faceless corporation that hires Dom to steal some unidentified peice of information from “very powerful people” who have connections that will allow Dom to go off scot free? This seems very unlikely. We are given no insight into the who, what and why of COBALT.
    Secondly, the other members of the team. Why is their background not explored? Obviosuly the movie is pretty full, has alot of ground to cover and can’t give any depth to the other characters, but they all seem to be blank, stereotypical figures. This is a concious decision on Nolan’s behalf, nothing more. Not only are they pretty good fighters (see Arthur’s fight scene) but they are seemingly impervious to bullets (ignoring Saito).
    Finally, the facial hair. Again, this is a concious decision of Nolan’s. All of the characters, including and most importantly Dom, maintain the same hair and facial hairstyle throughout the film. I’m talking in Dom’s falshbacks to pre-limbo, during limbo with Dom and Mal, throughout the entire inception and in the final scene. This is imporant. It is facial hair that needs maintaining.

    Now, all these points are pretty miniscule by themselves. However, when viewed together they paint a picture: that NONE of it is real. That from the beginning, the “reality” of the train scence, Yusuf’s basement and everything considered to be reality is not so. It is the TOP of the top layers. Perhaps Dom is in a dream to begin with. Perhaps he is still in limbo from the first expirement with Mal. It isn’t clear. But I believe that it isn’t supposed to be. Nolan made this film to be complex, and it is an amazing piece of filmography.

  185. Armand says:

    Cobb uses the top as his totem, but this was Mal’s original totem and no one else is supposed to touch another person’s totem. Look at the way he acquired the top, he found it in the safe in the house Mal grew up in the dream world they both were living in for years. Whether the top falls or keeps spinning at the end does not matter because it is not Cobbs actual totem, how it reacts is not valid. It just acts as subconscious reinforcement of what he wants to validate as reality while he is in a persistent dream state.
    So what is Cobb’s real totem, his original totem? I don’t think its the ring, its something else that Cobb has forsaken once he accepts limbo as reality and clings to the top as his totem. I’m on the “Mal had it right when she jumped off the building to get out of limbo” team. The whole movie is a dream.

  186. Kyle says:

    Maybe I missed something in the movie, but didn’t he pick up the top in his dream with his wife? Meaning it was never his totem. In which case, he dreaming or not the top could be spinning or fall over. It would fall over in what he considers reality bc he has accepted that it will. Something about the top meaning absolutely nothing according to this review bothers me.

  187. slightlyredherring says:

    Thanks a lot ! I was stuck between theories after seeing the movie yesterday. I had a hard time focusing so I’m planning to see it once again. Still I respect the writer who has mentioned the ring thing. Great point. Now I know the end, and that it’s a happy end, but sort of hidden and not cheesy. Which is even better. I should have known that it was a clue, showing us his hand all the time. So I believe in this theory. I think it is more satisfying and interesting than “he just lives in limbo” I dont know why the hell grandma isnt there and grandpa is present. maybe she had a crazy butt surgery and grandpa was kicked off school cause he kept pushing his students into illegal actions. I dont know. And I dont care. It’s very late here and I want to read every single comment up there but there are to many. And my eyes are dry like hell. So.Good night. Thanks again for the explanation. I wish to god that I’m not an average intelligent person and that I could find it out myself if ive seen the movie %12 of five days, before reading this. Zzz

    • somethoughts says:

      The ring is for Leo’s character to try to remain sane, allowing himself to believe the world he lives in is indeed real even though it is not.

      If you pay attention to the dialogue of the film you will conclude the entire movie is indeed a dream and his mission is to go home to his kids, ie. wake up. Dissolving a company is no different than dissolving a dream.

      • Jon says:

        “Dissolving a company is no different than dissolving a dream?” What? No.

      • somethoughts says:

        You have to first understand that Cobb and Cobbal corporation is the same. The mission to dissolve Cobbal Corporation is like Mal planting a thought into Cobb saying, dissolve the dream.

  188. wally says:

    I reckon that scudzmissle is onto something- The pinwheel was Cobbs totem. Why else would such a random object be found in such a pivotal place?

    I idea that Cobb couldn’t see his kids faces is flawed- he just didn’t want to. The act of him seeing them at the end was the final act of him giving up.

    I guess the thing is, if he is still in a dream, he’ll eventually grow old, die- and return to the real word, the question then is whether he’ll have the emotional fortitude to survive such an awakening.

    • Scudzmissle says:

      Thanks for giving my theory a chance, Wally.
      If we follow it through its conclusion then Cobb can’t die in a dream. Because he really believes in his subconscious that he is in reality. Follow this:
      Since he thinks he is in reality, if he gets killed or kills himself he would be dead, but since this is a dream he can’t die, but since deep down he believes this dream is reality he would die, but he is in a dream so he can’t die. . . His locked totem means that when he dies in his dream he wakes up again in Limbo, so he can’t kill himself.

      So he can’t eventually grow old and die in the dream world. His body in the real world will have to die. he is probably in a coma in some hospital somewhere.

      • donnie says:

        If you had stayed to the end of the credits, you would know the answer to whether the top fell or not. And the answer is, you hear the top drop at the very end; therefore, the whole movie was not a dream

  189. Pingback: Inception - Page 2 - Tilted Forum Project Discussion Community

  190. I want to give you a blowjob Spencer says:

    Spencer, you are fucking awesome and a god damn genious, I want to give you all accolades for being such a nerd, a geek, a loser, a cocksucker ever to go to a movie four times in five days. Get a job Spencer. Pick up a hobby. For crying out loud, read a book. Any book. At least read a newspaper. At least read the gossip or fashion section of a tabloid. Do something with your life, Spencer. Something better than looking at Leonardo’s hand. Look at my hand. Look what it’s trying to say to you. Four digits are folded and the middle finger is extended. Capiche?

    • I really enjoyed reading this comment. More importantly, thanks for reading my article. I really appreciate all the feedback. Keep coming back to the RevolvingDoorProject.net.

      You know, as someone who wants to get into the film industry in the future, it’s important to be able to understand and enjoy what makes the industry so great.

      Well, that lets me know we’re doing well! Usually the trolls don’t waste time with the smaller blogs.

  191. Halit Zini says:

    The ring is quite a catch I, personally, haven’t noticed it before I read it here… but also there’s this one little thing:

    Remember the talk between Mal and Cobb after Ariadne shot her ? Cobb says that Mal was the best thing he had came up with… so probably all the wife and children stuff’s a dream and the guy had never actually married

    ’tis what I think at least 🙂

    P.S. Sorry haven’t had the patience to read all the comments so if someone else had already made that point you could just ignore this post.

  192. carlos says:

    After much reading and thinking, if the spinning top is NOT Cobbs totem, then why does he spin it.

    My own take is that
    A. he is hopping Mal is alive and will grab him from another reality i.e. going in and sharing a dream with him, where the totem would not stop.

    B. He is afraid that he wont wake up because of Mal in his subconscious, that she will trap him in a Limbo or other dream level. She wants to be with him, but cannot reach him in reality.

    In any case, the spinning top has to do with Cobbs mourning and guilt with Mals death.

    Because at the end he has forgiven himself, he no longer cares.

    In that sense, the top is our own totem to see if Cobb has freed himself from mal: if he checks it then he is still traumatised, if he doesnt check it then he has moved on.

    So you see, I think it has to do more with the psicological plot than with the scify dream vs reality plot.

    Comments appreciated

    • carlos says:

      By the way, maybe you are taking the ring too far.

      After reading your article, I fit it in with Cobbs 50 years in Limbo with Mal.

      After so much dreaming, when cobb enters dreams he gets some residual from that time: he is wearing the ring.

      Also it tells us that Cobbs subsconcious still regards his as married, he has not accepted his loss.

      So Cobb could play inception on himself by locking the ring in a safe, and that would make him accept that she is dead.

      Thanks for the article, just playing with ideas, its fun 🙂

  193. interesting but.. says:

    they say in the movie taht each totem has a unique function that only the user of the totem knows the function to in the dream world….and if that was a totem, it would have had some unique function to remind him he was in the dream world/limbo hence excape it….but ok maybe since he doesnt wear it in the real world but does in the dream world suggests that the unique function is to remind himself that he is not married and killed his wife?

    but why would he have two totems? he says the spinning wheel was his wives, and i didnt get why he uses her totem if this ring is suppose to be his totem

  194. CSMatt says:

    @Somethoughts You have dismissed the ring without given any factual basis for it not meaning anything. If you read through the posts there are only ideas as to why the ring would be misleading but nothing in the film actually suggests it is. In fact it’s not even mentioned throughout the movie at all, it is only shown in relation to events of the movie.

    I think people need to focus on a couple of things:
    1) Disproving the ring theory. I’ve read almost all posts and no one does this. This is the only factual thing we can use to show us it’s a dream or reality. It’s a rule that is established in the movie and is not broken or put into question by other means.

    2) Address the clothes changing at the end. The clothes are indeed different. No one has an answer to this.

    The ring is the truth and there is nothing to lead us to it being a Red Herring. The cutoff for the spinning of the top is to not give the audience an easy answer. Little details in the fail show the truth, not just theorize it.

    • somethoughts says:

      The ring is for Leo’s character to try to remain sane, allowing himself to believe the world he lives in is indeed real even though it is not.

      If you pay attention to the dialogue of the film you will conclude the entire movie is indeed a dream and his mission is to go home to his kids, ie. wake up. Dissolving a company is no different than dissolving a dream.

      If you believe it’s possible to buy a airline without the public noticing, make a phone call and waive murder charges that’s your belief, I won’t try to change your mind. To me this is dream logic and therefore the ending proves that he is dreaming and in limbo, maybe one step closer in waking up.

      You don’t find it coincidental that Cobbs and Cobbal corporation is quite similar?

      Having Cobb take a leap of faith in order to go home? Trusting Saito and trusting Mal?

      As Mal says over and over, you know how to find me, you know what you have to do.

      Saito is Mal as a forger and the idea she is trying to plant into Cobb is to take a leap of faith, dissolving the company is like dissolving the dream.

      It’s a movie about a guy who lost his wife in a shared dream and he is grieving in the dream, trying to come out of limbo with help from his wife Mal trying to plant ideas into Cobb trying to wake him up.

  195. Peter says:

    Please people, get a life, it’s just a movie…

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  197. Jon Bonham says:

    Regarding the child actor credits, it may be that the voices on the phone were credited as the older children – regardless of what their unchanged appearance in the end implies.

  198. horton says:

    When they leave the plane and Cobb gives his passport to the controller, the ring appears his left hand so he dreams.In the end Cobb’s left hand doesn’t appear but the ring is still there.Somebody explains this.

  199. Jing says:

    Dunno if anybody has posted this yet, but there are A LOT of comments after all.

    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/08/inception_costume_designer_rev.html

    so if you’ve read that, you’ll know that the costumes ARE important and that the clothes the kids were in the final scene are different from the rest of the movie. Therefore, Cobb is awake.

  200. The points mentioned in this post do make a lot of sense. I myself have given a lot of thought about the movie, and have come up with a theory as to what Nolan wanted to achieve through the movie. You can read that in detail on my blog here –

    http://alesserknownpoet.blogspot.com/2010/07/who-completed-final-act-of-inception.html

  201. Evan says:

    Ok, first off, the ring isnt a totem because it isnt an item with unique physical properties only known to the owner. This must be true for a totem so that in someone else’s dream, when they reproduce that item they don’t know the physics and therefore cannot successfully replicate it. As for the top, I could make a full argument on how it Cannot work as a totem, but instead, Ill just explain why it doesnt matter whether or not it fell at the end. The dilemma at the conclusion of the film is whether or not Cobb ever woke up from his shared dream with Mal that occurred before the beginning of the film. Since the top was Mal’s totem as well as Cobb’s, in either of their dreams it would fall because it’s their totem and they know how to replicate it in a dream. So if Cobb is still in he or Mal’s dream, the top would have the proper physics and topple. Therefore, he can still be in a dream whether or not it falls. Additionally, we saw the top fall twice over the course of the film in the layer of dream/reality that Cobb believes to be reality.

  202. Jedrick says:

    Reading everything started to make sense then after reading the comments it didn’t again. ahha People have so many different views on this movie and what I think is that he was dreaming the whole time. The whole movie was an inception as to what would have occurred if he didn’t fall asleep for a long time and lay low for awhile because he was being accused of killing his wife. So basically the whole movie was his dream. :]]

  203. ironclad says:

    That is great research! I am glad to see proof for my preferred interpretation of the film. Well done!

  204. Ken says:

    I think that Nolan left the ending open to interpretation on purpose. Cobb managed to get rid of his guilt towards Mal, and now, wether he dreams or not is irrelevant to him , it just doesn’t matter.

  205. Tai says:

    i noticed this! and my friend got all pissey at me cause she thought i was being an annoying media studies student and pointing out irrelevant things. sighhh

  206. CSMatt says:

    @somethoughts
    “The ring is for Leo’s character to try to remain sane, allowing himself to believe the world he lives in is indeed real even though it is not.”
    Again that’s your interpretation. The film doesn’t mention the ring at all. There’s no facts here besides the relation of the ring and the real/dream sequences.

    “If you believe it’s possible to buy a airline without the public noticing, ”
    Who said the public didn’t notice? Just because they didn’t address that detail didn’t mean it didn’t happen. That’s like the “where’s the grandmother?” argument.

    “make a phone call and waive murder charges”
    It’s a MOVIE! A movie in which people can dream in the ways they do and steal thoughts! That’s a stretch? People do this all the time in movies.

    Allow me to point out something else. Why does the top spin endlessly in the dream world? How? That’s entirely unexplained but it’s an accepted rule of the film.

    “Having Cobb take a leap of faith in order to go home? Trusting Saito and trusting Mal?” Mal is dead and a part of Cobb’s subconscious. Cobb is also constantly trying to determine if the real world is his reality by spinning the top. Obviously when someone says something coincidental to what his wife said before she killed herself it might be important too. I’m not say the writing is coincidental though. I’m saying it’s there and could very easily be the Red Herring but it’s just a phrase that people are trying to applying deeper meaning to.

    The problem is everyone is trying to over analyze the movie. These ideas of people being who they say they are not are all stretches. The facts and relationships are there, the ring has a direct factual relation, and the clothes are different(which you left out).

    Stick to what you are seeing.

    • Jon says:

      Exactly. The movie is brilliant enough as it is, without trying to make it into something it isn’t. For people who believe it’s all a dream, you do realize that you’re adding scenes upon scenes to the story with virtually NO evidence? It creates many more problems than it solves to believe it’s just a dream.

    • somethoughts says:

      Here’s a link that shares my opinion on the film, it should help explain why we believe the entire movie is a dream.

      http://chud.com/articles/articles/24477/1/NEVER-WAKE-UP-THE-MEANING-AND-SECRET-OF-INCEPTION/Page1.html

      I am happy knowing Nolan fooled you, clothes can change in a dream, the ring is really a red herring. If you understand the dialogue and rules of the movie, you will conclude the entire movie is a dream.

      • CSMatt says:

        The second time around I paid close attention to the dialogue. Therefore,”you will conclude the entire movie is a dream.” is a farce like your theory, which is the same.

        What you linked shares the same problem with the dream theory. Choosing to ignore the facts, taking great stretches to make a movie something it’s not, and trying to convince others of this. It’s the flaw in your reason, you have no facts, only interpretations.

        Mine is based on the rules set forth by the movie and not extending things further than what’s presented to me. The only reason the top isn’t shown to stop spinning at the end is plant the idea the things could still be fake.

        Conspiracy theories are your thing too I suppose?

        Oh, and down vote me all you want people. Always shoot the messenger who tells you you’re nuts.

  207. adflsk says:

    i was going to post this on your site, somethoughts, but i think it fits better here. i can honestly say that it’s been years since i joined in the discussion on a website, but i had to respond to this…

    i completely agree with your analysis insofar as the movie being a great big metaphor for movie making. however, your assertion that “it’s all just a dream” will become the accepted take on the film is absolutely absurd, especially considering that your arguments for such an interpretation could literally be applied to almost any movie ever made. for example, star wars was just lucas’s dream because the force was never fully explained. or spiderman 3 was just some child’s horribly misguided nightmare because the nature of the black suit was never fully explained. i could go on and on. there is simply no reason to believe that it was all (i.e. even the act of shared dreaming) just a dream. try again. but this time, take your own advice and accept the rules of the movie.

    also, i’m no expert in rhetoric, but i’m pretty sure the idea that something noticed by only a tiny percentage of your audience (the ring) was intended as a red herring is laughably asinine.

    • somethoughts says:

      All the rules stated in the movie can help you solve the puzzle.

      Nolan established it is possible to have dreams within dreams.
      The totem does not belong to Cobb so it wouldn’t work even if it spun or fell.
      The ring is a Red HerRING, get it? It is used to distract you from the truth and the truth is that the entire movie is indeed a dream.
      Cobb was confirmed as being once stuck in limbo but it never explains how he got out.
      Think about the mission he was sent to go on, who sent him and for what purpose? Is it really a mission to plant a idea into a rival corporation to dissolve the corporation? Why does Saito ask Cobb to take a leap of faith? Why does it involve a airplane and landing and going home?

      All these are metaphors for Cobb to trust that Mal jumping from a high altitude and falling did not kill her and she is home with the kids, Cobb must do the same if he is to wake up to reality.

      If Cobbal Corporation is really Cobbs subconscious and the mission of planting a idea to dissolve the corporation is really to dissolve Cobbs dream.

      Saito is the key to everything. He is the person that gets Cobb to go on this mission and he is the guy who implies for him to take a leap of faith and he is only person to have touched Cobbs totem that he borrowed from Mal. This is why I believe Saito is Mal in disguise, did he/she not say at the end, we were once young men together and now we are old filled with regrets, interesting the song playing to wake up is called no regrets.

      There is a duality between landing a plane and going home to your kids and landing safely from a high jump from a suicide jump, both missions involves risk taking and both results in the characters going home to their kids.

      Mal is alive and well in the real world with the kids, awaiting Cobbs return to them by waking up. Hopefully Mal’s inception on Cobb works and after the credits roll, his eyes wakes up and his wife and children are there waiting in the hospital or at home.

      • CSMatt says:

        “The totem does not belong to Cobb so it wouldn’t work even if it spun or fell.” Why not? This isn’t stated anywhere. The only things presented is, if someone else(Mal who is dead?!) had access to your totem it can be forged. Saito had access but only in the very end of the movie.

        “The ring is a Red HerRING, get it? It is used to distract you from the truth and the truth is that the entire movie is indeed a dream.” You’re just making a statement without reason as to what the movie does to suggest this.

        “Cobb was confirmed as being once stuck in limbo but it never explains how he got out.” It didn’t need to. The clock expired. They said you can be stuck in limbo for nearly a lifetime until the time of the dream ends.

        “Think about the mission he was sent to go on, who sent him and for what purpose?” You answer that with your next question.
        “Is it really a mission to plant a idea into a rival corporation to dissolve the corporation?” Yes.

        “Why does Saito ask Cobb to take a leap of faith?” Because he has no way to prove he can get Cobb back into the country.

        “Why does it involve a airplane and landing and going home?” Because you have to take an airplane to fly into the US.

        “All these are metaphors.” You’re reaching here, and a lot.

        “Mal is alive and well in the real world with the kids, awaiting Cobbs return to them by waking up.” Okay, now you’re just making stuff up.

      • Jon says:

        Great stuff CSMatt. Right on.

      • chris boccia says:

        except you’re wrong. not only did mal and saito touch the top, but also the guards that picked him up after he washed up on shore.

        also, if mal woke up from the dream, then why hasn’t she just woken up cobb.

  208. adflsk says:

    sorry, somethoughts, just realized that page wasn’t your argument, just one you agree with…replace “your argument” with “that argument”

  209. JCW says:

    I just saw Inception (finally!) today and here are my thoughts:

    I am in the camp that the entire movie was a move to perform inception on Cobb. As for who would have done this, I think Cobb himself engineered it and his team in a way that even his conscious, and eventually subconscious, wouldn’t be aware that he was attempting to perform inception on himself. Why? Because the idea to perform inception on oneself fails for the exact reason people think it can’t work on others: knowing the genesis of the idea would prevent the mind from truly taking hold of it (for self-inception you can’t be aware you’re trying to delude yourself, knowing the genesis of the inception lies in you would render you unable to incept yourself; for inception of others they can’t be aware they’re being incepted and must think the idea spawns from them naturally).

    The reason I am against the Mal camp (that she was right about them needing to kill themselves) is because her desire to seek reality would never have an end based on what we saw in the movie. What would lead her to believe the next reality she found post death would be any truer than the one she’d just escaped from? The way Cobb talks about a disease that consumes drives home that she can never be free from this idea no matter how hard she tries.

    As to what inception was performed on Cobb I believe it was the implanting of the simple, basic idea that he needed to let go. I am not of the mind that Cobb was forced to leave his home because of Mal’s death (who supplied him that out anyway? another mysterious force?) and that all the mysterious shadow organizations (Cobalt, Saito, etc) demonstrate that this complex of forces from preventing him to return home really are in his own head. The complex idea (Fischer’s was to break up his father’s corporation) was that Cobb needed a way to avoid these shadow organizations, be cleared of murder and return to his children. The simple idea there was that Cobb needed to let go of his wife and her demise (Fischer’s was that his father loved him and didn’t want Fischer to become him) so that all those other things would fall in to place, as they did.

    Also I think some of the imagery of the movie suggests how this self inception could be achieved. Instead of thinking of it as a straight plunge down into Cobb’s mind (or anyone elses) how about we think of it as there being layers going downwards in Cobb’s psyche, and layers building upwards in the construct of the Fischer scheme. Eventually the very bottom/tops of these layers meet in a roundabout/circular way (think Paradiso v Inferno except that the highest/lowest levels meet in infinity like a circle) so that by going through the construct of Fischer Cobb and his team could reach his most basic psyche to perform inception. Imagery that suggests this is Ariadne’s first exploration of architecture where she folds the worlds upon itself, or where she places the herself and Cobb between two mirrors, reflecting on both sides infinite levels of consciousness. Looking into the mirrors you eventually see the same inexplicable center in the infinite depth of the reflections, this is limbo–what Cobb was trying to reach.

    So in the end I believe that Cobb was still in a dream in which the inception upon himself was performed successfully. I don’t think being in a dream is a problem really, because the movie begs the question of the nature of reality anyway. The point was how we could affect our basic understanding of ‘reality’ or our most basic ‘dream’ etc.

  210. Mimi says:

    This certainly is a lot to think about.

    But I still think the open ending made for a better movie. Maybe it’s the romantic in me.

    Anyway, I actually don’t quite care if he’s in limbo still, or he’s in reality. It just gave me chills to think about whether one can trust our perceptions. Thinking about whether it’s a dream or whether it’s real is good enough for me.

    Though this article was pretty coo’. Didn’t even notice the ring thing. Though I did think about Mal.

    To be truthful, both endings work, in my opinion. Neither one subtracts from the film. Which is awesome.

    Okay Christopher Nolan. You are a (minor) God. Well played.

  211. James says:

    The ring can’t be a totem, as a totem only works if no one else has touched it. Sure, he uses the top, which was Mal’s, but only he and Mal have ever used it. Only Mal (who is dead and therefore can’t be an architect) knows its exact weight. A wedding ring gets touched by countless people, least of which is the best man – who hands the groom the ring.

  212. Le6n says:

    I see many theories here and people discussing and I think that’s what Nolan wanted. He made the movie as a reflection of its own story. He created the world of dream (movie) and brought the subjects (audience) into that dream. And now we all are filling it with our ideas and thoughts. For everyone of us the movie is living its own life – in our minds. We all have our own version of it, the seed was planted. That’s why I think of Nolan as a genius and Inception as a best movie of year (and probably of the decade). Bravo, mr. Nolan…

  213. James says:

    I don’t know if anyone has brought this up yet because after reading the comments on this page for 40 minutes I realised I was a)more confused, b) getting annoyed at people who misunderstood key points in the film and c) nowhere NEAR the bottom of the page; so my question is, when Saito spins Cobb’s totem in limbo before they wake up together, has that not completely ruined the accuracy of the totem?

    Cobb is the only person who knows the weight and movement of the totem (even if it used to be Mal’s, remember, she’s DEAD NOW) so by spinning the top on the table, hasn’t Saito “spoiled” the totem?

    Or does it not matter if someone else touches it in a dream, so long as they don’t in reality?

    • somethoughts says:

      Not if Saito is Mal 🙂

    • CSMatt says:

      “when Saito spins Cobb’s totem in limbo before they wake up together, has that not completely ruined the accuracy of the totem?”
      Good question. Totems are explained in the film to work a certain way. They have rules to them, loaded die, way the chess piece falls, and the infinite spinning top. It’s not stated anywhere that the rules of a totem fail when anyone else uses them. The only thing it says is that a totem can be forged by someone if they understand how it works. So the top will always spin endlessly in the dream world no matter who spins it.

      Ignore somethoughts unless you want to start thinking about some movie you didn’t see that was made up in someone else’s mind.

      • Jon says:

        My thoughts exactly! Somethoughts is completely making this up. You have to assume SO much based on virtually NO evidence to come to his/her conclusion.
        And you’re absolutely right about the top. It will still show you if you’re in your dream by spinning forever. If it falls, it is possible you’re in someone else’s dream who doesn’t know to make it spin forever (but whose dream could that possibly be?) OR in reality. In this case, the answer is obviously reality.

  214. somethoughts says:

    The reason he was being chased in Mombasa and the waiter won’t serve him coffee is because he is in a shared dream with someone (Mal disguised as Saito) and the subconscious is looking for the dreamer(Cobb).

    This is another confirmation that the entire movie is indeed a dream, all the clues are there you just have to accept it. The rules are laid out carefully and if you use them you can navigate through the maze.

    If Cobb is a fugitive on the run and on Americas Most Wanted, would his own children call him asking their murderous father when he will be coming back home? lol How would the children even know his phone number? Dream Logic.

    Why would he spin a totem that didn’t belong to him and that doesn’t work?
    Dream Logic.
    Why does the corporation, Cobbal Engineering have the same last name as Cobb?
    Dream Logic.
    How can someone buy a airliner, make one phone call to get rid of murder charges?
    Dream Logic.
    Why would the children look identical and not age from his last dream memory of them?
    Dream Logic.
    What if Mal was right and suicides to wake up and Cobb was left in the dream world being stuck in limbo with the above dream.

    Possible Mal went back to find Cobb in the limbo world and forged herself as Saito?
    The inception is to plant a thought into Cobbs mind, to take a leap of faith and to dissolve his dream and to wake up and go home to his family.

    Saito spins Mals totem, the only person other than Cobb and Mal to do so. Saito wants Cobb to go home to his kids, by taking a leap of faith.

    Saito is Mal.

    • Jon says:

      Holy shit. NO. Saito is NOT Mal. You are twisting quotes and taking them out of context to fit your theory, which really isn’t a reasonable theory at all.

    • Ryan G says:

      This is exactly the reason that Nolan chose an ambiguous ending, because you get super creative and unconventional theories like yours! Although I agree with this ring theory, I believe that Cobb got so deep in his experiment worlds with Mal that he lost track of the levels. When he plants the idea in her head they kill themselves to go back to reality, the catch is that it still is another level of their dreams. Mal returns to reality and Cobb is trapped in his dream believing it’s reality.
      So essentially the entire movie is set in Mal and Cobb’s dream world they created and simply continue layering… also they never really explained how this technology came about besides the fact that it was military. But it seems like something that would happen within a dream.
      I love thinking about ambiguous endings like this, especially when its combined with an awesome cast and an amazing crew.

      • chris boccia says:

        except if mal woke up, why wouldn’t she just wake cobb up. that’s stupid.

      • somethoughts says:

        Simply because Cobb is in a deep sleep and cannot be woken up by physical means, that’s why limbo is limbo. Mal is trying by forging herself as Saito and planting ideas into Cobb.

  215. SapphireMind says:

    I just had a brainwave about Mal’s totem. It’s a top. It would make no sense for a totem that needed to spin endlessly if it were her dream state. A top is supposed to fall. A totem is supposed to have some sort of aspect that no one could predict.

    What if the trick to the top totem is that it is never supposed to be able to spin in reality?

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  217. Ryan G says:

    Not to mention Cobb’s totem is actually Mal’s past one… I agree with the ring theory… but now i’ll have to see it again! 😛

  218. jc says:

    The lack of a ring at the end just symbolizes Cobb let go of his guilt (guilt from NOT seeing his kids faces before he went on the run and “killing” his wife)…. so he can still be dreaming, but now guilt free

  219. Fayth says:

    I think that he doesn’t have a totem. I think that the wedding ring tells us he’s dreaming, but I don’t consider it a totem. I think that he doesn’t have a totem because he’s never sure if he’s dreaming or in reality. Even though he planted the idea in Mal’s head, Mal is right that he really isn’t sure that he’s not actually in a dream. We cannot figure out what his totem is, because he doesn’t have one, because he has become so confused about dream and reality.

  220. blusky says:

    If the ring is supposed to be his totem – why do we only see it during the dream sequences? Everyone esle’s totem was shown in reality. Especially if the totem is meant to distinguish that you are in your own dream…the first dream was Nash’s not Cobb’s and the first three levels of dreams were not his either – so why would his totem show up there if they weren’t his dreams?

  221. chris boccia says:

    to start, i support the argument that cobb is not dreaming at the end.
    i don’t want to make the same argument everyone else did, because i got bored from reading it a thousand times in succeeding comments.

    so i will bring up a new support. if cobb were dreaming at the end, then (and i don’t really care who’s) cobb is in someone’s dream, his own, or someone elses. who cares. the point is… if cobb was in another dream, then who’s the original architect? because the architect would have had to create all of cobb’s “reality world,” all of cobb’s dreams and the limbo that “cobb and mal created”, and all of the levels that “ellen paige created” for the inception.

  222. SapphireMind says:

    Ok. Just watched it again.

    You definitely can’t see whether he has the ring on or not at the end.

    One thing I noted – in the very beginning, when they are initially trying to break into Saito’s mind, Cobb looks at his watch and they show it on the screen and stuff on it is upside down. I don’t know if that is a mistake in editing, or perhaps a hint that maybe his watch is his totem. It’s a very minor detail and it could be one of those things that only he knows about and would know in a dream (like the rug).

    Other things:

    *The ring’s appearance and disappearance was very consistent (except of course when Mal was still alive, then he always had the ring on).

    *Cobb clearly woke up with Mal after coming back from Limbo. You can see him moving and starting to get up.

    *At the traintracks in limbo, you see two versions, one with old Cobb/Mal, one with young. I’m not sure what to make of that.

    *The children were definitely different.

    *I think part of the reason he couldn’t see the childrens’ faces is because he didn’t see them IRL, so he couldn’t see them in his dream. He is limited by his mind and memory in his creations.

  223. GHD says:

    Thats a good point Jordan, except Nolan was working on and off for this film for what, 10 years?

    I don’t think that the ring theory can be put down as easily as “he didn’t think people would notice”.

    I mean, costume isn’t something that is overlooked. Costume is very important in story telling. Also, it’s consistent, it isn’t something that seems random, and it’s connected to the story.

  224. UK Tiffany says:

    Brillant, darling, brillant. I hadn’t noticed it and it’s the most obvious thing. Damn you, Christopher Nolan, being being a genius.

  225. eric b says:

    i feel that IF cobbs ring is his totem, its an opposite reflection to himself. where the top is meant to be the reminder of reality, his ring is the reminder that hes in a dream. his reluctance to let mal go means that in the inception they are still together…

    at the same time. whats the problem with two totems? especially considering one is a reminder of reality and the other is the reminder of being in the dream. plus the top really isnt his totem anyway, its mals. maybe its just a metaphorical representation of his own personal conflict of reality v. dream.

  226. Enzo Bulatti says:

    It’s a good theory but I disagree with you.

    I’ve got another theory, that Cobb has followed his wife’s way to deal with reality. Mal put her totem into a safe and limbo become her reality. After a while Cobb planted the idea her world isn’t real and this idea made his wife sick that nothing is real.

    Well we know that Cobb’s totem is his wedding ring. And IMHO Cobb did exactly the same what his wife did. He put his totem wedding ring away and accepted limbo as reality. That explains why Mal is not anymore around. The wedding ring and Mal was his totem and they were telling him that he was in a dream. Cobb put his totems away and chose limbo as his world.

  227. Shevi says:

    I think you’re very close, but that you missed three very important things. 1. Inception works like a virus, so in Incepting Mal with the idea that the dream world is the real world, he Incepted himself with the same idea, and that idea became a part of who he was. 2. Cobb has the power to create exactly the dream world he needs to convince himself of his own Inception, so that everything that happens that seems to be real is that way because Cobb’s mind needs to be convinced that it’s real, even when it isn’t. 3. There are several hints that show that the Inception has successfully deluded Cobb into thinking the dream world is real, and that he is in denial about this: Cobb has replaced his real totem (the ring) with Mal’s totem, which means he’s deliberately chosen not to know the truth; Fisher and Saito’s characters are sometimes projections of Mal (saying and doing things that reflect Mal’s point of view, most notably Saito’s words about growing old together and Fisher’s last words with his father), whether they come from Cobb or what Cobb has internalized of Mal is irrelevant; and finally he chooses not to know if the top will fall down at the end or not, not that it’s relevant, because it’s not really his totem. He’s missing his ring at the end, because he has lost his totem (probably before the events in the movie unfolded, although the scene in the bathroom is his subconscious trying to remind him of that), so any time you see the totem only shows what the Inception needs Cobb to believe to be complete.

  228. doctor doc says:

    My theory goes opposite to what has been mentioned already. And is not fully realized nor completely consistent, in other words it is flawed:

    But is it possible that because a movie is in itself a dream like state that everything is a “dream”. The spinning top simply a reminder from Nolan that none of what we saw was real.

  229. kate says:

    Dude some of you guys are IDIOTS. You guys are getting the symbolism ALL wrong!! That’s why you’re so damn confused I mean duh! 😉 The totem is still spinning at the end because it represents that even though he is back in reality for good the Dream State is Infinity. And it questions the basic reality of life, that it’s never ending, and mainly symbolizes that anything can happen. I have heard stuff like “it’s because Mal is alive” but the totem is not supposed to represent the basic characters AT ALL! He didn’t want to reference the characters you dumbasses or he would have played up their roles! He wanted the entire movie to be on Dicaprios character. After she jumped off and killed herself, Mal never, ever, ever came back alive. If you want to define “alive” as God is “alive” then I supposed she is alive. But Alive means having a body, breathing, existing. She is “Alive” spiritually because he wont let go of her. (the only thing I can think of as an example is when you believe in God, he flourishes, but when people stop believing IN him, he weakens, (and in technicality “dies”) She’s talking and communicating with her but she’s like, almost like…. A ghost. In his dream.

    The ring isn’t meant to be the totum, it’s meant to symbolize his undying affection for his dead wife and the idea that he hasn’t let go of her yet. When he let go of Mal and said he didn’t need her anymore, Mal might as well had shed into nonexistence right there, because the ONLY thing keeping that character Mal alive was his belief in her. Like that little girl said, he was purposely boxing memories in his brain so he could be with her, but once he stopped caring about her she had no legible way of staying around without him. They put it on only in the dreams because it symbolized how much he was thinking about her.

    Hes not trying to make the cool gestures just for fun so we can go figure out what its all about and talk about it. He HAS a message it just has nothing to do with what you’re thinking it has to do with.

    He gives DiCaprio’s character such ambition and genius that to allow the character to give into his own goals destroy the character and disappoint the viewers. He plays __ up as a genius; I mean he got out of limbo out of all things! That’s hard to do. He just realizes that he’s only holding onto his own needs, not, Her. She’s just merely the innocent bystander who can’t move on after death because he’s locking her into memories out of his own guilt and pleasure of wanting to be with her.

    So the entire movie IS a dream. Our entire lives are a dream and the only thing between us and infinity is that we only live to see one perception so we don’t get confused. Human beings and animals, and everyone on earth have one perception on life as a whole, and when you are in a dream you are no longer a human for the time being.
    There’s no 25 different endings or perceptions of the movie. there is only ONE perception, and meaning of that movie, and that is that perception itself is a trick. That we surround ourselves by one full dream, and everybody who comes to earth has the same perception on one “dream.” We’re all living in a dream and the only thing keeping us alive is believing that we exist. Metaphysics say if we don’t believe we will crumble. It’s a dull conclusion. Its boring. Everybody wants the clues and the hidden agenda to find, but all you really get is the feeling that “we control our lives” and that “belief rules us, rather than our perceptions”

    I think as far as the grandparents go, he felt that he didn’t need to put him in because it would take away from the scene, and he wanted to keep the end as minimalist as possible. It is absolutely, no doubt, the Real reality at the end. The director kills off the wife, and remember she cannot “come back” or find her way back to the dreams unless he “believes in her” because as you remember that was the only thing keeping her alive in the movie, his belief that she still existed.

    The message he tries to send is that nothing is really “Real” it’s just what you believe in, who you love, and what you chose to make real that’s Real. When she fell off the cliff she was dead, literally dead from earth. But he wouldn’t let her go, so she kept living, like a ghost would. When he told Mal he didn’t need her anymore, she just disappeared into existence like a ghost would when he has no purpose to stay around. That girl even said that he was “keeping her living” by boxing memories of her to flourish in.
    >>And I’m not saying she’s a figment of the imagination either, she is just simply held onto him by his love. When he released the memory of her, and KILLED her because the only way she was existing was because he was keeping her alive by his belief IN her. When he stopped caring about her she had no purpose to stay around.

    • @Kate – Your thoughts have a lot of weight. Me like them.

      My thoughts are a bit different though. Again I am assuming lots of things here, as far as the totem goes. However, I dont think that after working on this script for 10 years, Nolan would end up creating another “Matrix”. He probably wanted to do much more than any filmmaker would have “dreamt of”: Here is what I think –

      A totem, as described in the movie, is a small personalized item that only the owner knows a specific thing about. However, throughout the movie, Cobb is shown spinning the top in front of everyone else in his team (including Ellen Page who has not even officially joined the team yet). And everyone is aware what Cobb’s totem is. Do you think Cobb, who is more experienced than anybody else in his team about the way things work in dreamworld and reality, would spin his totem in open? Maybe he deliberately did so. Maybe he wanted everyone (including audience) to believe that the spinning top was his totem.

      Cobb always used his left hand for spinning the top. It is the hand on which he wears his wedding ring. As pointed out by many on internet, the ring is there every time he spins the top. However, it is not there in the very last scene. Is it possible that whenever Cobb used to spin the top, he simultaneously looked at his finger secretly? The spinning top would distract the onlooker (and the audience as well) into believing that it is the totem, while the real totem always lay on his finger. And in the very last scene, since he was not wearing a ring (indicating that he is now in real world), and since he also got his kids back, and had no intention to return to his old profession again, he did not care at all if the spinning top stopped or not.

      Nolan is a fine craftsman. In most of his previous movies such as “The Following”, “Memento” and “The Prestige”, he has made us think only in one direction throughout, until the very end. Only in the last scene of each of these movies has he uncovered the truth. I think this time as well, he has made us believe something which was not the truth. But this time he wants us to uncover the truth ourselves, through the little clues he has left everywhere in the movie.

      Inception has more to it than meets the eye. Nolan is known for various experiments he has done so far in his movies. In Memento, he experimented with a non-linear narrative, and gave it a treatment very different than other such movies like Pulp Fiction. While in Insomnia, unlike other thrillers, he focused not on the psyche of the serial killer, but of the detective. And no need to mention that with the two Batman movies, he has redefined the way comic books are adapted. But I believe that his biggest experiment so far is Inception. Here is my reasoning –

      Cobb and his team were not the only people who were able to complete the act of Inception in the movie. There was one more guy who actually was successful in this act, and it was Christopher Nolan. He planted the idea in the minds of millions of viewers, that the spinning top is Cobb’s totem. And at the very end, the scene cuts to the spinning top, and everybody keeps guessing whether the top would topple to suggest Cobb’s return to reality. Or would it keep spinning forever as if Cobb is still in a dream.

      You would have noticed, that in both the incidents shown in the movie where an idea was successfully incepted into the subject’s mind, it was the very end of the dream where actual inception happened. Although, the foundation of the idea was laid down slowly and steadily during the course of dreams, it was not until the end of the dream that the inception completed. If I draw analogies and say that movie was like a dream, audience the subject, and Nolan the architect, then it would be appropriate to say that Nolan built up the idea in audience’ minds that spinning top was Cobb’s totem. Nowhere in the movie has Cobb admitted by himself that the top is his totem. He spins the top, but maybe the reason for this could be the one I mentioned earlier. Perhaps the wedding ring was his totem. Or perhaps his children’s faces (thats another theory posted on internet).

      And at the very end of the movie, he leaves the top spinning, and audience come out of the dream believing that the top is Cobb’s totem. Everyone on first viewing would have ignored the presence or absence of a wedding ring on his hand, and the spinning top in the end would have strengthened the idea that it was the totem (Remember, its not easy to recall what happened in a dream, except the very end). The reason why the last scene cut to the spinning top was because that was the idea he wanted to implant in our minds.

      Nolan would be a proud man to have carried out this act of inception. And I personally believe that this is exactly what Nolan would have intended to do when he had finished the script for this movie. He implanted an idea in millions of viewers’ minds that spinning top was the totem. He put an idea into critics’ minds that the movie was just a well-crafted thriller – something like matrix. It is a perfect way of manipulating with a viewer’s psyche.

      • SapphireMind says:

        I specifically watched carefully at the end: he spun the top with his right hand, and a ring was not visible (because it was his right)

      • chris boccia says:

        “the ring is there every time he spins the top.” that is 100% wrong. and there’s pictures to prove it. just scroll up to the top of this site and look at the pictures that spencer has provided us.
        every scene of reality is depicted with the ring OFF, including when he spins the top, and every scene of dreaming is depicted with the ring on.

      • Patrick says:

        I prefer agreeing with the theory of games and toys. For me the totems are specific to people, not because of their characteristic, but because of the actions they realise. We can see that team members show their totems to us and to the other members.

        However they are the only people to “play” with it, thus confronting their dream with reality.

        It’s possible that Cobb took Mall’s to make his totem, to remind that she is dead (it was her totem before), so he is certain to be back in reality. At the end, it doesn’t car of reality or dream, maybe because he knows where he is, in a place where Mall is not present…meaning in the reality.

      • neo says:

        good job, but as some others have said the ring is not there whenever he spins the top, it is there whenever he is in a dream and gone when in reality

  230. Bob Bobberson says:

    Two things:

    1. in the ledge scene, Mal is on the other side of an air space – but that could just mean it’s a multi-roomed apartment or hotel suite that happens to have more than one bay window: the interior space wraps around. I used to live in an apartment like that. The reason it’s done that way is possibly so that it could be filmed as a confrontation, with the two facing each other. Rather than a straight ledge scene where the people are side by side and trying to talk to each other out of the sides of their mouths, which is poor staging.

    2. The totems we know about are a top, a chess piece, and a loaded die. Potential totems include a pinwheel and a poker chip. What are all these things associated with? Toys and games. So why would Nolan also introduce a non-toy totem, something more straightforward like a watch (or, for that matter, a wedding ring)?

  231. Dan says:

    I don’t know if anyone notice.. the totem is suppose to be their personal clue to whether they are dreaming or not.

    But Cobb’s totem original belonged to his wife. So how will he know the real balance of it?

    And when Mal jumps from the window. She is jumping from the other side of the building and not from his side. BUT he is telling her to come back in towards his direction…

    • chris boccia says:

      because mal is dead. if mals dead, he just picks up her totem and he’s the only one who knows the weight of it.

  232. SapphireMind says:

    I agree with Bob on 1. I think it’s either that, or since she set it all up and planned to meet him, she purposefully went across the way so she could talk to him, without him being able to stop her.

    On 2….I don’t know, Nolan is just tricky that way? 🙂 but I really don’t think the top is truly Cobb’s totem. It might be his totem to check to see if Mal is controlling things, but he has to have one apart from that.

  233. Julia says:

    Wow, that’s so simple but also a very smart observation. I have to admit that until now I assumed that the director planned to have cobb re-enter the room, see the top and be like “oh noes, epic fail”. This made me sad so I created a new personal ending for myself, that I’ll just post here because hopefully there is one person who doesn’t think it is stupid (like my family does).

    Okay, in order for this to work Cobb needs to live on a lake or seashore or what not. *How it ends (in the reality I created) *
    Before Cobb tests out his top totem thing we enjoy a nice montage of him being generally happy with his children. As the day draws to a close, he is enjoying a boat ride with the littluns. (T-Paine may or may not be present) He then thinks “oh this is cool, but what if it’s a dream?” so he decides to spin the top right then and there. But alas! his little child startles him somehow (a surprise bear hug would be the cutest way) and the top falls into the ocean/lake and it is FOREVER LOST.

    I like this ending because hey, us folks outside of the silver screen have no way of telling whether we are dreaming or not, and if Cobb truly wants to separate himself from the crazy dream-reality mesh he has created, neither should he. He needs faith and what not to accept a truth that he can never really know to be true. (cue 50 angry replies that have nothing to do with the movie because someone mentioned faith on the Internets) (no wait I’ll just appease the atheists now : I AM A LESBIAN JEW AND I VOTED FOR OBAMA) there.

  234. Smarter than smarter than tanner says:

    Man, reading these comments is like inception.

  235. Jen W says:

    i have a question… how come during the dream Cobb and Mal were shown old together, but when the movie showed them getting run over by the train to get kicked out of the dream, they were younger? did I miss something? or was this a mistake?

    • SapphireMind says:

      It shows both. But in Limbo, they can be whatever age they want to be; they are only limited by their imagination. One view of them being young could be as Cobb sees them, the other of them being old as Mal sees them.

  236. Emilia says:

    Good observation. However, Cobb has forgive himself in his limbo state, and let go of his wife by telling her that he has to let her go , cos they had grown old together. And its time to let go.
    So. If Cobb still dreaming (by assuming that the totem is still spinning), he will not wear his wedding ring anymore even though he is in Limbo, because he already can let his wife go.

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  238. guroo270 says:

    I would like to know why Mal is violent towards Ariadne the whole time, except the end. That just doesnt’ make sense to me.

    • SapphireMind says:

      She is the strongest projection of Cobb’s subconscious. He has a lot of inner turmoil regarding her, the information about her, and his guilt overall. Ariadne is trying to discover the information, and Cobb’s subconscious doesn’t want to share it (so Mal is hostile to keep her out) At the end, she’s already found his secrets and so she becomes less important to Mal.

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  240. EspJoe2 says:

    I think he is dreaming the whole time. They say that a few minutes in reality is actually hours in your dreams.. so I think he drugged himself (or simply fell asleep) in real life and had this giant elaborate dream about Inception and dream sharing. Because if you really simplify the concept of the movie and “come back to reality”, You will realize that in the real world there is no such thing as dream sharing and inceptions. Therefore, the whole thing was made up by his mind.

    Another thing that gives it away is when Cobb goes back to”Limbo” with Mal at the end, one of the first things she tells him is something about how he thinks reality is being chased around by secret agencies and police (which is sold as cobb’s “reality”), and how the subconscious persecutes the dreamer. Which in this case (the whole movie) is him.

  241. selami şahin says:

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  242. agata says:

    Does Cobb have his wedding ring while bieng found on the beach in limbo by the Saito’s men? I guess it’s quite important if it vanishes after he lets his wife go at last. Does anybody know?

  243. Alaska Wanderer says:

    It doesn’t matter whether we see the top fall or not. It will either fall or it won’t, but it is only logical that it does. This is because, though we don’t see it fall and though Cobb has walked away from it, at some point he is going to come back to the table and the top. If we are to accept a fictional tale at all, we must accept that the characters in that tale continue on after we leave them, and in accepting that, we must naturally accept that he returns to the top and sees whether it falls or not. This is key, that just because we don’t see it and Cobb doesn’t see it right away, doesn’t mean he won’t see it when he returns to the table. At that point, if it is still spinning, he realizes he is dreaming and the whole movie is pointless because his remaining dreaming only matters to the story if he doesn’t realize he is dreaming. If when he returns to the top, it is still spinning, then he knows he is not dreaming and that he has not accomplished his goal and the narrative is incomplete, back to square one as they say. Therefore, it only make sense that the top falls, that when he returns it has stopped spinning.

    It’s easy to get caught up in what we are shown and not shown and just forget that it doesn’t matter what we are shown, it only matters what the character will logically discover in his world.

    • Lindsey says:

      With the question of whether their will be a sequel, it would be logical that he comes back and the top is still spinning. So the story will continue.

      I do however think that he is not dreaming, that he is back in reality. Also, it is never told how long Cobb’s has been gone for.

      If the ring is not Cobb’s totum, what is? The point of a totem is that you are the only one who knows what it feels like and its weight.

      For anyone trying to argue that maybe the ring was an accident, if you have ever studied film, continuity is essential, and it would be impossible for neither nolan, the editor, the costume designed and the various continuity people to “accidentally” forget the ring, with a high budget film, that is not logical.

      I toyed with the idea that it was Cobbs who was the victim of inception, but then I realized that a) he was the only person known to have successfully ever completed inception, b) that he is the best at what he does, knows every trick about being in the dream world, and being in the real world, that it would be nearly impossible to trick him. Also Cobbs picks his team, not the other way around.

      The people who mention the grandmother no longer being there, she could be off screen. If you don’t have to show a character, that means you don’t have to pay that person and cut costs.

      There is so much more to debate which is why I like this movie. I thought that maybe the entire thing was a dream, but after discussing this with my friends we realized that this idea would be a huge cope out, and not logical.

  244. Alaska Wanderer says:

    Edit:
    “If when he returns to the top, it is still spinning, then he knows he is dreaming…”

    I had accidentally typed “not dreaming” instead of “dreaming” here.

  245. JGL says:

    I’m just -honestly- the biggest fan of this so great, so exciting movie! I’m kind of totally fallen in love.
    I’m so happy to have found this link. Now, I’m sure it IS an happy-end, I was no sure before, it was so frustrating!
    But I can sleep well now 🙂 And -why not?- dream as well.

    @EspJoe2 : but if all the stuff about inception does not exist, if even the story of mal does not exist, then why did he wanted to take so much drug? Why would he want to dream, if Mal was not there?

    And remember: it’s a movie, so inception CAN exist. If you go and see Narnia or the Lord of the Ring, that doesn’t mean there’s a talking lion in a magic world or a terrible ring and a terrifiant eye on the top of a tower far too huge…

  246. alyceinwonderland says:

    I haven’t read through ALL of these comments, but I’ve gotten through a good amount. Out of the many things that I read here, in particular I think it makes wonderful sense for the theme of “justified dishonesty,” which I *had* noticed as extremely prevalent in films like Memento and The Dark Knight, to crop up again in his latest film.

    Here’s food for thought:

    What if we looked at the biggest picture possible? What if Nolan’s goal, phrased as specifically and succinctly as possible, was to plant a seed in the audience’s mind that “one can still achieve true happiness through what is not real”? This can apply to anything from the movie itself to, on the most radical end, our own reality. Let me try to explain.

    The movie serves as a dream Nolan has constructed for the audience; there is the suspension of disbelief that is maintained, mentioned in Devin Faraci’s article which holds a similar claim, and the moment after the credits start rolling when you are a bit dazed as if you had just been shaken awake from a dream.

    The most crucial part of the movie I believe is that, in the final scene, Cobb spins the top but *does not watch it fall.* The strongest argument here seems to be that he simply doesn’t care if his world is reality or not. I completely agree. All you need is to put yourself in his shoes. I don’t think that in that extremely emotional moment — when he is experiencing catharsis at being back home, finally being with his children, after all of that pain and sacrifice and work — he has even the remotest desire to glance down at his hand to see if he has the ring on (what some say is an alternative totem) or to check for any other signs of reality. By practiced instinct, he pulls out the top, but he *doesn’t even watch it fall.*

    In his joy at being with his kids again, he simply doesn’t care; even if he was still in a dream, his bold move signifies that he can *accept* that and live happily within it. Cobb’s decision echoes very strongly of how Leonard in Memento alters his notes to deceive himself so he can continue on his vengeful mission (so he can continue to have a purpose for living?) and to how Alfred in Batman (also Michael Caine) burns Rachel Dawes’s letter so that Bruce can at least hold on to one shred of happiness following her death. All of these were conscious decisions to deceive, to keep one ignorant, even if it’s himself. Cobb does the same. It seems that Nolan is less concerned with whether one’s world is “authentic”; after all, no one at any point in their lives ever knows the truth about everything. He is much more concerned with each individual’s evaluation and acceptance of their world: one that does not necessarily include a decision as to whether or not everything is REAL. Perhaps he is saying that the necessity for happiness trumps absolute truth.

    When we see that last scene in the movie, of Cobb possibly accepting a false reality, it plants an idea in the audience’s head that every individual is actually very much like Cobb: living in a world where he is not certain of the difference between deception and reality (this could refer to anything, from petty lies to politics to “Matrix” level stuff) but, in spite of knowing this, he can *choose* to be happy.

    Furthermore, having audiences all over the world arguing whether or not Cobb lives in a dream world or in his own reality seems to be *exactly* what Nolan wants. Part of the idea he has incepted into our subconscious is that what we think to be reality can always be questioned (the other part is that we can choose to be content with that). On our own dream level (which is the movie itself, when we are watching it) this incepted idea is at its most amplified and most intense. As evidence, we endlessly debate whether or not Cobb’s world is real. The truth is that there seems to be a lot of evidence supporting *both* sides of this argument. Personally, I’d say that the random, unexplained things — like Mal barging into *other* people’s dreams and the narrowing alleyway in Cobb’s own “reality” — most convince me of the still-in-a-dream theory, while the wedding ring and the trace of wobbling at the end most convince me of the reality theory.

    However, quite appropriately, we do not automatically apply the incepted idea that “we can choose happiness in what may not be real” to our real world. It takes time, just as Fischer did not immediately say “Eureka! I will destroy my father’s company!” when he first awoke from those many layers of dreams. Even though this idea may have been amplified and very immediate in his dream, in his real world, it is slow to develop. Similarly, it is not obvious to us what Nolan’s incepted idea is, yet — our thinking processes will naturally apply this idea first to our dream, the movie.

    But it is VERY applicable to our lives. Let’s be honest — even the movie’s worst critics must admit that the film has brought the majority of audiences much joy. Whether it’s because they honestly think it’s a great film or because they love to debate it out, the majority of audiences is made HAPPY by the film, in all of its complexity and ambiguity, even though we do not, and perhaps will never, know “the truth.”

    A truly successful incepted idea is the greatest parasite, and will grow to take over someone’s mind, even grow into other parts of his life. This film ultimately — albeit subtly — makes us ponder other aspects of our life, not just the dream (the film). I’m sure everyone, at least for a moment, has bemusedly entertained the idea that they are currently in limbo, and that none of their surroundings is real and they will grow to be old and grey before finally waking up in their true “reality”. I also guarantee you that someone somewhere in the world (not to say this is a good thing) will develop a disorder similar to “Post Avatar Depression” (in which people believe Pandora is a real place), and begin to whole-heartedly believe that their reality is, indeed, not real.

    Can we be happy with what we can never be sure is real or fake? Can we be happy without being completely methodical and knowing the absolute truth about everything; can we indulge in fantasy? Looking at these excited debates that have followed the movie’s release, I think the answer, Mr. Nolan, is yes.

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  248. Terance says:

    No, no, no! Not what happened in the last scene, that is obvious, the director was going for a mind-fuck. So what! The question is what happened in the last sequence? (A sequence is a series of scenes) The scene where they all wake up on the plane. Or, did they all wake up on the plane? Was it my imagination, or did they not show Tom Hardy’s character Eames -wake up on the plane. That would mean he died or something. Or it could have meant that he was not an important enough character to show if he made it out or something. He did get shot in the dream, so I don’t know. I have worked in film where it is easy to make a continuity mistakes. There are movies where the character is waring a red shirt in one scene, and he is waring a blue shirt in the next, without any explanation or exposition of time or space. No movie is perfect so it could have been a continuity mistake, or on purpose because of the schedule and budget restraints or something. Someone out there, let me know, if you saw something different. DID WE SEE TOM HARDY’S CHARACTER ‘EAMES’ WAKE UP ON THE PLANE? Or did the director feel it wasn’t important to show that detail. My friend told me this after I had saw the movie. As for me, I will have to see it again or wait till it comes out on DVD.

    • WL says:

      We see Eames, conscious, in the baggage claim after the plane lands. Whether that’s another dream or whether it’s reality is up to you.

  249. Patrick says:

    Sorry i disagree when you say that Nolan had tried to put an Inception in our minds. The basic definition of the Inception is to put an IDEA in our minds so strong that we change our personality. It’s an assumption not a question. Mall ‘s idea of : ” this isn’t the real world, i have to die in order to wake up”, or Fischer ‘s idea : ” I will disassemble my father ‘s company” are perfect examples.

    So it can’t be a question or a doubt left in our mind. The point is people don’t doubt when the inception is successful, and they believe in it so strong that we can’t change their mind.

    I also disagree when you point out that Cobb is the subject of the Inception, for the simple reason : “what would be the idea put in his mind else ?”

  250. Dan D says:

    I can’t believe how much garbage has been said about the ending of this movie.

    How about I give you all the REALITY of this movie?

    It is very simple, as with most (or all) movies from Hollywood:

    Leave the movie “closed” but “open” at the same time for a sequel… if… and ONLY IF it gross out enough money to finance a sequel and hence, make a large profit.

    In the case of Inception, Nolan worked on it for 10 years, and obviously, after spending so much time and money on it, he wasn’t going to finish the movie with a happy (or sad) ending without leaving the audience wondering… I dare to say, he left us all in “Limbo” lol

    The beauty of this “Limbo” is that we can all make of it whatever we want, cause Nolan can still make a sequel out of it no matter what “reality” we choose to accept. If Cobb ended in “Reality”, he can make a sequel where he can be hired for another job(s), and if he ended in “Limbo”, then a sequel would be him finding out he was still dreaming….

    OR…. how about a sequel where he ended in “Reality” and then discovers that “Reality” has always been one more layer of dreams?? he might not even been married at all, and worse, not have any children. It could all be part of a bigger Inception planted in his head prior to the entire time line of the movie.

    But on the other hand, Nolan might just work all this out to make the best out of the original film, and never make a sequel as it could ruin the franchise if he makes a mistake.

    Once thing is for sure, Nolan created an excellent movie, DiCaprio made and excellent job with his performance (and so each cast member on the movie), and we all have enjoyed 2 and a half hours of pure action movie.

    Now I can’t wait to see the third Batman movie that will hopefully be as good or better then both Batman movies and Inception itself 😉

    PS. maybe that is what Inception is about… to brainwash us to keep watching his movies… lol

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  252. Rei says:

    The way I see it, the movie is trying to ask us this question: “Is what we perceive to be real, the true reality that is happening to the rest of us? or are we all living in our own metaphysical worlds that are tied up in a weird cosmic way?” Simply put, is the reality we perceive right now, the same as the reality perceived by others? Think about it, it’s really confusing, but really, just think about it, and if there is any, think of any realization that we could get from the ending, which, in my opinion, is not open-ended but is perception-based, having no one definite answer.

  253. Rachael says:

    Every time I went to see the film, look for different easter eggs/clues towards theories. Look again. When I went for a third time, I looked at the children’s clothes. At the end, they WERE different. Phillipa wore a plain pink dress and black shoes in Cobb’s memories/dreams. At the end, her outfit consisted of pink and white, with pink shoes. James was still wearing plaid, but with a slightly different pattern/coloring.

    But anyway, the movie was brilliant and yeah, different ideas can easily be argued. There isn’t really a perfect “this is it” answer. And that’s beautiful.

  254. GH8039 says:

    In the ending where Cobb talks to Mal, he tells her that he’s pretty much done with holding on to her and while he is doing that, he is taking his ring off in that dream. So when he is awake again in the airplane, after the dream with no ring how does that explain?

    I am still confused! i just remember the fact that he did take his ring off towards the end of the movie in the dream.

  255. Randy C says:

    The difference in kids age as shown on imdb is just because the older 2 kids were the ones who were talking on the phone, not the two kids they showed at the end of the film.

  256. Martyn says:

    Just a quick thought on the wedding ring theory. I know people say that when the ring is on = dream and when off = reality. This seems consistent if you believe that theory.
    However, im pretty sure that on the ledge scene before Mal jumps off Cobb does not have a ring on (please correct me if i’m wrong). Ok, so that means it is reality and could tie in with this theory. Although, why would a married guy turn up to his anniversary ‘get away’ to meet his wife without wearing a ring, as she is still alive at this point?

  257. Uingusu says:

    Just need some help. Can anyone recognize the appearance of the girl in the ending, which one of these 2 profile pics?

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3637500/

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2855622/

    Thanks.

  258. Dan says:

    I’m beginning to think that Cobb was the true target of Inception. Didn’t anyone else think it odd that there was a whole subconscious ARMY in Fischer? Only those who are “trained” are supposed to have such a powerful mental defense, not to mention it is already established that Cobb’s subconscious is overly hostile.

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  260. katie says:

    The main reasons why I think the ending scene was the real world are:

    1. It was said earlier in the movie that when you are in a dream, you appear somewhere, and don’t remember how you get there. Cobb woke up on the plane, and left the airport to return home. He didn’t just appear in his house.

    2. Cobb made it clear throughout the movie that he didn’t want to live in a dream world anymore, and that he wanted to go back to see his REAL kids, in REAL life. That was his main goal. Why would he change his mind at the very end, when his demons were defeated, and he was ABLE to go back to reality, which was what he wanted all along?

    3. He FOUND Saito, which was what he was trying to do so that they could BOTH go back to the real world. If he wanted to stay in the dream world, why would he bother?

    4. If he was content just living in the dream world, he wouldn’t have have even taken the spinning top out at the end, let alone spun it on the table. If he WANTED to live in the dream world, and accept it as his reality, he wouldn’t have spun it, because then he would SEE that it was just a dream. If he wasn’t SURE if it was reality, he would have stayed and watched it spin. He was proving that it WAS real to himself, but that he was so confident that it would fall, that he didn’t need to wait and see if it did.

    That’s my take on it 🙂

  261. XIII says:

    Regardless of what the real meaning is, nice theory, I hadn’t even noticed the ring bit.

  262. Bob Volk says:

    Very interesting insight. That is a detail I didn’t pick up on in this totally enthralling movie. The most impressive thing about the ending was the entire audience GROANING at the end in unison when the movie ended before the top either toppled or remained spinning. To elicit that response from a packed theater is proof of the powerful emotions this movie incited. Well done- now I want to see it again to test your theory!

  263. oh whatever. says:

    after spending 2 whole hours scrolling through this thick huge chunks of differing opinions and interpretations,
    I think what Nolan really did is to mash together a few deliberate yet incomplete strings of evidences, that seem to lead you to a certain conclusion, but are lacking in completeness. so OUR SUBCONSCIOUSNESS comes in by adding in certain information/ assumptions to conclude. and yet someone else uses another strand to refute the previous argument, so everything just snowballs and the mystery is gets even further tangled and tangled until it is a really mashed up web of different interpretations. :/

    so for me, the real exciting part of this whole package that really isn’t the movie itself, its all the hype and buzz the discussion that has been going around.
    maybe that is what inception wanted to achieve in someway?
    you say nolan isn’t the kind of director to keep the ending so ambiguous. yes, but he’s got a motive! after working for 10 whole years i’m sure he’s come up with clever marketing scheme by using this confusion and our curiosity to make us watch out for the every single details and then nitpick on it and then eventually praising him for his ingenuity. instead of just telling us the whole story and spoonfeeding us fanciful costumes and effects. he wants you to come back again. he wants you to exchange your MONEY, in reality, for something and that is intangible (just like a dream), that doesnt really directly affect us. like… watching out for a small ring, that you cant smell, cant touch, something fleetingly flashed across a screen.

    i know i’ve been steering away from the main discussion quite a fair bit, but is it going to come to a perfect foolproof solution anytime. i doubt so.
    anyway, if it does, tell me then 😀 id like to know!

    in anyway, im open to comments. haha.
    nice to be trying to see the whole movie from a birds eye view.
    after all, when you are watching the movie, aren’t you also entering a dream, a world that Nolan created? So what is nolan’s totem? What is the audience’s totem? can we say that we can draw a fine line between reality and nonreality then? nonreality influences our reality, and that too is the whole reason behind why ‘inception’ can work anyway! dreams are part of reality. in reality, we dream.

    reality is nothing but a perception.

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  265. Uingusu says:

    Was Eames on the plane in the end?

  266. tina says:

    if we’re basing this off the ring, cob actually has his ring on at the end, if you see him hand his passport to the security guy, when he hands it back to cob you can see the ring on his hand (left hand), and i couldn’t see his hand at any point after that……..

  267. lizzippi says:

    I first agreed with the theory that Mal was trying to get Cobb to return from a layer of dreaming …..
    but if he was on some level of dream than we should see some manifestation of Mal on the level thought to be reality … or at least we would see his kids or another memory of Cobb’s … but in his “reality ” we dont see anything like it
    get it? think on that

  268. el says:

    when Cobb shot Mal in the snowy scene. Mal was his projection.

  269. Uingusu says:

    (A) first scene Copp meeting Saito in limbo

    (B) Ending scene Copp meeting Saito in Limbo

    Can anyone recognize there is one phrase, same content but it’s said by “different person”.

    I heard from others. I can’t remember.

  270. jl674 says:

    I’ve been following this blog since the Inception article was first published and at that point had only seen the film once. Now I am among those who have viewed it multiple times. I went into my 2nd showing with all of the theories discussed here and elsewhere in mind and I can say WITHOUT A DOUBT that there are 2 obvious inceptions going on in the film. The first is the plot regarding Robert Fischer. This is the most obvious Inception and is what the film is built around. The second inception (or you may say, “The inception within the inception”) involves Ariadne and Cobb alone. Listen closely to the rules of the Fischer inception as they happen and then relate them back to every piece of conversation that Ariadne and Cobb have throughout Fischer’s story. The plan with Fischer was that they would give him an idea in the first dream (involving Browning and his father’s will) where Fischer will project it in his 2nd dream (as he projects Browning) and in the third dream he will think it was his own idea all along. Now step back and listen to what Ariadne says to Cobb in the 1st level of the dream. Then watch what Cobb projects in the second level. Finally in levels 3 & 4/limbo watch how Cobb comes to the realization himself of letting Mal go. If you know to look & listen for these cues they are all very obvious.

    Is he dreaming at the end? It doesn’t matter, because the inception that Ariadne has done on Cobb has been successful and his life has been changed dramatically and forever.

    I went into my 2nd viewing feeling that the ending was a dream, feeling that the wedding ring was important to watch, and that Mal was more than meets the eye. After completing this viewing I can say that Cobb’s left hand is never shown clearly after he comes back from limbo/wakes up on the plane/goes home to his children. We don’t know if his ring is on or not. I do feel that Mal was his projection, that she really killed herself, and that she is not Saito. I am now split on whether the last sequence of events (plane, airport, home) are a dream, but I am leaning toward they are reality.

  271. vishu says:

    thats a big blow buddy…. you are saying that ring was the totem and it was not in reality… if thats the case how he got hold of mal’s totem in final scene??? it should also be the part of dream right????

  272. JackieO says:

    (I personally remember seeing a final shot of the top incessantly spinning. but idk you’ve seen it 5 times) I think that the only reason the top would continue to spin is to expand on the concept that everything that is experienced in life is essentially a dream. the world and all real life is a dream. When one dies they wake up into a new life. almost like reincarnation. inception is a great movie and such a mind f*ck. i loved it=]

  273. Mitch says:

    In response to the two major tenets of the argument made here… ( I should also state that I’ve only seen the movie once.)

    Taking the first part: “Mal was present he was in a dream. His own or otherwise. We also know that it doesn’t really matter if she dies. Cobb shoots Mal in the snow layer, before they enter limbo. She came back. It’s safe to assume that she could come back again, right?”

    I disagree on some level (perhaps level 3 😛 ). It’s not entirely safe to assume that since she wasn’t present, she therefore wasn’t going to be present and hence that he’s no longer in sub-reality. Mathematically it can be shown in a truth table where this argument is assuming what is to be proven (or begging the question). Cobb (Leonardo) could have come to terms with the guilt and role he played in Mal’s suicide (reconciliation happened while in limbo). Hence, perhaps the ending of Mal plaguing him within his deep subconciousness (and hence his dreams) was a result of this. Much like people who lose a loved one or pet and have troubles coming to terms, with sleep, even not being able to sleep and have dreams. Also, there are plenty of brief scenes where she doesn’t appear, at least at first. Was there enough time for her to even appear in that ending scene? In other words, there is enough room for doubt, dreams are semi-random.

    The examples of the ring being present/missing: “* ALL of the inception. Wedding Ring. * Final scene of the film. No Ring. ”

    The wedding ring could have just represented some kind of subconcious connection to Mal, it may indicate that she was severed from him (after resolution with her in limbo) in his potential “final dream” (and yes in reality as well). Yes it could infer just simply reality but nothing points to it conclusively – simply a previous set of consistent set actions in response to a particular set of variables; which one could argue perhaps were variables which changed when his relationship with Mal changed. Also, it is very common for directors to put cues into movies to distinguish “reality from dreams” or “past from pres