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Inception: Explained


The entirety of act two was little more than a very well written, but ultimately clever distraction.

Xenocrates

Cobb's Totem: A spinning top

So if you’ve seen the movie, one of two issues is likely to confuse you. You’re either among the viewers that got lost somewhere in the second act or are in the camp that is wondering what the end actually means. If you are a fan of Chris Nolan’s work, then the end would not have been unexpected. That’s his signature style. Even so, the end of the film requires explanation.

SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS FILM.

Glossary of Concepts

Before you can begin to understand anything in the film, we need to cover a few things:

The Plot

The point of the film is to invade the subconscious mind through dreams – because the subject is usually defenceless while dreaming – usually. This is done through the science of Lucid Dreaming. This is where the person who is dreaming is aware that they are dreaming and thereby has control of the events of the dream, even the very nature of what happens in it.

This is what enables them to plant or steal ideas. But to pull this off, you will need:

Inception (2010) Main Characters

  1. a target to provide the subconscious mind to invade, (Fischer)
  2. A Chemist to provide the sedatives – only needed for the Inception operation (Yusuf)
  3. A Forger who can manipulate the subconscious mind into believing a lie (Eames)
  4. one or more dreamers who will have the dream and share it with the subject, (Yusuf, Arthur & Eames)
  5. an architect to create the dream world that the dreamers will imagine, (Ariadne) and
  6. an extractor (Cobb).

Dream Layers

Dreams can have multiple layers. The more layers you dive into, the deeper into the subconscious you go, and thus, the greater the effect of the extraction or inception. You can go deeper into a dream by dreaming while already in a dream. The team of characters does this quite a few times during the course of the film to achieve the desired level of deception.

The Target

The target is never the person initiating the dream. The dreams in the movie occur inside the subconscious of the target. This is because if they could dream lucidly, the extractor and his team would have been exterminated on entry. Therefore someone else has to initiate the dream, thus allowing the target to participate, thereby believing that the dream is theirs.

The Dreamer

The dreamer is the person who initiates the dream and shares it with the target through shared lucid dreaming. They should not dream deeper than the layer they’re currently at. They have to stay behind to wake up the rest of the team who have gone deeper. This is really just a safety measure to ensure that everyone can eventually wake up from multilayered dreams.

Limbo

Limbo is any dream layer that doesn’t have an architect’s design to fill it. This is why before Cobb’s team dives deeper into Fischer’s mind, they have a design that is taught to them by Ariadne, the team’s architect. This is the design they use to fill their dream world. If that design isn’t taught to them, then when they dive into a dream, it will be in a state of limbo.

The Kick

A kick is needed to wake someone up if they go into a dream. However, in dreams with many layers, the kick does not wake someone up from the current layer if a corresponding kick doesn’t occur on the layer above. This idea is a source of confusion for a lot of folks who saw the film. Getting out of the current layer requires a synchronized kick of everyone sharing the dream with a kick on the layer above because if anyone dies while in the shared dream state they will fall into an empty dream realm called limbo. This is why kicks must be synchronized.

Projections

Aside from the people inside the dream, everyone else is merely a projection of the dreamer’s subconscious mind. Projections sometimes defend the subconscious mind from invaders. A target’s subconscious may be militarized to prevent extractors from invading their mind. When this happens, the target’s projections become rather hostile towards subconscious invaders.

Time dilation

Time dilates inside dreams. Time becomes exponentially longer with each successive depth the characters delve into a dream. This is what makes the events of Act Two possible. This is possible because dreaming uses up more of the brain’s inert horsepower. So a 5 minute dream in reality can involve events that occur over a period of several hours in the dream.

Inception vs Extraction

Inception is the opposite of extraction, because it involves planting an idea instead of stealing one. It is particularly difficult to do, since the mind always knows the source of an idea and will thus reject it as their own true inspiration. Thus to make inception work, the target has to believe that the idea being planted is their own – thus the events of the film’s second act.

To understand act two however, you have to understand why it became necessary. Thus:

Act One

The film opens on what appears to be a beach, with Cobb washed up on it. This is just Chris Nolan’s technique. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come at the end. Nolan likes to start his epics with a scene from the end of the movie and work his way backwards – a technique used to great effect in Memento, to provide context for the story that is about to unfold before us.

As you can tell, this first shot is where Cobb finally finds Saito, now a very old man, who has long since forgotten that he was in a dream from the heist that is set up from act two. Notice that when the guard comes in dragging Cobb along, placing his gun and totem on the table, that Saito spins the totem – and (you have to pay close attention to see this), it does not fall.

It is important to remember this detail.

Cobb and Arthur attempt to extract from Saito

The shot quickly cuts away to the first part of the story where Cobb is explaining to a much younger Saito, at what appears to be a posh Japanese establishment (it is actually the same place in the very first shot of the movie) that he is here to protect Saito from extractors like himself. This of course, is merely a ruse, using reverse psychology to get Saito to trust Cobb to open up his mind, so that Cobb can steal his trade secrets. However, this doesn’t go so well.

This almost works until Cobb runs into a projection of his wife. She tips off Saito that Cobb is trying to steal from him. At this point, Saito confronts Cobb mid theft, a shootout ensues, at which point Arthur is shot and wakes up. That entire scene at the Japanese establishment was a dream. However, when Arthur wakes up, they are still in a dream – of the architect.

At this point, it is important to note that this architect did not go down into the dream with them. Throughout the rest of the film, you will notice that whoever is dreaming doesn’t go further down into another layer of dreaming. This is how you can tell who is dreaming. The movie doesn’t break this rule. Therefore act two will be much easier to follow when it starts.

Saito realises extractors are in his dreams

When Saito gets out of the dream, he points a gun at the Architect, a scuffle ensues and Saito falls to the ground. He notices that the carpet on the floor is different – and that clues him into the fact that he’s dreaming. When Cobb and Arthur realise this, they quickly realise their Architect’s fumble. Their Architect did not pay attention to that tiny bit of detail when he constructed the dream. They decide the job has failed and pull the plug on the operation.

Projections from the Architect’s dream are at this time making their way to the apartment, tearing the place apart as they go. This mob is a part of the Architect’s subconscious mind, acting as its natural defense mechanism (this is explained to the new Architect, Ariadne, at the end of the first act). This is why they attack everyone in the room, except the Architect.

After the mob attacks and kills them, they wake up before Saito does – on a train through Japan. They decide to pull away quietly like nothing happened – but Saito knows that Cobb attempted to jack him in his sleep. That is when Saito offers Cobb a job (after his Architect turns against them) to plant an idea in the mind of one of his competitors: Inception – in exchange for having all the charges against him dropped in the US for the death of his wife.

Explanation

It is important to note that this entire scene is a dream. Nothing we’ve seen so far is the real world. In fact, the sequence at the Japanese palace is the first demonstration of the concept of a dream within a dream. The first layer at the apartment in a Latin American country is that of the Architect. The second layer in the Japanese palace is manifested by Cobb’s dream.

Cobb is kicked out of the extraction dream with Saito

This is why the palace starts to fall apart once Arthur gives Cobb the kick by pushing his chair into a tub of water – which is incorporated into Cobb’s dream as the palace being flooded by water, waking him up in the apartment. Cobb fails at this extraction mission because Saito has already been trained to deal with potential extractors, like himself. So the mission is aborted.

Everything in this act sets up all the explanations you need to understand for what happens in the second act. At the end of the first act (where Cobb recruits Ariadne, his new Architect), the significance of everything we just saw in the first act is explained to her in meticulous detail, by himself and Arthur. This is why it’s important to see the movie twice to catch all these details.

Important Points to notice at the end of act one.

  • Why is Cobb’s wife constantly interfering with his dreams, trying to wake him up?
  • Why is Cobb being chased by faceless goons? We know why, but why are they faceless?
  • Why does the alley way Cobb descend into when running from his pursuers, suddenly start to close up around him towards the end?
  • Why does his father Miles, curiously ask Cobb to wake up when he seeks him out in the pursuit of another architect?
  • Did you notice that Cobb’s totem belongs to his wife and that he never had one for himself?
  • Did you notice that in the very first scene, an old Saito spins the totem and it never falls down?

If you noticed any or all of these things, then Act Three’s finale will not confuse you. The fact that all of these events happened in Act One ultimately predicts the film’s final shot. What this means is that the entirety of act two was little more than a very well written, but ultimately clever distraction. It is a plot-wise slight of hand designed specifically to taunt the audience.

Act Two

Inception Act Two - The Airplane

While planning the operation’s final details, Saito buys the airline on which Fischer will be traveling, books Cobb’s team first class tickets and they get underway. Once on board, they drop some sedative into Fischer’s drink. Once he is under, the entire team goes under as well. The Air Hostess is apparently in on the operation and is required to wake them up in 10 hours.

Now the dreaming begins. Consult this handy graphic and follow the narrative below.

Layer One: The Van in the Rain
Dreamer: Yusuf
Prior Layer: “Reality” i.e. the plane
Kick: Van falling off the bridge.
Purpose: Kidnap Fischer, thereby facilitating the deception necessary for layer two.

Layer One: The Van in the Rain

This layer functions only to kidnap Fischer, and to use reverse psychology to get him to think of a six digit number that will unlock his subconscious mind in the third act. The number he thinks of is irrelevant. The idea is just to get him to think of a number. The number will play a very significant role in the second layer of the dream in the hotel (as a room number) and the third layer in the snow fortress, where it finally becomes a combination code to his father’s safe.

Eames forges Browning to deceive Fischer

But first, Fischer has to be convinced that there is a secret that needs to be unlocked inside Browning’s mind, thereby causing him (Fischer) to think that breaking up his father’s company is his own idea. That’s why Fischer doesn’t know the number to any safe that his father has (because there is no safe). The fact that they force Fischer to come up with the numbers by himself is the first part of the deception that is absolutely necessary for the inception to take.

On their way from the warehouse in the van, the team puts a bag over Fischer’s head and drops a bit of the sedative onto the surface of the bag to induce sleep. This will facilitate sharing another dream state with Fischer at a further deeper layer – this time with Arthur being the dreamer. Yusuf doesn’t go with them because he is the one who is dreaming this layer, and thus has to provide the kick to wake everyone now dreaming on to layer two.

Layer Two: The Hotel
Dreamer: Arthur
Prior Layer: The Van in the Rain
Kick: Blow out the floor under where the dream begins into the third layer.
Purpose: Convince Fischer that Browning is a Traitor.

Arthur fights off faceless goons in zero gravity

Cobb’s team has to get Fischer to lose trust in his father’s closest confidant, Browning, who is forged in Fischer’s mind by Eames. This just so that Fischer will not trust any of his own projections of Browning, thereby facilitating the idea that Browning and his father are somehow working against him. This will convince Fischer to join Cobb’s team to dive into Browning’s find to find out why. But this is just a ploy to dive further into Fischer’s mind.

Before Cobb can pull off that deception, he has to first convince Fischer that he is dreaming and is being targeted. Eames forges a blonde woman to convince Fischer to go the floor that corresponds to the first three of the six digit number he came up with on layer two. This is just to jolt his memory. Cobb then has to fight off several of Fischer’s militarized projections and draws his attention to the weird physics around him to convince Fischer that he is in a dream, thereby eventually convincing Fischer that his militarized projections are the extractors.

Cobb convinces Fischer that he's the good guy.

Cobb further reinforces the deception by forcing Fischer to remember the first layer of the dream and the warped physics incorporation from his being kidnapped by extractors on layer one. After Cobb manages to dredge Fischer’s memory, Fischer becomes convinced that the numbers he remembers are important. They are not – any number would have corresponded to a floor in the hotel. That’s why he was told to think of any six digit number within a range.

This is the first time where the random six digit number Cobb forces Fischer to come up with in layer one becomes important. In order to complete the deception however, Eames has to forge Browning to make Fischer believe that he is being double crossed. Once Fischer buys that deception, he agrees to join Cobb’s team. Once Fischer finally remembers the first three digits of the number, the entire team then proceeds to the corresponding room in the hotel.

The only person who doesn’t go is Arthur, who has to rig the floor below to blow out. This is what should have facilitated the kick that is necessary to get them out of this layer. However, on layer one, Yusuf has found himself in a hairy situation and starts off the kick for layer two too soon (backing the van off the bridge), which then means that layer two’s kick won’t work.

Arthur Prepares the Layer 2 Kick

Because the van is now in free fall off the bridge in layer one, it is incorporated into Arthur’s dream as zero gravity in the hotel in layer two. So Arthur rounds everyone up and puts them into an elevator, then places C4 in strategic locations around the elevator to simulate gravity by way of centrifugal force in zero gravity, and thus a kick to coincide with layer one’s kick.

Cobb tells Fischer that they need to dive into Browning’s mind to determine what it is that his father has stored away in this safe. Whatever Fischer will find is what will convince him to break up his father’s company. So they begin to dive into Browning’s mind via shared dream state. Fischer believes that they are diving into Browning’s mind. In truth, they are diving even further into Fischer’s mind, where Eames is the dreamer. This finally brings us to layer three:

Layer Three: The Snow Fortress
Dreamer: Eames
Prior Layer: The Hotel
Kick: Detonation of the Fortress’ foundation.
Purpose: Inception.

This layer only exists to enact the inception in Fischer. Now a part of Cobb’s team, Fisher and company fight their way through his own militarized projections (alerted by Eames) in order to get to a safe that supposedly holds his father’s last will and testament (as told to him by the forged Browning on layer two). However, when the fire fight gets hairy, Cobb relents and asks his architect Ariadne for a faster way into the fortress – apparently time is running a bit short.

Cobb asks Ariadne for a faster way into the fortress.

Ariadne is understandably reluctant, because if Cobb knows a way into the fortress, then Cobb’s own projections can get inside there and mess up the operation – and that’s exactly what happens. Just as Fischer is about to open the safe, a projection of Cobb’s wife shows up and shoots and kills Fischer. As you already know from the plot, dying at any of the levels in this shared dream doesn’t wake you up. You go to Limbo. This is why Cobb has to dive even deeper (now to limbo) to rescue Fischer. Eames stands by with a defibrillator to wake Fischer.

That brings us to:

Layer Four: Limbo
Dreamer: Cobb
Prior Layer: The Snow Fortress
Kick: Improvised suicide.
Purpose: Rescue Fischer and Saito

Cobb's Limbo in Inception (2010)

Ariadne goes with Cobb to this level. When they finally get there, they locate Mal, Cobb’s wife and negotiate a way to get Fischer back. Ariadne shoots Mal, tosses Fischer out the window (to wake him up to layer three – which corresponds with Eames’ defibrillator), then jumps out the window to wake up to layer three as well. Her fall coincides with the falling fortress. But Cobb has to stay behind to find Saito, who has now succumbed to his gunshot from layer one.

While all of this is happening, the van is still in free fall at layer one, the explosive charges are about to go off on layer two, and Eames is waiting on Fischer (newly returned from layer four after Ariadne tosses him out the window in Cobb’s limbo) to open the safe in layer three. Once Fischer opens the safe, he sees the pinwheel, and Eames’ projection of Fischer’s dad delivers the final insult, sealing the inception. Fischer finally decides to break up his dad’s company.

Act Three: Synchronized Kicking

If you remember that time dilation occurs inside dreams, then you also remember that the further down you go in dreams, the greater the exponent of time dilation. So while the plane flight was 10 hours, it gave enough time for the van operation (layer 1), the hotel shootout (layer 2), the snow fortress battle and Fisher’s inception (layer 3) and for Cobb to take decades to find Saito in limbo (layer four). Now all they have to do is time the kicks correctly.

Now that inception has been planted, the team can ride the kicks up out of each consecutive layer. Eames, who is now watching all of this unfold, detonates the charges destroying the fortress’ struts. After she leaps out of the window from Cobb’s limbo, Ariadne awakes on layer three inside the snow fortress, coinciding with the kick of the fortress that is now in free fall.

This kicks Ariadne, Fisher and Eames, causing them all to wake up in layer two (the hotel). This happens just in time for the charges on the elevator to go off, creating centrifugal and the resulting centripetal force to simulate gravity in free fall, kicking Ariadne, Eames, Fischer and Arthur, back up to layer one inside the falling Van, whose failed kick was already in progress.

Remember, the elevator trick only became necessary because the layer one kick was already in progress. The fall of the van is incorporated into layer two as zero gravity and so they can’t synchronize the kick needed to get them out from layer two (the hotel) with the falling van. This is compensated by the last kick where the van hits the water resulting in the centripetal force that finally wakes Ariadne, Eames, Arthur, Fisher with Yusuf on layer one inside the van.

The original plan was that the falling fortress from layer three would wake everyone up with the falling floor from the hotel in layer two, which would wake everyone up with the falling van in layer one. The van hitting the water is supposed to have awoken everyone on the plane. Instead, all it does is wake up everyone inside layer one, losing a kick in the process, as Yusuf incited the layer one kick too soon. Now they have to sit and wait for the sedative to wear off.

Layer four in limbo was never a part of the original plan.

However, despite all this kicking (and screaming?) do you notice that Cobb and Saito never wake up inside the van? They’re still in limbo. Some have theorized that they drowned and that’s why they all wake up on the plane. This is wrong for the simple fact that layer one is Yusuf’s dream – and he got out just fine. Interestingly, the fall in the van didn’t kick Yusuf out.

Why? The answer was given in the first act:

Yusuf tests the new sedative on Cobb

Do you recall in Act One where Yusuf said that he could create a sedative that inhibits inner ear function? The inner ear is what is responsible for your sense of balance. It is responsible for creating that falling sensation that wakes you up out of a dream. Yusuf used this particular concoction for their journey so that they could attain three layers of deep dream diving. The obvious side effect however, is that layer one’s kick had to be timed perfectly to get everyone out. If it wasn’t, then when they all woke up, they’d have to wait for the sedative to wear off.

The Final Shot – Explained

Before we can understand the final shot in the film, let’s first gather all the evidence thus far:

Is Mal really dead?

After Cobb planted the inception to get Mal out of limbo (by spinning her totem inside a safe in her mind, thus reminding her that this space isn’t real), she not only wakes up from limbo, but also realizes that they are several layers deep. That’s why they keep arguing about the reality of the children and why her projection keeps messing with Cobb’s missions. We even see this interference from the film’s first act that takes us right back to the first scene in Saito’s palace:

Mal betrays Cobb to Saito

Notice that Mal kills herself outside her bedroom window – or is it a bedroom window across from where Cobb was looking? This is a huge giveaway. It’s the same bedroom. Mal actually makes this realisation and frames Cobb for her murder (getting declared sane by three psychiatrists) so that he would give up his dream state and go back with her. However, the movie frames the idea such that we think that Cobb’s inception actually drives Mal crazy.

The real kicker however, is that Mal is most probably still alive, desperately trying to get Cobb out of his vegetative state in the real world, which is why she appears to be so disruptive to all of his missions. Isn’t it curious how Mal is the only one of Cobb’s projections (aside from his children) that consistently appears in his dreams? Is she just a projection or is that really her?

Mal - Cobb's Wife in Inception (2010)

This is classic Nolan story telling. We are led to believe throughout the entire film that Mal killed herself because the inception Cobb planted was so deep in her subconscious mind (at the limbo level) that it infested the entirety of her thoughts right up to Cobb’s reality. However, the many logical inconsistencies in Cobb’s “reality” level (particularly Cobb’s unexplained escape from limbo) points to the fact that Cobb is the one who is irretrievably lost. Not Mal.

The Totem

Cobb spins his totem to prove his reality

Cobb’s totem (a weighted, spinning top) does not belong to him. He got it from his wife. Cobb never had a totem of his own. It’s only because of Cobb’s totem why everyone else gets one. But it wasn’t his idea – it was his wife’s idea. Therefore the use of a totem is an inception planted in Cobb’s mind by his wife. He took it from her after she “killed” herself. Therefore the use of the totem throughout the entire movie is completely unreliable. The totem is thus a lie.

This puts the entire film into perspective.

Consider the fact that when Mal stabs Cobb and Ariadne shoots Mal, Cobb doesn’t wake up from limbo. Instead, he wakes up in Saito’s limbo (the scene we see at the beginning of the film). The guard shows a now old Saito that Cobb only had a gun and his totem. If you were paying attention to this very first scene of the movie, you’d have seen Saito spin Cobb’s totem – and it does not fall. It is only then that Saito remembers why Cobb came: to remind him that “He is an old man, filled with regret“. Saito then picks up Cobb’s gun – then they wake up.

Notice that when Mal calls in the children while on the limbo layer, Cobb deliberately looks away? If he sees their faces, he might lose himself in limbo. Do you also notice that every time Cobb sees his children, they are going through almost exactly the same motions when he is inside the dream world? Notice the penultimate shot when he goes home. They get up and turn around in exactly the same way, wearing exactly the same clothes as in his dreams!

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when Cobb spins the totem one last time, he doesn’t even stop to see if it falls over. He instead runs towards his children as he has already accepted this reality. This is why his dad told him to wake up, why his wife always shows up to ruin his plans and why a fictitious dream machine exists that we are never told how it works.

It is also why his father mysteriously shows up at the airport and why we never see how either Cobb or Saito escape from limbo. It is why the totem always falls while Cobb is still looking at it and why it only spins incessantly when he is not looking at it. Cobb is so deeply lost in his dreams, that he has forgotten that he’s dreaming. He has already chosen a reality.

Cobb ponders his totem

Nolan wants us to realise that once you accept what is being fed to your mind, you will believe it, whether it is real or not. Such is the nature of truth. That is the reason why whenever we dream, we have already accepted the dream, which is also precisely why we don’t know it’s a dream until we wake up. The dream has become Cobb’s chosen reality and thus explains why:

In Act One:

  • Saito handles Cobb’s totem (when you’re not supposed to let that happen. In fact, Cobb constantly breaks his own rules).
  • Mal gets up from the chair and lets Cobb fall (she’s trying to interfere with his dreams to wake him up).
  • Mal tells Saito where Cobb is (again, deliberately interfering to wake him up).
  • Cobb is chased by faceless goons – very similar to the ones that attack the team in the hotel at layer two (because the goons are projections)
  • Mal stabs Ariadne in Cobb’s shared dream state (attacking his projections, to wake him up).
  • Cobb is given a mission to plant inception – the very thing that got him to where he is in the first place (as this is Cobb’s memories regurgitating themselves within his dream).
  • Cobb is chased down an alley that closes in on him (because it is still a dream world).
  • Cobb’s father tells him to wake up (because it is still a dream world).

In Act Two:

  • Mal tells Cobb to wake up – then kills herself (because she realised they were still in a dream world).
  • Cobb repeatedly sees the same vision of his kids getting up and running off in exactly the same way, irrespective of which layer of dreaming he dives into, except the layer he accepts as reality (because he has already accepted that layer of the a dream world).
  • There is now a danger of going to a limbo if someone is killed in the shared dream state when this risk didn’t exist in the first act, when Cobb shot Arthur to get him out from being tortured (because they are diving deeper into Cobb’s mind, not Fischer’s).
  • That this limbo is primarily Cobb’s limbo (despite any logic fed to us from the plot – such as the other dreamers never being there) and why Ariadne could see Cobb’s limbo at all (because the entire film is inside Cobb’s subconscious mind).

In Act Three

  • Cobb doesn’t wake up to layer three (snow fortress) when he is stabbed by Mal. Instead, he finds himself in Saito’s limbo and there is no dream machine involved (breaking the rules of the dream world – because it’s Cobb’s lucid dream).
  • None of the synchronized kicks back up the three layers of dreaming wake up Cobb (same as above).
  • The sedative wears off and everyone wakes up in the plane, even though Cobb explicitly tells us in Act One, that if you’re in limbo when the sedative wears off, you’ll wake up in a vegetative state (same as above).
  • We never actually see how either Saito or Cobb get out of limbo (same as above).
  • Cobb’s dad shows up at the airport before Cobb’s flight gets there, when he was last seen in France when Cobb spoke to him just before hiring Ariadne. He is wearing the same clothes (because Cobb is still dreaming).
  • Cobb sees his kids run up to him after getting up and turning in exactly the same way they do in his dreams and are wearing the same clothes (because he is still dreaming).
  • The spinning totem only falls when Cobb is looking at it, but it never falls when he looks away (because he is still dreaming).

Conclusion:

Cobb and his wife Mal in Limbo

The entire movie is a dream. We have never seen Cobb in reality. This is why, with the obvious exception of Cobb, all the other characters are one-dimensional archetypes. This also means that the dreamers actually dive five layers down during act two – the reality layer is still a dream state, it’s just that Cobb has long since accepted that layer of dreaming as his reality.

Of course, the alternative theory is that the movie is full of plot holes that Chris Nolan cleverly leaves unfilled, because the very premise of the film’s plot explains them all. This is black hole logic and is circularly redundant. Consider the facts: If Nolan intended the plot holes to exist, then why call them plot holes in the first place?  With the exception of a few other rather minor continuity errors, these “plot holes” are dead giveaways to the central theme of the plot.

The genius of the final shot is manifested in the fact that the audience is following every move of the characters to try and figure out whether they are still dreaming or not. From the point they wake up on the plane to the cut to black, we never hear any significant dialog from any of the characters. The cut to black is a jolt to snap everyone in the audience back out to reality.

This is because the main character is lost and the audience would only realise this with the sudden cut to black. The audience wakes up out of the dream, even if Cobb does not. Nolan wants to break our suspension of belief (necessary for becoming immersed in the film’s plot), get out of the film’s dream world and realise that Cobb is the only one who is still dreaming.

Not us.

Again, this is a brilliant piece of film making and my new most favourite film of all time.


E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com

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  1. September 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I go to see everyday a few blogs and sites
    to read articles or reviews, however this web site provides quality based
    posts.

  2. Akime
    February 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Okay, I really wasn’t going to say anything, but come ON! First of all, I’m not actually saying either of you is wrong or right, but you should get some of your facts straight:

    This one is trying a bit too hard to make a theory work. If that were even remotely true, then the fashion of their home would suggest that Cobb and Mal aren’t exactly poor. Furthermore Mal seems to have some very expensive tastes in what to wear. Furthermore their apartment (the one she jumped out of) was very stylishly decked out. People who can barely afford to buy different clothes for their kids couldn’t afford all that. Even though all we see are dreams, they are based on elements from Cobb’s memory. So again, I can’t buy that one at all.

    WTF?! No way, are Cobb and Mal poor. Have you seen their clothes? AND, the children have been staying with Mal’s parents, MILES and his wife, who, btw, Cobb talks in the phone with during the act one. And where the hell did you get the notion that Miles was COBB’S dad?
    Also, the window where Mal jumps is the window of their HOTEL ROOM, where they have celebrated their anniversary every year is EXPENSIVE. So, if not filthy stinkin’ rich, they are VERY comfortable with their income.
    Anyway, these things just kept bugging me and I had to put my nose in on it.
    I hope you get my meaning as English isn’t my first language.

  3. Swati
    December 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Nice explanation of the movie.
    A great help for my project.
    Thank you!

  4. Isabel Del Real
    November 2, 2010 at 11:51 am

    okay, you guys are so very technichal. what about emotions ? Why would Mal ask about her children ? She says ” and the kids, do they miss me ? ” or something like this … Why ?

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