'Inception': Let's talk about that ending

inceptionImage Credit: Melissa MoseleyPretty sure the headline makes it clear enough, but I’m gonna go ahead and slap a big ol’ SPOILER ALERT on this one anyway, because some people are too busy to actually read headlines. But yes, for those who haven’t seen Inception yet: First off, do so, because it’s a blast and definitely a “worth seeing in the theaters” pic with all the collapsing cities-type effects and such. Secondly, avert your eye, because I wanna talk about that last scene.

My first reaction when the movie ended and that damn top was still spinning was a chuckle (most every one else in my theater seemed to prefer a groan). What a pain in the ass, I thought lovingly of director Chris Nolan, for teasing us. I mean, OF COURSE Leo’s character got home. He woke up on the plane with the rest of the gang, went through customs, got to the house, and the kids finally turned around – something that did not, seemingly COULD not happen in his dreams. Ever. So what if the top kept spinning. It was just Nolan having a little fun with us. It even started to wobble there at the end, right? It was just a matter of time, a technicality. It probably fell the moment the screen went black.

But as I got up to leave the theater, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to stick with that explanation for long. Because it DIDN’T fall before the screen went black. We never saw it topple. It was still spinning, so there is no way we know for certain it was reality and not Cobb stuck in a new dimension of his subconscious, this time not with Mal but with his smiling kids. In retrospect, the final minutes wrapped up really quickly and perfectly. After the moment of tension at the first customs stop, Cobb breezed through the rest of the airport, met up with Miles who, without much chit-chat at all, led him straight to the kids, who were outside playing in the same position as in the dreams (Were they also wearing the same clothes as in the dreams? Were they the same age? How long had he been away?), and quickly turned around and jumped up into their daddy’s arms. Sure, it could’ve just been a tidy dénouement. No real dialogue or additional tension was required. Saito put in the call as he said he would, Miles was notified to pick up Cobb at the airport, done and done. But still, I kept thinking, as I walked out of that theater, that it all seemed a lot like a “dream come true,” devoid of any of the nuance and hiccups that clog up reality.

What’s more, Cobb didn’t even wait around to see for himself if his totem would fall. He rushed off to be with the kids. It was as if he didn’t care — he wanted to live that reality whether in dream or consciousness. Maybe he came back 10 minutes later and spun it again. And maybe it fell. Or maybe there’s a sequel coming.

I loved this movie with or without that final wrinkle. That top could’ve fallen the split second before the screen went to black and I’d have been just as happy with it. Yet, I can’t help but obsess over the fact that it was a mystery left for us to discuss. So PopWatchers, over to you: Was Cobb dreaming or did he finally find a way home?

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  • Lars

    the glass is half empty and that top is still spinning

    • MovieMan

      If you go back to the airport scene where Cobb is going through customs, you can clearly see that most people are staring at him which could imply that he was dreaming.
      But the answer is that it’s a ‘Double Rainbow’. So we must ask ourselves, ‘What does it mean??’

      • James

        No I watched it again, and the only people that stare at him are his friends as if to congratulate him for making it home.

        Also, the kids are wearing similar clothes but not the same, and are noticeably slightly older. The credits reveal this as well.

      • Chip Chipperson

        Double Rainbow…what are ya eatin’ Lucky Charms or somethin…tssss?

      • Karen

        While I think he was awake, MovieMan, I can see what you mean. It was definitely all the way across the sky.

      • ghyn

        not only were the people staring at him, but everytime he saw the people from his team, they were part of the airport staff, not just there. i think he was dreaming.

      • Brian

        One of my first thoughts while watching the movie was “What if Cobb’s marriage–and love–for Mal was itself the result of an Inception?”
        The movie could be a second Inception to eliminate the first.

      • mostafa

        ok guys. heres my question. when Arthur showed the architect girl his dice, why did he tell her not to touch it? she can only look or she will know what number it was fixed on and it wont work properly and she has to get her own totem. yet DiCaprio and his wife shared one. that could have screwed it up for them. letting us never know whow was right. DiCaprio or his wife. sure at some point it fell, but it was never really his totem; it was hers. rendering it unreliable. what if in other peoples dreams it couldnt fall but in his it could, thats why he believed it was the real world, because of the false pretense that if it fell it was reality.

        to complicate the theory, whatif thats why she was confused and didnt want to leave the dream. when he spun it, it would continue to spin, but when she did it (since it was her dream) it would fall and she was confused and put it in a safe. he then convinced her to kill herself (on the train track) and he was right, they were in a dream. when they got to the next level, she wanted to return the favor and he was the one that was confused and scared.

        if this seems incoherent, its because its 4 in the morning and i just got home from the movie and cant sleep.. thanks alot nolan..

      • Barty tan

        I would ignore the “people at the airport staring at him”. The movie clearly stated that YOUR PROJECTIONS wouldn’t stare at you. Only if they sense that there is someone who doesn’t belong there.

      • Devin Faraci

        Anyone who groans at that ending is a moron. They would be better off watching Paul Blart Mall Cop.

      • DW

        What Nolan did with this ending, and why it fits so perfectly with the film, is plant an idea in our heads. The director did the same thing to us that Cobb did to his wife: made us question the reality we were seeing. That not only makes it a perfect ending, but one that’s designed to nest in our brains and make us think.

      • Nathan

        @mostafa Didn’t he only take her totem upon her death? She hid it in the safe, symbolizing her refusal to accept that this was not reality. Then he stole it, I guess to use in her Inception, then adapted it as his totem after her death. Yes? No?

      • Kylie

        I agree with you DW. The purpose of the ending was inception and it worked. There’s a whole article devoted to this idea he planted in our heads.

      • Bob

        “everytime he saw the people from his team, they were part of the airport staff, not just there.” Huh? They were all getting their baggage or going through customs. What movie were you watching?

      • Niix Starkyller

        2 things.
        — Watch the flick again. The answer seemed less interpretive to me after that.
        — “It was Mal’s idea,” Cobb said. In the context of the film, how loaded is that statement?

      • blue

        it’s startin to look like a TRIPLE rainbow!

      • cat

        I agree with DW, I thought that was a great ending. Even though I of course chuckled at the ending too, i thought it was an appropriate ending. All I know is I have to see it again to understand more, hopefully. :) I liked all the ideas of the dreams and levels. Also how time worked with those levels. Strange how I liked the movie, but I didn’t understand everything clearly :)

      • John

        Mostafa, good theory except you forgot on thing: The totem is only supposed to spin in OTHER people’s dreams, if I recall correctly. Your own and reality are never mentioned as part of that. I’m guessing Mal didn’t know this and thought it was reality because her totem wasn’t spinning, while for the main character it was. Though, if they both went there knowing it was a dream anyhow, I don’t see how Mal got confused.

      • Joe

        He is in fact dreaming. When he woke up on the plane he had no tubes connected to him or anything, the waitress was walking and the suitcase was no where to be seen. If he just woke up he would have had the tubes still connected etc…

      • pws

        A few things:

        – I don’t think people groaning at the ending means they’re idiots, it’s just a genuine gut reaction to that frame, waiting for our own catharsis (knowing for sure Cobb got back to his family in reality) and not getting it. I think it was a clever way of Nolan to end the movie by keeping us on the edges of the seats until that very last second of the film. Everyone in the theatre I went to gave a collective groan but I also knew many people there really enjoyed the movie. I really enjoyed the storytelling and was excited to discuss the movie with others.

        – Was he dreaming or not? At first I didn’t think so. I thought it was pretty clear he was back in reality. But, I did read some theories and I can buy up to a point him being in a dream still. But only for the ending, which I think was left intentionally vague. I don’t really think the entire movie was happening in his subconscious like others have mentioned, but I think it’s a strong possibility that he did not escape limbo and may have been pushed even farther into the dream world and tricked himself into thinking it’s reality.

        – @Mostafa – The reason why the girl couldn’t touch Arthur’s die was b/c it was weighted. If she was able to touch it and feel its weight, she’d be able to recreate that detail in her dreamworld and potentially trick Arthur into thinking it’s reality. A regular die would be very light so the weight inside makes it a good totem.

        – @Joe above me, I don’t think that really means he’s dreaming. It means the flight attendant did her job and did not leave the evidence of the inception out there for Fischer to see when HE woke up. That would have been interesting to explain :p. Also, Cobb and Seito were the last two to wake up (assuming they are in reality that is) b/c Cobb has to find Seito in limbo while everyone else was able to be kicked back up into reality first.

      • RB

        James – there were other scenes with the children (eg playing on the beach), which could account for the multiple castings/ages of the kids that are in the credits.

        I would have to see it again to pay particular attention, but my impression was that the kids were in the exact same outfits, same haircuts, and same age at the end as they were in his memory. However, Nolan did not tell us how long it had been (or I didn’t catch it), so if it’s been less than a year it could be realistic that the kids didn’t change much and that the same/similar clothing is intentionally meant to be ambiguous.

      • kate

        If he was in a dream, which would be the “deepest” one they were talking about if any, the people wouldnt be starting at him, it would be his OWN dream, so he wasnt an “invader” hence, no one would be starting at him unless he was in someone elses dream

      • Honz

        Yea but since it would have to be his dream they wouldn’t be staring at him. The projections only look for the people who they think are invading the dreamers dream, so that doesn’t work. Plus i think the only people staring at him are his crew members

      • Beepela

        But if it was a dream, and his wife really did wake up when she jumped, wouldn’t she have come back to get him when he kept sleeping? To me, this ALMOST proves that it was not a dream, although I suppose we’d never know if something happened to her in the real world, or maybe she just waited a few weeks, so in his dream time it just hasn’t happened yet… Ack! Must see it again!

      • JsteeleNW

        Full on, double rainbow all the way!

      • bob

        so bright and vivid

      • compson

        @mostafa i interpreted it as cobb’s guilt in mal’s insanity. she would have been fine, if he’d kept his hands off her totem. but, it was more important for him to get out (damn her), so he drove her crazy in an attempt to reunite with his kids (ultimately…blah blah blah.) i loved it as a symbol of cobb’s moral failing.

      • Rick

        People don’t stare at you in “Your” dream. The reason they dont talk and just look at each other, feeds 2 seperate scenarios…1 Cobb was asleep on the plane and simply dreamt his accompanying passengers into his dream and they don’t speak, because they truly don’t know each other..2 They can’t exactly high five each other about such a successful mind job pulled off when the victim is 4 fet away!

      • OS

        @ PWS – I arrived at the same conclusion regarding the end…that Cobb never escaped limbo when he went looking for Saito. It took me some time to get to this point after watching the movie since you saw him open his eyes on the plane, but I believe the plane that Cobb woke up in was his limbo. He was so set on being with his kids again, he was willing to accept them in limbo rather than not have them at all.

      • Raymond

        @Joe -“When he woke up on the plane he had no tubes connected to him or anything” if you remember in the very beginning where they were trying to extract something from Saito. Cobb and Arthur woke up first in the train and they untied the tubes and Saito woke up several minutes before hand with no tubes attached.
        I personally think Cobbs is awake, when you’re in limbo the time is multipied just like each layer, and Saito died in the third layer, and Cobb was in the fourth layer. Therefore the reason why Cobb is young so and Saito is so old, is that Saito has already been there for decades before Cobb even arrives to limbo.

      • littlerasco

        From what I have read here, whether or not the top spins or falls over doesn’t prove anything. The vague box and IV’s used in the Inception procedure can represent the delusional dreams of an unconscious man in a hospital bed after killing his family in an auto accident—a prequel could explain things better than a sequel. The real hero in this story is Nolan who created a tale people will pay money to see more than once just to try and figure it out!!!!!

      • Stacy

        DOUBLE RAINBOW! hahahha its soooo INTENSE!
        I feel like it didnt topple, it was all a dream, there wasnt enough time from when he was with his wife to when he wakes up for him to be able to have gotten out of limbo.

        I feel li

      • TONY

        DW Sun 07/18/10 9:55 AMWhat Nolan did with this ending, and why it fits so perfectly with the film, is plant an idea in our heads. The director did the same thing to us that Cobb did to his wife: made us question the reality we were seeing. That not only makes it a perfect ending, but one that’s designed to nest in our brains and make us think.

        Of course DW is exactly right, we’re not supposed to pick “team awake” or “team dream”; we’re supposed to be questioning our own reality, I love it.

      • bryan

        ok i just finished watching the movie but i also got the story-the point was to create a dream with in a dream (inception) but their where 3 dreams 1.the girl(designer) 2.the subconscious (subject) 3.extraction, -taking out- but intotal their where 4 dreams with in 1 dream, so im gonna do a reverse type when they awake up in that strange place with cobb and the little girl thats cobbs dream the thats the 4th dream after the girl wakes up from cobbs dream she wakes up from the 3rd and 2nd dream and everybody else also, wich means they are still in a dream, but wait where is cobb, he is still in the van dreaming meaning he never woke up from the 4th dreamer wich is him so the other guys woke up from the dreams maybe or maybe not no one know about them but cobb wakes up in the airplane so they get to los angeles and cobb said he was gone from his kids a long time but why are they still little kids and to totum is still spinning so the director wanted us to find out by our self saying that is he in a dream or in real life but remember je never woke up from the van so he is still in a dream

      • Insheeption

        Mostafa, I dont think Mal’s totem is his totem. If you look at the scenes where you know he is definitely dreaming, he is wearing his wedding ring. if you look at scenes where he is clearly awake, he is not wearing his wedding ring.i believe this is true and tried to look for it in the final scene, but didnt get a clear look at his hand

      • Ali

        Insheeption(cool name haha): Anyway, I believed that at first until I thought more about it and he could’ve still be dreaming because in limbo, he forgave himself and let Mal go so when he “wakes up” in the dream, his subconscious came to an understanding about Mal which would explain why we don’t see him wearing the ring on his finger in the end. He could also have been projecting a happy ending for himself too.

      • Eli

        Actually he thinks people are staring at him also notice that the director gave us a hint when he picks up his suitcase with his LEFT HAND and there is NO wedding ring but when ever he is in a dream or someone elses dream he HAS his wedding ring!!!

    • Krissynita

      Oh no! The glass is def half full and that top wobbled to a stop! ;)

      • ugh

        besides, we already have one movie where it ended up all being an illusion for Leo DiCaprio

      • Charlie


        Two if you count Titanic :P

      • amyc

        I think the point was that once Cobb saw his kids’ faces, it didn’t matter to him whether he was awake or dreaming, it was the reality he wanted. He walked away from the spinning top because he didn’t care to find out anymore.

      • DFSF

        Maybe the top stopped spinning but never fell, huh? Then what!!!
        btw, I think amyc got it right.

      • Larry

        I agree with amyc

      • Anh


        I don’t think that reasoning is satisfactory. Once he saw his kid’s faces, he was stuck in that “reality”. And if he were actually in reality, then all’s good, but if he were still in a dream, then it’s quite obvious that the kid’s faces were only projections of his subconscious. Think about in the scene when he’s in scene in Limbo when Mal almost convinces him to stay with her. He tells her that he can’t stay with her because all she would be is a projection of his memory and that’s just not good enough. So he leaves her to find Saito. So if he were in a dream at the end, the kids that he sees would have just been projections of his subconscious idea of their faces, which, like Mal, wouldn’t have been what he actually wanted.

        Regardless, I think that he was in reality because when Mal jumps off the building, she MUST have died. If she had woken up, she would have just given him the kick, and he would have woken up.

        Also, we talk about this as a frame story. and unless we skipped some random frame somewhere, we can assume that he is in the same level of consciousness at the ending as he was when he was assembling his team, then why would there be any reason for his totem to topple in the other scenes but not the ending scene?

      • Melanie

        He was in limbo, how did Micahel Caine go from Paris to the USA that soon? Plus who would wake up Saito from level 3 and 2. But I think Swedishfriendfinder was also very good.

      • toes

        Maybe Mal was right and when she jumped from the building she returned to reality. Perhaps she couldn’t give him the kick because we don’t know how they went under and it wouldn’t have worked. She kept showing up, he thought that it was his subconcious, maybe it was really her trying to come back and bring him to reality.

    • Crisp

      How did Cobb leave his skyscraper home in the last level and end up in Saito’s joint? He’s stuck in limbo again “infinite subconsciousness”. So he dreamed all this and everyone is looking at him (as projections). He just doesn’t realize it yet…poor guy.

      • Toco

        Cobb didn’t leave his skyscraper home in the last level when Ariadne and Fisher did. He said he was going to find Saito and bring him back.

      • mostafa

        the thing is you guys can argue this forever.. there are hints that lead both ways.. and the point is that you feel slightly frustrated; is he in reality or a dream. and you will never know, because he will never know. he will spend the rest of his life looking for clues if it is real or fake. its the closest a movie will ever bring you to truly feeling what the character really feels and thats what makes it great.

      • macie

        He (Cobb) went to Saito’s limbo to get him back. But for the ending, i am not too sure about it. Director Nolan is really good for giving us this mystery!

      • Andrew M

        Cobb was in the 4th level with Ariadne to get Fisher. He didn’t want to be kicked back to the 1st level so he could go get Saito. He then died in the 1st level when the van sank and drowned him, which sent him to limbo.

      • Sec G

        My only question is why was Cobb not as old as Saito if they had been there the same amount of time?

      • ericaeats

        Great question! I saw this movie Friday and I am still reeling from it. My first thought is obb is still dreaming. But now reading these great comments, I am not sure. Must watch it again and again!

      • sadiebaby

        @Sec G because Saito said that his limbo would be that he’d be an old man waiting for someone to come and kill him. He’s old because that was his version of limbo.

      • toes

        Saito was older in limbo because he died before Cobb, and time passes by at a different rate in limbo. Also, Cobb washes up on the shore and is taken into Saito’s home, which would indicate that he died in the van in level 1 and fell into limbo which caused him to wash back up on the shore.

      • Timotheus

        @Melanie – “He was in limbo,” oh what a perfect set-up line: Have you *seen* LIMBO ? John Sayles’ LIMBO?


        Probably not. Please do so and – although you’ll not be able to see it in a “movie environment” if you *were* surrounded by a hundred people or so would you hear similar groans? I can not help but think of Don Marquis’ observation “If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; But if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.” (1878 – 1937) There were some vitriolic reviews of LIMBO – some people positing that DP Haskell Wexler was eaten by a bear or Sayles ran out of money or . . . my take is that the ending of the film made them, nay *FORCED* them . . . to think. And as Marquis noted – they *hated* it and/or its progenitor. [For my take on Sayles’ LIMBO check the earliest entry on IMDb’s User Reviews – 29 April 1999]

        Sayles – an evocative storyteller, 29 April 1999

      • carls

        I think Andrew M is right.

      • Abbey

        Cobb is seen with his wedding ring throughout the movie, whenever he sees Mal in a dream. At the end, when he spins the top then runs to his children, he’s not wearing his wedding ring. What if his totem is his wedding ring? He keeps Mal’s because of his guilt and because he wants to hold onto her, and use hers as a totem. But what if his real totem is his wedding ring? When he’s in a dream he has it, and when he’s out he doesn’t. That may not be right, I’m not sure.. just a theory.

    • Blinky

      Pay attention dorks. The spin was obviously decaying. Watch it again, and watch closely douches.

      • Michael

        You think it is going to stop spinning but does it really? Did Cobb really escape or is he just dreaming. Are you just dreaming?

      • Abook

        Every other time he spins the totem throughout the film, it does not spin for that long before toppling.

      • NoJoke

        Don’t Troll, Blinky, you noOb. Back to the conversation, I think all the points are valid. When I left the theater I was wondering whether or not he was still awake. My biggest reasons for questioning it were as follows:
        Though he did have some interference with his subconscious, in over half of the dreams the interference seemed to be coming from those that were supposedly dreaming. Though Cobbs could have set up such strong defenses that he could fool himself into believing that he was in reality, that may or may have not been the case. Cobb brings up how he couldn’t imagine his wife to her full extent, so if that were the case, then I doubt he would have been able to dream up all the people that helped him. Cobb tells his teammates different things that shouldn’t and/or can’t be done, and if this were the case, then Cobb would have to be awake. They mention first, second, and third levels of dreaming, but never mention a fourth level of dreaming, which would be where Cobb is now if he were asleep. Not only would this be impossible, but it would be going against Cobbs words. However, Cobbs does many things that he tells the others not to do, so it could be possible to enter multi levels of dreaming. However, I want to bring up that if Cobb were in his own subconscious, then he would have encountered much resistance quite early on. Could the subconscious create a web so intricate. Wouldn’t he realize he was dreaming, like many victims of “mind crimes”, or is the fact that he’s dreaming enough to make him believe he is awake. The irony would be that he seemed to know everything because of how he talks to whatsherface, but he can’t see the inconsistencies of his reality. I’d also like to bring up the fact that Cobb can’t build anymore because of his guilt. I never noted if the dreamer could build. It always seemed that you needed an architect in the dream. If a dreamer always needs an architect, and Cobb can’t build without one, then he could be dreaming, but then again, he did build a whole world with his life in limbo, so that destroys that theory. Though I’d like to say he’s awake, the verdict could go either way. The story is very well written. I think Nolan mainly did the ending so that the viewers wouldn’t forget the movie. With a decisive ending, it’s easier to move on and forget, but with a sketchy ending, we could keep thinking about it for days, weeks, or even months. I love the irony. It makes me think of the quote about ideas and how they act like viruses. The ending is probably a very good strategy for Nolan’s future ventures. This attention would definitely promote future business. I guess we should ask what Nolan intended. P.S. sorry for the long post. I could go on, but I’m poster hogging or whatever that saying is. By the way, if you want to post, don’t be a NoOb Troll like Blinky. Give some actual feedback. :D

      • Greg

        Good points, NoJoke, but what if all those rules were created in the dream state to convince Cobb he wasn’t asleep? Fischer was positive he wasn’t asleep higher up in the dream states even when he still was.

      • Erik

        Actually, do we EVER see the top fall? I think the only time we do is when he knocks it down on the sink. What if the WHOLE THING is in his mind. (my theory) and Mal was right. She escaped the dream and he did not. This whole thing was another maze to get him to a different part of his consciousness with this perfect team of constructs (everyone had a role to play) to move him to a new level.

        THAT is why he is never able to architect a world, because everyone is ALREADY in his world.
        That is also why the movie starts mid-scene. We don’t know how it really began. “You never know how a dream begins”

      • Alex

        You do see it fall though, after the audition with Saito in the beginning Cobb spins it while holding a gun and it topples. However you never see it fall after he tries to spin it on the sink. so technically he could have been dreaming after that.

      • blinky is dumb

        blinky your the douche

      • Mike

        I agree blinky. Any other time he spun it and he was dreaming, it spinned like it was in stasis, or in space. At the end, the top was starting to topple, so imo it was reality.

      • Mike

        spun, not spinned***

      • sisi

        it also fell after that conversation with his kids over the phone… just before he went on the inception mission.

      • Erik

        cool. i could not remember if we ever saw it fall. I could not remember seeing it fall. It was going to be something I looked for in the next viewing.

      • RomaLe Lovelace

        Duh, thank you… The spin was deycaying, FOR THOSE HUNG UP ON SPINNING TOPS AND LOADED DIE. The architect had a CHESS PIECE.. a chess piece? Where does spining vs. Falling come from any way? Whose idea is that? Does she have a loaded chess piece a spinning Queen? Where’s the trick? But if the idea that it had to fall is that deep in your psyche, “the spin was decaying.”

      • Minvike

        The whole point of the totems was that no one else would know what your totem was so that if you were dreaming in someone else’s “constructed” dream, the totem wouldn’t exist at all. Or even if someone saw it, they still wouldn’t know how much it weighed, or if there are any imperfections, etc. I didn’t think whether or not the top ever fell was relevant (although I certainly could have missed something and I agree the ending was meant to be left open somewhat to interpretation.) I interpreted it that Cobb didn’t know that was his wife’s totem until he found it in HER subconscious locked away. He then made it continually spin, in that particular dream, so that she would realize that she was dreaming. Once she was dead in real life, he took over using her totem. But no one else would have known that it even existed, so it couldn’t be constructed it into the dream. (Which was why Cobb refused to build dreams himself anymore – b/c then he would have no way of knowing if he was in a dream or not, b/c in his constructed dreams, the totem WOULD exist – but if he was in someone else’s constructed dream, he would always know it b/c the totem wouldn’t be there) So I don’t see how the totem would even exist at all if he were in someone else’s dream.

        BUT, all that being said, if you are all suggesting that he is stuck in his OWN dream that HE has constructed, then you guys might be onto something. I can’t wait to see it again.

      • sadiebaby

        The purpose behind not letting anyone touch or hold your totem is so that they could not “recreate” the exact totem in the dream thereby making you think you were in reality. Ariadne’s totem doesn’t spin but she clearly was adding weight to her chess piece so only she knew it’s exact feel. The totems still exist in the dreams but they don’t act as they would or feel as they would in reality which is how a person is able to determine the difference.

      • Jude Law’s Butthole

        Sadie: She was hollowing out the bottom of the chess piece to raise its center of gravity and make it easy to topple. Chess pieces can’t be knocked over easily, so she made one that broke the norm in a manner that only she could know exactly.

      • Fireye

        Erik, Cobb was completely capable of making a level. He is still one of the best architects in the world. He just didn’t want to make one because if he knew the layout, then Mal would know the layout and commence to ruin the mission he happened to be on.

    • Ryan

      What I love about the ending is that Nolan allows you to make the decision for yourself. This is not like “The Sopranos” ending where you are expecting something and then David Chase rips the carpet from under you sending you into a spiral of anger and confusion. This is more subtle and respectful towards the viewer. This is simply a masterful way to allow you the answer by analyzing your own dreams and wants in life. Bravo!

      • pdy

        Agreed. Mr. Nolan gave us an ending that made us wonder whether it was reality or a dream. In fact, his mind games make us the viewers ponder on the meaning of dreams and the infinite number of possibilities that our sub-conscious can create. Hats off to you, Mr. Nolan! Can’t wait for what you have in store for us in Batman 3. PS Mr. Nolan, please get Leo or Joseph Gordon-Levitt to appear in Batman 3 as the main villain.

      • Dee

        yess!!! let him cast leo or joseph gordon-levitt inbatman! great idea, pdy

      • NT

        Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be fantastic. He’s such a multi-talented actor.
        On the subject of dream v. real, I think it was real. But Nolan was smart to plant an idea (inception) in the viewers mind that maybe its not real. The best movies for me are the ones I’m still talking about days later…mission accomplished with this movie. Loved it.

      • ejluther

        “This is not like “The Sopranos” ending where you are expecting something and then David Chase rips the carpet from under you sending you into a spiral of anger and confusion.”

        That’s because THE SOPRANOS does tell us what happened – only from Tony’s POV. The ending cuts to black because Tony has been shot and killed – it’s all there in the episode itself and in foreshadowing from other episodes (as when Silvio doesn’t even see/hear/realize a nearby shot’s been fired until it’s already over). Chase didn’t show us the blood but he gave us the violence/death.

      • Margie

        Ryan my sister and I were just saying this. Inception doesn’t set the viewer up just to trick them (Like Sopranos, LOST, ect.). It gives us a fully realized ending but with mind bending possibilities. That’s why it doesn’t feel like a trick on the viewers/fans.

    • Lars

      If you guys stayed after the credits, the top falls.

      • Amy

        Please tell me this is true. This would save a lot of headaches.

      • AK

        He’s kidding.

      • Gilbie

        Don’t play with me! Some else – please confirm!

      • Blurbank

        I waited until the end of the credits. There was nothing.

      • RB

        I waited because I thought this might happen, but there was nothing.

      • patti

        Way to go Lars…I stayed for the creidts, but didn’t see anything. You were smart to put that out there…Chris Nolan would be proud of you. Any thoughts on this being Saito’s dream originally?

      • Gabe

        It does not show the top fall but you hear it at the end of the credits

      • strickens girl

        Lars, you suck. I stayed until the credits were over and they do not show the top again – falling or not.

      • Rick

        The top only stops spinning if your in Someone’s elses dream. So just because it appears to wobble doesn’t eliminate the strong possibility that he is still in HIS dream. The fact that he walks away before it finishes its end result is simply proof to him that his kids spinning around supercedes the result of the top! The top no longer matters, he has achieved his last memory that he had to fix. As far as the credits reveiling 2 sets of child actors.. There were children playing on the beach with Mal and those were his younger children when they were all together. Great movie!! An idea once planted ….. job well done Nolan!

      • bernaperk

        I was hoping it fell after the credits but there was nothing. At least the credits wern’t that long.

      • jojo

        It doesnt matter if the top falls. The top was created by Mal in limbo. So long as there is a top, you are not in reality. That is the trick of the supposed ending. Of course the end of the movie happens halfway through when Mal is finally able to convince Cobb to kill himself on the railroad tracks: “You’re waiting for a train – a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope the train will take you, but you can’t be sure. But it doesn’t matter… Because we’ll be together.”

      • ception

        @jojo Wow what are you talking about? Mal wasn’t the one who convinced Cobb to kill himself. The scene with Mal on the train tracks is a memory from when Cobbs planted the idea in Mal’s subconscious that her world was not real, thus convincing her that they need to kill themselves to get back to reality.

      • MichaelLAX

        On my 2nd viewing at an IMAX theater, I stayed for the full credits and there is NO sound of the totem fallng. However IMAX added its own credits and I speculate that they may have inadvertently chopped out the sound of the totem falling, not realizing its significance…

      • andrew n

        At the end of the credits you do NOT hear the totem falling but the song that indicates them when to give the kick in a dream (Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien”).
        In the movie the song isn’t played from the top, what we hear is the chorus, and after the credits it also starts from the chorus, is it a coincidence? Was the intention just to play the most significant part of the song or to indicate that Cobb was still dreaming and was time to wake up?

    • dave

      I wouldn’t say that Nolan would stoop so low as to “tease” us. The truth is that Cobb did make it home. whether the top fell or not is not in question- i recall it slihtly toppling, which would make it impossibl for such a thing to continue spinning. what is significant is that Cobb did not watch it to check. he has come to be able to control reality in a way that he could not control his dreams. he is leaving behind dreaming as a substitute for reality, and will no longer need the top.

      • Beth

        Very nice Dave — Cobb chooses reality over dreaming, chooses his family over his ‘shade’ wife. Similar to an addict choosing sobriety over addiction to be with his/her family.

      • Fluffy Fingers

        See I would argue that Nolan WOULD go so far as to “tease” the audience. He’s messed with his viewer’s minds before with ‘Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’, so why would he not tease you with another mind-messing film? The brilliance of that ending is that we don’t know for sure one way or another and can have these discussions, both of us can be right in our own minds…but there will never be a definitive answer (unless there is an alternate or extended ending out there, ha).
        As for the “slight wobbling”, it appeared it was going over an uneven surface, which would make it “wobble” but not necessarily fall over. I like the open-ended nature of it personally, can’t get that ending out of my head for that very reason, I keep asking myself what really happened.

      • Levi

        Very good explanation

      • Adam

        2 theories: The kids didn’t look much different because the kids he saw in his dream were his projections of his kids, which were probably adjusted for age. And 2) if the entire story is true, he’s spent a long time dreaming since he left his kids, so he may have not actually been gone from them near as long as the story implies.

        Also, important note on the ending: IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THE TOP FALLS OR NOT! if it’s Mal’s inception, she can make the top spin or fall because it was hers. So whether it fell or not doesn’t really solve anything.

      • sm

        @adam, i was thinking the same about the time in your 2nd point… seconds are minutes are hours are days in dreams… to the kids he might have been only gone a couple of weeks, where in his mind he feels like he’s been gone for years.

      • Ian

        If you listen to the phone conversation earlier in the film, the kids are older and you could tell he has been away for a while

      • jojo

        Cobb does not wait to see if it will fall, because he no longer cares. He no longer cares because he has finally decided to take a leap of faith his wife asked him to do, and kill himself–which he does with Mal on the train tracks. He even allows himself to see his childrens faces in the dream at that point, because he know ‘what he must do’. He has decided he cannot live with his wife ‘as a shade’ in a dream world any longer. And though he isnt sure whether he is in reality or still dreaming, he is going to take that leap of faith Saito talks about, rather than die an old lonely man with regrets, supposedly comatose somewhere. The sequence of events in the movie are largely out of order. When you see him walk away from the top and he decides to see the face of his children, it is because he has decided what he is going to do.

    • dally

      How do we knew he even has kids? We saw him and his wife experimenting with dream states. Would they have done that together with 2 young kids? Maybe the 2 kids are just dream kids? That’s why they had no faces.

      And then the Inception too hold of him too, but his Inception made him believe in the existence of the children and his obsession to see them?

      • Woot

        Why not? Sure they were in Limbo for years and grew old together, but in the real world they may have just been asleep for several hours. The kids probably just thought they were taking a nap.

      • luke fiel

        he did not recognize his kids voices and had to ask who he was talking to.

      • Rick

        The army attacking them when they first went into the dream was actually the projections of the children, upset with the true reality that they had lost both parents. The advanced weaponry they possessed was due to the fact that they were armed with Cobb’s excessive guilt! Hey why not, anything is possible at this point!

      • stuNNa

        I had this theory too! You are the first person who I have come across who has voiced a similar opinon.

    • Loren Amsden

      Only those two alternatives? You don’t think that Nolan is trying to suggest to his audience that he believes in Poe’s ‘dream within a dream?” In a world where people can share dreams, the distinction between waking and dreaming is lost. This is the best Buddhist movie since Groundhog Day.

    • Frank Anderson

      I thought of it more as a wink to the audience that they were watching a movie. Of course the top didn’t fall for us to see, because we were getting our “kick” back to reality!

      • Hannah

        yea. It did seem like a “kick.”

      • Blame Leno

        Ha! I like that Frank :-)

    • Esther Greenwood

      @Mostafa: Mal and Cobb weren’t sharing a totem. Hers was some abstract figure with a point at the end. The one she put in the safe in limbo. His was the top. He put his totem in the safe and took her to it to show that limbo wasn’t the “real world.”

      I also believe they were looking at each other at the end b/c they were supposed to pretend as if they didn’t know each other for Fischer’s sake…it’s not like they could be buddy-buddy afterward because it would have looked suspicious to the person (FIscher) they had just planted the idea inside of. I think he was awake. I’ll have to see it again, but i don’t ever remember the top wobbling when he would spin it in dreams.

      • Craig H

        @Esther I want to further support your statement about Fischer. It must have already been alarming to him to see all of the characters from his dream also be everyone in the plane with him. If they were to all start chatting eachother up, then he would certainly begin ti suspect it all.

      • Mac

        I agree about the fact that they couldn’t talk to each other after getting on the plane for the sake of Fischer. Also, like others have said, he wasn’t connected to wires on the plane because the stewardess did her job.

        I have one question though. When they hit the water and everyone has their “kick” but Cobb and Seito, how exactly do they survive? I think this is just another reason that he may have been dreaming because they were belted into their seats underwater. Joseph Gordon Levitt tried to unbelt them, but he couldn’t. Since they were just sleeping they would still need to breathe, even if it was a dream within a dream within a dream. Unless they’re sleeping so heavily that their breathing has stopped, but they would eventually need to breathe again. Of course they could have woken up in that time as each dream is longer than the next (i.e. he finds Seito within the 2 or so minutes one can hold their breath). So many things left untold!

        As for the spinning, in his dreams the top always spun perfectly on its tip, never wobbling. At the end it wobbled, leaving me to expect that it would fall over. But if in fact it was Mal’s and Leo was able to control it (since it wasn’t truly his totem), perhaps it was wobbling because he didn’t care if it fell or not. He was with his kids in his “reality” and that was all that mattered.

        I also find it odd that the Grandfather was able to drop everything and bring Leo right to his kids at the end. Seito did make the phone call from the plane which quickly trickled down the the Grandfather.

        I can’t wait to see it again!

    • Duncan Houst

      I wouldn’t say it’s half empty. The way I see it, there are two possibilities. 1) Saito came back with Cobb, the top falls, and Cobb lives happily with his two children. or 2) Saito didn’t come back with Cobb, so since he’d never be able to see his children again if he was arrested at the airport, he decided to go deeper into the dream, and create a world where he could be happy with his children. He did the best he could with what was given to him.

      I’d like to believe he is in reality, but it’s a happy ending either way.

      • no way

        how would it be a happy ending if it wasn’t back to reality? it would be the same as if he had stayed with his wife in limbo. that was his whole realization. if those children were figments of his mind, then they’d never have their own ideas, their own feelings, their own dreams. they would be forever limited by whatever his mind could conjure up abuot them. in other words, theyd be shades of his real children, and he already stated that that was no longer good enough

      • Gabe

        Why wouldn’t Saito come back to reality? He was an old man in the dream and could come back as a younger man.

    • Jody

      What if Mal was right and Dom was still in the state of limbo? Also, Nolan brilliantly leaves his audience in “limbo” by not spoon feeding us the ending. Brilliant.

      • caryn

        Completely agree. I think he was dreaming the whole time and {Ellen Page} was trying to plant the inception to get him out. I thought this about halfway through the movie (I saw this headline so knew the ending was special) and everything after that pointed to him being the dreamer (at least to me).

      • Patrick

        at first i thought this too but his totem falls throughout other points of the movie. all of which would be a dream so the top wouldnt fall. it doesnt fall when hes actually in a dream. sorry but mal really killed herself and it was cobbs fault. If you actually listen at the end you clearly hear the top slowing and wobbling. Even one of the producers in an interview gave a nudge to that. He said Trust your hearing not your eyes.

      • Rick

        2 things stand out to me… Michael Cain actually looks at him and clearly says ” Come back to Reality please!” and the part where he is trapped in between 2 buildings is exactly the feeling many get in a dream. Mal also says.. do you really beleive your being chased around the globe by corporations!? It could maybe have been an elaborate plot to bring Him (Cobb) out but then wouldn’t Mal be there at the end?

      • jojo

        @rick, yep you got it. And Mal is there in the end with him. Only we dont get to see it. Because the true end of this movie happens in the middle when a young Mal and Cobb kill themselves on the train track. This kicks them back to reality. “You’re waiting for a train – a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope the train will take you, but you can’t be sure. But it doesn’t matter… Because we’ll be together.”

    • Newman


      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!!!

      • Jonathan

        Newman – that was very well thought out. I had questioned the effect of the ‘dream machine’ in the dream world, especially after Fischer had been ‘sedated’. I like how you tie in all of the water and the beach themes, plus the reality of the ‘dream machine’ even existing itself. Would be interesting if Nolan would comment but that would defeat the purpose of the movie. This will be like Carly Simon and ‘You’re So Vain’… maybe Nolan will auction off the answer in a few decades.

      • Vassago

        I very much enjoyed reading about your interpretation, but I really don’t think there is a definite answer. There is not enough proof one way or the other to determine. And it’s really not so much simply “leaving it to your imagination” as allowing the movie-goer to construct an answer. Not necessarily right, nor wrong.

      • Patrick

        he wakes up at the beach outside of saitos compound. not with his kids…thats pretty clear

      • Phil

        Great post, but please answer this. Why did Leo tell his wife to come towards him when she was about to jump from a building across the street? Verus telling her to “go back” in the the room, etc? How should the viewer interpret this dialogue? Thanks -

      • Amanda

        I really enjoyed your interpretation of the movie, Newman. I would have to watch it again to get a feel for that opening scene. The way I recall it was that Dom was drifting in and out of consciousness on Saito’s beach and was remembering his wife and children on the beach from another time or distant memory. But again, I would need to watch it again. I did leave the movie feeling that the entire thing was a dream. There were several scenes that were supposed to be Dom’s waking life that seemed to have dream-like qualities.
        1) For example, When he is being chased in Mombasa amd runs into an alley that grows increasingly narrower as he makes his way down and he becomes stuck because the passage is narrower than his body. He somehow forces himself through an opening that he logically couldn’t fit through, somehow increasing the gap, which seemed very dream-like along with a narrowing alley.
        2) The scene when Mal commits suicide. As she sits on the edge of the window, the background of the room she is in (decor, paint color, etc.) seem to match the decor of the hotel room Dom is in exactly. It almost seemed as if Dom was looking into a mirror but seeing Mal in it instead of himself. How would this be possible when they are in two separate skyscrapers? It couldn’t be the same hotel could it? Also, when her shoe drops off and she jumps out of the window, the shoe and Mal seem to fall into a non-descript abyss of nothingness. The details of the heighth of the building, the street below are not visible, which is absolutely purposeful and again not based in reality as we know it.
        I must agree with other posters though that I don’t think Nolan will ever reveal if he had a definite idea of what happens in the movie. But I really like the idea that the whole thing was a dream as Dom snoozed on the beach with his family.

      • Ben J

        This is inline with my thinking Newman, if we assume the film is one big dream; although I’m not sure there’s enough in the film to categorically know one way or another (deliberately, I’m sure).

        One interesting thought: many people here are talking about the toppelling totem, kids’ faces etc being the key to whether Cobb is awake at the end .. this isn’t necessarily the case.

        If the concepts of totems, shared dreams, kicks, etc are simply figments of Cobb’s imagination, those conceptual rules could be broken in the “top level dream” (on the beach), which he perceives as reality. The totem could stop, he could see his kids’ faces etc .. and yet he could *still be dreaming*.

        In the real world, there is no hard rule that says spinning tops spin perpetually when we dream, so there is no reason why the spinning coming to an end should be proof of awakeness. That’s the funny thing about dreams: there *is no* convenient test that categorically tells us we’re awake.

        If we accept that the film is a dream on a beach, the remaining question is: what trauma is causing Cobb to have terrifying dreams of his wife dying, for which he blames himself? Is his wife dead in “real life”, nothing to do with shared dreams and such fiction, but perhaps regular suicide or an accident?

        Of course, as soon as that starts to look likely, perhaps it’s best to stick with the “happy” alternatives ;)

        Cheers, Ben

      • Rusty

        So I have to see the film again in order to figure it out. Thanks, just what I needed.

      • raf


        This is very well thought of.

        It’s true that things surrounding us can shape up the environment of a dream.
        I too had been reading too much into the whole totem thing and what not; all those other details may be pointless, as dreams can be complex and never make sense most of the time.

    • ChristopherD

      plenty of clues to suggest he was dreaming, or not… and we can try to figure it out – but the point is that HE doesn’t care to figure it out.
      he stopped looking and caring about the spinning top when he saw his kids.

    • Jeshicurr

      DW is completely right. That’s exactly what I thought after the first time I saw it. I just got back from seeing it again, and I feel the same exact way.
      I believe that the ending was real, and that he did make it home. The ending was a cliffhanger to reinforce the entire idea of the movie-“is it a dream, or is it reality?” He wants us to think. He wants us to drive ourselves crazy with this uncertainty, this idea, that he has so PERFECTLY planted in our brains, as if it was our own.

    • Gabe

      He is awake. At the end of the credits, you hear the metal spin piece fall so he is NOT dreaming.

    • Addison

      This was such a good film. I’m sure Cobb was awake, but when you end a movie with an ambiguous moment like that, you’ve made a movie that will stick in the heads of everyone who saw it…

    • John Berggren

      There is no doubt in my mind that he’s still dreaming. Nolan gave you the answer in the film. During his final scene with his wife at the deepest level of “Fischer’s” dream, he explains he knew inception worked because he did it to his wife. He did it to his wife at a level where they had enough time to build a world and live a lifetime.
      In this expository scene, you see them laying on the train track, and you see them wake up – in the reality where he says that Mal killed herself thinking it was a dream. But it was a dream. In order to spend a lifetime in a dream, you need to be at least 3 levels down per the description of time in dream levels. This means that they can’t have risen to consciousness – they’ve only risen one level. His wife “killed” herself, and either woke up or even more likely, rose to the next level of dream.

      • Blame Leno

        Now this makes more sense than anything I’ve read. You need the second and third kick. They were in level 3. The train only kicked them to level 2. Very very interesting.

      • mark v

        But, when they kill themselves on the train track they are no longer old, meaning they must have already gone up from the level where they lived a lifetime together. If not, they would be old when they were on the tracks

      • heidi

        Here’s one thing I don’t get though, regardless of whether Mal was right or whether she was wrong. In either case, if she truly believed it was a dream and wanted Cobb to EITHER die or just fall and have a kick (depending on what level you think they were at), why wouldn’t she have pushed Cobb off a building first and then jumped? She really believed they were dreaming – they had argued over this for a long time. She wanted him to come with her – she could have easily made that happen. This makes me question her reality as a person in his life at all.

      • correct

        This theory is incorrect because if they’d woken up, they would’ve been strapped to the tubes and suitcase

    • Jean

      If you watch carefully enough you see that whenever Cobb is in the dream state he is wearing his wedding ring. He is NOT wearing his wedding ring when in the awake state. He was NOT wearing his wedding ring getting off the plane. Also, in the dream world the top never bobbles, it clearly bobbles in the ending.

      • heidi

        But WHY would he not have his ring on in “reality” when he was married to his wife during the hotel anniversary suicide scene??? I was all about the ring theory meaning something definitive about reality until this vexing question came up.

    • AT

      I think Mal is still alive and he is stuck in multiple dreams. She is trying to wake him up, but he refuses to believe it and locks her in different levels. When running away from the gunmen (while recruiting Eames sp?) the wall of the alley appears to close on him, as if something wants him to get caught. Also, on his anniversary, he enters the room, and she is across the street in an identical room. I think this “mirrors” the part with the mirrors when Ellen Page breaks them. The building and surroundings are also vague, and you can’t see the street where she fell. How would he leave the country if everyone assumed he had killed her. Later, Ellen Page shoots Mal to keep her from telling him more. I think this is also reinforced when the van is falling for the last 30 minutes of the film. If you just keep going deeper and deeper, 10 levels will seem like a thousand years. How would you ever remember how long or where, or why you ever entered the dream in the first place? He wants to get back to his children, but I don’t think he has really been asleep that long. Lastly, why would the grandfather already be in the States waiting for him?

      • Elysia

        In his dreams, Mal keeps repeating herself word for word; real people don’t do that. I think he was right when he told limbo Mal that she was a creation of his mind not as fleshed out as the original.

      • djbigB

        the grandfather was planning a trip to see the grandkids….. cobbs had brought him toys to bring them…. grandpa was already on his way to the states during the excitement… he probably got a call from saito’s ppl… of course the movie is not reality itself……

    • jk

      I think I’m in the “still dreaming” camp, but here’s some food for thought: Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “Dream Within A Dream,” which was name-checked several times in the film:

      Take this kiss upon the brow!
      And, in parting from you now,
      Thus much let me avow-
      You are not wrong, who deem
      That my days have been a dream;
      Yet if hope has flown away
      In a night, or in a day,
      In a vision, or in none,
      Is it therefore the less gone?
      All that we see or seem
      Is but a dream within a dream.

      I stand amid the roar
      Of a surf-tormented shore,
      And I hold within my hand
      Grains of the golden sand-
      How few! yet how they creep
      Through my fingers to the deep,
      While I weep- while I weep!
      O God! can I not grasp
      Them with a tighter clasp?
      O God! can I not save
      One from the pitiless wave?
      Is all that we see or seem
      But a dream within a dream?

    • jones

      You forgot to mention that he never got a chance to spin his top while at the chemist, he was interupted… yes he was dreaming still within mutiply dreams, as you mentioned the kids never aged, never change. Also if he was not the builder he should not of been able to bring in the train in first dream.

    • jojo

      Pretty early into the movie, there was a clue that Cobb was in a coma (or limbo), that no one has mentioned yet. The minute I heard it, I told myself “he is brain- dead, and this whole movie is going to be a dream.” It is when he spoke with his kids on the phone that they told him “grandma says you are never coming back.” No one would ever say that to a young child about his father unless the father was hopelessly comatose or dead. The whole movie is Cobb’s desperate attempt to escape the dream world he is trapped in, and get back to his kids in reality. In his dream world, he was able to live out an entire lifetime with his wife, but his children were more challenging, perhaps because they age over time and their features change drastically, and he had no basis for what they would be like in the future. The point is, if it were reality and he was accused of being a murderer–even convicted–he would still see be able to see his children, even if behind bars. The granma would never had said “your dad is never coming back.” All of the expert architects he gathers throughout the movie is his mind working to try to get him out of his comatose and back into reality. But in the end, he fails. That is why we never see the top fall in the end. If he were in reality, we would have seen it fall, plain and simple. Because we did not see it fall means he is forever stuck in his comatose limbo dream, and when he realizes this, he has given up and allows himself to see the face of his children and embrace them. My take at least.

      • Ellen

        Actually, I think that the top would fall either way. If it was the real world, it would fall because of gravity. However, remember, in the movie, it clearly states that the ‘totem,’ in this case the top, would work if it was the owner’s dream as well. And since only Cobb knew his children’s faces, then it would have to be his dream.
        As to why the kids’ grandmother said that he would never be back may very well be explained by the fact that she, like her husband, knew that Cobb was forbidden from returning to the US because he was suspected to have killed his wife.

      • Ava

        So the ending was left for the viewer to decipher, however, i have another question regarding the movie. Cobb and his wife had supposedly grown old together, but why did they look so young when they were committing suicide on the railroad tracks?

      • Maltski

        The most likely explanation for this is that Cobb’s memory of their youth was merely a fantasy of his, and in truth they aged together as we saw. This is supported by the film. The first time we see Cobb envisioning them killed by the train, they’re young. A close up shot of their hands clasped reveals their hands to be young as well. Later when Cobb tells the real story of how they escaped limbo, we see their hands clasped on the railroad tracks and they’re older and wrinkled, just as Cobb and Mal are when we see them walking through the city while Cobb talks about them growing old together. It seems likely this is the true version of the story and the version in which they’re younger is part of the delusion Cobb constructed which was visited by Ariadne.

      • jojo

        Ellen, just because Cobb couldn’t return to the US doesn’t mean his children would never have seen him again, right–they could have flown the kids to see him in Europe or whatever. Another thing I was wondering, if anyone else noticed this…when he speaks to his kids on the phone, they sound much older than the kids shown in the dream. The girl sounds 8 or 9 and in the movie she looks like a 5 or 6 year old. I did not notice this until the second time I saw the movie. Also, I would love to believe he wakes up to reality and is reunited with his kids in a happy ending–but why would he be in the exact same situation, with his kids in the same position and wearing the same clothes?

    • Dee

      I think that he truley didnt care. If he was dreaming, that would mean he is still in Limbo, which would mean that the plane would eventually have to land and he would be identified. Being, when he woke up, he would face the music the played causing him to leave the country. Either dreaming or not, at this point he would be with his children.

      • Oster

        Cobb was deported from the US. He fled the country to avoid being caught and convicted for “killing” Mal. His kids couldn’t just fly to Europe and see him because he was on the run. The gramma said that Cobb is never coming back is because she is disappointed in Cobb and may actually believe that he killed Mal. She doesn’t want to give Cobb’s kids false hope.

    • Elysia

      I think the point was just to show us that that seed of doubt had been placed in our minds, just as it had in Mal’s. Maybe Cobb had finally escaped it.

      • jojo

        Yes, he says, Dom–come back to reality. I think there is more to the father’s role in this. How did the father now to be in Los Angeles aiport waiting for his son’s arrival if Dom is back in reality? And why does Dom look so shocked when he wakes up on the plane? No one else seems shocked.

      • JojoisStupid

        seen the movie many times, and from all the arguments here, your fails the most.

        We all agree about the ring, in reality he doesnt have it, in the dreams he does. Theres one thing

        Next, his father says come back to reality in a completely different way you are thinking. He meant it as in a, stop trying to get there, you are considered a criminal and stop thinking you will come back. It sounds harsh, but its like with the grandmother telling the children hes not coming back. It seems harsh, but you must understand hes a criminal on the run. Im sure many would tell them that. thats 2

        Third. On the plane when he wakes up, we agree they wont talk/celebrate. We can also agree that the people staring at him are only his crew and that shots down that theory of him being in the dream. As for him being shocked, who the hell wouldn’t be? Assuming he woke up(which i believe, from the times ive seen it and arguments all over forums/etc) i would assume he had gotten shot in the scene before waking up on the plane. Would you not be shocked if you had just gotten shot?

        Fourth, and this is what makes me believe its not a dream, is the totem. The whole its Mal’s she can control it, well that’s not a sound argument because of the fact of the totem itself. The loaded die-if anyone knows how it worked, they could fool the person in the dream and make it land on the right side, making it seem to them like a reality and tricking them. Same with the chess piece. However the totem cobb has is different because it can really be modified even if you know what it does. In the dream it wont fall, in reality it will. If you know how it works and want to trick cobb, you make the thing topple in the dream world(the only way he can tell if its reality) However since you’d be in the dream, it wouldnt topple. Plus the thing wobbles, there is not rough surface to make it wobble on that table. The kids DONT look the same,their clothing is slightly different

    • dreams4sale

      ..or the entire plot line was a dream designed to wake Cobb up back to reality after the death of his wife…didnt Michael Caines charachter plead for him to wake up when he ‘visited” him in France

    • EVAN

      chris nolan made such an amazing movie that people are up at all hours of the day& night reading and writing about this amazingly original movie. i think he should be applauded for that, its been a little while since something this original came along.
      OH, and my theory for what its worth is that seeing his kids faces made Cobb not care if it was reality or a dream. He was living where he wanted to, with his kids. If he did care so much he would’ve so obsessedly watched for the top to fall like in every other point of the movie

    • Jan

      If the children were born in limbo – then they don’t actually exist in the real world.

    • Pablo

      Please, just think about it.. the only way of coming out of a dream in waking up. If he was going into another dream, he would have appear in the middle of it.. this time he remembers how he got into the plane.. and the totem at the end wasnt spinning perfectly.. just how it would spin in a dream.

    • Jeff

      Tops don’t start to slow down then fix themselves. It toppled.

    • Wole

      There is but ONE valid point. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The theme of the entire movie is that…it doesn’t matter. Whether you are awake or dreaming. It doesn’t matter. Whether Cobb woke up or was dreaming yet again, it doesn’t matter. The point is that your reality is what you perceive it to be. What you should take away from the ending as a mature moviegoer is that irrespective of our (us viewers) different or unanimous conclusions, to the character in the movie (who is the only relevant subject here), it doesn’t matter whether he is dreaming or not as he ultimately gets the experience he is looking for. That is, to be with his children. He grew old with his wife in limbo…didn’t matter then (until after 50 years of course :) ) and doesn’t matter now.
      I hope your mind was just blown…or at least expanded.
      And no, Nolan wasn’t planting seeds in our head about our own reality. It is a work of fiction. Next we will say Harry Potter may be real. Nolan was simply being a true artist who cannot let such a powerful story fall beneath its possible potential by answering every single question. The true and only relevant message is that it doesn’t matter if it spun on or not. Happy ending.

  • mark

    we got to see the kids’ faces. Thus I think he was awake and in reality. That’s the ending I choose. I was begging for that top to fall. I was that emotionally invested in Cobb. So the film succeeds.

    • Krissynita

      Agreed! Thank you

    • conor

      yes yes i want to believe that.

    • sexualchocolate

      Yes but what if he was in Caine’s characters subconscious in the last scene, one that was created to give Cobb a “happily ever after” so that he could be at peace. The reason he could never see his children’s face prior is because they never existed and were part of the world he and Mal built for themselves, therefore Caine could give them any face he wanted.

      • Rick

        Caine did have a smile that seemed not only happy but “successful” as well. Almost like the smile you have when your children see the plate of cookies that santa ate. You know its fake but are quite joyed inside by the success of achieving a false happiness for you kids.

  • erak

    My theory (not that it matters because I’m pretty certain even Nolan doesn’t have the answer) is that he’s awake, since, in the dream world, the top wouldn’t even wobble.

    The prolonged spin, however, says to me that he, like Mal, will always hold his reality in doubt.

    • erin

      this is the most perfect comment.

      • Linda Milligan


      • Wintermute


    • Maddi

      This is a great interpretation.

    • Nikita

      yeah, i like this explanation the best :)

      • Clager

        Yea, even though I’m sure Nolan wants everyone to greatly possibly think that he’s dreaming on some infinite level…you’re right, when he’s dreaming earlier in the movie that top never wobbles for a millisecond.

      • dally

        However, if he is in a dream. he could have chosen to make the top wobble as part of the dream… maybe it’s not even the real top.

        However, I also choose to believe he is really home. :)

      • Lenita

        LEO always is in great interpretation because he ‘s awesome actor. I LOVE LEO FOREVER…….

    • marytkelly

      A perceptive and immensely intelligent explanation.

    • Cate

      Nice insight, what a wonderful interpretation!

    • Lou

      Yes, that makes sense. Because, didn’t he say an idea is the most contagious thing. The idea he implanted in his wife has now entered his own brain. He will now always doubt his own reality.

      • sarCC

        You may be rightest, Lou.
        For one thing, the children ARE wearing the same clothes and look the the same age(s), or height(s)/size, if you will.
        Also, there’s the fact that his totem is his wife’s totem. (Plus, I think the scene of him taking that totem out of the safe in the limbo story is pretty significant.)
        Also, and this is the one that had me rethinking things the most: After he wakes up in the basement, after testing the chemist’s sedatives, he sees a vision of Mo and he tries to spin his totem, but is interrupted.

    • Peter

      Good point, but what if we’re all overthinking it? We may want to believe that he /did/ wake up, and he /did/ go back home and see his kids, because that may be what we perceive as the happy ending. But really, it’s a happy ending either way.

      Either he woke up and went home, saw his kids and was happy for the rest of his life. Or he didn’t wake up, but still went home, saw his kids and was happy for the rest of his life.

      Before he saw his kids, he needed closure, needed to be secure in knowing whether or not it was all a dream. But once he was with his kids again, seeing their faces, perhaps he realized that THAT was the closure he needed more than anything — hence not sticking around to see if the top fell or not.

      • AK

        I’m pretty satisfied with that.

      • Dee

        I don’t think it would be a happy ending if he didn’t wake up and was satisfied by projections of his kids. Didn’t he have to reject his projection of Mal for closure? He said that she was a false shade of his real wife, that she didn’t have the complexity of the real Mal, that he had made her up from memories. The projection couldn’t satisfy him. The same applies to his kids – why would he be satisfied with projections of his kids? They would never think, react for themselves, or dream. I really don’t think it would be a happy ending if he were stuck with projection!kids. It would be a regression from the break-through he had earlier in the film!

    • Keltic

      In the dream world it wouldn’t even wobble? Please remember that during the whole movie the laws of nature/physics/science are put aside, gravity is defied, etc. It wobbled, it didn’t stop. Those kids were wearing the SAME clothes as his ‘memory’ of when he didn’t say something to make them turn around.
      What about how they didn’t move up a level of consciousness when the van hit the water…why? And what finally did bring them to the plane?
      possible answer: they didn’t leave because none of them are real, they are all aspects of Cobb and he skipped that level after ‘rescuing’ Saito (another nonreal person). The name ‘Ariadne’ who in Greek Mythology is the Mistress of the Labyrinth (oh and her character draws mazes?) also called a dreamweaver. I believe Cobb created her in his mind and named her.
      2. If the top doesn’t drop and it is a dream, that means that level of reality is a dream and always has been…this also means:
      a. Cobb’s wife was right and since she died in this dream…she actually said the same lines to him as he would later use on Saito. Bottom line is that his wife is still alive.
      b. In the level of limbo that he confronted his wife to save Fischer, she says (but it is REALLY his subconscious) that ‘maybe the level that he thinks is real is just a dream. I mean really, he is on the run from security forces from global corporations? Which leads me into:
      3. On the level that he thinks is reality, would there really be all these experts at using the same technology to go into people’s dreams? I don’t think so! They are all him, or aspects of him. Which leads into where/who:
      4. His ‘Dad’ Michael Caine! He taught him how to do this, etc. Is he really his Dad? Did ‘Dad’ use inception to plant the idea that he is his Dad or at least of the reality of the dream, etc.?
      Will we see more of Michael Caine in a sequel and find out that he is the bad guy?

      • Levi

        This is over analyzing and Michael Caine was Mal’s dad, not Cobb’s.

      • Chris

        I have to point out that the totem was voided before it was even explained, because when “old Watanabe” spins the top at the beginning of the movie, it falls over. With out that anchor, there is no way of knowing what is or isn’t reality within the confines of the story and if I had to venture a guess, that was the over all point of the movie, which was to imply there is no way to know true reality which leads me to believe that the entire movie is structured as an act of inception to make the viewer ask that question of themselves.

      • vsanil

        excellent observation man…I agree….:)

      • Jo

        I tend to agree. Mal was right, and her “suicide” let her wake up. What we see is all in Cobb’s dreams, which accounts for the somewhat heavy-handed naming of Ariadne, the faceless corporation chasing Cobb so relentlessly, etc. I’m not positive, but that’s where I’m leaning. What I am positive about is that it’s making people talk and consider possibilities, which makes me happy.

      • Michael

        Would the totem have worked for Saito, though? Usually they don’t allow others to touch th totem but never really explained why.

      • Minvike

        The van hitting the water level was the FIRST level of the dreams. The only level to go “up” to was being awake. The van hitting the water was the kicker that woke them up to put them back on the plane.

      • Niix Starkyller

        Regardless of the fine details, I agree with Keltic: the totem IS the con.

      • warazorori

        I think we should trace back the way that Mal and Cobb dumped into Limbo, the fact is Mal and Cobb must be sharing theirs dreams, but whose dream set as primary? and I guest it Cobb’s dream, then are they go to the next level of dream? I mean they dreaming in the dream, and Mal dream set as primary at this time…
        and I don’t know how, they fall into limbo,
        in the limbo Cobb stole Mal totem and ask Mal to suicide together, in this case they should be back into Mal’s dream, since the totem is belong to Mal then the totem will not falling when spinning in Mal’s dream.

      • jojo

        Thanks for the insight on Adriadne’s name! I really think she is not real. Cobb’s dad (or father-in-law?) brought him to Cobb to help Cobb get out of his dream world. I guess one thing I was thinking out too that someone else mentioned, when they hit the water in the van, why are they not immediately in the plane, like the other kicks. With the other kicks, they immediately moved up a level, but after the van hit the water, Ariadne and Joseph G Levitt swim away from the van and are talking each other. Shouldnt they have gone straight up to the plane? Also, if Saito and Cobb were in limbo and they used the gun to get out of it, wouldnt they have just gone up to the next highest level, which would have been the winter fortress level? How did they kicked up all the way back to the plane. You know Christopher Nolan wrote and directed the movie Mememto–ever see it? The entire movie works backward in time. I am starting to think that the sequencing of Inception is all out of order. The dictionary definition of inception is beginning. What is the real beginning of this movie? All the characters on the plane look like they have just completed some extraordinary exploit, except Cobb. He look shocked and disoriented. When walking through the airport, all his cohorts look at him but never say a word. Maybe the whole inception was done on him, not Fischer. The Fischer story was just means of planting the inception in Cobb so he would never know they did it, and believe he was the originator of the idea, which has to happen for the inception to be successful.

      • ception

        @jojo the reason they didn’t go back up one level is because they didn’t feel a “kick” in “reality” (the plane). remember, the van falling from the bridge was the kick to get them back to THAT level, NOT the airplane reality. in order for a kick to work to bring you back to the upper level, it would have to be done on THAT level. the kick from the plane was when the timer ran out, and the flight attendant disconnected them from the dream machine. i really suggest you watch the movie again. from the comments you’ve made, it seems as if you didn’t pay attention to certain details.

      • susan

        Totally! The kids did sound alot older. I think he was never going back. He knew it and he was the subject of the inception. When he went under at that underground chemistry lab, he never came out, which is why you never saw the top stop spinning again.

    • Levi

      Thats the best comment, a mix of reality and dream.

      • Sena

        I’ve watched it today and i realised that what if he was dreaming again again. and i agree with you Levi Jojo’s comment is best pleas but pleas somebody should explain the clear and true ending of inception?

    • sexualchocolate

      Or it could just represent the filmmaker asking the audience whats the difference if its reality or not.

    • dreamerak

      My theory (not that it matters because I’m pretty certain even Nolan doesn’t have the answer) is that he’s dreaming, since, in the real world, the top would fall over quickly. The prolonged spin only happened in the dream world. Cobb is always so sure what is dream and what is real. But when he sees his kids in the dream world and they turn around, he doubts the dream and starts to think it’s real…so the top wobbles a bit.

      • WC

        But that scene was most certainly in slowmo, so maybe the top wasn’t spinning as long as we thought it was and thus, indeed, it would fall.

      • Chilli

        I was watching the movie in the cinema last night and noticed something. When Leo walks up to the terminal in the final airport scene before the walk down, the forger can clearly be seen standing behind him on the viewers left… Leo does not seem to notice him as he does not look at him. The forger is seen then looking down and is out of focus by the camera as it focused on Leo… Yet seconds later whilst seeing the whole crew again he sees the forger leaning against a trolley on the left of the screen just whilst seeing Arthur. What I ask is how did the forger get ahead whilst being behind him in a seperate line…. I think that maybe due to Leo’s emotions his reality might have slipped but he doesn’t see the forger twice so he doesn’t notice the anomaly. I believe he is still dreaming but doesn’t care. The top may be a distractor too. What do people think.

    • Sam

      Yes but he walks away before it even wobbles. And that doesnt erase the fact that the kids are doing the same thing they were before he left, wearing the same thing, and not aged at all.

      • Mike from Omaha

        Let’s also remember that when Cobb is telling Ariadne about the life he had with his wife in their shared dream, he points out where the children were born. Were they born in reality, then, or only in their dream?

    • Adarsh

      @ Erak- that is the best comment I’ve seen about the ending and I’m just going to believe that!

    • macie

      Yeah very good and direct explanation! Loved your interpretation! (although for me i am still unsure whether Cobb was awake or dreaming)

    • Riley

      That’s exactly what I thought.

    • Sec G

      The thing is that the top would fall whether it was real or in Cobb’s dream, because he knows the weight of the top. The only way it wouldn’t fall if someone else had constructed the dream. Right?

      • jojo

        A lot of people are saying this. That the falling top doesnt mean you are in reality, it means you are not in someone’s dream. Meaning that if the top does fall, Cobb is not necessarily back in reality, but he is not stuck in someone else’s dream. This movie begins with Cobb seeing the backs of his children on the beach. It ends with Cobb seeing their faces. What happens throughout the entire movie is to show us how that transformation took place? The thing no one is sure about though is, did he get back to the real world to see his children’s faces? Or did he give up, and accept being stuck in limbo forever, where he would see his children’s faces, though just in a dream?

    • The Duke

      I have gone back and forth, one moment taking a hard stance with one opinion only to read a comment and go “hmmm”, that’s possible as well. In the end, I believe it’s an infinite loop like the staircase mentioned in the film. I can’t help but to think that Nolan was influenced by the Dutch artist Escher. In the artists’ pieces Relativity, Ascending and Descending, and Sky and Water, gravity, perception, and boundaries are constantly tugged and played with. The premise in my opinion is a philosophizing question. Where does a truth begin and a lie end? What captures you can set you free and in the film, like in life, both the truth and a lie can set you free, once you accept one. Vice-versa, a truth or a lie can imprison you in the pursuit of it just like an idea or a dream.


    • stuNNa

      After Cobb and Mal kill themselves on the train tracks, they awake to “reality”. But if that were reality, the where is the machine that is supposed to connect them and induce the shared dream state?
      Cobb is stuck in a loop, and the whole movie is his dream.
      When he believes he is in reality the top spins and topples. When he thinks he is dreaming the top spins continuously and uniformly. When he doesn’t look at it, like in the last scene, it behaves erratically. This is because the behavior of the top is dictated by Cobb’s perceived reality.

    • Inger

      Excellent. Now I don’t have to watch it again…you’ve put it to rest for me! Thank you.

  • JM

    Just to put this out there, was anyone else distracted by the similarities to Leo’s turn in “Shutter Island”? The -is she or isn’t she- dead wife, the two kids, the torment of being separated from said wife and kids (and ensuing memories/hallucinations/dreams) … I think I would have enjoyed “Inception” even more if it weren’t for this plot similarity between the two movies. Heck, both wives even had noticeable accents (though Marion’s natural accent was far less distracting than Michelle William’s Brooklyn one). The whole trope just kept distracting me from the movie, especially as it neared the end.

    • Krissynita

      Yeah…I was a little distracted, too. Thought about Shutter Island throughout the movie. Shutter Island gave us a def in the end. So ultimately, I liked it best.

      • Jaso

        Funny enough Shutter Island also had that question at the end of whether he was still crazy or just acting like it…either way Inception was better but they were both good

      • cficare

        his wife was alive in the real world and was trying to get Cobb back the whole time. She was trying to plant him with an inception to come back to reality. That’s why she tries to kill him in the end. Cobb liked his twisted dream and didn’t want to wake up. this is also a symptom of depression. You would rather live in your fantacy than face facts. When he excepted his wifes death he only freed himself up to enjoy the fantacy of being with his children. The arcitect in the movie is like his concience helping him confront his depression.

      • Idiots

        “Shutter Island gave us a def in the end. So ultimately, I liked it best.”

        Just the kind of brilliant opinionating one would expect from the owner of ‘Dumbest Brain in Thread’

      • dreamingaboutreality

        1st of all it’s useful if you spell words correctly:

        2nd of all it’s useful if you use grammar correctly:
        -Cobb may “ACCept” his wife’s death, meaning he realizes that she died…but unless you are saying that he is writing a story and excluding the fact that his wife dies, then he would NOT be “EXCepting” his wife’s death.

        3rd of all, to like twisted dreams and not want to wake up is not a symptom of depression. nor is preferring to live in a fantasy rather than “facing facts.” if you don’t believe me, look at it here:


        According to the DSM-4 (what psychiatrists use to diagnose things like depression), nothing you just said has anything to do with depression. You might make the argument that depressed people typically have hypersomnia (sleep excessively), but your argument has a major hole because with depression you also have anhedonia (an inability to experience joy, including lacking the ability to enjoy activities – such as being with one’s children).

        …maybe your post-name, “C F I care” implies you don’t really care, so you just put random information down. And maybe you won’t actually care about anything I just said. But maybe you will.

        This is the genius of Nolan – the duality of reality (or of alternate realities, or dreams) is still in question, even in the discussion of his work…is it fate that you would write that, and I would read it and respond like this? Did Nolan design this in his dreams? We’ll never know…

    • Z

      The script for Inception has been in existence for years, long before Shutter Island, Nolan wrote the premise back in like 2001. It’s just one of the coincidences of life. Shutter Island had source material and it’s not like Leo wrote Inception.

      • Reader

        Actually I think the Wachowski Brothers wrote it in the 1990s when it was called The Matrix.

      • Niix Starkyller

        Actually I think, Reader, that your mind only works in broad strokes. I am sad for you.

      • Michael

        Reader, The Matrix is not the same. Inception is far too original to be branded with that kind of simplistic comparison. Both movies should be treated on their merit separately.

      • Vassago

        I’m quite sure the idea was around LONG before the Matrix. There’s this area of study called Philosophy…

      • Reader

        Too original? You mean like using your mind to enter another world? Please. Exact same concept. Is it not coincidental this script was “conceptualized” around the same time as the popularity of the Matrix films?

        Be honest. I enjoyed Inception, however one cannot ignore the overbearing similarities to the Matrix. In fact, I posit it is successful BECAUSE it is so much like The Matrix.

      • Angelo Barovier

        You posit? Well, you philosopher king, I posit you are overwhelmingly supercilious in your postulations, and that which you assert is merely a matter of conditional and subjective perception. The exploration of false worlds in filmmaking was not pioneered nor even perfected by The Matrix. I have watched Neo’s original movie countless times and while enjoying Inception I never once thought of The Matrix. The only thing ‘overbearing’ here is your opinion, with which I resoundingly disagree.

      • Mike from Omaha

        The idea of the convergence of dreams and reality is ancient. Australian aborigines have had that concept as part of their philosophy for centuries, possibly millenia, so The Matrix was no more original than Inception if you want to make that argument. It is what Nolan did with the idea that makes it special. He told an original story that was well constructed and well scripted. Most importantly, he got us discussing it. That is the great accomplishment of this film.

      • sm

        Mike from omaha, i get what you’re saying and agree… but don’t call what nolan did with it an original story.. how many times have we seen “the guy up for one last job, assembling the perfect team, to get home to his family”… That’s what makes Nolan terrific, he takes what at times are overused cliche’s and makes them new again.

      • Reader

        @Angelo Barovier, thanks for noticing.

        It has nothing to do with the exploration of false worlds, but how specifically it was explored. I too, have watched the Matrix “countless” times, and it was the first thing I thought of while viewing Inception. Again, I liked Inception, but the similarities to The Matrix are painstakingly obvious to anyone who claims to be a fan of cinema.


      • Angelo Barovier

        @Reader (the Wise)
        “…but the similarities to The Matrix are painstakingly obvious to anyone who claims to be a fan of cinema.” Of course, those who disagree with you are missing the obvious, thus relegating them to the ranks of the ignorant! Psssh. Your facile attempts to prove your superior intellect and spot-on insights do nothing but paint you further into the corner of the arrogant and pretentious. Your Google link’s first page is full of pre-release postulations and unsubstantiated claims of similarities with no analytical reasoning beyond semblance and feel (and of course forum chatter). By the by, ‘painstakingly obvious’ is clumsy, oh mighty (newly-clothed) Emperor. I think you meant ‘painfully obvious’. Unless you’ve cleverly hidden some secret missive to Morpheus in your post.

      • steve o

        omg reader, you just got served by angelo. angelo, i laughed so hard, i choked on my coffee :D one thing i wanted to add to this discussion: the movie (and cobb) implies that cobb did everything he could to convince mal she was currently in reality. however, after spending 50 years in a limbo city, constructed from memory by cobb and mal, wouldn’t it be logical for cobb to ask mal to create something (a building or some other structure) as they had done previously? this would prove to both what was reality and what wasn’t. i’m not sure the movie addresses this. cobb just explains he tried everything and we just accept it. btw, this supports the argument he’s still dreaming at the end. :)

      • asdfdasf

        The idea of the matrix has been ariund since 514ad. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”.

    • redranger76

      Astute observation,JM. However, DiCaprio is not a Johnny Depp or Daniel-Day Lewis, his characters can seem the same, but it fit the role wonderfully and he did a remarkable job. May I say, Cotillard was marvelous in this movie. As for the ? he is awake, refer to NoJoke 4 explanation

      P.S. nice post No Joke

      • Angelo Barovier

        Cotillard WAS brilliant, effortlessly and convincingly flipping between malevolence, sorrow, and love.

    • DFSF

      I was most distracted by JG-Levitt looking EXACTLY like Neo from Matrix, in a Matrix suit, in a Matrix hallway, doing Matrix stunt fighting.

      • Somnus

        I think it was meant to be obviously reminiscent of the Matrix movies, since if Cobb is dreaming, then his subconscious could integrate elements of a movie he saw in waking life.

    • Babs

      I agree, this like so much better Shutter Island

  • JML

    Sadly, he is still in limbo because his kids are the same age and wear the same clothes as in his dreams.

    • Lisa

      It seems as if they are the same age but the credits showed a 3 yr & 5 yr old daughter. Dream or reality, I’d see the sequel anyways!

      • alan from Canada

        Nooooo sequel please. Leave this one alone.

      • Levi

        No sequel. Leave a masterpiece alone.

      • Thatgrl

        The 3yr old daughter is the one on the beach and the 5yr old daughter is the one on the house

      • Nathan

        No sequel. No no no no no.

    • Jeff

      The fact that his kids are the same age isn’t a factor because the movie never tells us how long he’s been out of America. It could have been 4 months for all we know. That’s a lifetime to a child.

      The other thing is that when he wakes up on the plane, everyone looks at him, smiling and acknowledging what they all just went through. Projections would not have done that.

    • Holly

      When he spoke to the children on the phone the girl was much older than 5 years old. She sounded like a preteen to me. So I think he is stuck in limbo because of the children being the same age in the same clothes and the top not falling.

      • julian

        I totally agree with that! Also, wasn’t Leonardo Dicaprio suppose to get Sainto through customs when they landed? That was never showed. I think he was in limbo too, because the children are doing exactly the same thing as what they were doing in the dream. It was the exact same whole situation as in the dream. How could they be doing the same things as they are doing in the dream, when he comes home? The probability of that happening is very slim.

      • sadiebaby

        @Holly. I noticed that too. The daughter’s voice (and attitude)seemed older but the son’s seemed still toddler-like.

      • Jules

        @ julian – Saito was supposed to get Leo through security. And he did. That’s why when he woke up on the plane he picked up the phone – he was making the call to his people who would get Leo through customs. And then it did show Leo giving the customs agent his passport and being let through.

  • Levi

    I belive he was awake. It started to wobble at the end which makes me belive that it was reality. And the reason Cobb didn’t check if it did wobble and stop (im my opinion) was because whether or not he was awake or dreaming, he got what he was longing for. To see his children’s faces again and to be with them. I think the open-ended conclusion was a perfect way to conclude an amazing movie.

    • Krissynita

      I agree with you Levi. 100%

    • Karen

      I don’t think he got what he was longing for awake or dreaming. Because if he fell into limbo, it’s all a hallucination and he would have never seen how his ‘real’ children’s smiles.

      • Abook

        In his limbo, he can create. Thus the children’s faces are created.

      • BluCappy

        Its not that he “CAN’T” see their faces. He knows that when he is in his dream-world his one driving force to wake up (His children) wouldn’t work anymore if he saw their faces. He knows what they look like, he looks away every time he gets a chance to see them because he knows that if he saw them he wouldn’t care about waking up anymore.

      • Jan

        If the children were born in limbo – then they don’t actually exist in the real world

    • oddrey

      I agree and I also think he was awake. He told Mal in limbo that his imagined version was simply a shade of his real wife. For that same reason, I don’t think he was able to see his children’s faces in his dreams because they would have been clear phonies. He would only have wanted to see them in reality, whereas he chose to be in dreams to see his wife because she was dead; there is no reality to see her in.

  • BN

    I don’t think it matters whether or not he gets to see his kids again. It’s all about relieving that guilt. This whole movie is just a gigantic therapy session.

    • R.

      On the contrary, i don’t think it matters if it’s a dream or reality. Like you said it was a “gigantic therapy session”. Classic and masterfully reimagined case of man vs self. He overcame his guilt over the inception he had done on Mal. So either way being it a dream or reality, seeing his kids was the payoff. Guilt free he could have now give himself the privilege to recall their faces in a dream or finally ground himself to reality.

  • Lance Beauregarde

    Wasn’t the idea that the whole thing was a dream he created to convince himself that he was really back with his kids when actually he wasn’t? Thus, it didn’t matter whether the top fell over or not. If it did, it was still a dream because he had convinced himself that it meant he was in the real world, even though he wasn’t. The real inception was hte idea he planted in his own mind that he actually was back with his kids. That’s what I thought happened, anyway.

    • Krissynita

      :( Hadn’t thought of it this way! No, no…top stopped!

    • Medson

      I like this theory… Is it possible that the team he was assembling was in a dream? Note the hit men that came after him. Where they his own subconscious army trying to protect himself from having the idea planted in his own mind? I have to watch this again

      • chamlo

        Great idea Lance. I was actually wondering if he actually was in the dream world far sooner than we suspected, and that the reality of the inception for another was actually part of the inception for himself.

      • Kirsten

        I was left thinking maybe the entire movie was part of a dream and we never actually saw Cobb in reality at all. It was encouraging to me that someone else mentioned in the comments that there were then 3 and 5 year old girls cast, but then if he and Mal and Saito could age, couldn’t he age his kids, too? I agree about seeing it again!

      • John

        Can’t be, since we see characters interact away from Cobb (for example, Arthur and Ariadne have a conversation, and we see various on various levels outside of Cobb’s conscious awareness. If it were all a dream, then we would have to see everything from Cobb’s POV. That’s what’s great about the ending, since it is all in Cobb’s POV after he “wakes up” on the plane. He could be awake or he could be dreaming. But the other stuff happened.

      • Kevin

        I don’t think this interpretation syncs with the way the movie presents dreams. Not to say that the movie wasn’t confusing at all, but it had a conventional plot-it was always made clear why the characters were where they were, and doing what they were doing. One of the things I liked about the movie was how well it presented dreams-things happen for no reason, but none of the characters present it. If the whole movie was a dream, then it does nothing but show dreams the way they’ve always been shown in movies-normal and linear until something “crazy” happens.

    • avery

      i don’t think it was all cobb’s dream. the fact that other members of the team had moments separate from cobb proves that they were not in his subconsious the whole time.

      • Levi

        Exactly what I thought, but according to Lance’s theory, Cobb could have created their subconscious too to trick himself into beliving that to plant his own Inception he had to plant another by creating many other subconscious.

      • oddrey

        But I don’t think he created the subconscious of all those other characters. He explicitly stated that he no longer creates, but when he does or when he knows the architecture, Mal knows it and sabotages it all. If the three layers (kidnapping, hotel, slopes) were all part of his creation, she would’ve stepped in sooner.

      • dreamingaboutreality

        @ oddrey:

        once he lets Mal die in the 4th level, in the apartment they created, then she shouldn’t be able to step in and sabotage anything else any more. Therefore, he should be able to create again without fear of Mal sabotaging anything.

    • crystalcrush

      but before that the top always toppled…thus he cant possibly have invented this whole plan jus so he can go back to his kids in his dreams right… anyway if thats the case the movie would be less interesting and more ridiculous

      • Levi


      • MaxPowers

        I don’t think the whole thing was a dream, but you can’t really use the top to show it wasn’t. The top was never really his totem…it was Mal’s which made it meaningless.

      • MaxPowers

        The reason I don’t think the whole thing was a dream is actually pretty simple…Nolan never revealed that it was. What would be the point of having a big twist in a movie and then never revealing it. It would be like if Shymalan never showed us that Bruce Willis was dead in the sixth sense. Even though while watching it I thought it might end that way (that the whole thing was a dream), it didn’t. Which, to me, says that it wasn’t.

  • Woot

    It makes me happy that this poll is almost split down the middle ( with a little in favor of awake.) I believe that he was awake, because he saw his kids faces. This was something he could not do in his subconscious. But then again I don’t know. AHH!

    • Abook

      In his limbo, he can create. The faces were his creation, sorry his brain is mush.

      • mjg

        If he can create in his limbo, wouldn’t he rather have his wife AND his children there?

      • dally

        Were the kids even real? Were they part of the dream world and NOT the real world? Why would he go into a dream state with his wife if he had 2 little kids?

        Maybe he could finally see their faces when the Inception (that he had the kids) finally really took hold?

      • Marianne

        To mjg : If he saw Mal walking around then he would know that it was just a dream and that he wasn’t really at home with his kids. So if he is really dreaming, then whoever created the dream and planted the idea, would have had to known not to include her. That way he could live a happy life and not suspect anything.

    • dreamingaboutreality

      but keep in mind, the main reason he couldn’t create was because Mal would sabotage his work. Once he lets Mal die in the 4th level, she can’t sabotage anything anymore. So he can create again without fearing her sabotaging it. And thus, he could create his children’s faces. I’m not saying he is definitely dreaming. I’m just saying, it leaves the possibility open that he is still dreaming. But of course, he may still also be awake :)

      • Rick

        Great concept, well thought out. Once she is dead, he is allowed to live in his dream reality without anymore interference.. maybe why thats why he let her go.

    • Geoff

      He was dreaming. He is inside of his wife’s dream. You see, she was correct when she told him they were in an alternate reality. She woke up when she jumped from the ledge. He didn’t jump. The whole movie is her trying to convince him that what he believes is reality (running from phantom corporations, the government, etc) is all part of an unrealistic fantasy. I believe the movie was left open ended to allow for a sequel where he realizes the top is still spinning and he has to find his way back to reality.

  • asherlev1

    I think the suprise (or not-so-much, really) gem of the movie for me was the pairing of Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Lewitt. From that kiss to those elevator “flying” scenes, he sure charmed me. And she was great in trying to figure out Cobb’s mysterious past.

    • emily

      Loved Joseph Gordon-Lewitt too. He will be able to pick what he wants after this. Very mature but playful acting.

      • Monty

        OOne of my favorite throwaway parts was when the constructs were looking at him and ellen and he said “quick, kiss me.” so they kissed, she says they are still watching them and he replies “well, it was worth a shot. lets get out of here”

      • TONY

        I agree. that “worth a shot” kiss scene was my favorite of the movie!

    • LaShawna

      I totally agree! I thought Ellen and Joseph put in really great performances, and I really loved their characters.

    • Riley

      He has grown into a really handsome man, and LOVE his ears.

    • Eld

      That’s funny because I thought he was somewhat miscast as a superbad operator. An actor with a bit more of a menacing presence would have worked better for me. P.S. I’m on Team “Still dreaming”. :)

  • Jenn

    When they awake in the van underwater, did Saito wake up with everyone else except Cobb? If not- how did he wake up so easily on the plane after dying in the dream? I was confused on that with the special mixture they took-

    • Toco

      No, Saito didn’t wake up until Cobb “killed” him after he went back to find him (the scene from the beginning of the movie and again towards the end when Cobb and Saito are sitting at the table and Saito asks Cobb if he’s come to kill him and Saito says he’s going to make good on their agreement, i.e., to clear the way for Cobb to return to the U.S.).

      • crystalcrush

        if saito kills cobb…isnt cobb suppose to become insane

      • Toco

        Saito didn’t kill Cobb; Cobb killed Saito. Although I’m confused about that part. How was Saito able to return to the real world if Cobb killed him? I thought that if he died in the dream world, he would be stuck (because of the drug used to keep them dreaming for so long). Answers?

      • teekay

        Toco, my assumption is that Saito would be able to wake up at that point because the sedative in the real world would have worn off by then (same as the others).

      • sarCC

        It only makes sense if Saito kills Cobb and then kills himself. This makes sense as Saito had the gun in his hand at the end of the scene. And Cobb woke up before Saito on the plane.

      • spin

        @Toco- the idea is that if you live in limbo, and become an old man, but suddenly wake up as a young man, you’re mind will turn itself into mush because it can’t handle the stress. That’s why Leo and Mal were both old in that one scene. As the drugs wore off, Leo was able to make himself young again by realizing it was all a dream. Mal needed more convincing, but Leo did inception.

      • Rick

        Saito is at the end of his 50 years in limbo and could awake back up un-aged just as Cobb and Mal did but i don’t think Cobb would be able to.. so therefore stayed with his kids. The top stopped spinning because he wasn’t in anyone elses dream just his. Thats what the totem is for.

      • Peacheo

        I’m a bit confused about the drug used to keep them sleeping but here’s what I think now after reading everybody’s comments. The reason people would fall into limbo if they died in the dream is because the sedative is so strong (made to keep them asleep for the 10 hour flight) If dying while still under the sedative, you wouldn’t be able to wake up but not be able to be in the dream so therefore would fall into limbo. HOWEVER, when Cobb and Saito wake up on the plane after everybody else has, the flight is already over – meaning the 10 hours of the flight are over and perhaps the sedative has worn off by this point- meaning that if they die in the dream they would wake up. So, by Saito and Cobb dying in the van when it hit the water (as they were left in it), once the sedative wears off they would wake up on the plane (this doesn’t go against the fact that they would of course be in limbo for a while – which we saw when we saw Saito looking old right before they woke up) Not sure if I’m rooting for awake or asleep, but I think that it makes sense in terms of the sedative discussion. Comments?

    • Nathan

      The don’t wake up in the Van. The idea is that once you are in Limbo you can skip stepping up all the levels by killing yourself in Limbo. Saito must wait for Cobb to show up with the gun (Saito’s Totem) for Saito to know its still a dream.

  • asherlev1

    PS It’s interesting to imagine him actually awake, but still struggling, as his wife once did, with the possibility that everything is fake; that he did not manage to bring himself and Saito back into consciousness. Adds that final layer of intricacy to the whole confusing yet brilliantly structured smorgasbord of detail that was the movie.

  • Marianne

    See this is what I love about the ending. You don’t really know. It can be interpreted both ways.

    • j

      me too. just drives the point home that, whether awake or dreaming, perception in the moment is reality for a given individual. We never can be really sure that anything is “real” in the sense that there is another reality encompassing it. Meant to provoke the same thoughts as “The Matrix” in a different way.

    • Katie

      I don’t know if this has been brought up, but I have a question. If the sedative they used left the inner-ear function working, no matter how deep the sleep was, couldn’t the rest of the team just tip Saito and Cobb out of their seats in the airplane to wake them up?

      An interesting point that I saw someone bring up on a different site, was that in the dream state, Cobb is always wearing his wedding ring, but in the real world he his not. Did anyone notice if he was wearing his ring in the last scene?

  • Jane

    I think it doesn’t matter for Cobbs because he gets to be with his kids again either way. That was his goal and he got it. If it’s a dream or reality, he believes he’s with his children. Although if Leo is still in the dream, then Saito is too…

    • audrey

      I have to disagree. He had his wife in his dreamworld but it still wasn’t good enough because,like he said, he wasn’t able to make all of her up, only a flat, one-dimentional version. So if he wasn’t going to settle for dreamworld Mal then I don’t think he would have settled for dreamworld kids.

      • kevinthegreat

        100% agree. I’m glad I kept reading, ’cause I was going to reply with this myself! If he could create a perfect world, he would have created it with Mal in it. But he explained to us exactly why he had to let her go — because his creation was only a one-dimensional shade of her real self. If he couldn’t accept that for her, he couldn’t accept that for his children, either. (Plus I think that despite calls above that Blinky was a troll, he’s right: the top was clearly degrading. This is a $200 million movie that was technically perfect. If Nolan wanted that top to keep spinning, he could have made it SOUND like it was going to keep spinning. It cut where it did because every viewer picked up on the change it sound, that it was JUST about to fall. It’s what made us groan, but it’s our aural cue that this was reality.)

      • jeremy

        But what if the kids were a creation that Cobb and Mal created in limbo to fill their void and they only exist there. They wouldn’t be flat they would be perfect to him because he created them.

      • AK

        Did he know his children well enough before he left them to know what was just a one-dimensional creation?

    • Rob

      As Cobb always said’ the most important thing is for me to get home to my children. In the end, it does not matter if it is a dream or not, he WAS home with his children… right?

      • Levi

        People have stated this many times before, like 5 times, I for one, and thats what think.

      • lala

        I can’t believe the length of this blog and how much energy everyone is wasting on discussing this ridiculous movie. Get a life, people.

      • Levi

        Hey lala, I’m sorry Eclipse is doing as good as you hoped and that people actually like a movie where the actors can actually act and the director/writer has created something orginal. So sorry about that.

      • Levi

        I meant isn’t, not is

  • Jenn

    Loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt. After this movie, I hope to see him as the riddler.

    • Doug

      I wanted to see him as the new Joker. He and Heath Ledger could have been brothers, they look so much alike.

      • audrey

        YES! so excited to see JGL as the riddler(crossing my fingers).

      • Levi

        Heb does look like Heath, but you no one can act like Heath as the Joker. And I also think Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or maybe Robin Williams) should be the Riddler.

      • Levi

        I meant He, not Heb. Sorry.

      • oddrey

        They were in 10 Things I Hate About You together! Awesome actors.

      • dawnomite

        Yes! I have always seen the resemblance!!

      • Jenn

        Nolan said he would never bring back the Joker…. He doesn’t make sequels. I am looking for Riddler and hopefully cat woman. Who would be a good cat woman? Maybe a scorned Rachel…. Who escaped from the flames of her death? Or go the traditional route with a new actress and role? I cannot wait for 2112. JGL for Riddler!

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