'Inception' in real time: And my mind is blown all over again

Today’s generous gift from the Internet comes in the form of a video playing the four dream realities in Inception together at the same time, in (roughly) real time. No, you’re not crazy if you read that sentence more than once and it made no sense to you, even though you’ve seen Inception two times or more just to be sure it actually all fit together. In fact, in a lot of ways, you’d think that this video would help bring some clarity to Christopher Nolan’s epic phantasmagoria: Instead of, as Nolan does in the film, cross cutting between the van-racing-through-the-rain dream world, the brown-toned-classy-hotel dream world, the snowed-out-fortress/hospital dream world, and the unstructured-dream-space-a.k.a.-limbo dream world, we get to see all four unfold together, with each successive dream world moving at the ever-quickening speed of dreaming. Annnnd now you’re even more confused. Just take a look at the (obviously spoiler-filled) video itself, and it will all make sense, I promise: 

My favorite thing about this clip — beyond the fact that it only increases my appreciation for Nolan’s directorial finesse, and Hans Zimmer’s kick-ass score — is that its maker readily admits in those YouTube pop-up annotations when his efforts don’t quite line up correctly. (Alas, the annotations don’t play in the embedded version, but if you watch it on YouTube’s site, they’re there, I promise.) It’s exactly the level of geeky precision we demand from the Internet, and I’m happy to no end that this tireless editor with an enviable amount of free time provided it.

Did you love this re-mixed version of Inception‘s dream worlds? Or has it left you puzzled all over again?

Check out our list of other fun stuff happening this month on our December events calendar.

Read more:
Christopher Nolan on an ‘Inception’ video game
‘Inception’ Blu-ray sneak-peek

Comments (59 total) Add your comment
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  • harrylime

    When will people realize that this movie wasn’t confusing? It was terribly linear.

    • David

      Harry, I have to agree with you: I had absolutely no problem following this movie at all. I didn’t have to watch it twice, becausee the fun was watching it all fall together the first time. Just pay attention, that’s all.

      • Tori

        I completely agree. Everyone told me I wasn’t going to understand it, that it was super confusing, that I would be left with all these questions. But for real, I understood the entire thing on the first viewing.

    • nycjohn

      I agree…. Overall I enjoyed, but I got tired of being hit over the head repeatedly with dialogue about what level of dream we were in. Still baffled as to why people found it so complex. Saw it with someone seeing it for the second time, and he was still confused at the end; I lost some respect for him that day…

      • tvgirl48

        Yes thank you! I thought they really spelled out the most important stuff for you. I kept wondering if ppl were asleep or something because of all these ppl saying it was confusing.

      • cm

        by all means, gentlemen, then spell it out for us morons. While I typically agree that the general moviegoing public have a basic (that’s generous) IQ, I’m not quite an idiot and I still had trouble. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment, but the plot ain’t exactly Disney.

      • QuinnMallory

        I agree that the movie was not all that confusing. There is some ambiguity, however, as to whether there is another layer of dream and/or Cobb’s fate at the end of the movie.

        I thoroughly enjoyed watching Inception at the theater and I would definitely consider watching it again now that it’s out on DVD just to see if there are hidden clues that resolved the few intentional ambiguities.

      • Lance

        I watched this movie backwards and totally understood it. Then my friends who watched it forwards had the audaicity to ask me to explain it to them. Needless to say we are no longer on speaking terms. What idiots! Am I right?

    • Danny

      I just had to watch it again because the zero g fight scene was so cool. Not to really figure it out.

    • Julius

      Love these comments :) I’m notttt the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes – I have my blonde moments – but totally followed the film. I’ll see the movie again just to see it again.

    • tracy bluth

      I totally agree! All of my friends were really confused and I was like “They clearly explained that…”

    • ericalina

      agreed. i think that the best part of the movie was that it gave you plenty to think about and wonder about, but it wasn’t terribly confusing.

      • Ryan

        yeah people who call it too complex baffle me. It was DETAILED. It wasn’t cookie cutter action as opposed to a lot of films today, some of which I enjoy (Transformers for example). Having to understand a story to follow a movie doesn’t strike me as being too insane

    • ryan

      So what movie would be confusing for you asshole? what would you rate lets say Jingle all the way? Go back to playing WoW until you die!

    • Joe

      Totally agree.

    • LOL

      What a snooty lot. Mother Superior would take a ruler to your bare knuckles.

    • Shotgun Samurai

      If you want a really confusing movie watch Primer. If you had trouble following Inception your mind will not be able to handle it.

    • Larry David

      I totally agree that there are people out there who didn’t have a clue what happened in the film when they saw it, hopped online to read explanations of the plot, then go onto comment boards saying that they can’t understand why people couldn’t follow the film.

    • MCS

      I’m glad you think this. When I came out and thought I understood it all (except the ambiguous ending) and people were confused I thought I must have missed something

  • annie


  • Kaley

    This just made me excited to watch this movie again. I really enjoyed Inception.

    • davey

      It got me excited to see it again also. I saw it over the summer (like most) and although I didn’t uderstand EVERYTHING that happens in the film, I still “got it”. Can’t wait to see this again.

  • Mole

    I’d watch the movie again just out of sheer enjoyment. I didn’t find it confusing at all.

  • Michelle

    I had no problem following the movie, the dream within a dream concept wasnt too difficult to understand. I went with my mom and had to explain many things to her and she still was lost. I guess some movies arent for everyone. I did like the video it was fun watching it even with a couple of inconsistancies.

  • JC

    I also had no problem following it the first time. I thought that Nolan spelled out the rules of extraction/inception pretty clearly. I think some people got thrown because they couldn’t grasp that time moves much faster in a dream, and that it moves even faster in each dream within a dream (which is what this video illustrates). The deserted city/Mal storyline happens while Cobb and Ariadne were asleep in the snowy hospital, the entire snowy hospital storyline happened while the group were asleep in the hotel room, the entire hotel storyline happened while they were asleep in the van, and the entire rainy downtown/van storyline happened while they were asleep on the airplane. Saito experienced what seemed like decades in his dream during the plane trip because he was unable to wake when he “died” but instead went deeper in (to the “limbo” level of unconstructed subconsciousness, which, once he was there, organized itself into the Japanese fortress).

    • cm

      Thank you for being concise and not condescending. This is the clearest explanation I’ve seen – and it’s really more a summary. I feel like I did understand this at the time, but I was trying to make it more complicated…or something.

      • davey

        GREAT summary – thank you for that. And yes, being concise and NOT condescending certainly helped :)

      • Ted Striker

        You do realize that there were many inferences in the movie that make it plausible, and in fact highly likely, that there never was an awake state in the entire movie… that the supposed awake state was actually Dom’s dream state. I could list probably half a dozen scenes that give telltale signs of this conclusion. Here are a couple examples, Dom getting chased on foot in the alley way where the walls seem to be literally closing in upon him. Classic type of dream sequence. Also, the very end where he goes outside to see his kids in the yard… unless he was precognizant there was no way that shot was real world considering it was IDENTICAL to the shot he kept playing over and over in his head of finally getting to see them. There are many more tip offs… I’m surprised no one is bringing this up considering almost everyone above is purporting to “get” the movie entirely. I thought it was not straightforward… it wanted to make you think it was straightforward following the basic plot that JC lays out. But in my opinion it was much more convoluted if you consider the wealth of possibilities that Nolan brought up.

      • JC

        I think everyone realizes that there is a possibility that the entire movie was a dream of Dom’s. It was pretty clear from the way the movie ended that the whole point of the film was to make you question whether it was a dream or reality. However, there is no answer to that question. Nolan has stated that there is no answer to that question, as he himself never decided one way or the other if Dom was awake or dreaming when he met his kids at the end. The ambiguity is the point of the film. He performed inception on the audience by planting the idea in our minds that the whole thing was a dream. I was merely attempting to flesh out the major plot of the movie so that people who were confused could understand it enough to be able to get on with tackling that big question and not be hung up on the intricacies of the plot.

  • Jim

    The sequel will include Godzilla fighting the Inception. Thank you.

  • darclyte

    I didn’t find it difficult to follow at all, but I’m not going to bash those who did. Excellent movie, and well worth rewatching for all the nuances.

  • daniel

    I started watching it on an la bound flight from paris.And luckily didn’t HAVE to watch it or try to understand it.I simply watched another movie.(Okay admittedly not the best environment to watch ANY movie)

  • harry

    I want to see a sequal!!!!

  • harry

    or follow up what have you!

  • Bob

    No, not complicated to follow, but you do have to follow (not texting friends on your phone).

  • Kay

    Loved the movie! Though it is interesting how some people get it and some just don’t. I really don’t think it has to do with you IQ, just that for some people it was difficult to follow, even though it was spelled out. My boyfriend and I (software developer and logistics manager) watched it with our friends (electrical engineer and surgeon) We got, they didn’t. For us it was easy to follow, for them it was complex and difficult. So trust me, it doesn’t depend on intelligence….

  • jeff

    i’m pretty sure the only person in the world who found inception difficult to follow was EW’s own owen gleiberman…

  • Jose

    Am I the only one who was dissapointed with the overall score of the movie?

    • Sarah


      • davey

        The score was awesome. Sorry.

    • DoOrDie

      Why do you hate yourself? LoL. Just a friendly Jab. I can understand why its not your cup of tea but taken all at once, I’ve since poured over the soundtrack CD in full many times, its among his best scores. Give it a second try if you care to. If not its all good.

    • Paula

      Yeah, pretty much. This was one of the best scores I’ve ever heard. Hans Zimmer is a freaking genius.

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