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The Inception Crew
Assemble your team, Mr. Cobb. And choose your people more wisely.
- Badass Crew: Everyone has a Crowning Moment of Awesome at one point or another in the film.
- Caper Crew: Everyone fulfills a specific role in the heist or at least finds some use.
- Gentlemen Thieves: Granted, more subtle versions.
- Gray and Gray Morality: All of them are generally mild-mannered and approach their job with a commendable level of professionalism (given that their job is mentally dangerous to them as well), but that job does involve searching through people's minds in order to steal important secrets and (in the film's main case) using lies to give someone an idea from the inside.
- Mr. Exposition: They all get their part except Ariadne and Saito. Cobb and Arthur cover basic dream-sharing terminology, Eames handles the layout for Fisher's inception and Yusef knows everything about sedation.
- Sharp Dressed Men and Girl: Especially evident at the second dream level at the hotel.
- The Team:
- The Smart Guy: Averted; there's no single smart person because everyone has to be smart to be in this business.
- The Extractor: Dom leads the operation and does the talking. He's the one pulling out information. In this case, the one planting it
- The Chemist: Yusuf mixes the phlebotium that allows the team to reach the third level
- The Architect: Ariadne was recruited to construct the dreamworld that the team would use.
- The Forger: Eames has the ability to copy someone's appearance in a dream world. He also has a grenade launcher.
- The Point Man: Arthur is in charge of doing the research and he's smart enough to figure out how to simulate falling in zero gravity.
- The Tourist: Saito; yes even he counts because he's a CEO that twisted Cobb's arm into doing this in the first place.
Dominic "Dom" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio)
Our dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up we realize things were strange.
- Anti-Hero: He certainly isn't a mean person, but he also doesn't hesitate to use the occasional Batman Gambit to get what he needs, depending on the job.
- Badass Boast: He's the most skilled extractor, and had boasted as such.
- Broken Ace: The foremost expert in dream-sharing technology and techniques, who drove his wife insane during the process of experimentation.
- Byronic Hero: Very guilt ridden over his wife's death.
- Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Why he continuously has to spin his totem to check if he's in a dream or not.
- Cold Sniper: In the third level performing several headshots on projections.
- Crusading Widower: Though rather than revenge he wants to reunite with his children.
- Dark and Troubled Past: His beloved wife committed suicide after making sure that he would be blamed for her death, forcing him to be constantly on the run, unable to see his children.
- Death Glare: Gives off a rather impressive one once they woken up in the plane to Saito. Seconds later, Saito was off using his connections to get Cobb back home.
- Determinator: Deconstructed, he explores the concept of dream levels to the point he can no longer tell what is reality. The final scene where he finally sees his children, he doesn't even check to see if he's in a dream.
- Disappeared Dad: He is one for his children, whom he hasn't met in years. When he managed to call them, they wondered when he's coming home, to which he replied he can't.
- Miles: It would take more than a few stuffed animals to convince those children they still have a father.
- Double Think: ...of what's real and what isn't.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: He essentially went through 2 limbo experiences to see his children again, or find a projection of them.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Just listen to him in the scene of his wife throwing herself off a roof.
- Guile Hero: His Mr. Charles persona. Basically a manipulative ploy to convince the dreamer that he is a projection of the mind.
- Heartbroken Badass: Dead wife and children he can never see, and he's arguably the world's greatest extractor.
- I Did What I Had to Do: He didn't explain the risks behind the sedation and limbo to his team because he needed to go through with the job to get back to his children.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: A common interrogation technique of his for extraction, but only in dreams.
- Longing for Fictionland: He really wishes the projection of Mal in his dreams could match the real Mal.
- The Lost Lenore: His dead wife, Mal.
- Loving a Shadow: The projection of Mal and the memories he relives in his dreams is the only connection Cobb still has with his dead wife. In the end, Cobb is able to admit Mal's projection is a poor attempt to hold onto his dead wife because his imagination can't come close to replicating the real Mal.
- Manipulative Bastard: Several cases. Like not warning his team about being killed and sent to limbo. The Mr. Charles ploy. He also performed inception on Mal by destroying her belief in reality so they could wake up from their time in limbo.
- Meaningful Name: "Cobb" means "dream" in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. It's also an old English word for "spider" (hence the word "cobweb"). Fitting, for a man who weaves webs and traps others in them.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: To escape limbo with his wife, he destroyed her idea of reality so she would kill herself to wake up. After that she still thought reality wasn't real and killed herself again.
- Older Than They Look: In the middle of the film, he has lived eighty years mentally — by the end, it's unknown how old he is.
- Perma Stubble: Can double as a Beard of Sorrow.
- There's No Place Like Home: He takes part in the inception job just because Saito offers him a chance to return home to his kids.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Said word for word by his son James.
- Where Do You Think You Are?: "You're in a dream."
- You Can't Go Home Again: He was implicated by his wife Mal for her death in a letter she filed with her attorney; as a result he became a wanted fugitive who can never return to his home to his children.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Subverted. He doesn't wish to dispose of Nash like Saito offered.
Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
A dream within a dream within a dream? Is that even possible?
- Badass Bookworm: His job with the group is to do the research, and his hallway fight definitely pushes him into badass territory.
- Butt Monkey: Poor Arthur. He gets shot twice at the beginning. Once just to cause him pain, and once BY HIS OWN TEAMMATE (admittedly to wake him up). When it comes to testing out the "kicks", somehow Arthur's always the one getting his chair knocked over, his gun dissed by Eames, and so on. His awesomeness at the end makes up for it, though.
- The Comically Serious: Arthur is the most level-headed and serious member of the team, and as such is not amused by Eames' somewhat careless behavior, getting his chair constantly tipped over, or loud music.
- Critical Research Failure: In-universe example, Arthur fails to find out that Fisher has had mental training to protect his subconscious from infiltration - arguably the most important piece of information needed when planning to infiltrate someone's dream.
- Consummate Professional: He has an intense professionalism and intolerance to the lack of detail that goes into the inception job.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Mr. Exposition: Provides Ariadne with a lot of expository information.
- The Perfectionist: "Specificity"
- Reality Warper: Arthur's no slacker when it comes to warping reality, and he even manages to turn recursive, impossible geometry back on his opponents.
- The Reliable One: To Cobb, he's the one man he always needs in a dream job.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: His signature look.
- Waistcoat of Style: Normal dress style.
Saito (Ken Watanabe)
...So do you want to take a leap of faith, or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Maybe, but presented in an unusually sympathetic light because he stages the Inception against a different corrupt executive.
- Fiction 500: When the team points out that they will have to buy several dozen first-class seats on a trans-pacific jumbo jet flight to permit them to dream-share with Fischer without interruption;"I bought the airline. ...It seemed neater."
- Honor Among Thieves: Claims he will honor his deal with Cobb no matter what. He does.
- Karma Houdini: Double Subverted, it looks like he's going to be trapped in limbo but Cobb rescues him and he suffers no consequences in having a business competitor inceptioned.
- After spending decades inside his dream.
- The Load: He's labelled as a "tourist" by Eames and is shot in the first dream layer. In the third layer, he redeems himself by holding off the projections in the vault room.
- Older Than They Look: He's the old man in the Japanese pagoda who shows up in the film's beginning and end.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: While most shady CEOs would simply brush off Cobb's demands for the particulars of the inception on a "need to know basis", Saito actually answers questions if he's convinced they're good ones, and makes a personal effort to help facilitate the heist and "protect his investments".
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Not the worst example of it, and it even contributes to a Crowning Moment of Funny. The other example is how he is getting the murder charges on Cobb erased.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Justified in that he's a corporate executive.
- The Team Benefactor: He is paying everyone.
- Took a Level in Badass: As the team goes deeper, he plays a more active role, even taking out some dream-mercenaries with a grenade.
Ariadne (Ellen Page)
Donít lose yourself. Find Saito. And bring him back.
- Audience Surrogate: Unlike most cases, though, she's able to pick up on things pretty quickly instead of asking questions all the time.
- Badass Bookworm: Comes with being an Architect.
- Brainy Brunette: See above.
- Corrupt the Cutie: Professor Miles even refers to Cobb as wanting to "corrupt" one of his best students. Cobb openly tells her the job is not legal, but he, Arthur, and Ariadne herself each admit that after tasting the power of dream architecture, she would never want to go back. She willingly joins The Team.
- Fascinating Eyebrow: Makes this when Cobb shows her a Reality Warper act for the first time in the dream.
- The Heart: Her status as this helps her to get closer to Dom and realize that he has issues that need resolving.
- I Just Want to Be Special: This is essentially what the dream world offers compared to reality and is what Cobb counts on for Ariadne to join the team.
- Longing for Fictionland: She can design much better pieces of architecture in a dream than she could in reality.
- Meaningful Name: With a name like that, of course you'd be making mazes.
- NaÔve Newcomer: Learns everything there is to know about dream-sharing technology over the course of the film.
- The Not-Love Interest: To Cobb.
- Ordinary High-School Student: She starts out as a normal, if talented, architecture student, before she was recruited by Cobb to participate in their mission.
- Reality Warper: Her first dream session with Cobb is all about learning to use her architecture skills to develop levels.
- The Smurfette Principle: You know in a team being the only girl? That's this trope.
- Took a Level in Badass: The mission was called a failure when Fisher was sent to limbo but she devised the plan to go find him and pull off the mission, Eames and Cobb didn't pick the extra limbo time but she's a fast learner. She also shoots Mal.
- The Watson: Being the newbie of the group, a lot of her lines involve her ask question about the dream mechanics.
Eames (Tom Hardy)
- Ambiguously Gay: Eames calls Arthur "darling" and flirts with Saito (as well as Fischer, although that one is a part of the job) in a girl's form.
- Badass: Proved himself to be the most skilled combatant of the team, and was the one who took out the most Mooks in the third dream level.
- The Big Guy: When the team encounters a problem, his solution is to pull out a grenade launcher.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Forging Scene: When he pulls out a grenade launcher in the More Dakka scene below.
- The Gambling Addict: Gambles a lot during his free time, and Cobb finds him in a gambling parlour.
- The Gadfly: His every interaction with Arthur is basically him trying to unnerve him. He also gets Saito nervous posing as a blonde women then pointing it out.
- Master of Disguise: After learning someone's mannerisms and using his dream skill of looking like another person.
- Meaningful Name: "Eames" is the last name of architects and designers Charles and Ray Eames.
- More Dakka: When Arthur was having some difficulty trying to shoot off the projections in the first dream level, he simply pulls out a grenade launcher and blew up the enemies in no time.
- New Job as the Plot Demands: He's somehow able to get a job placement in the Fisher company right within their head office to observe Browning. His justification? "References are sort of my specialty."
- One-Man Army: Puts down a snow fortress brigade by himself in the third dream level.
- Perma Stubble: Unlike Cobb's though, it's more to showcase his playful personality.
- Punch Clock Villain: Mentions going back to his family when the mission is declared a failure at first.
- Reality Warper: Only in the dream world, Eames is the "forger" in the team which may explains why he is the most competent member in the team during the execution of the mission. His forging ability allows him to pull out a grenade launcher out of nowhere in the first level, shapeshift in the second level and to a certain extent become a One-Man Army in the third level.
- Warrior Therapist: He works out most of Fisher's "problems" before and during the dream. He even sarcastically mentions that he should be getting paid more by Fisher than Saito for the job.
Yusuf (Dileep Rao)
Do you still dream, Mr. Cobb?
- Badass Driver: In the first layer, he has to continue driving the van and perform the kick while the projections are trying to kill them.
- Bollywood Nerd: A cool nerd, though, and one who can handle himself in the heat of action, which is key considering his dream is the top layer.
- Good Old Ways: His old-fashioned apothecary.
- Meaningful Name: Yusuf is the Arabic variant of Joseph (the one who famously interpreted Pharaoh's dreams in The Bible).
- Only in It for the Money: Took Cobb's pay as well as his own, so he didn't tell anyone about the risk of being killed and sent to limbo.
- Potty Emergency: His having to go before falling asleep results in the first dream layer having a drenching downpour.
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer
Malorie "Mal" Cobb (Marion Cotillard)
I'll tell you a riddle. You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. But it doesn't matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you?
- Anti-Villain: The projection of Mal only wants to have Cobb all to herself but sabotages every dream mission he does.
- Ax-Crazy: She's a dangerous lunatic who kills several people to get to Cobb.
- Big Bad: She's the main antagonist of the film who tries to sabotage all the dream jobs. This is eventually revealed to be much more complicated as she's an aspect of Cobb's guilt-ridden psyche, so he's essentially fighting his own angst.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Cobb performed inception on the real Mal so she could escape limbo but she ended up unable to tell dream from reality and wanted to kill herself to keep waking up.
- Brainy Brunette: Before her breakdown, Mal was the one who originally came up with the idea of totems, items that would stabilize a dreamer's sense of reality. Oh, the irony.
- Broken Bird: The real after waking up from limbo stopped believing in reality.
- Death Glare: Pfft, Marion's such a cute actress, she couldn't possibeeeeehhhh◊...
- Dissonant Serenity: When the dream is collapsing and everyone else is running around frantically, what does Mal do? She calmly walks through the destruction and is amused at how Dom gave Saito the wrong documents.
- Dream Apocalypse: Cobb eventually comes to terms with the fact that Mal is just a projection of his dead wife, which is simply not good enough. Mal flies into a rage in response and Cobb is forced to kill her, where she cries that she doesn't want to die but remain with him.
- Driven to Suicide: In her mind, she thought she would just wake up from a dream.
- Enemy Within: She's a part of Dom's own mind, a shade of his dead wife.
- Gone Horribly Right: Meet one of the first people to have ever been subject to inception. It doesn't end well.
- Implacable Woman: Absolutely relentless and nearly impossible to reason with. Even if you're a trained dream infiltrator, when she shows up it's time to panic.
- The Lost Lenore: To Cobb, who is still heartbroken after losing her to a suicide which he personally witnessed.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Her love for Cobb and her children drove her to frame him for murder so they could be together in the "real world", which she was convinced was one more layer above what Cobb thinks is the real one already. The Mal projection simply wants Cobb and her to be together forever and is willing to kill for it.
- Missing Mom: Her kids don't even understand why she is gone.
- The Missingno.: In every dream job she's there to sabotage it.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Mal" is a word in French, Spanish, Portuguese and other Romance languages, which can be used in different contexts to mean "bad", "evil", "hurt", "pain" or "sick".
- Older Than They Look: For the same reason as Dom.
- The Ophelia
- Posthumous Character: It's eventually revealed that Mal has been dead for years. The one Cobb and the team repeatedly encounter is a projection of Mal.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: She's the crazed projection of Cobb's now-deceased wife.
- Spanner in the Works: Quite a couple of times, Mal puts a dent in the plans.
- Thanatos Gambit: Mal commits suicide, but makes it look like Cobb murdered her so he'll be compelled to do it with her or lose custody of the children. Of course, like the many characters who kill themselves in dreams in this movie, she doesn't believe she's really dying.
- Tragic Villain: Mal really has no choice about being a psychotic, murderous, obsessed Femme Fatale. She just wants to be with Cobb forever, but the villainous Mal in Cobb's dreams isn't even his real wife, but a shade of the woman he can't bear to forget. The dead Mal herself was brainwashed by Cobb, but inadvertently became so obsessed with the notion of her world not being real that she killed herself and framed Cobb for it to force him to come with her out to the next dream layer (which did not exist). All out of love.
- Walking Spoiler: The trailers make it out that she's the Psycho Party Member of sorts, but given the spoilers, she's actually Cobb's wife who killed herself and continued to exist through Cobb's guilt, manifesting into something... unstoppable.
- Woman in Black: Often wears black dresses, and frequently shows up to ruin Cobb's missions.
- Yandere: She's so obsessed with getting Cobb back to her that she's willing to kill for it.
Prof. Stephen Miles (Michael Caine)
Come back to reality, Dom.
- The Mentor: He was this to Cobb.
- The Professor: A professor in Architecture who somehow knows about the dream mechanics, and was the one who taught Cobb everything he knows. He's also Ariadne's teacher.
Robert Michael Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy)
At the end, he called me to his deathbed. He could barely speak; but he took the trouble to tell me one last thing. He pulled me close... and I could only make out... one word: "Disappointed."
- Anti-Villain: Type IV. He's only a "villain" in so far as he's inheriting his father's legacy of creating a monopoly.
- Meaningful Name: Fischer's name may be a reference to the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King, whose kingdom physically changes to parallel his wounds and suffering; this is appropriate given that much of the film takes place within his troubled mental landscape. Also, "Robert Fischer" was the name of the famous chess player.
- Missing Mom: His mother died when he was only 11.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Justified for the same reason as Saito.
- The Sixth Ranger: Joins the inception crew in the third dream layer, under the impression that he's getting information on someone who was trying to extract from him.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Though he usually puts up the image of The Stoic, it's clear that he cares about other people and has an emotional side.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He yearns for his cold, dying father's affection and eventually receives it, but only in his subconscious.
Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite)
- Bigger Bad: While it's unknown how personally "bad" he is he's the one mainly responsible for creating a company that is about to corner the entire global energy market which is claimed to be a bad thing in Take Our Word for It fashion. However he dies early in the film.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Implied, though due to his very limited time on screen it's not confirmed.
- Jerkass: Towards his son at least.
- Small Role, Big Impact: He appears for less than five minutes but him building up a soon-to-be monopoly is what kicks off most of the plot.
- We Hardly Knew Ye
Nash (Lukas Haas)
Asshole! How did you mess up the carpet?
- Arthur to Nash
- Critical Research Failure: In-universe. Nash creates a dream replica of Saito's "love nest", but forgets details like what the carpet's made out of. This lets Saito know he's still in a dream.
- Dirty Coward: Sold out Cobb and Arthur to Saito.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Saito thinks so.
- Sacrificial Lamb: His leaving early gives way to Ariadne getting hired by Cobb.