Some of the characters' names are a bit on the nose (eg. Mal is French for bad), but put all their first names together and you get "DREAMS".
That only works if we conveniently add certain characters (Why Robert, other than the fact that it adds an R?) and if we forget other characters (Yusuf, and either Ariadne or Arthur, depending on who the A stands for).
Robert is a main character. And, the film hints, Arthur and Ariadne end up together. Going by the "Inception is a metaphor for filmmaking" below, it makes sense that Yusuf is the forgotten cameraman or special effects director. Especially apposite if you look at the way theLife of PiSFX folks were treated.
Try this one: if you include Fischer's godfather, Peter Browning, you can get D(ominic Cobb), R(obert Fischer), E(ames), A(rthur), M(al), S(aito), P(eter Browning), A(riadne), Y(usuf). Given the success of the movie, "DREAMS PAY."
Possibly Fridge Horror. We all know how Mal's time spent in Limbo and the sudden knowledge/remembrance that everything she knew and remembered was in fact a dream led to her believing everything in reality was also a dream. Cobb and her woke up by killing themselves, and in reality this event caused her suicide, as she was thinking that she would simply "wake up" again. Think about Saito. He spent just as long in Limbo, in fact, most likely longer due to how aged he looks, and he suddenly remembers due to Cobb's appearance that it is all a dream. How do Cobb and Saito wake up from this dream? By shooting themselves with the gun that was on the table, presumably. So now Saito has been trapped in Limbo for decades (as he perceives it), shocked with the knowledge that it is all a dream, and killed himself in the dream in order to wake up and return to reality. What happened to Mal after an identical series of events? She thought reality was also a dream, and killed herself again. Just to support this thinking, look at Saito's face in the last few frames he is present.
However, Mal was forced to take on the idea that the world wasn't real; Cobb had given her that in an inception, and, as he says, it grew to consume her, define her, control her and eventually destroy her. Saito had no such inception - while he may not be entirely balanced, he won't fall into the same depths of madness that Mal did.
Not to mention that Saito had the whole agreement-honoring pledge to anchor his perceptions; he just needed to be reminded of it.
A bit of Fridge Horror kicked in after rewatching that scene. Cobb tries to give the "world you live in is not real" line to Saito. He almost implanted the same thought that killed Mal. Fortunately, Saito focused on the "promise" for the phone call, not the "reality is not real" thought. Cobb ran with it. What's the first thing Saito does upon waking up? Pull out his phone. Cobb pulled off not one, but two inceptions. Horror, meet brilliance.
Simply saying the line is not an inception, for the same reason that they can't simply tell Fisher to break up his father's empire: the mind can always trace the genesis of the idea. Saito listens to him because he remembers Cobb from the real world, and makes the decision that Limbo isn't the real world himself, so there was no danger of him developing the same obsession the way Mal had.
Fischer has such a blase attitude when he gets kidnapped. Most people when they get kidnapped would be horrified, frightened and desperate. But Fischer blows off the kidnappers easily, calmly offering his money and not caring about what happens. This makes sense if he's been kidnapped before in order to threaten his father. Which begs the question, how often has he been kidnapped before? How many times must a person be kidnapped before they get this blase about it? How young was Fischer when he was first kidnapped? Fridge Horror is clearly in play here.
Possibly he didn't actually think he was being kidnapped in the first few seconds, he thought he was being robbed. That's why he held out his wallet, expecting they'd grab it (and "Mr. Charles's" too perhaps) and leave.
He's had training in how to deal with dream invaders, it's very likely that he's had extensive training in "how to behave when you are kidnapped" in real life as well.
Someone asked me about the end: Specifically, why Fischer doesn't just wake up when he's supposed to, think "Oh well, was just a dream" and maintains the family business. Soon afterwards I realized why: near the end of the inception, Fischer walks into the guarded room. You know that it worked because of what was in there - perhaps Ariadne could've built the bed and the safe, etc. etc. but she could not control projections, and Eames said he'd like to know what was in there earlier, thus he was not forging Maurice Fischer. So Maurice being in the room, what Maurice said, and possibly even the toy in the safe meant that they were successful.
One scene, Ariadne tries to tell Cobb about "making the room a hospital, to symbolize Fischer's father." There is no hospital except the one in the vault. She designed the vault and the hospital inside it (very quickly, it seems since it looked like a Holodeck from Star Trek). Everything else was projected in there.**
At first I was bothered by the fact that the dreams in the movie weren't particularly dreamlike or surreal but just seemed like generic action movie sequences. Then I realised this is because Christopher Nolan is an action movie director and so of course he would dream in perfectly logical, choreographed action set-pieces.
Or that, y'know, people don't always have crazy, surreal dreams. Also, saying the guy can't direct his own screenplay? That's cold.
For what it's worth, my dreams usually have plots. Granted, they don't have a beginning and they're prone to Genre Shifts, Shymalonian twists and the like, but they actually are pretty linear.
It's the same for HarfynnTeuport - I only have/remember about two or three dreams a year, and they're always exceptionally intricately plotted, play like an action movie and have a Gainax Ending shortly before the death of the protagonist. Watching Inception was an eerily cathartic experience.
I believe that the dreams that the team visits in the movie are designed to be as realistic as possible because then they know that real world physics apply. They wouldn't be able to plant an idea in someone if they were dreaming about pink flying elephants in the diamond ruby sky (or whatever), because they wouldn't know how things in the dream work.
It's not even as complicated as some of the explanations listed above. It's mentioned that the technology used to enter dreams was created for training soldiers, so that they could "shoot, stab, and kill each other and then wake up fine". The dreams are not bizarre, otherworldly aberrations because the technology is designed in order to constrain the dreamer into a lifelike situation, hence giving soldiers a perfectly realistic training simulation and other civilian dreamers a perfectly realistic dreamworld.
To add to that, the fact that they even have such a thing as architects to design layouts for the dreams means the technology does somehow constrains the dreams to certain constants.
Note that the main page notes how the subtle use of action movie tropes is justified since these are dreams. Now think about it: those tropes such as Bottomless Magazines and the likes were made to make action sequences better and immerse you in them with Suspension of Disbelief. That's exactly what dreams do.
What? not satisfied with Ariadne's world exploding like fireworks? Besides, it's not like realistic dreams are uncommon. I once had a dream where a video game I was excited for finally came out. I only realize it was a dream once I find out said franchise doesn't even exist.
Actually, even realistic dreams are really strange, but somehow you don't notice until you wake up. the brain can't monitor every single object in a scene, so it makes things up as he goes, and you only focus on the important parts anyways. But to show this in the movie, Nolan would have had to make all the backgrounds and unimport scenery wonky and changeable, which would immediately tell us that it's a dream. That's where the fridge brilliance comes in: Nolan made the dreams unrealistically realistic, in order to make us part of the whole thing. That way, like a dreamer, we would never really be able to tell dream from reality, until we looked back on it and think "that doesn't make sense". (What he could have done to make it even more interesting would be to move/change objects in the background of scenes during camera transitions of dream sequences.)
This does happen with the Ariadne experimental Paris dream. (The flipped over city disappears, for example, and the various bridges and pathways Ariadne manipulates always have location changes during the cuts.)
This is somewhat addressed by Cobb during Ariadne's little "Paris" experiment; because they are shaping someone else's dream, they must convince them that the dream is real, otherwise the projections would zero-in on the interloper. Ariadne tried to make a surreal enviroment, which inadvertently caught the attention of the projections. It's just easier to convince people that they're in reality when you use a realistic enviroment.
At the end of the movie, Cobb's totem starts to wobble. This could either mean he is in the real world, or he has come to accept his dream world as his reality.
The final shot cuts away just as the top is about to fall— the viewer gets to be the judge as to whether it does or not, and thus whether he's still dreaming or not. Also, the camera lingers on the top for quite a while, building up whether it was going to fall or not— and then we never get to find out. It's a big mental douse of cold water, aka our kick, what takes the audience from the dream world of the film into reality.
The ending can also be thought of in a different light of brilliance: Upon seeing the ending with the top still spinning, the audience's initial thought impulse is whether it's still a dream or not. However, they do not think that the most important thing is that Cobb, upon seeing his kids' faces, realized it doesn't matter if the top stops spinning or not — something which he has been obsessive about since the beginning of the film. Him walking away without looking back to check the result is his way of saying it doesn't matter if it's a dream or not; his kids are there and he's happy, and in the end, that's what matters, in this realm of reality or the next. A better ending than any twist.
Chris Nolan actually confirmed this.
It does not even matter if Cobb's totem falls or not. Because he no longer uses his own totem he will NEVER be able to truly tell if he's in the dream state or not — he can't be sure what it feels like to spin the top except at the state we see most of the movie. And we never see him use his old one to be truly certain.
No, it doesn't matter, but not for that reason: if he is in the real world, then obviously the behavior of the top is irrelevant, since it will behave according to real world physics and fall down like any top rather than symbolically fall down when certain mental events take place inside his head. So the whole thing is, intentionally or not, a moot point that doesn't prove anything one way or another even if the top is about to fall. Of course, even that is moot if you interpret the moment as purely symbolic....
It doesn't matter for yet another reason- Assuming that the entire movie is not a dream, then regardless of whether or not Cobb is in a dream in his final scene, he'll still be waking up in the real world on the airplane eventually. The only thing that's really at stake for him is his mental state when he finally does awake on the plane. Alternatively, if the entire movie is a dream then it doesn't matter how long Cobb spends in any one level, since none of it is real to begin with.
Whoever hosts the dream world can not go deeper than said dream world, and thus makes them the ideal candidate to initiate the kick for anyone one level further down: Yusuf hosts the van level (his failure to go to the bathroom makes it rain inside this level), Arthur hosts the hotel level (allowing him to use his favored paradox staircase trick), Eames hosts the snow level.
I want to combine this with a previous idea. If whoever hosts the dream cannot go deeper and the movie could be a dream, who is hosting it? It can't be Cobb, because he goes deeper. It can't be the audience, we go deeper as well. Missed brilliance?
Michael Caine? It did say that he also had experience with this kind of thing. Maybe we're all just figments of Michael Caine's imagination.
That can't be completely right though. Mal and Cobb both went deeper and deeper when they were experimenting with only the two of them. If the dreamer can't go below their own dream than they never could have gotten past the first level together let alone all the way down to limbo.
Which is why I proposed the theory that a host can go into deeper dream levels, but can't host another dream (because that could create a recursive dream loop). It can be done, it's just... dangerous.
You don't need to maintain multiple layers of dreams in order to reach limbo. Dying at any level sends you there.
That's just under heavy sedation though.
Limbo is not some arbitrary number of levels down. Limbo is just a dream state in which no one person is the dream host. Think of it like a multiplayer video game. There has to be one server "hosting" the game, making sure each player/entity is in a set place. Without that, everything gets all muddled and confusing... like Limbo.
The dream hosts for each level remain at that level to initiate the kick, due to the overly precise timing required to return to the top level as quickly as possible. When Mal and Cobb were experimenting, they didn't need any such kick as they were only riding out the natural length of the dream.
If the level below the van level hadn't been a hotel interior (but instead, for instance, the open-air snow level), the different orientations of gravity would have sent the characters into the sky.
Also, Ariadne knew that they'd drop the van off the bridge to serve as a kick. So she deliberately designed the second level of the dreamworld to be an enclosed environment.
Oh, brilliant! I never thought of the enclosed environment thing!
A few seconds before the end of the credits, "Non, je ne regrette rien" begins to play, whimsically suggesting that the entire film was a dream from which the audience was intended to awaken.
The entire Inception theme heavily samples the song in slow motion. So, basically, it's always playing.
Cobb explains that you can tell if a dream is happening because it starts in the middle of everything. The movie starts In Medias Res, and there is no opening title\credits, aside from the studio logos.
What's more, almost every single scene begins In Medias Res, with no establishing shots or preamble. We don't see how the characters get from place to place, they just are. And even though this is fairly typical of films, Inception draws our attention to it as part of its allegory of film=dream.
The movie has successfully incepted in its audience the idea that it might have been All Just a Dream by the end. As described in the movie, you can't shake the idea, and while some people might think they're being really clever by exposing that theory, in reality it's not their own idea: the movie purposefully set out to give it to them.
The title itself is pretty clever once you think about it: "Inception" is a word that means "Beginning" and once an idea - any idea - is Incepted into a person's mind by that one beginning, it will continue to grow, since the whole implication of a beginning hints at forward movement, which is why the Inception is usually so dangerous since it (the idea incepted) becomes the whole of that person's world - essentially, it is their beginning.
The protagonists can't get too fancy in-dream or else they risk the subconscious rebelling against them. The bad news? No blatant violation of physics. The good news? The Coconut Effect and Suspension of Disbelief means action movie tropes of all kinds are free game.
Early on Cobb immediately vetos the idea of making Fisher break up the company out of spite because, he claims, it's easier to make the mind accept a positive idea because people long for catharsis. Easy enough to accept at face value, but once we finally learn his whole story there's another good reason for him to write the idea off; he knows better than anyone just how badly implanting a negative idea can go wrong and wants to make sure that if the implanted idea keeps growing in Fisher's mind it'll be something that bolsters him instead of setting off an avalanche of daddy issues.
Also Cobb mentions that "We all yearn for Catharsis". Guess what he does in Limbo?
After watching the movie (and enjoying it thoroughly) this troper had a conversation with their friends about how the entire movie can be traced to being a metaphor for film-making. Cobb is the director; Arthur is the producer who does research; Saito is the producer with the money; Ariadne is the screenwriter and set designer; Eames is the actor; Yusuf is the cameraman, or special effects director who lures us into the movie; the projections are the audience who can either turn against the movie or endorse it; Fischer serves as the movie theater or projected audience. The parallels are astounding.
Cobb says that the mind accepts a positive, cathartic thought over a negative one. What sells best? A cathartic Happy Ending kind of movie.
Ironic, considering how the movie ends.
Wired magazine actually had an article examining the movie from this point of view.
Saito is the moneyman who wants to be involved with the film, but due to his Executive Meddling the film's production has to be rushed, and only due to some last-minute vast creative changes does the film actually come together.
In the movie, Ariadne is "The Architect", the person who builds and navigates the paradoxical puzzle of the dreamscape. In Greek Mythology, Ariadne (creator of Ariadne's String) was a Grecian Princess who could navigate the un-plotable, un-navigatable maze of Daedalus' Labyrinth, as could aforementioned string, leading the Greek Hero Theseus out of the Labyrinth. Unlike her mythological counterpart, the movie Ariadne is not dumped on an island after her usefulness runs out.
Cobb is a man haunted, asleep and awake, by his regrets; in his dreams, he's built a multi-story building to contain them all. And his signature tune is Edith Piaf singing "I Regret Nothing".
Marion Cotillard played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose
Most people have already figured out that when the Edith Piaf song (used to alert dreamers their time is almost up) is slowed down, it sounds exactly like the main musical motif of the film. Here's the kicker: when the dreamers hear this music, it is severely slowed down since the dreamer experiences time differently. The "Inception" tune that we hear is exactly what the dreamers hear when they are about to wake up.
Near the end of the film, the team rides up the kicks to get to the first level. Cobb said that since the plane flight was 10 hours, they would stay in the first level for a week and that they would not be able to last a week against Fischer's subconscious. And yet, it isn't explained how they get back to the plane. Given, since they have already performed the Inception, and changed Fischer's mind, that might explain why they're not all in Limbo, but then what do they do with all that time?
It's possible that they had arranged a further "kick" to bring them out—since it was a sensation of falling, it could have been something as simple as the pilot pushing down hard on the stick for a second. Although how they'd arrange the timing of that to match when they needed to come out is a whole different question...
Possibly the flight attendant was monitoring their vital signs throughout the mission, and was under orders to unhook them from the equipment once everyone's heart rates and brainwaves indicated they'd calmed down after the completion of their objective. Cobb and Fischer didn't wake up until the flight ended because both men were just plain exhausted from the dream's intensity, and badly needed some non-dreaming sleep.
The dreamworlds are set up to look like real world locations, and are grounded in reality. This makes sense, though, because a dreamworld based in reality would thus have projections who would have real-world weapons and equipment. Setting the dreamworlds in a real place with real-world physics limits the abilities of the projections and ths renders them controllable and predictable.
Robert Fischer's father might be more on the level than we're lead to believe. We're told the name of the company is Fischer Morrow, but Maurice Fischer's business partner's name is Browning. So the name of the company makes no sense, until you remember that the the elder Fischer's name is Maurice and the younger Fischer's name is Robert. (Of course, the only time the film tells us the name of the company is when Eames is impersonating Browning, so this might just be another part of the inception plan.) Saito calls Fischer "heir to the Fischer Morrow energy conglomerate" when explaining the job in greater detail, so it's certainly possible.
Robert might not mistrust Browning. The message he got was not "Browning was keeping your father's desire for you to be your own man from you", but "Dad wanted you to be your own man". When he wakes up on Lvl 1, he immediately starts talking about a deeply personal topic with him. That Robert thinks the whole thing was just a dream during near-death experience, and Browning was kidnapped along with him, so when he wakes up for real, all he really remembers is the idea to break up the company.
He definitely does mistrust Browning—it was his projection of Browning that admitted he was working with the kidnappers—but it's buried so deeply within his sub-conscience that he doesn't realize it when he wakes up.
Arthur and Eames are hyper-badass in the hotel and snow levels, respectively. Of course, they're fairly badass already, but they take it almost Up to Eleven in those levels. And then it hit me: Eames and Arthur are the dreamers for their levels, allowing them to bend reality around them. No wonder they're so effective; they're not architect-level Reality Warpers, but they're still able to twist the rules of the dream around to help them take down the projections in subtle but significant ways.
The same is true for chemist-nerd Yusuf in his level.
Your totem tells you whether or not you're in someone else's dream. If the question is, "is it all Dom's dream?", then it's irrelevant whether the top falls at the end.
Why did Dom's inception of Mal work so well? Because he touched her totem to do it, which meant that even if they woke up, she could never be sure.
It can also be attributed to the fact that he left the Mal's dream totem spinning in the safe of her mind, so she would be willing to wake up from limbo. However, Mal's totem never stopped spinning after they woke up, which caused her continual doubt of reality that led to her death.
The first time I saw the movie, I was a little disappointed at how Ariadne's character wasn't very well-defined. But, you know, the movie was great and I could get over it. Then, I went and saw it again, a few weeks later, and it hit me (along with a lot of other subtle things). It's all a dream, and it's deliberate. The only well-defined characters are the ones that Cobb knew from before he and Mal got stuck in limbo. It's established that he's known Arthur for awhile—Arthur has met Mal—and is likewise associated with Eames. It sounds like Arthur and Cobb both knew Eames from working with him awhile back, together, and Arthur is the one who knows that Eames is in Mombasa off the top of his head. Likewise, Cobb's father and Mal are well-defined, because he obviously knew them from before. Though, actually, if you think about it, the father's reactions seem a little too perfect and expected. Other characters like Ariadne, Yusuf, and Saito aren't nearly so well defined. We don't get a hint of their backstories. Ariadne acts almost more like a plot device than a character: her motivations and personality, such as her compassion for Cobb and wanting to keep her mind safe and know what she's getting into aren't stressed as much as they normally would be in a movie, leaving her more defined by how she affects Cobb. Yusuf is vaguely a cheery guy (who, ironically, has a day job running a business for people to go and dream to "wake up") who happens to be able to make just the drug they need. As for Saito, we know that he wants to dissolve Fischer's company, but we don't really know why, and he has a bullet in his chest most of the movie. There's all so undefined compared to the people Cobb already knew because they're projections! The other characters are, of course, also all projections, but Cobb has real people to base them on, so they have more depth and personality. Ariadne, Yusuf, and Saito are literally somewhat blatant plot-device characters.
And given the underlying metaphor, they're shallow because they don't really exist. Either because they're projections, or just characters in a film, which amount to the same thing. — Jonn
To be frank, this sounds to me like you're trying to squeeze things to fit into the preconceived theory. What exactly makes Arthur, Eames, or Cobb's father-in-law "more defined" other than the vague backstory that they all somehow or other knew Cobb from before the film? We could just as easily tweak Yusuf's introduction around and have Cobb go "hey, I know this kickass chemist named Yusuf who could be useful to us," and that'd be pretty much the same thing as "oh hey, Eames is in Mombasa, and we need to go find him." And as for Saito, we do know what his motivation is; he's trying to prevent Fischer's mega-corp from monopolizing the world's energy supply, since even his own company is apparently powerless to compete. And then there's Robert Fischer himself. Cobb apparently never head of the guy until Saito approached him, yet he might very well be one of the characters we know most about in the entire film, second only to Cobb and Mal.
For some reason, Limbo has no projections in it. However, think about how people get into Limbo: dying in a dream, but too drugged to wake up. In a normal dream, the architect creates the environment, and the main dreamer's subconscious fills it with projections. When people go into Limbo, they enter a dream state where they're the architect, but there's no main dreamer; therefore, no subconscious to create projections.
Sorry, but this does not explain Saito's guards at the beginning and near the end. It could be they simply manifested in Limbo, but at the same time that would fall under projecting.
This would mean instead of being projections, the guards are essentially "architecture," built up by Saito.
Saito is a business executive, used to having subordinates. No surprise that he would build some.
More directly, Limbo does have projections, but only ones that are consciously produced. The lack of a main dreamer prevents them from spontaneously generating.
Saito seems to be a bit too trustful of Cobb, a man who was penetrating his subconscious to steal something from him, and Arthur's forgetfulness of Fischer having been trained against extractors sounds fishy... unless it's all a ruse to force him to face the guilt he feels about Mal.
The relationship between Ariadne and Cobb is like a zillion other movies in which a young talent is recruited by a more experienced mentor, learns from them, realizes their shady intentions, then eventually must surpass them. Only this time, we're seeing it from the mentor's side! Which means, if this story were being told from the usual viewpoint, we'd see that Cobb was always the villain of the movie, and Ariadne is the hero. Everything Cobb does, up until the very end, is done for selfish motives and endangers everyone around him. Whereas Ariadne selflessly goes along with the team to ensure their safety, and eventually saves them all (by realizing they can go deeper after Fischer is shot). Going back to the mentor/student relationship, you realize Cobb & Ariadne are a perfect mirror for Bruce Wayne and Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins.
Also, Ariadne is a competent, self-reliant, non-love-interest female character in a sci-fi film. How rare is that!?
Cobb and Saito seem to form a strong bond throughout the film, and it’s never clearly stated where that bond comes from. Saito seems very interested in Cobb’s emotional problems, and Cobb doesn’t seem surprised by this. This troper had to see the movie four times before she finally realized why they have this bond. It starts right at the beginning, when Cobb and Arthur infiltrate Saito’s dreams, and Mal interferes. Saito spoke with Mal. We’re never told if it was Mal who informed Saito that he was dreaming, or if he’d known all along; but, we can bet that Mal told Saito some other things about Cobb. How did Saito know about Cobb’s situation, being separated from his children? Mal’s shade told him. When Saito asked Cobb to "take a leap of faith," repeating the words Mal once said in life, that was his way of telling Cobb that he had spoken with Mal. This is why Cobb never asks Saito how he knows so much about him.
If this is the implication, then that in turn implies something about Cobb (as Mal’s shade is, after all, part of Cobb’s subconsiousness). Though Cobb doesn’t like to talk about Mal’s death, he secretly wished he could tell someone. Mal shows up during the mission, bringing back painful memories. Minutes later she vanishes, and reappears later with Saito. Her appearance that time brought up Cobb’s urge to let someone else know of his problems. The second he subconsciously wished that, she vanished from his sight, and was off to tell Saito.
In the end, everyone gets what they deserve. Eames, Arthur and Yusuf get the job done and, presumably get their money. Ariadne gets her faith in Cobb renewed. Cobb gets his children back. Fischer, an innocent, gets a new, positive outlook on his life. And Saito, whose motive was greed the whole time, gets decades in limbo to atone for it.
So, Saito was motivated by greed, and Cobb's team by what? The goodness of their hearts?
Saito populated his part of Limbo with an army of loyal subjects and a freaking palace. He basically got to live out a lifetime as a king when he was there, he just forgot about the outside world until Cobb reminded him.
This troper never quite understood why Saito would change his mind and decide to go with Cobb's team for an inception. After all, Saito had plainly said, "Your deception was obvious. You have lived up to your reputation Mr. Cobb." And then Nash and Cobb lay it on him that they aren't in Saito's dream, when they are in fact in Nash's dream. For some reason this had a profound effect on Saito's opinion, and I didn't understand why. It wasn't until later that I realized exactly what that meant. Because Nash was the dreamer, the projections were going to attack him, not Saito. The extraction team was putting themselves in danger, not Saito. Any other extraction team would have put the target as the dreamer to make things easier. That's why Saito was so impressed.
I'm kind of confused. If Nash was the dreamer, then wouldn't those be Nash's projections? And therefore they would attack anyone who's not Nash? At any rate, Saito never said "Your deception was obvious" and "you have lived up to your reputation, Mr. Cobb" in a single line. He said the "reputation" line only after discovering they were still dreaming. He was impressed with the whole dream-within-a-dream thing they pulled and how they almost fooled him into believing they were in the real world.
Nash was the architect who screwed up the carpet, not the subject, whose projections would fill the dream.
Lots of comparisons have been made between the concept of making dreams and of making movies. However, while thinking about how an inception video game might play out, it occurred to me that The dream levels are a lot like video game levels. They are limited in size, but designed to feel larger, and or like part of a larger world, often have their own slightly strange rules. Inception's dreams are more like a story FPS (perhaps, or something like Left 4 dead), full of a bunch of spawned, somewhat mindless creatures, attempting to kill the "main characters" entering the world.
Plus, dying in the dream and waking in reality creates the perfect in-universe justification for respawning. I really want this to happen.
Isn't that basically how the animus works in Assassin's Creed?
It bugged me that, despite being militarized, Fischer's projections were all graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. In fact, the unarmed Zerg Rushes of other people's untrained projections were far more effective. Then I realized that Fischer is just the CEO of some corporation. His subconscious can't hit the broad side of a barn because he doesn't have any weapons training.
He also may not be a naturally-aggressive person, despite his attempts to play out his father's role as a ruthless corporate tycoon. This would account for his assuming his dad was disappointed in him, as well as his subconscious projections' poor marksmanship.
It's also worth noting that trying the drugging agent in Yusuf's basement is the last time we see Cobb try the totem and not see if it worked because it fell off the counter and Saito walked in. If the whole thing really is a dream, it's most likely that Cobb is dreaming in Yusuf's basement.
Which ties into an above point, where someone puts out the possibility that all of the movie is part of a ruse to get Cobb to face up to Mal. They would bring him to Yusuf to get him to face up, meaning that quite possibly, none of the final act happened...which brings on Fridge Horror when you realize that, should Cobb be in Yusuf's basement, he might eventually wake up at some point, only to realize he never did get to see his kids again.
Arthur and Ariadne's totems are very similar - both are game pieces (die/chess piece) that work as totems because they are weighted differently (Arthur's die is loaded/Ariadne's chess piece is hollowed out). Why so similar? Could it be foreshadowing their kiss/potential relationship?
Or because Arthur is the one who explained what a totem was to Ariadne, so she would naturally pattern hers after his.
I was bothered by the scene where the gang plus Saito are in the dream level planning how to incept Robert Fischer, because I kept wondering why they couldn't just have their meeting in the real world. Then I realised that a busy CEO like Saito wouldn't have had the time to attend their meetings in the real world, whereas they have amples of time in the dream level!
The music that plays during the climax of the is actually a note for note reproduction of a slowed down "Je ne Regrette Rien", the song they use to warn dreamers that they're about to be kicked. If that wasn't fridgey enough, it plays at the same time "Je ne Regrette Rien" would be playing two layers above Dom, who's in a significantly faster time frame than the song.
When first watching the movie, I thought it was very convenient that Mal's father happened to a professor of architecture. Then I realized that probably why she was such a good architect, because she already had a family background in building design.
Not to mention Cobb was one of his students, which is (presumably) how he met Mal, and definitely how he got into shared dreaming, which directly led to everything else. In essence, if Mal's father hadn't been who he was, nothing in the movie ever would have happened.
A running joke of Eames' during the film is that Arthur has "no imagination," but during their mission, Arthur managed to come up with one of the most inventive ideas to defy the loss of gravity.
Not necessarily that inventive, as his options were limited by the materials available in the hotel.
A bit of fridge brilliance: some people have accused Mal of not being well-developed. But the thing is, she's supposed to be that way, because she's just Dom's projection of her, which he said wasn't as complex as a real person.
The inverse is that there are others who consider her the most complex of all the characters, which goes to show just how frighteningly real a dream and the projections in it can seem, making it easy to mistake it for reality.
In the first "collapsing dream" scene, right before water floods everything, the place feels strangely empty. Have all the hostile projections been killed by falling debris? No. They disappeared from that dream when Saito woke up.
Mal's totem had a special property (keep spinning) which can only be noticed in a DREAM. Arthur and Ariadne's totem had special properties (weighted/hollowed out) which can only be noticed in REALITY.
In several scenes, Cobb uses Mal's top, but doesn't check it. Why? because it was never his totem. in that case, what was? think about it, what was his driving motivation throughout the series? "i just want to get back to my children, that's the only thing that matters". His totem was his children's faces. whenever the real world vs. the dream world is called into question, what shows up? The projections of his children; but because no-one else knows what their faces look like, he never sees them.
Why Saito is still sane in Limbo? Because he's a respected Japanese man, and he has a promise to keep. Honor and keeping a promise are very important for such a person. A Japanese man keeps his promises- that's why you don't need a guarantee in Japan. Because of this, Saito enters Limbo with a though that stabilize his mind: "I died in a dream, I'm deeper in this dream, but when I wake up I have to fulfil a promise." He was also prepared for this by his earlier conversation with Cobb.
Going off of the theory about Inception being a metaphor for film-making, a lot of Dom's conversations with Ariadne take on a whole new meaning, when you consider that she's essentially his screenwriter. Nearly everything that Dom tells her about designing dreams can basically be translated to a piece of advice about writing.
The scene where she learns about paradoxical structures is really about Willing Suspension of Disbelief in storytelling. She learns that some inherently impossible things are possible in dreams because the laws of physics can be bent (though not blatantly broken) in dreams when it suits the architect's purposes.
The scene where Dom advises her on using her own memories and experiences to build dreams is about Write What You Know, and its limitations. Dom chastises her for modeling an entire section of the city landscape on the route that she takes to school, telling her that it's always a mistake to try to recreate entire locations from your own memories in dreams—just like it's a mistake to try to recreate whole occurrences from your own life in your fiction, even though you have to use your own experiences as a starting point.
The scene where Dom cautions her against abusing her reality-warping powers (since it attracts the attention of the subconscious) is about continuity in plots and world-building. In theory, every writer has completely omniscient power over the worlds that he creates—but audiences won't accept stories set in that world if the writer doesn't consistently follow his own rules and make conclusions that follow logically from established plot points.
The scene where she encounters Dom's projection of Mal for the first time is about her discovering the role that one's personal demons can play in one's art. After Dom tells her never to build dreams entirely from memories, Dom admits that Mal is always influencing his dreams in some way—just like writers' stories are often influenced by their most painful memories, whether or not they want to be influenced by them.
In the scene where Dom tests her by asking her to draw a maze (stipulating that it must take the average person more than two minutes to solve), he's essentially testing her ability to tell a story without making its ending and twists immediately obvious. After all, no one's going to buy a book (or watch a movie) if they can immediately guess how its story is going to end.
"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?"—The answer that Mal produces is "Because we'll be together" (they'll be together wherever the train takes them). A more conventional answer might be because it's a train of thought.
The entire inception process, if you work out the time dilation, took place in a fraction of a second of real time, Fisher's life was literally changed in an instant. (I've heard that expression a few times, but in this case, it actually applies.)
If you ascribe to the theory that Inception is about filmmaking, and the projections/marks are the audience, then Cobb's Mr. Charles gambit is Lampshading. Arthur disapproves because he calls attention to the fact that it's a dream, especially strange or incongruent aspects of the dream, and on This Very Wiki the definition of Lampshade Hanging is to call attention to something that threatens Willing Suspension of Disbelief, rather than trying to hide it. The purpose is to get the mark to trust Cobb - and really, isn't one of the best ways to make a moment in a film seem more meaningful to play up something obviously camp or silly in contrast first?
Saito is worried that Fischer's company will become a global energy monopoly that no one can compete against. He is rich and powerful enough to take care of Dom's murder charges with a single call, and to buy an airline off-hand. If someone like that is worried about someone else getting too much power...
Combine this with the first entry, and it leads you to wonder what would happen to the world if both major power companies were dissolved almost simultaneously. But would that be a good thing or a bad thing ...or both?
There has been a lot going on about the ending and whether it was real or not. If it was a dream, it would necessitate Cobb being drugged up for an extended period of time. The Big Lipped Alligator Moment with all the dreamers in Yusuf's basement seems more like a Foreshadowing in light of that.
A similar Fridge Horror to the above: While the "real life" ending is perceived as the good ending, it's actually the worst if you think about it: Cobb has been on mental anguish for a good number of years, his children will never know what happened to their mother and lost their father for that period of time (or worse, if they did learn about what their mother's fate), Fischer is going to live a life based on a lie, Nash is presumably dead, and Saito, a man who bought an entire Airliner company as well as clear Cobbs of murder charges now has free reign over the financial world. If Mal was right, Cobb would eventually wake up in the end and think it was all just a bad nightmare. All those people would at least still presumably be alive, his wife and children wouldn't have suffered through all of that, and he'd probably forget it within 12 hours.
After realizing Mal was Cobb's projection, this troper was somewhat troubled by the fact that Mal shot Arthur in the knee...
Cobb's projection of Mal does whatever she can to sabotage Cobb, tearing up his schemes and jobs and causing pain to everyone around him, an expression of his self-loathing. She shot Arthur because it was exactly what Cobb didn't want her to do.
This troper's interpretation of Mal is that she was what Cobb imagined Mal would be like, if she were still alive. Any projection could be his self-loathing; she was different. She didn't hate him because he hated himself, she hated him because he thought she would blame him for her death. Which means that he imagined that she would want to torture Arthur, for whatever reason.
I interpret her as his subconscious guilt over "murdering" Mal by making her believe the world isn't real, and that she comes in the shape of a murderous, crazed, obsessive shade of his wife that upsets all his plans in shared-dreaming and urges him to fall back into Limbo/die because subconsciously, he believes that's what he deserves and that's what he should have done, so they could be together. She's very little like the real Mal because she's an expression of a single regret/desire felt by Cobb and thus one-dimensional (pretty much only repeats his own words back at him, violent and cruel, can't be reasoned with, focuses on Cobb and only Cobb unless injuring someone else will make things worse for him, only brings up their children as a carrot to dangle over him, etcetera). But she's all he has left of her, so he preserves her just to assure himself that as long as she's in his dreams she didn't really die - and thus prolongs his punishment at her/his own hands with his denial. Anyway, she shot Arthur to get at Cobb, knowing seeing Arthur in pain would hurt Cobb too and screw up his plan. Cobb's pretty messed up, but his subconscious hates him, not Arthur or Ariadne or Fischer. They get hurt by her if it hurts Cobb, too, that's all.
Some people have said that Mal might've been right, and Cobb is really still dreaming. Which begs the question; why wouldn't she come back, or give him the kick to wake him up? The answer? She wouldn't. She'd just keep killing herself, even when she reached the top, unable to distinguish between the dream and reality.
Why would she come back at all? If she got kicked out of the dream, it'd be what? A few hours before Cobb woke up? You are only in a dream for a long time, because of the time distortion of dreams within dreams. In the real world she could get breakfast, send her kids to school, get groceries, and come back to say, "I told you so." It might still be a dream, but Mal is definitely not the real part.
Unless all that was just a dream too. Alternately, I'd be trying to get my best beloved out as fast as possible. You don't want your husband spending what might be years without you, thinking you're dead.
After the first shared dream experience Ariadne angrily leaves with no intention to return. However, Dom tells Arthur: "She'll be back. Reality won't be enough for her now". They are deliberately hooking this young girl on a drug, knowing she won't have other choice but to return to them for another dose!
"They come here to wake up. For them the dream has become reality. Who are you to say otherwise?" At first glance it seems that Ariadne just whisked Dom out of limbo but given what the old man said, Ariadne and Dom and Saito were lucky to get out of limbo.
Paranoia Fuel: An underground network of thieves going around stealing ideas from your head? In you dreams? Everyone's worried about their "million-dollar ideas" getting stolen from them, and who's to say it hasn't happened like this? Think about it - sure, that one dream was weird, but you really have to put time and effort to train yourself to remember those dreams. And if it was All Just a Dream, it makes the perfect cover to steal an idea. And then there's the eponymous inception. Difficult, for sure, but the guys can fundamentally give you any idea they want you to have. Imagine this process being done by the government. What's more, the right idea in the right mind can fundamentally screw up that person forever, turning them into an idealist at best, and a fully-fledged psychopath at worst. They could come any time, any moment. Dozed off? Slipped into a daydream? It might have been them. Sweet dreams!
Cobb's success in his inception mission doesn't just mean a fat paycheck and a tearful reunion — it also means that he's definitively proved that inception (read: undetectable brainwashing) is possible, and that it can be done by anyone with access to dream-sharing technology. How do you think the rest of the world's dream-thieves are going to take this revelation? Cobb and Saito may have had good intentions in incepting Fischer, but can everyone in the criminal underworld be expected to use inception responsibly?
Which was done by the best of the best in their field and even then, they almost didn't succeed. The amount of time and effort they put in and the resources needed (buying an airline to access their mark) is probably beyond your average dream thieves. It's unlikely that they will reveal that inception is possible or how they did it. Cobb is done with extracting, Adriane actually has a conscience, Arthur seems like a decent enough guy, same with Eames, and Saito has no reason reveal that inception is possible or else it may reveal he did it to a business rival.
While most dream thieves probably wouldn't have the resources necessary to pull off anything on the scale of the Fischer Job, the U.S. government definitely would (remember, dream-sharing was developed by the military). Let's hope Uncle Sam won't be tempted to abuse inception...
When Arthur discusses the origins of dream-sharing with Ariadne, one of the few concrete details we get is that it was originally developed by the military for training exercises. How else do you think the military might have used dream-sharing technology — which makes it possible to effortlessly steal information from targets' minds? Now that Dom has proved that inception is possible, what kind of havoc could the military wreak if they used it against America's enemies abroad?
Another idea that the team probably accidentally incepts on Robert is the distrust of Browning. It's clear from the getgo that he trusts him completely, and considers him family... but as Eames jokingly says, they're repairing Robert's relationship with his father by destroying the relationship with Browning. But by the second layer, Robert is convinced "Uncle Peter" is trying to get him.
Except for the part where he clearly trusts Browning on level 1, and only seems to remember the idea that he needs to be his own man. Just like he can't remember the details of the hospital room.