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Headscratchers: Inception
Dom Cobb

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    Architects 
  • This might be incredibly stupid on my part, but how exactly does the architect's job work? They design places which they then... teach to the person dreaming that level? If so, then does that mean the dreamer has to somehow ensure that they dream of that exact place? Obviously they're all pretty skilled at controlling their dreams, but it seems to me that they'd be more likely to be dropped off in some other place that they've dreamed of naturally before moving to the designed level. I don't know. Also, does the dreamer have to memorise the entire layout of the designed world, and then replicate it? Just not entirely sure how the design translates into the actual dream.
    • The architect designs the dream, and that design gets programmed into the PASIV device, ensuring everyone connected dreams of the same place. For all your questions there, the PASIV does automatically.
      • Actually the architect explains the layout of the dreams to the dreamer, as shown when Ariadne is seen explaining to Yusuf the layout of the dream for the first level. They are the builders of the concept and they go through every detail with the dreamer so they know what it is, where all the shortcuts are and what the buildings are like. It's like explaining a map you designed to someone who doesn't know the area.
      • I always assumed that an architect creates a dream layer just like a videogames programmer, using mazes to railroad the dreamers, setting the spawn points and so on. Then he/she exports the layer in file.dream and loads it in the PASIV. When the dream layer is operating, the main dreamer can manually edit it (like when Ariadne makes experiments in the Bistro.dream layer). In fact, when the die in they mountain layer, they go to the limbo because there is no .dream layer set in the PASIV, since the didn't want to go four layers deep (incidentally, sorry my poor english).

     "I'll stay." 
  • Cobb tells Ariadne that he'll "stay" in Limbo, but in order to generate the age discrepancy between himself and Saito, he must spend some time on a higher layer. It seems like he spends a minute on the van level (drowning takes a bit of time) and drops back to Limbo. So what happened to talk of him "staying"?
    • Probably meant it more as "I'm going to stay under a bit longer to find Saito, so I'll be a bit late on the waking up."
    • Metaphorical. He's telling Ariadne he's going to remain in Limbo, but he doesn't explain how he's going to do that. Just that he'll remain in Limbo until he's found Saito. How he does it is largely irrelevant; all he needs to do is let Ariadne know that he'll be in Limbo so she can inform the others.
    • He also may have planned to just stay in Limbo to find Saito, without realizing that he would get "re-entered" into Limbo after being killed at some point.
    • Or, since Saito looks like he's pretty old already, maybe he only spent ten or so years there. After all, he looks slightly different, and the beard wisps might just be Saito manipulating limbo to how he sees himself.

     So how exactly does a Kick work? 
  • So from the end of the movie, it seems that a kick on any particular level will wake you up from that level and shoot up you to the level above. Ariadne throwing herself off the building in the fourth level shot her up (sorry for the wording, that's just how I imagine it in my mind) to the third level, where the building collapsed, shooting her and Eames and Fisher into the second level, where the elevator stop shot everyone up to the first level, where they...apparently just sat around for a week, waiting for the timer to run out. So why is a time limit necessary (other than they're gonna drown if they don't leave the van)? On the van level, Yusuf tells Arthur he'll play the music to let him know that the kick's coming. But as far as I can tell, the van level kick didn't do anything. Unless, a kick on a level wakes you up from the level below, and shoots you onto the level you received the kick in. That's what the beginning of the movie seems to show, with Cobb falling into the bathtub getting him out of the Japanese Castle level. But doesn't that contradict how the end of the movie shows kicks working? I guess my question is really, how do kicks work? Do they pull you out of the level you're in and shoot you to the level above, or do they pull you out of the level below and shoot you to the level the kick was in?
    • A kick serves as a shock that wakes you up if you're asleep on the level where the kick happens. But you have to be conscious on the level below the one where the kick happens. From what I was able to gather, the kick involving the van falling off the bridge was a failsafe in case Arthur couldn't drop everyone on the second level. Either Arthur drops them after the exploding ice fortress' drop wakes them up, and they jump up to the first level, or the van hits and it jumps everyone up to the first level. One way or the other, they get back up to the first level.
      • But if that were the case, couldn't they have just woken Fisher up from Limbo by picking him up and dropping him or something? Obviously that's not the most elegant solution but I'm sure they could have found a better way, and it would be much safer than having to go into Limbo. And also, why would Ariadne have to jump off the building, and why did Cobb stay in Limbo? Wouldn't the drop of the fortress collapsing pull them both out, since they were conscious on the fourth level?
      • Limbo operates under different rules. You can't exit Limbo by being kicked out; you have to die while in Limbo to escape. That's why Ariadne had to throw Fischer off the side of the building and jump herself, and why Saito and Cobb are implied to have shot themselves, and why Mal and Cobb had to be hit by a train to escape. Don't apply the rules for the other three levels to Limbo, because Limbo is something completely different from the dream-states.
      • Okay, that makes sense but (and sorry for not understanding this that well!) what was the point of blowing up the hospital at all? Ariadne and Cobb would have come out by themselves, and Eames, Fischer and Saito would have been pulled out by Arthur, right? Wouldn't the falling feeling of the hospital/fortress collapsing beneath them not really have had an effect at all? And also, how come Arthur wasn't pulled out of the second level as soon as the van started falling?
      • This has already been discussed on the page, further down, in separate topics.

     Two Limbo Entry Methods At Once 
  • Cobb enters Limbo with Ariadne by using the PASIV machine from the Fortress World. But then we see that he's died in the Van World. What happened? Did Cobb stay in Limbo the entire time and that's why his Van World body was inert? Did he leave Limbo, only to die again and get thrown back down there? Or did something else happen altogether?
    • Two possibilities:
      • If the ending was REAL, Cobb is inert on level one because he's already died in Limbo by that point and is now in dreamless sleep. The age gap between Cobb and Saito happened during the gap between Saito dying and Cobb diving down to Limbo.
      • If the ending was A DREAM, Cobb is inert on level one because he's still in Limbo, and has been for uncountable aeons (in his own subjective time stream). In the dream ending, we never see what happens when the sedative runs out; in the dream ending, Cobb is brain-fried and never wakes up.
    • Yes, there are two ways to enter Limbo. The normal way is to keep going down through dreamworlds until you hit Limbo. The other way is to undergo the effects of strong sedatives, and die while in the dream.
Cobb appears to have either stayed in Limbo or allowed himself to drown while in the van and thus stay in Limbo. Either way works; he stays down there and finds Saito.

     Lucid Dreams 
  • This troper knows from personal lucid dreaming experience that in dreams, mirrors don't work all that well. Written numbers and text, too, tend to be a somewhat dodgy. In fact, mathematic computation is a mess when you're dreaming.
    • Yeah, and in real life lucid dreaming, we're not using shared dreams formed by machines and deliberately crafted by an architect. The dreams created in this setting are different than normal dreams.
      • It none the less helps the writing if the dreams in the film take after dreams in real life, hence why concepts like the time-distortion and not noticing you are dreaming until you wake up worked so well. Because they took after actual stuff that happens in dreams.
      • There's the obvious YMMV issue. I can do math while dreaming (hell, I once dreamt I was solving Laplace's equation. I was sleeping during a calculus class, though), and mirrors and text function exactly as they would.
      • I can agree with the above. I once wrote an assembly language program for my (real life) class assignment in my dream, which I wasn't able to do for a week in real life.
    • Cobb specifically says that Saito was holding back critical pieces of the information deliberately. I'm willing to bet that the redacted sections of Saito's secret documents were the parts he was holding back.
    • I always thought that the documents from Saito's safe were readable because they weren't dream-material, but chunks of memory instead: with some lines being blacked out indicating that the reader had gotten jist of it and had skimmed over the details. You can't read time in dreams either, but if the machine allows you to have a time-display, why not? YMMV on that.
      • Agreed, I don't think Cobb was literally reading them, he was trying to access and gain the knowledge that Saito had locked up in the safe, which just happened to be represented by documents. The key, blanked-out parts represented the information Saito was still holding back.
      • This one bothered me until I studied it closely. Cobb can read (ie access the memory) the document fine as long as Saito is still in the dream. Saito wakes up earlier than Cobb (pulls a gun in the apartment level). Cobb tries to read more of the document but sees it as censored. The only parts that aren't censored are what he already has processed.
    • As the OP for this one, after having given it more thought, I think it is safe to assume that one or both of the following ensures a more concrete reality for the dreams in Inception than can normally be found in dreams, even of the lucid variety:
      • The dreamers — Cobb is described as a master dreamer, and really everyone in this movie (save Ariadne) has some degree of rigorous practice in dreaming. They might be able to enforce a degree of realism that is not experienced by casual dreamers.
      • The machine — Never explained, but it seemed to be at least partially responsible for creating the dream world according to Ariadne's designs. It is possible that the wrist-linking device assists in mimicking aspects of reality that don't normally occur in dreams.
  • With the main characters being able to control their own actions and feel realistic pain inside dreams, it shows that they are lucid dreaming. So what happens when they encounter somebody who's not? Somebody not able to construct his own dream world coherently, or somebody who literally has an out-of-body experience within his own dream and not feel anything. For example, I recall having vague dreams of getting shot, decapitated, burned, and eaten alive, but I didn't feel anything and was able to "see" the whole thing before waking up.
    • They don't. Everyone participating in a PASIV-induced dream is lucid dreaming. Its a self-contained shared dream generated by the machine, and only people connected to the machine experience it.
  • There seems to be a misconception among a lot of the tropers who have commented above about what lucid dreaming actually is. It's not a dream that appears so real that you can't tell it's not a dream. A lucid dream is a dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming. Cobb and his team are lucid dreaming because they are aware that the environment they are perceiving is actually a dream. The person whose dream they have jumped into is not lucid dreaming. A good analogy for this is the Matrix franchise. The Matrix virtual reality program is a dream. Neo and the other humans who jack into the Matrix to fight the machines are entering a lucid dream, but the humans who are trapped in the Matrix and don't know it are having a regular non-lucid dream.
    • A dreamer is more of a host to a LAN game than anything. It's their dream. I've been able to deduce that a dreamer can only go down one level. In other words, a client connected to your game can host a game within yours, but you cannot host a game inside your own game. The dreamer has better skills as you can see in Eames in the snow dream doing James Bond stuff while everyone else is merely doing standard tactics like sniping and throwing a grenade blindly down a corrider. The dreamer's job is to guard everyone else while they go further down. They are also responsible for learning the dream layout from the architect.
    • The correct term for a very realistic-looking dream where you're still not aware you're dreaming is a vivid dream.

     The week at the top level 
  • When the team first enters Fischer's mind and Saito gets shot, they say that they can't abort the mission because the sedative will keep the team in the first level for a week (a 10 hour flight in "real time") and that death results in Limbo. Eames even proposes staying in the top level rather than going forward, but Cobb notes that none of the team would be able to last in that level for a week. Cobb (or maybe Arthur) says something to the effect that they "have to go down to go up", the goal seeming to be that the simultaneous kicks will be enough to overcome the sedative and wake them up. The team agrees that "sticking to the plan" makes sense. However when the kicks finally go into effect everyone who makes it out of limbo goes back to Level 1. So now they're in level 1 for a week? Didn't they say that was a bad thing?
    • Actually, it makes sense. The only reason staying in level one for a week was bad was because they were being hunted by the projections. The only reason why the projections were attacking was because the team was directly threatening Fisher. The moment the team stops threatening Fisher, they'd settle down. There's only two shown reasons why a projection would attack a dreamer: they're altering the dreamworld (and thus informing the subconscious that someone is intruding on the dream-state) or they're directly threatening the dreamer (and thus triggering a hostile response from the subconscious). Note that the projections in level two only started attacking in significant numbers because Fishcer's subconscious became aware of the dreamworld and the threat; once Fischer accepted he was in a dreamworld, most of the projections settled down save for the militarized ones.
    • Why did they need to sedate Fischer for the entire flight anyway?
      • Maximum amount of time to work.
      • Also pulling off Inception requires one to be fairly deep in their subconscious, the more levels down you go the deeper in you are, and to go down that deeply requires the subject it be in a deep sleep.
    • Fischer achieved Catharsis, level one became less hostile?
      • Why didn't level one become less hostile when Fischer began to side with the team? Or did it? When did the van go off the bridge relative to level 2?
      • Just because he was working with them does not mean his subconscious will. Each person left behind still had to protect his teammates from his own subconscious.
      • The van went off the bridge shortly after they hit the third level, right after they went under in the second one. They were still getting shot at int he first level, though that was a few seconds before the van was hit, which was minutes in level 2.

     Synchronized kicks 
  • Why do they have to synchronize the kicks? Since all of the levels exist within another level, can't just the guy on the first level wake up and then throw everyone out of their chairs? Sure, it would still be an insane amount of time in Limbo, but they had no reason to suspect they'd be going there. Cobb was the only one who even appeared to be aware of it.
    • A kick on a higher level will not wake someone up if they're still asleep on a lower level. Also, the sedative was interfering. You need to be awake on a level and then fall down to trigger the kick that will jump you back up another level.
      • Except that the sedative shouldn't have interfered at all. They make a point of their chemist stating that there's no interference with inner ear function so a kick will always work to wake them up.
      • What you said. Maybe I've just gone around and around until the dream logic doesn't make sense anymore, but to me, the easiest way to wake up from a dream is imagined falling, because it still makes the brain think of falling without all the actual pain. I've woken up dozens of times from dreaming about slipping or falling and I'll snap awake halfway through the trip. When Saito was shot, why didn't they just stand him up and push him over? Shouldn't have mattered how strong the sedative was. In fact, this kind of raises another Just Bugs Me question: wouldn't something as simple as inner ear function lead to them waking up all the time from other levels by accident? Maybe Yusuf should have specified "level-above inner ear function" because now it makes me picture a comedic series of pratfalls in and out of different levels every time they slip on some light fixtures or ice patches.
      • Its not just a case of "falling wakes you up." Falling has to happen at a specific, set point in time to wake you up, and there has to be some kind of impact involved with the fall (i.e. hitting the bridge barrier, being shaken by explosions, elevator impacting, hitting the water, falling into a tub of water, etc.) So the conditions have to be "Awake at X point in time, marked by the music, and falling with enough disturbance in the fall to provide an impact."
      • Aside from the machine waking you up after a certain time has passed, there's nothing about specific, set points in time for the kicks. Also, inner ear function tells you changes in acceleration. The impact changes your acceleration. So it's not about impact as much as it is the start of a fall.
    • I think its more because by the time the first kick will happen, they will have spent a lot of time in the other worlds. 3 seconds in the first level was half an hour in the 3rd level. So they want an out before all the time passes, and they use kicks to shorten the time they'd need to wait. If they were to go to the "real" world and just use a kick there, a whole year would go by in level 3 by the time they seat people up and kick them out.
  • It actually has nothing to do with the mechanics of the dreams, or the sedatives, or anything. A kick in Level 1 won't pull people out of Level 3 because they're too deep into the dream (I think). It's the same thing as how when the van went off the bridge on Level 1, Level 2 was affected but not Level 3. The kicks had to be synchronized because everyone had to get out of Level 3 before Level 2's gravity disappeared, making a kick impossible. As it happened, Arthur on Level 2 missed the first kick (the van breaking through the barrier). The elevator kick he does is his improvisational way of simulating gravity.

     Cobb and Ariadne getting to limbo 
  • How do Cobb and Ariadane both get to limbo by going to the fourth dream level instead of dying?
    • Limbo is the fourth level. That's how Cobb and Mal got there in the first place.
      • Limbo isn't fourth level. Limbo is state of mind when you accept dream as reality. Cobb and Ariadne entered fourth level which was shared by Saito and Fischer.
      • No. Limbo is the fourth level. Fischer dies and goes there, as does Saito, and apparently Cobb when he drowns at the end. Cobb and Ariadne were able to access it by going under on the third level, descending to it just as they had in the levels above. So yes, it is a fourth level.
    • I'll admit I didn't understand everything about Limbo, but I got the impression that Cobb killed himself in Level 4 after the kick had passed, to go to limbo, where Saito also was because of having died without a kick in the previous level. It looks like a different world, and in the very beginning of the movie we saw Cobb arrive there as if he just entered a new dream level...
    • That's pretty much it. The fourth level is the crumbling city based on Cobb's subconscious, and Limbo is another place entirely. Ariadne never goes to Limbo; she joins Cobb on the fourth level, rescues Fischer and rides the kick back up. The only reason Fischer is there is because Eames uses the defibrillator to resuscitate him. After Ariadne and Fischer go back, Cobb kills himself to go to Limbo to rescue Saito.
      • No, they went to limbo because there was no architecture created for a fourth level. Essentially, you can go as deep as you create, but any further will take you to limbo (the uncreated dream space).
      • The movie actually says, in the scene where Saito's been shot and they first bring up the concept of Limbo, that Limbo would resemble whatever was previously experienced in Limbo by anyone in the shared dream who had been there (ARIADNE: "Limbo?!" ARTHUR: "Unconstructed dream space." ARIADNE: "What's down there?!" ARTHUR: "Just raw infinite subconscious. NOTHING is down there...except for whatever might have been left behind by anyone sharing the dream who's been trapped there before. Which in our case, is you [to Cobb].") It's hard to catch that detail the first time through.
    • Fischer goes to the limbo by dying. Cobb and Ariadne use the machine to join Fischer's dream, so they follow him to the limbo.

     Cobol's bounty hunters 
  • What happened to the bounty hunters chasing Cobb and kinda/sorta Eames in the beginning of the movie? I didn't realize that by flying to America you automatically got rid of them, but if they were still following him, why would he lead them straight to his family? (Unless, of course, dream world and they cease to exist).
    • Assuming not a dream, then Saito probably paid them off.
    • Saito is a rep for Kobol Engineering. Kobol set up the bounty, so he could easily tell them to call it off.
      • No he isn't. The initial job at the beginning of the movie was Cobb's group working for Kobol to obtain Saito's expansion plans.
      • Yes, he is. He turns around and outright says he's working with Kobol on the helicopter. Saito's loyalties switch depending on whoever is willing to pay him; he's a businessman, first and foremost.
      • If you're thinking about him saying that he'll do nothing to the old architect, but doesn't know what Kobol will do, that just meant that he wasn't going to interfere and save the old architect. Saito is the head of a rival company for Kobol. Cobb's team got hired by Kobol to steal Saito's ideas. They failed (and hence, Kobol's out for blood), but Saito was sufficiently impressed that he decided to hire Cobb himself (to go after yet another, much bigger rival, headed by Fischer). He most definitely wasn't working for Kobol. As for the bounty hunters, yeah, I assume Saito just bought them out, or the prospect of fighting through Saito's own private security made them back down.
      • Saito also said that when they were after him it was really an 'audition', so there is also a possible theory that Saito either arranged for Kobol to hire them (though then why would they be angry and hunt them down after Saito said they passed?) Or else he baited Kobol into hiring them without Kobol knowing Saito wanted them to send Cobb and Arthur after him, which would explain why they were mad. Maybe Saito just gave them the info they wanted when he wanted them to stop? If he was Xanatos Gambiting this, he probably arranged that the info they wanted wasn't too dangerous to him after all.
      • Alternate theory: the bounty hunters after Cobb? They were sent by Saito. Why? To help convince Cobb to do the inception in case he had any doubts, to ramp up the urgency, and to make Cobb further beholden to Saito. The reason they couldn't shoot Cobb and had trouble catching him was because they weren't trying to catch him or trying to shoot him. It was all an act to get Cobb to trust Saito more, and for Saito to pull his convenient rescue.
    • Alternate theory 2: it's all part of Cob's dream - the bounty hunter's are after him because he expects them to be after he failed to steal Saito's secrets. After the mission is over he's simply forgetten them, or they were a simply of his guilt/projectiosn hunting him and have dissapeared because he's at peace in the dream

     The Sci Fi Hardness of Inception 

     Why does Arthur work with Cobb? 
  • Why Arthur didn't leave Cobb and find a new partner? From the movie we can infer that Arthur is extremely familiar with "Mrs. Cobb." Mal should have sabotaged a lot of their previous missions before they infiltrate Saito's mind, and she even shot him in the leg in that mission. Knowing that my partner has an extremely unstable subconscious that can projects itself into a homicidal mission screwing bitch, I wouldn't dare to go down three dream levels with him.
    • Mal is part of Cobb's subconsious and can only infiltrate dreams that Cobb knows the detail about, e.g. when Mal killed Fischer in snow fortress, she got into the fort through what presumably is the air system, that Cobb is aware of. Arthur feel safe in other missions because Cobb doesnt know the detail, only the architect does.
    • Also, Arthur is Cobb's friend and it doesn't look like those two have many.
  • Alternative theory: Maybe there are some unresolved issues between Arthur and Mal (i.e. She was lovely), so Arthur isn't sure whether the problem is Cobb's unconscious or his.
    • How long has Mal been dead? It's possible they haven't actually run that many missions in the interval, and Cobb has kept it quiet so far. Also I'd imagine the guilt complex took a little time to build.
    • Judging from Arthur's reaction, it seems like the implication is that the Mal problem only started to get bad during the job for Cobol. What he said to Cobb about Mal sabotaging their plan was something along the lines of "what the hell was that all about?"

     Arthur not waking up when the van went off the bridge 
  • How come Arthur wasn't woken up from the hotel level to the van level as soon as the van went over the bridge?
    • It's most likely because they were free-falling within the dream as opposed to real life.
      • You're suggesting that free-falling works as a kick in reality to rescue someone from a dream, but if they are dreaming within the dream, only harsh impacts (hitting water, the elevator crashing) works as a kick?
      • Think about it this way: Have you ever had a dream where you're falling? When do you wake up: During the free-fall itself or at the point of impact? I think that's the thought process they were going through.
      • That's not right, in the ice fortress they all wake when the building falls. Its about the feeling of falling and the instinct to try catch yourself, not hitting the ground.
      • In the ice fortress, they were conscious when they got hit with the falling sensation. They have to be conscious on the dream level for the falling sensation to affect them.
      • In the hotel level, Arthur was conscious when he got hit with the falling sensation. Shouldn't he have woken up as soon as the level started being weightless?
      • Zero-gravity does not equal falling. Arthur even says it outright that you can't wake up by falling in zero-G, because you're not really falling, i.e. "how do I drop you without gravity?" That's why he has to come up with a way ti simulate gravity in the elevator. Also, you have to fall for more than a few meters to trigger the wake-up process; multiple times during the course of the story, the characters do fall without awakening, i.e. Yusef in the van (twice), Eames being tossed off the railing in the snow fortress, Arthur being repeatedly dropped during the spinning-corridor sequence, etc.
      • But Arthur was falling in the first level, so shouldn't he have woken up from the second level? Like in the very beginning of the movie, when Cobb falls in Saito's apartment (in the first level), and he wakes up from the castle (in the second level). When Yusef, Eames and Arthur all fell in those examples, they were merely falling in the same level, and so wouldn't have woken up.
      • Again, Arthur isn't falling far enough. In the earlier dream's case, Cobb didn't just fall, he also fell into water. That's why they were driving off the bridge in the first level, too; they explicitly say that the shock of hitting and going under the water is going to wake them back up. And if you fall far enough in the current level, you wake back up; that's why Ariadne was shown waking, falling, then waking, then falling again.
      • More of a WMG explanation than anything else, but possibly you can stop yourself from waking up with a kick if you know you're dreaming and a kick is coming? Clearly Arthur wouldn't want to wake up, since he knew he needed to provide the kick for the people a level down. Lest you think that this is an Ass Pull, notice that in the Saito 'audition' scene, Cobb wants to read the documents, not wake up; he gets a kick (falling) but DOESN'T wake up until hitting the water after a fall. That scene makes me think a person who knows they are dreaming either can miss a kick purposefully, or needs to consciously want to follow the kick. Oh, and the mere fact of falling IS a kick in and of itself - Cobb explicitly says that they 'missed the kick' when they have missed the van starting the free-fall. Finally, falling is explicitly said to be a kick by Yusef; it is also demonstrated by just tipping Arthur's chair in the workshop. In fact, I'd say 'falling' (to be more precise, decelleration) is the kick when hitting the water, NOT hitting the water itself (notice that people in the van wake up from the deeper dream BEFORE the water floods the van). So, the fall IS a kick.
      • It has nothing to do about "falling far enough." Once you're falling, your acceleration stays constant, and you only feel changes in acceleration (Think elevator. You only ever feel motion when you stop/start at a floor). That is, you can't feel as though you're falling unless your acceleration changes. They also specifically said that they'd missed the first kick (hitting the side of the bridge, first level) down in the third level. Arthur should have woken up, though, since he was in the second level.
    • Because the sedative was in play, Arthur needed to be undergoing a simultaneous kick in the hotel level (Just as everyone else did) to wake up in the van level. His elevator improvisation allowed for that eventually.
      • Arthur was already in the second level. His kick was in the first level (the van). Thus, he should have woken up. There is no such thing as a kick in the level you're currently in; it's always one above level above.
      • Because you have to be falling in the bottom level to wake up on the next one... Which is why, for example, Ariadne throws herself off the building in Limbo, wakes up in level 3, falls in level 3, wakes up in level 2, is in the elevator in 2, and wakes up in 1 when they hit the water.
    • That doesn't make sense: when they were testing the sedative, they show that falling in reality will wake you up. Since the chemical works the same at lower levels in terms of time dilation, it makes sense that the kick effect would work at lower levels as well (not to mention that in the Saito extraction, Cobb is kicked from L1 and wakes up into L1 from L2). Also in the testing scene, they show that the falling sensation is enough to wake you up, so you don't need to wait for the impact. So, it seems the plan was: drop the hotel floor to wake the team up into the hotel level, then crash the van off the bridge to wake up into the first level, then (maybe) the stewardess wakes them up into reality (or they wait out the week in the dream). The point is that they were meant to wake up when the van hit the barrier. I can understand the others not waking because they were on a lower dream level, but Arthur should have been kicked up into the top level.
      • If that's the case then why does Arthur go to set up the bombs underneath the floor that everybody is sleeping at in the first place? I thought that the charges were set up so Arthur could blow up the floor and make everybody fall and experience the 'kick'. That led me to believe that Arthur flying forward wasn't a big enough kick to wake him up for whatever reason.
      • In the Saito excavation mission Cobb's team is not using Yusuf's special sedative, so they can wake up by dying in the dream or falling in the upper level. In the Fischer inception mission they use the sedative, and no-one ever wakes up without getting a kick both in the current level and the level above it simultaneously.

     Why blow up the ice fortress? 
  • Why did they blow up the ice fortress? It wasn't a kick for limbo (and was planned before they knew anyone would be in limbo, anyway), and the possibility of killing themselves would have only lead to limbo itself.
    • That's only if they got killed by Fischer Jr.'s super projections or got killed before the scheduled kick since they were under all under a sedative. Cobb warned Fischer Jr. about this earlier in the film.
    • The "kick" rules seem to work differently during the main dream than they did in the dream at the beginning of the movie, probably because of the sedative. In order to "wake up" while under that level of sedation, you have to have a kick in the dream at the same time as the one outside the dream. Hence why Arthur didn't wake up when the van drove off (he hadn't dropped the floor yet), they planned to blow up the fortress when the floor dropped, and Fischer and Ariadne were able to escape limbo by jumping off the building at the same time as their "kicks." I don't know if they explained this well in the film, but it does seem to fit with how things happened.
      • I think the film showed how you need to be awake in the dream to be kick. So it's not the same time, it's one dream * kick* after another.

     Killing yourself in limbo 
  • Why didn't Cobb tell his teammates that all you have to do to escape from limbo is kill yourself? At the very least, this knowledge would have saved Saito from being trapped in limbo all that time.
    • This troper thought that the killing themselves only worked because the sedative had had time to wear off, and all the dream levels above them were still intact. They had to kick through them in order otherwise they went to limbo.
      • It's also stated that you can lose yourself in limbo and that it will become your reality because you will spend decades down there, which is what happened to Mal. The implication is that, in order to escape with your mind intact, you have to want to escape. That explains why Cobb planted the inception into his wife. The scene with Cobb and Saito in the end indicates that they were just then remembering who they actually were and why they were there.
      • This probably warrants explanations on several levels. The previous explanation has some important points that I will incorporate here. 1) Cobb had been concealing a lot of information from his teammates. Revealing that he knew how to escape from limbo would be to reveal that he HAS been in the limbo and out of it (he lived with Mal till they were old). Hiding this fact is therefore not surprising. 2) The information appeared to be useless, because entering the limbo by dying caused the enter-er to completely forget how he got there. Note that Cobb was delirious in the first scene, and did not remember why he was there when he was eating his gruel in front of the old Saito. He had no idea what he was doing there until Saito helped both of them remember. 3) This leads to what I thought was poorly explained. Dying seems to have completely different results based on all sorts of different conditions. The first time limbo was mentioned, Cobb told them that dying while the sedative is still strong sends people to limbo. But Saito and Cobb seemed to have entered limbo by dying in the van chase level, Saito from the wound and Cobb from drowning (explaining his awashed appearance on the beach), so apparently dying in higher layer of dream while you were in a deeper one does that. This is a piece of information that Adriadne/Arthur seems to know when they just leave Cobb to drown in the Van once they escape. From this mess, it might be plausible to think that not all rules were explained to the audience, and the characters know more than the movie reveals. Araidne, for example, appeared to have understood and believed that Cobb could get Saito back. Perhaps Cobb did explain some things, which the audience just wasn't shown. There are definitely more rules than were explicitly explained to us in the film, which actually what Just Bugs Me!
      • About number 1, there's a line in the movie, made by Arthur when they first talk about limbo, "Ask Cobb, he's the one's that's been there." They knew very little about Cobb, but they knew that he'd been to limbo. Number 2 is an interesting idea that I hadn't considered. It's possible, but not mentioned, so it isn't much of a solace since it's coming from the viewer and not the plot. But number 3 just brought up a good point I hadn't even thought of. Every dream seems to function like the real world for the dream below it, so when Fischer died in the third level, shouldn't he have just woken up in the second one? Don't you only go to limbo if the level above you is inaccessible (like the real world is from the first level)? Also, I don't think that Cobb woke from limbo when the van hit the water. From what I can tell, he washed up because the storm carried him to sea, so everything after the van hitting the water makes no sense just brings up a bunch of questions that we can't answer (Cobb was in limbo but his body in the second and third level died).
      • Given that his wife wasn't able to discern between popping out of a dream level and committing suicide, Cobb might not want other people getting the same idea.
    • The impression I get is that if you end up in Limbo by dying in the dream state, you wake up with no recollection of how you got there, and proceed to carry on like you would if you'd just arrived there in a normal dream. Ending up there while using a dream device allows you to entire while lucid and aware you are dreaming. That's why Saito was unaware of who Cobb was, and Cobb had no idea what he was there for when he arrived after drowning on the first level.

     Saito and Cobb escaping from Limbo 
  • Can someone give me a brief run-down of what happened between Saito and Cobb? I know that Saito dies in level 3 and goes to Limbo as a result. Then Cobb goes to his part of Limbo and deals with his ex-wife as well as lets out Jr. and the chick and supposedly stays behind to find Saito that's supposedly somewhere around in this world. We later see Cobb not waking up in the van, presumably also being stuck in the hotel suite. What happens in between that? Incidentally, what happened in the opening scene anyway? I know it's basically Cobb somehow again washing up ashore, now finding an 80 year old Saito, but I put the scene out of my mind and basically can't remember anything else that took place.
    • We see the opening scene reconnect to the movie after Fischer Jr and Eames swim upshore. This is my take on it, might not be right, but: After letting go of Mal, Cobb travels into Saito's Limbo (where he ended up after dying in the Snow Fort dream level). Saito has already been there for ages, hence he becomes an old man. After they talk, Saito takes a gun and kills both Cobb and himself, which in turns wakes both of them up in the real world. Apparently killing yourself in Limbo kicks you straight back up to the real world, instead of just going up a level.
      • Except you're both wrong. Saito dies in the van chase level, then dies in the two successive levels. That's why he goes to limbo.
      • The ambiguity of the last shot sure as hell doesn't help explain the ending. My feeling is they skipped showing Saito and Cobb going back up all the layers to help the ending's ambiguity; after all, if we had seen Cobb and Saito jump all those layers, then that would take away the beautifully done ending, right?

     Hyperspace Arsenal (or the lack thereof) 
  • If Eames can imagine up any weapon he wants why can't he dream up an armored car (or at least a bulletproof vest)?
    • This bugged me too, but the reasoning behind it is that any change at all attracts attention from the projections, so they should avoid imagining whenever possible and just use what's at hand. They probably should have used this in emergencies though, then again the team is probably unimaginative which would help them in their job: the less imagination, the more stable the dream environment is.
    • The only justification I can think of is the possibility that the subconscious guard mooks may modify their own behaviour accordingly. If you imagine big weapons, they'll swarm in with even bigger weapons themselves.
    • But they ALREADY imagined their own guns? Why not vests too? And why were the guards attacking EVERYONE, and not just the dreamer like we're shown explicitly earlier in the film?
      • But that's not what was explicitly shown. Earlier we saw Cobb's projections kill Ariadne.
    • The impression the movie gave me is that the dream-team goes in with set equipment, which they can't change directly in the dream world (which is why Eames doesn't whistle up a rocket launcher when the snowvee is chasing him). The dreamer/architect appears to create "stashes" of gear that can be acquired later on, i.e. Eames recovering a defibrillator. Presumably, the SCAR Arthur had was either stashed in the van or in the warehouse, either by Yusef or created by Arthur when he arrived; ditto for Eames' grenade launcher. This makes more sense than them simply conjuring weapons out of thin air, and its consistent with the rest of the story. Mal demanding Dom drop his gun wouldn't make much sense if he could just snap his fingers and make a new one appear, and Arthur wouldn't need to go after the C4 in 428 if he could just make more appear.
      • That (a) contradicts their surprise towards the dream-mooks, seeing how one who expects little to no resistance would hardly bother to provide a grenade launcher, especially with the aforementioned "minimum interferance" concern in mind; (b) doesn't make sense to the extent that whoever does expects enough troubles to provide a freaking grenade launcher would certainly throw in some flak vests, and (c) contradicts the idea of totems that cannot be provided and must be conjured personally.
      • When Ariadne is being introduced to the dream tech, and they wander through Cobb's mind, he says, approximately, "the more you change things, the quicker the subconscious defenses realize you're there" so if the team just called in weapon after weapon, that'd be signal after signal that people are interrupting the subject, in this case, Fischer's, mind. So like one said above, the dreamer creates stashes of gear.
      • Alternatively, it's a question of scale. The team already has guns, Arthur just dreams himself up a bigger, badder gun... since they've already got the framework for rifles, he's just expanding on that. But just whipping up an armored car out of nothing is a whole other thing entirely, there's no "plausibility" built in for them having one just sitting around. As for why no vests, maybe it's just about the framework... they can't defend themselves in that way from the constructs' attacks anyway. Maybe you'd have to be legitimately psychic to have that sort of defense.

     Why does Ariadne work with Cobb's team? 
  • The morality of the film just bugs me. Ariadne seems like an otherwise decent person but doesn't bat a lash at the idea of joining up with a crew of professional mindrapers!
    • I don't see why you thought she was a decent person, there wasn't much about her character in the film other than her artistic talent and her curiosity about Cob's past. Still, she's an artist, and so was tempted by the challenge of being able to create entire worlds in the dream.
      • You wouldn't expect a college/university student to suddenly join a bunch of wanted criminals at the drop of a hat.
      • Make it a bunch of wanted superhero criminals, though, and common law becomes a lot more sketchy, and morality subjective. They give her the power to make her wildest dreams come true - sort of. Would make me think twice...
    • I think there is no morality in the film to begin with. The entire team is taking part in an operation to warp a Fischer Jr's mind, without much justification other than their own person reasons: Cobb to get back home, Saito to get rid of a business rival, Ariadne possibly to learn more about dream construction, the rest for the money. The default moral setting of the people in the film seems to be "all for themself".
      • I interpreted her as someone who was swept up by the awesome new world, her curiosity, and the charismatic crew. Or perhaps she thought she was playing therapist to Fischer. Look at her interaction with Dom - she really seems interested in his problems and grows to care about him. Also, I'd probably be desperate enough to fuck up a CEO to pay off my student loan
      • On the other hand this particular job (not so much their other ones) can be seen as a victimless crime. They've actually helped Fischer deal with his relationship with his father, exposed the fact that Browning can't be trusted and helped stop a dangerous energy monopoly (guess they don't have antitrust laws in this world). About the only people worse off are Fischer's shareholders.
      • But de-consolidating Fischer's company leaves room for Saito's to come in and clean up. Hmmmm....
      • Can Browning not be trusted? I thought that was just what Cobb made up so that they had a plausible excuse to have Fischer willingly come with them.
      • I'm pretty sure Browning was on the level, Arthur mentions "screwing up the one good relationship Fischer has" to further their plan. On the other hand, Fischer's conversation with Eames-Browning when they've all returned to the first level suggests he was only incepted for the idea to split the company, and not that he shouldn't trust Browning.
      • They said that positive ideas stick better, so when Fischer woke up, he had the idea to split up the company, but he wouldn't remember the negative feelings he had for Browning. In the first dream level he washed up with Browning, and had a conversation with him (or his projection or Eames... I'm not sure). He didn't remember the Mr. Charles part.
      • I'm pretty sure Browning isn't on the level. We only saw the real Browning for one quick scene, when Eames is infiltrating his office. The subordinate points out that Browning's litigation is in conflict with established policy, Browning icily says he'll take it to Fischer Sr, and then he asks Fischer Jr for power of attorney. So that's 1) being a jerk to his subordinate, 2) going against Fischer Sr's established policy 3) being aggressive in his business strategy, the very reason Saito was afraid of the company, and 4) pushing Fischer Jr into giving him personally more power. Then Eames, the only member of the team who's actually met Browning, says that the sicker Fischer Sr gets the more powerful Browning gets, and the Dream Team will expose him as a power hungry bastard.
      • Agreed, what little we saw of the real Browning implied a power-hungry Treacherous Advisor, and Eames seemed to back that up. And it's important to remember that Fischer didn't wake up thinking any of that stuff literally happened: the fact that he woke up on the plane no worse for wear "proves" to him that, from his point of view, all that extraction/counterextraction stuff was really just a dream after all, that there's no real safe with a secret will or anything. What Fischer gained from the dream was a powerful (albeit planted) epiphany that his father would have wanted the company broken up, and maybe a vague feeling that he should be wary of Browning. And given that Browning's one appearance had him trying to bully Fischer into giving him power of attorney, that's probably not a bad idea either.
    • Yes, Ariadne was bothered by the mind-raping. She objects at first to what they are doing to Fisher; "You're going to destroy his only good relationship?" "No, we're going to repair his relationship with his father, and expose his godfather." Later, when Cobb is shooting Fisher's projections, Ariadne worries again about hurting Fisher. "Are you destroying those parts of his mind?" "No, they're just projections." Her morals are still sketchy, for joining these people. But she is at least concerned with the idea of messing with Fisher's mind.
      • Remember, there's always the chance that Adriane isn't real; that she's simply another projection in Cob's mind - that would explain the meaningful name as well, come to think of it
      • No, patently false. Michael Caine has explicitly stated, with backing from Nolan, that any scenes he's in are absolutely the real world. Ariadne is introduced in one of these scenes.
      • If that's true, then doesn't that just completely obliterate any and all ambiguity from the ending of the movie? Michael Caine was there, thus it was absolutely the real world and not a dream, which means the whole "Is Cobb still dreaming?" thing with the top spinning before the cut to the credits was pointless.
      • Yes, it does remove the ambiguity, so what? The top scene could simply be seen as a visual metaphor for it all coming to an end, since it's visibly starting to wobble a little bit even before the credits start.
    • Cobb went down three dream levels before he got framed for murder, and he mentions that he couldn't get legitimate work because of the accusation. This seems like a pretty clear indication that there is legal dreamworld work. If she's interested in that kind of job, why not do one? Why join up with a gang of criminals, one of whom she knows is worrying unstable, risk her life, risk her career, and risk pissing off one or two of the most powerful men in the world? I mean, I'm not expecting much. A shot of her looking at unpaid bills or something would have been enough, just something to establish she has a reason to do this.
      • It actually sounds like the dream technology isn't all that known to the public, since, as Cobb explains, he was having a hard time explaining to anyone what happened to his wife, hence why he couldn't prove his innocence. At first I was thinking he might have meant he couldn't prove he planted the idea in her mind since inception was supposedly impossible, but then I remembered he told this to Ariadne before he revealed the inception plot twist. Ariadne doesn't seem to have anything to dispute about it.
  • Also remember that Ariadne was selected by Miles, her professor, knowing what Dom was up to, so Miles would choose someone that he knew wouldn't object.
    • That only raises the question: What kind of parents does she have? And how'd she convince them to not freak out?
    "Oh, don't worry Ma! I'm only on this plane to America so that I can help a bunch of convicted felons and wanted fugitives brainwash a billionaire's son. They treat me all right; and I'll be back before you know it. No worries."
    "Well, that's nice, hun! Don't forget to pack your toothbrush! And remember to smile for the camera if you get caught and go to jail. Love you..."
    • Maybe she's estranged from her parents, or just chose not to tell them.
    • I assumed since Ariadne was an American student in Paris, she was either participating in a study abroad program or an international student and her excuse on the flight to America was that she was visiting her parents. That, or she never told them she was coming and promptly took another plane back to Paris.
    • You guys forget; this entire adventure in the dreams took only a few days/afternoons. Cobb could've simply introduced himself as seeking Ariadne for a job, and Saito could've smoothed things out.
    • Ariadne is clearly the sort of person who would work with Cobb, because as we see, Ariadne goes to work with Cobb. What, exactly, would lead you to believe that she wouldn't? Other than maybe her gender?
      • It's also worth noting that Ariadne's job was simply to draw the maps, only entering dreams with PASIV so that she could get a feel for making maps. She dragged herself into the action to try to protect the others from the skeletons in Dom's closet. Like most of the team, she was unaware of the risks brought about by the sedative though.

     Teammember specializations 
  • Just really curious, each member of the team has a role to play in this movie, with Eames, Ariadne and Yusuf having a special ability that the other people don't seem to do. I get Yusuf's chemist ability being something you have to learn in real life like any other science... How about Ariadne's architect ability and Eames's disguise ability? Are the other team members completely unable to do the same thing? e.g. Is Arthur unable to completely change how he looks in the dream world?
    • Acting is a talent and a craft, which is basically what Eames was. And he was good at forging documents both inside and outside the dream world, something that requires some serious underworld brilliance. And while architecture isn't a science, it requires just as much professional schooling and research as chemistry does, especially if you're designing believable cityscapes that can fool someone into thinking its real. The girl designed a city! That worked as a maze! Complete with elevated Terminal Island-style bridges used as safety nets! In a warehouse! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!
    • It's likely that a lot of people can, to some extent, manage the physical part of forging. But holding it, and being able to mimic the personality as well, is where the real skill lies.
    • I think Arthur could be the architect though, just probably not as good as Ariadne. He was the one who created the Penrose Steps in the world.
      • Maybe he could be, but should he? Cobb would want the best possible team members for such a delicate job.
      • Arthur isn't imaginative enough.
      • That is actually a good point. As I recall, Eames specifically says Arthur lacks imagination. We know from the fact that he designed the castle for the Saito-con in the beginning that he can be an architect, but the fact that Ariadne is able to grasp the idea of dream-building very quickly and that she seems to be very inventive when it comes to altering the Architecture inside her dream suggests she is something of a "prodigy" in dream-building due to simply being imaginative.
      • But Arthur wasn't the architect for that dream, Nash was. Arthur was just the dreamer, like he was for the hotel level and Eames was for the snow fortress. I assumed that Arthur was in charge of things like gathering resources and equipment as well as background checks. He's the one shown unlocking the warehouse and setting up the lawn chairs.
      • I would advise against taking Eames' comment as gospel on Arthur. We see the way they are, sniping at each other, so Eames' assessment is not necessarily the whole truth. (Don't tell me you think engineering a kick in zero gravity didn't require imagination.) I'd say he could design a dream level, but since he's not trained as an architect, he can't do anything too complex because in order to do that and make it work you need someone who understands how architecture works.
  • On another level, what exactly is Arthur doing on the team? I mean, if you've got a way to put Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a movie, by all means do it, but why was his character important?
    • He was the researcher, which is why Cobb flips out when Arthur didn't know that Fischer had been trained in dream security. He was also an experienced and resourceful dream thief like Cobb and Eames. And since the team was originally going to be Cobb, Yusuf, Eames, and Arthur (Saito and Ariadne were last minute aditions), they needed him as a dreamer, if anything. Also, he was labeled "The Point Man" in the promotional material: he is both Cobb's most trusted associate and the soldier who takes the most dangerous position in the formation. In the first and second dream layers, he's the one who spearheads combat with the projections.
      • Only Eames does it better.
    • Arthur seems to broadly do what Cobb does, but with a bit more focus on organizing the jobs and keeping the details straight. Otherwise, both Arthur and cobb fill a variety of roles, and support each other, as necessary for which ever job they happen to be doing. It's just like in most other Heist type stories in particular, or lot of "team" stories in general, where teams often have several "generalists" as well as more specialized members.

     Ariadne's totem 
  • A small nitpick: Ariadne's token. A top can spin, and Arthur's dice can roll. What could a bishop do to prove that she was in the real world? Is it just the feel of the object?
    • Well in the movie after she makes it you see her set it down and then tip it so it falls to the side. That's probably what convinces her that she's in reality. You have to assume that if she was in a dream and she had taken out her totem to check if it tipped... it would probably stay in place. That's this troper's theory anyways.
    • This troper thought that it might be the side that the totem falls on. The totem might be weighted so that it can only fall one way.
    • Her piece falls, but doesn't roll. Any other piece would've rolled, which is what her totem would do in another person's dream.
    • This troper thought that the idea with totems was that no one else knew what yours was so you can check whether you're in someones dream by checking on the existence of said item. It seems that Cobb's totem was the only one that actually did something
      • Arthur shows Ariadne his dice at the beginning of the movie, and specifically says that it doesn't matter if she sees it as long as she doesn't know how it's weighted. He knows what side it will always land on if he's in reality. If he was in someone else's dream, if Arthur wills the dice to land randomly, it will, because the host wouldn't know how the dice was weighted.
    • The point of a totem isn't to discern whether you're in reality or not - it's to work out whether you're in someone else's dream. As long as no-one else knows the exact physical details of your totem, they cannot fake its appearence or behaviour, and thus it will mark the dream as someone else's if it acts in an unexpected manner. Cobb, as usual, did something he specifically told everyone else not to do and explaiend to Ariadne how his worked, which means that at the very least Ariadne would, if she had the desire, be able to trick Cobb into believing that he was in his own dream when he was actually in hers. The concept of the totem is (accidentally) demonstrated by the incident with Saito and the rug at the start of the movie - the rug being the wrong material indicated to him that he was in someone else's dream.
      • Ah, but Cobb doesn't explain how his totem works, he describes Mal's totem. What he keeps secret is that it is his totem as well.
  • The way a totem falls/doesn't fall/ect isn't what a totem is about. It's the way the totem feels. That's why Ariadne could look at Arthur's loaded die but not touch it. Cobb was the only one crazy enough to need a totem that not only tests whether or not your in someone else's dream, but if you're in a dream at all. Arthur was the only one that knew the exact feel of his die, Ariadne was the only on that knew the exact feel of her weighted bishop. By extension, Cobb was probably the only one that knew the exact feel of the top.
    • It seems to be that a good totem is an otherwise ordinary object that has been customized to be unique in some not-immediately discernible fashion. They look like an ordinary die and chess piece and polyester carpet, but you would have to actually roll it, tip it, or touch it to know the difference. By this reasoning, Cobb's top is actually a very bad totem because, as far as we can tell, it behaves exactly like an ordinary top. To look at it is to be able fake it. Why it would spin forever in a dream was not well explained.
      • Well, I feel my mind usually has trouble to stop looping imageries, such as a person running on a treadmill or a top spinning(unless I focus on making it stop), so unless this is a particular trait of myself, the top would be such a minor background detail in someone else's dream that it'd be stuck in perpetual motion.
    • There's much debate about totems and how they work exactly, and I was personally annoyed by this confusion to begin with as well, but after thinking it through it actually became pretty clear and simple: A totem has specific characteristics known only to the owner. Because they stress the "don't let other people handle your totem" point so much in the film, most people, even those editing the Inception Wiki, conclude that the totem will feel wrong in other people's dreams and right in your own dreams. But this is never stated by anyone in the film! And it is actually contradicted by the logic of the film itself: If you look at the way items are brought into the dreams by the dreamers, it becomes obvious that every dreamer brings his own items, including his own totem, with him into the dream, regardless of who hosts the dream. Thus he simply has the characteristics of the totem he brings into the dream differ from those in the real world. Cobb has his totem, the top - yes, the top, NOT the ring! - spin forever, something it would only do in a dream. The reason they stress the fact that nobody else must know the real-world characteristics of the totem is because bad guys would then be able to plant a perfect replica of the real-world totem on the unsuspecting dreamer inside the dream, making him think he was not dreaming if he ever tried checking it. Also, Cobb is really the only one who has ever doubted his own reality, meaning the others are primarily concerned with checking if they're in someone else's dream, not if they're in their own. While Arthur only tells Ariadne about the totem's ability to reveal if she's in her own dream, her later talk with Cobb (and the way he's using the top throughout the film) makes her realise that a totem can (and should) also tell you if you're in a dream at all. "An elegant way of keeping track of reality," as she remarks. I believe Arthur's choice of words is what has made a lot of people wrongly believe that a totem will only tell you if you're in somebody else's dream. Which is quite baffling, considering Cobb obviously uses his totem throughout the film to determine if he's in a dream at all.

     Does anyone else use their totem? 
  • Another interesting point about the tokens - you see three, right? How many of them actually get used to test for reality? One. Cobb's. And there are a couple of points in the film that he DOESN'T use it... We never see Arthur or Ariadne actually use theirs after being in a dream.
    • Because they already know they're in a dream. They know the difference between reality and dreams, and thus don't have to actually use their totems to realize what's happening. I think that's why they show Cobb using his so much, he spent 50 years in limbo and is now out of touch with reality, so he has to constantly remind himself that he's not in a dream.
      • Right, it's when you're so totally certain that you're in reality that you don't need to check is when it becomes most important to actually do so.
  • We actually do see Ariadne use her totem. In the "everybody wakes up on the airplane after Cobb kicks himself and Saito back up to consciousness" scene, Ariadne looks knowingly at Cobb and rubs a golden cylinder between her fingers. It's the gilded chess piece totem, and what makes me believe the movie was either all real or a dream from beginning to end (not the "everything was real until the final scene, in which Cobb is still in limbo" theory). There's no reason for her to be doing that otherwise.

     Cobol: Worst Employers Ever? 
  • Why were Cobb's original employers trying to kill him at the beginning of the movie? Is You Have Failed Me just standard practice in the movie's world?
    • Yeah. I guess it's a combination of that and Can't Be Seen Working With Him. I think it is implied that Idea Stealing is a pretty serious mind crime in this world which can potentially ruin the company. So the best way to shut up a ineffective Idea Thief is to kill him.
    • Or perhaps he'd been paid in advance and was not in a position to return the money?
    • The prequel comics establish that Cobb's job on Saito in the movie is their third attempt for Cobol, and their earlier failures have driven Cobol to adopt a "get it right this time or else" attitude.

     What happens if the target dies? 
  • This question was never touched on in the movie. Still bugs the hell out of me though: What happens if the target (dude they want to steal the idea from) dies in real life in the middle of the mission?
    • The dreamworld they are working on gets snuffed. They get snuffed. They wake up.
      • The dreamworld is not created by the Subject, but by the Architect. The Subject just populates the dreamworld. So if the Subject dies, the projections all disappear, leaving the team in an empty dreamworld.
    • We saw in the beginning that if the dreamer wakes up, the dreamworld starts collapsing. But typically the dreamer will not be the target - the part in the beginning had Saito as the target and Arthur as the dreamer. If the target dies but is not the dreamer, I don't think anything would happen to the world itself - the target would disappear from the dreamworld and the team would figure out what happened and abort.

     Fischer didn't recognize Saito? 
  • Why doesn't Robert Fischer recognize Saito? According to Saito, Fischer Corp is their main business competitor. They're are in the same industry. They're both head of their company. Wouldn't they have met in a business conference somewhere? Or, at the very least, wouldn't Robert have seen Saito on the news?
    • Some people do business entirely by proxy for personal or safety reasons. It's possible he's seen representatives and/or stand-ins, but never the actual man.
    • This is a pedantic answer, but I'm also pretty sure Saito was sitting behind Fischer. It's possible he just didn't see him.
      • Nope, to the left, across the aisle. Perhaps he simply didn't recognize him. Lot on his mind, after all. And if he recognized him in the dreams, he just assumed he was basing the guy on the dude across the aisle.
    • Maybe Fischer isn't terribly interested/involved in running the company, and let's Browning do all of the work.
  • Also it's possible that Fischer *does* recognize Saito, but has no reason to talk to him. In fact, I can think of reasons why Fischer wouldn't want to talk to Saito (i.e. he is thinking to himself, lovely, my private plane broke down and I'm sitting right next to the guy that bought the airline I'm on, just hope he doesn't recognize me).
    • If Fischer *did* recognize Saito (even subconsciously), this would explain why the plan went totally crazy once they got in. Fischer's subconscious realizes his sworn corporate enemy is his subconscious and reacts by trying to shoot Saito. This also helps the "inception" because during the fortress dream, Saito ends up helping to save him, while his godfather screws him over. This makes it easier for Fischer to just split up the empire. One thing that I like about Fischer recognizes Saito is that this explains the "This was not part of the plan". Had Saito not tagged along, it would have been a cakewalk. One thing that I liked about the final scene was how Saito and Fischer were standing away from each other.
    • I think Fischer did recognize Saito. Easy to miss, but his projections started appearing until he saw Saito threatening him with a gun didn't he?

     Fischer not remembering things from his dream 
  • I think a bigger question is why Fischer doesn't recognize or remember anything from his dreams, whereas the others are able to. Compare his obliviousness to Saito's lack of it.
    • This is EXACTLY what I thought. Saito starts as a mark, but immediately after that mission, he's aware of extraction and joins the crew. Wouldn't he be confused and lost at higher dream levels?
      • He was too busy dying
    • Perhaps they had more training in remember dreams (which is something actually true IRL, in that some people train themselves to remember dreams, and therefore going into a waking-dream state where they can do whatever they want). But then a new question arises - how did the team know that Fischer would NOT have the same ability as they did? They certainly didn't expect the projection-defenses, which suggests that they were purely lucky that Fischer doesn't have the same ability to remember dreams as clearly as they do.
      • Well, Arthur screwed up there, but he didn't necessarily screw everything up.
      • In the tie in comic Arthur is aware that Saito is well trained enough to be a lucid dreamer. Fischer obviously had some rudimentary training, but not on that level. In fact the point of 'Mr Charles' is to convince Fischer he was better trained than he really is.
      • That, and remember that after the crew went into dream level 2 (the hotel level), Fischer had to be led through remembering the events of dream level 1 (the van level), and "Mr. Charles" compared it to trying to remember a dream once you've woken up. Fischer therefore was proven to not be very good at remembering dreams after he wakes up. Quid pro quo.
      • Also remember that they drugged Fischer prior to entering themselves. Not being initially set up with the dreaming machine could have made his experience more comparable to a normal dream, which is, of course, what the inception team was going for.

     Couldn't someone else have used money to get Cobb's charges dropped? 
  • Cobb's apparently been working as a thief for multiple powerful men and is at least somewhat successful. Given that, a simple murder charge would've been cake to get dropped.
    • Given the Screw the Rules, I Have Money! nature of Saito's connections, it's possible he's really the only one perfectly poised to dismiss that charge.
    • Or he could make it such that Cobb could turn to no one but him.
    • I like that theory! Saito set up the extraction on HIMSELF at the beginning, so he could extort Cobb to implant the idea in Fischer Jr.! That explains why he was so familiar with the dream levels later on!
    • Cobb mentioned that he'd been trying to buy his way back into the US since he'd gone on the run. From that, we can reasonably infer that he was trying to find a client who could force the charges to be dropped, but whoever he'd been working for was likely holding out on him or unwilling to go that far. Saito appears to be the first one who's contracted Cobb that is willing to make the end-run around the justice system from the start.
    • Indeed, the average corporation that hires an idea thief probably wouldn't instantly give them a reward that would ensure that they would never work in the business again. They want him to perform as many gigs as they can get out of him. Only Saito is willing to accept that Cobb will only do one extremely important job for him.
    • This makes a lot of sense given how impossible inception is said to be. Saito is the only one offering Cobb his freedom because he's the only one who needs Cobb that desperately.
    Cobb: Can't fix that. No one can.
    Saito: Just like inception.
  • Someone else could, but it says something about Saito's character that he tried. It's possible (even likely) that none of his other employers thought of trying to control Cobb by offering him his children, and it's logical that Cobb himself wouldn't bring it up, since the last thing that you want to talk about to blood hungry killers is your family.

     Weightlessness in Hotel != weightlessness in Snow Fortress? 
  • If everyone is weightless in the Hotel level of the dream (because they are weightless in the Van level), wouldn't they therefore be weightless in the Snow level as well?
    • It's shown you need a "kick" from the level above you to "wake" you from each level- the "kick" from the airplane won't bring them out of the hotel level, for example- that's why the "kicks' have to be coordinated. Similarly, I would assume the physical effects are only transmitted one level down. Or, maybe it's like the pain from Saito's bullet wound- it transmits, but on a reduced level.
    • This one Bugged me to no end as well. All of the gravity effects are passed from level to level, an effect of the drugging. The van's swerves and crashes are manifest in the hotel world, even being drawn on by Cobb to point out the strangeness of the dream to Fisher Jr. Most dramatically, the van's free-fall becomes the hotels, and implicitly, the whole worlds, free fall. However, all their sleeping bodies in level two experiencing free-fall does not translate into snow level, or further, limbo's free-fall. It could have easily been explained away, that the architect, or another dreamer was actively willing gravity back into the world to correct for the error, but we are never told so. This troper would have appreciate an explicit explanation, especially considering all the hard work that's been done to keep the movie consistent.
      • I think the reason that the weightless effect is only transmitted one level down is because it's a part of Arthur's subconscious where as after that they are aware of it and so in their next dream they make it normal again. What I don't get is that if Arthur is a reasonably good architect, or at least has experience in controlling his dreams, why he can't sort of will himself to make gravity go back to normal. I guess they would explain it by saying the subconscious is more powerful than the conscious brain, but that seems illogical since in the movie, and in real life (sometimes) you can control your dreams to a degree.
      • I felt like it had to do with the fact that the van was in free fall in level 1, while in level 2 there was no gravity but they... weren't in free fall...
      • When the van went into freefall, two levels down there was an avalanche and everything turned into Slippy-Slidey Ice World. After Arthur starts simulating gravity in the hotel, it becomes easier to get around again.
      • My rationale behind it was to think about each dream as a a nestled universe contained within the dreamer(s); i.e. in the top level dream (in the van), when the van goes over the edge of the bridge, it is falling relative to the rest of the dream. Therefore, the hotel dream goes into free fall since it is contained within the van. However, since the snow dream takes place "inside" of someone in the hotel dream, the whole universe is subject to the force acting upon the dreamer at all points; the whole universe is falling at the same rate. It's all inertial frame of reference stuff. Maybe.
      • Somewhat related to the inertial reference frame idea is the counterintuitive relationship between acceleration and gravity. I can't work out if this is accurate in terms of physics or physiology, but I think of it like this: For a normal sleeping person (plane), their body is experiencing 0 acceleration because their seat/bed is counteracting the force of gravity, which makes them think gravity is normal, so gravity is normal in their dream (van). For a falling sleeping person (falling van), their body is experiencing gravity's acceleration, but it actually feels like weightlessness, so gravity is zero in the dream (hotel). And for a floating sleeping person (hotel), their body is experiencing...0 acceleration again, just like a normal sleeping person, so subsequent levels (snow) go back to normal. Maybe.
  • I figured it was all about perception - each person's subconscious in the van level tells them that they are falling in the hotel level, but only Arthur is awake when the van begins to fall so only he perceives the falling. The others are already in the snow fortress by this time and so they don't notice that they're falling in the level above them.
  • Is it not to do with the fact that the hotel is Arthur's dream, so because he's experiencing zero-g in the level he's dreaming *from*, his dream loses gravity. But the dreamer of the third level (I forget who - Eames?) is not experiencing zero-g in the level he's dreaming from. Same reason it's raining in the first level (Yusuf's dream) but not lower down

     Intravenous dreams? 
  • Minor complaint: to put it crudely, how do dreams travel through one's wrists?
    • I assume that the connection that puts in the chemicals also attaches something to the nervous system. Alternately, since the chemist sometimes talks about how his "compounds" (not the initial sedative, apparently) will allow the deeper dream stages, maybe it's a form of chemical-induced telepathy.
    • Probably via those nifty ol' things called "nerves" that eventually connect to your brain wherever they are in the body.
  • I say nanobots!!!!

     Stealing Fischer's passport 
  • Why did they steal Fischer's passport? Was it just so Dom would have an excuse to talk to him?
    • I believe so. It allows Fischer to not find Dom suspicious for recognizing him, which in turn allows Dom to give a toast to Fischer Sn. That way, Fischer Jr would have to take a sip of water.
    • Another natural option is that the passport is (or contains) Fischer Jr.'s totem, and they needed it for Eams to forge in the dream itself. After all, if Fischer Jr. is trained well enough to have armed forces in his dreams, he must have a totem as well. Perhaps a more elaborate conversation about this point among the dream thieves existed in the original script but was dropped from the movie due to time constraints.
      • Several things about that: First, totems were Mal's idea and there's no reason for Fischer to know about them. Secondly, the totems have little to do with dream security. The point of totems are to keep you from confusing dreams and reality. This is useful for the thieves who spend a lot more time than most people inside dreams. Not so much for Fischer, who presumably is generally a normal dreamer. Thirdly, they didn't know about Fischer's dream security so how would they know he had a totem at all, let alone what it was? It makes some sense that a passport might be something that Eames wants to be able to copy, but it probably doesn't have anything to do with totems.
    • Cobb wanted to sugest to Fischer that he wanted a drink of water. Remember Fischer only ordered a drink because Cobb did
    • This brings to mind something that bugged me. If the flight attendant was already bought and paid for, why did Cobb go through the trouble of covertly putting the knock out drug in Fischer's drink himself? Wouldn't taking both of their drinks from her needlessly draw suspicion?
      • Or they could have just used Ariadne as the flight attendant, there by reducing the number of people in on the plan and possibly compromising the job. And it would be adorable.
      • Except they needed A)to be certain no one would come into first class and see what was going on, and B)to have someone awake monitoring them, and putting the headphones on to Yusef. I think it's probably procedure to have someone awake watching over the dreamers- notice the "comic-book kid" in the first sequence.
      • Honestly, watching the film for the first time, I thought Yusef would be the real world caretaker, dealing with any dosage issues they had (how was he supposed to deal with dosage issues while in the dream, anyway? And that's why I assumed he wasn't in any of the dream scenes in the trailers), and Saito would be the driver (because what else would a tourist be good for, even if he was there to make sure the job got done?). It didn't turn out that way, but...

     Saito: proof we're all slackers! 
  • Saito is rich enough to buy out an airline and drop some fairly heinous murder charges with a single phone call, and he's still young enough to repeatedly call himself a "young man"? I'm totally wasting my life.
    • Well, he could have inherited the vast wealth from his own father. Although personally I'd estimate his age at around 40 something.
    • I would've pegged him in his mid 30s. But even 40 something is young, considering an average Japanese life span of about 80 years. And he looked much older than that in Limbo, at least 100 years old. At that age, 40 is a frolicking teenager.
    • FYI the actor, Ken Watanabe, is 50. The "young man" thing could be ironical.
    • Yeah, 50 is definitely young compared to his age in Limbo, which is where I remember him using the phrase. I think he was expressing a wistful regret at the years he thought he'd lost in Limbo, and looking forward to changing from a frail old man back to a man with half his life still ahead of him.

     Why weight down the chair? 
  • At the beginning of the movie, why did Cobb make Mal weigh down the chair when he was rappelling down the cliff? He knew Mal would sabotage his mission. Why make her the crucial element between a successful mission and falling to your death on the beach below?
    • He's got it under control. You'd hate to see it out of control.
    • Alternatively, he might have done it so that he would know exactly when she left, and therefore, how much time he had, without having to babysit her. Was it still a dumb idea though? Yes.

     What WAS the plan? 
  • What was the initial plan for the inception before things started going wrong? Specifically:
    • If Fischer's projections hadn't attacked, what was the plan for level one? Were they always going to use the van (but drive it more safely and covertly) or would they have done the dream in the warehouse?
      • I'm pretty sure they were going to drive the van to the bridge and drive off, as before, they just would have done it more steadily and with less being-shot-at, (and thus no zero-g for Arthur). Remember that they needed time in the bottom two levels to actually incept Fischer, so using the bridge as the kick gives them time.
    • If Cobb had not decided to use 'Mr Charles' what would they have done on level two to get Fischer to level three?
      • They would have him confront his projection of Godfather Browning, just under different circumstances. They only pulled 'Mr Charles' as a ploy to avoid his militarized subconscious.
    • What would the plan have been on level three if Fischer was not working with them because of 'Mr Charles'?
      • If Fischer's projections weren't as aggressive as they expected, or the train didn't make a royal mess of things, they would've had plenty of time for more elaborate methods of convincing Fischer to go down into the lower levels. (Compare the Saito extraction job, before things went belly up there as well.) Due to time pressure thanks to Yusuf's early kick, we're shown the team resorting to Xanatos Speed Chess.
    • It's entirely possible that they had no plan; they mention, more than once, that they have no way of knowing what's going to happen in each dream state, and the need to be flexible. That's either an Indy Ploy or a very loosely constructed game of Xanatos Speed Chess.
      • Cobb outright says during the planning stage that they have no idea what they're going to encounter as they go down into the levels, and they're going to have to make it up as they go.
    • The plan is loose, but the main points of it are: Get Fisher down to level 2, having him think he's in level 1, and that the lawyer had put him there (the extra level makes him more susceptible). Convince him to go down another level in "the lawyers mind" to make him uncover the maybe-real-probably-not secret that the lawyer is hiding from Fisher: that his father actually loved him and wanted him to make his own destiny.

     Why tell Cobb about the vents? 
  • Why would Cobb have Ariadne tell him about the air vents? Why not just ask her if Eames had her put in any direct routes, have her answer yes or no, and have her tell him to take the routes that he requested. That way Eames knows where to go, and Cobb (ergo Mal) doesn't know where he'll be.
    • They were in a hurry. He just plain forgot.
      • Actually, Eames wasn't with Saito and Fischer, so while he would have known where to go the people who the route was for wouldn't have and would have wasted precious time waiting for Eames. Ariadne was standing next to Cobb and also on the same radio frequency as everyone, so there wasn't really any way for her to tell Saito and Fischer how to get to the shortcut without Cobb (and Mal) finding out.
      • There's these things called thumbs which allow you to plug your ears. There's also earbuds for the radio which would have taken all of five seconds to pull out. Original post still stands. In a hurry and irrational is the better argument.
    • The issue isn't that Cobb knows the exact route. The issue is that Cobb knows there's a route at all. Even if he doesn't listen when Ariadne explains it to the others, the fact that he knows, even generally, that there's an air vent somewhere in the complex will give Mal easier access. Its not a huge facility.
      • I agree with this. Cobb had the idea that there might be a shortcut designed into the fortress. As long as he's aware of the possibility, even if he doesn't know for sure, Mal will be looking for said shortcut anyway.

     Why go to limbo? 
  • What do Ariadne and Cobb go to the limbo for ? Why does Fischer resurrect from there to the snow world, with his wound healed ? Is the last world really the limbo or a 4th layer of dream, anyway ? I think Ariadne says it's only a 4th layer, and they seem to go there with the usual mechanism, rather than being killed in the snow world...
    • They go to Limbo to get Fischer and bring him back to Layer 3 (the Snow World) so that he can open the vault and have the catharsis needed for the inception to work. Apparently being killed in Limbo (or getting a kick in Limbo, it's not clear) brings you back to the level you entered it from. Eames did have to use the defibrillator on Fischer, though. The last world really was Limbo (shaped by Cobb/Mal), but Ariadne is basically saying to think of it like a 4th level. Oddly, even with the sedative still active (as they were no where near the months that they were supposed to have in the third level), dieing in Limbo brought the characters back to the level they entered it from (except for Cobb and Saito, as the Snow Level was gone when they left Limbo).
    • There are two different methods to enter and to escape the limbo. Fischer goes to the limbo by dying. Cobb and Ariadne hook themselves up to Fischer whose mind is in limbo, so they can follow him there by using the dream machine. Ariadne and Fischer escape the limbo by using the synchronised kick (falling in the limbo while simultaneously falling/getting jolted in the Snow Level), so they wake up in the Snow Level where they entered the limbo from. Cobb and Saito escape the limbo by killing themselves, so they go straight to the real world.

     Saito and Cobb's age discrepency in limbo 
  • Saito being older than Cobb really bugs me. Cobb entered Limbo to go after Fischer when he died. Saito was still alive on the third level at this point. Cobb, unlike Ariadne and Fischer, stays in Limbo to find Saito (who had just, in the film, died). Cobb didn't age. Does Saito have a separate Limbo? How did Cobb get there, as he specifically said he was staying in the one he was in to look for Saito? If Saito does have a separate Limbo, why doesn't Fischer?
    • Limbo is the shared subconscious of everyone, so there's no "separate" limbo. Cobb was able to find Fischer easily because he knew that Mal would take him with her (as Fischer was his primary objective) to a place that he knew very well. Furthermore, Cobb didn't actually "stay" in limbo, he returned back to it from the first dream level when he drowned. The amount of time that passed during his return translated into decades.
      • This seems mostly right. Remember Saito died in the van level BEFORE the van hit the water (since we saw him die in the snow level too, and the kick hadn't happened yet). The time that passes in the van level between Saito's death and Cobb's death from drowning (let's say a minute) translates to decades for Saito in limbo before Cobb finds him.
      • Ohhh. I assumed he spent so long there searching for Saito that he forgot who he was, not that he got kicked to L1, drowned, and went back. I figured that since the timescale is infinite down there, he was instants behind Ariadne's kicks, and didn't emerge from the van because he was getting Saito out.
      • Then it bugs me that he says he has to stay and look and they never show Cobb going back to level 3 (like they do for the Ariadne and Fischer).
      • Cobb (and Saito) die on all three levels, drowning in the van level and not getting kicked up in the snow and hotel levels. That's why when they're in limbo they just need to kill themselves once to get out. I think Cobb also dies in limbo, after Mal stabs him, so that he can wash up on the shore again and more easily find Saito.
      • But if Mal killed Cobb wouldn't it bring him back a level?
      • No. Under the effects of this particular sedative, death doesn't have that effect; it just drops you to limbo. Cobb's death, either from the stabbing or from the building collapsing, "reincarnated" him in limbo immediately. But since this incarnation was due to death, not the machine, he forgot himself and had to be reminded during the conversation with Saito.
    • In the original shooting script, Cobb is described as being bearded, tired, and "traveled." Perhaps this was changed for the final film, but it seems like Cobb spent a long time looking for Saito.

     Freudian reviewers 
  • A lot of the negative reviews I read on Rotten Tomatoes were, well, incredibly stupid. Like the reviewer didn't appear to understand any of the themes. Or just kind of a shit review. Or tries to sound high brow by name dropping Freud...even though there's nothing blatantly Freudian about the film, other than 'dreams exist'. It does make you wonder about the quality of the critic, reading most of the bad reviews. One of the interesting things about the RT rating is that it started at 100% when the review pool was top critics - and it dropped by about 15% once the local papers came into play.
    • I always though the different levels could represent is ego and superego. Am I stupid? Arthur is super-ego, the indian guy is the ego and Eames is the id. The shooting projections are defence mechanisms, and Mal is some kind of trauma. Ariadne is the psychotherapist and Cobb is the amalgamation of id, ego and super-ego. Saito I'm not sure of
    • The movie took very little in terms of dreams from Freud who believed that dreams were more or less wish fulfillment while in this they are more of a representation of your life.
    • Do you have any evidence to support those claims, other than the defense mechanism and Ariadne-as psychotherapist ideas (which are kind of self-evident)? Why are the different levels ego and superego? Why are those specific characters the id, ego, and superego?
    • Arthur is uptight and anal/prim and proper-No imagination-he is not free to think in different patterns than what is set up-a representative of what someone who has a strong super-ego acts like. Eames is sexual/unrepressed/free-id. Yusuf is having to navigate a car like the ego has to navigate through the different impulses from ego and superego. He also has to make sure the defence mechanisms do not take over.
    • Maybe I'm not using RT correctly, but it looks like the top critics percentage is 78%, whereas the overall one is 86%.
    • I probably fucked up. In any case, it held a strong 100 for a while.
  • http://www.bartleby.com/283/10.html - There's plenty Freudian about the movie since Freud wrote several books on the interpretation of dreams. Quoting Freud himself in a "General Introduction to Psychoanalysis".... "The number of things that find symbolic representation in the dream is not great—the human body as a whole, parents, children, brothers and sisters, birth, death, nakedness and a few others. The only typical, that is, regular representation of the human person as a whole is in the form of a house, ... Birth is almost regularly represented by some reference to water; either one plunges into the water or climbs out of it, or rescues someone from the water, or is himself rescued from it, i.e., there is a mother-relation to the person. Death is replaced in the dream by taking a journey, riding in a train; being dead, by various darksome, timid suggestions; nakedness, by clothes and uniforms." What I find really cool is that as a filmmaker, Nolan knows about this archetypes, and he uses it to mess with people's subconscious even when they aren't aware of it... It makes sense for him to make a movie about Inception since he is doing it.......
    • The movie shares far more themes with Jungian philosophy than Freudian.
      • And Adlerian, in terms of the focus on overcoming your inferiority complex.

     One person, one totem? 
  • Why are so many people confused about the "One Totem, One Person" rule? The top is no longer Mal's totem. Because she's dead. People are acting like the top can only ever be Mal's totem. Since she's dead, she's not able to fabricate its physical properties in a dream projection. Cobb is the only person alive that knows the physical properties of the top, so it's his totem. It's not as complicated as people are making it out to be — and no, his kids/wedding ring are not his totem. I have a feeling people have just forgotten the explicit description of the totem rule, but it's driving me nuts how many theories are being created (Example: It's still Mal's totem for some reason, so Cobb must have a different one) when we already have the explanation.
    • Uh, doesn't Cobb use the top to demonstrate totems to Ariadne? He has no problem using the top as an example as its real owner is dead and more importantly, it clearly isn't his totem. He obviously keeps it with him as a memento (har) and possibly as a backup/distraction. His wedding ring is only visible when he is in a dream state and also plays into his general philosophy of elegance and simplicity. It's the perfect totem when you think about it; as one could check it in the dark or while otherwise compromised. I think whats throwing the tropes community is that this is potentially a new trope. I'll suggest the 'obfuscated head fake', as its a dodge known only to the protagonist and kept secret from everyone (including the audience). It's existence can only be inferred.
      • The fact that the ring only shows when he's in a dreamscape could also be a sign of his subconscious going out of control.
      • Or that he could remove the ring in the real world, but in the dreams, his hang-ups with Mal cause the ring to appear subconsciously.

     Removing incepted ideas 
  • Okay, so maybe I didn't quite understand how the idea-theft worked, but why couldn't Cobb just take the idea out of Mal's "idea safe" thing once they got back into the real world?
    • You mean to get rid of her obsession with the real world being another level of dream? 'Stealing' the ideas doesn't destroy them in the mind of whoever had them. It's more like photocopying a document than stealing a gold bar or something.
    • Then why not go in and implant the opposite idea? That's what just bugs me.
      • It's really, really, really hard to both go deep enough to implant the idea and be subtle enough that she doesn't realize that its implanted. The only time Cobb did it alone, he had accidentally trapped himself and Mal in the deepest layers of their subconscious and had fiddled with a self-inflicted delusion while she was not paying attention. The second time required months of planning with resources he didn't have access to at the time. Still, it doesn't really explain why he didn't just tell her that he had done an inception on her, as that might have been enough to break the illusion of natural inspiration.
      • It may be that he didn't realize that her mind had taken the idea so far until after she was already dead, that he had just assumed that she was having withdrawal issues from their limbo and didn't connect the dots until he was too late.
      • It's doubtful that just telling her it was an inception would take. We know that Epiphany Therapy doesn't actually work (Cobb getting rid of his Mal projection notwithstanding...); the idea that "your world is not real" has been ingrained in her psyche for 50 years. It's not going to just stop.
      • Doesn't Arthur outright demonstrate this to Saito on the helicopter? He tells Saito that simply telling someone an idea won't work - an inception comes from deep down inside the person, at an extremely deep level. Hell, Mal underwent inception in Limbo - which is deeper than the third level that is required for inception to take hold. Mal's belief that the world isn't real is probably far too deep to repair, which may be why she went so intensely insane.
      • Making Mal obsessed with two opposing ideas definitely wouldn't improve her mental health.

     Miles getting from Paris to LA so quickly 
  • If the end of the film takes place in the "real" world, how did Miles get from Paris to LA (or wherever in America Dom's home is) in such a timely manner? Unless...!
    • In the beginning of the movie, Cobb gave him gifts to give to his kids. Presumably, this was because Miles was going home. If one assumes that he left shortly after this scene, that's plenty of time for him to get to LA before Cobb.
    • After visiting Miles, Cobb turns around and goes to Mombasa to pick up Eames and Yusef, then back to the Paris warehouse, then on to Sydney, Australia to get on the same flight as Fisher. That gives Miles plenty of time to head to the US.
    • Also, they know when the job is going down at least a week in advance; Arthur comes to get Cobb to tell him when Fischer Sr has died, long before the actual funeral. Plenty of time for Miles to get home in case it goes right.

     Arthur's excellent timing 
  • How did Arthur know to put the music headphones on Eames, to signal Eames that the level 2 kick was about to happen? Arthur was just supposed to kick everyone at the same time who was asleep in level 2. The team didn't know ahead of time that they would go below level 3 dreaming. They had planned to come up, abort the mission if they failed on 3. Ariadne is the one that suggests, out of desperation, going to Limbo to retrieve the shot Robert Fischer. The level 3 team decides on the spot that Eames would stay to kick them out of Limbo. So how did they communicate that to Arthur, who was "awake" one level up?
    • Well, since they missed the first kick, Arthur probably played the music in order to warn them when their second kick was coming. The guys in the third level were apparently able to do the math regardless, but it doesn't hurt to give them a fair bit of warning, I suppose.
      • I think Arthur did the math himself. He noted the point at which the van hit the railing, estimated the amount of time it would take to hit the water, and then factored in the time dilation. He had a bit of a window thanks to the time dilation, so it wouldn't need to be too accurate.
    • As for how he knew to put it on Eames specifically, he was the dreamer for that level.
      • Wasn't Fischer the dreamer? Didn't they have to convince him to let them enter his own mind?
      • No, Fisher is the subject. Eames is the dreamer who creates the dream, Fisher is the one whose mind is brought intot he dream and populates it. Like when Cobb and Ariadne demonstrate dream architecture, Ariadne was the architect and dreamer while Cobb was the subject, or later with Arthur and Ariadne, where Arthur was the dreamer and architect but Ariadne was the subject. Architect and dreamer are actually two different roles, but can be filled by the same person on a small team.
      • In fact Fisher believed that it was Browning's dream. And of course Eames stood up for Browning.

     Music slowdown 
  • Here's a music related one for you - if five minutes on one level is an hour on the next, then wouldn't the tempo of the music SLOW DOWN to one-12th the speed of the original recording? And to one-144th on the next? That would make it near-impossible to recognize, would it not?
    • It did slow down. On the third level they realize that the "wind" that they were hearing for 20 minutes was actually the music on the first level.
      • They didn't hear it for twenty minutes; they figured out they had twenty minutes because they heard the music. Also see below.
      • Yes, they did. Yusef put the headphones on Arthur in level 1, the level 2 had the BWONG music at that time. What happened in level 3? Eames specifically called Cobb on a walkie-talkie telling him that he just noticed that the sounds he has been hearing for 20 minutes (the BWONG tune slowed down 12 times) are actually music, and that he thought it was the wind. After that, they figured out they still had an hour there. They indeed figure out they had 20 minutes at one point later, but that's after they missed the bridge fall kick and calculated how much time they have before the van hits the water.
    • Also, this.
      • OP is correct... The trouble is understanding how SLOW 1/144 of the original tempo is. That's 1 second becoming 144 seconds. A note should perhaps change at most once every half minute down on the third level. Also, slowing something down should change the pitch (which it did) but that should subtract further from the recognizability of the music and the fact that it was music at all.
      • More specifically, the pitch would be lowered by log(144)/log(2), which is 7 octaves. By that time, you've changed the highest note on a piano into close to the lowest note. The song's actual pitches have been lowered to subsonic frequency, and the "wind" they're hearing is the higher-pitched harmonics from the singing, instruments, and chords.

     How did the zero-G trick work? 
  • How did Arthur's zero-gravity elevator kick work? Elevators use counterweights, vertically suspended in a shaft adjacent and parallel to the elevator, to help pull them up. The counterweights would have no force if the building is rolling or tilted on its side. So how could Arthur get the elevator moving at all?
    • It's a dream. The elevator knows exactly as much about how elevators work as Arthur does.
    • I'm guessing that the explosion at the top of the elevator in the enclosed shaft shoved it down.
      • ^ This. Arthur was using the C4 for a reason.
      • Essentially, Arthur turned the elevator shaft into a giant gun: an explosion is triggered in a confined tube (the shaft) with a projectile (the elevator car). The explosion wants to fill its container (explosions behave like fluids if I remember correctly) and the car is in the way. The explosion (which is "work") transfers energy to the car, and it starts moving. If you confine a blast, it's always more powerful than if it happened in open air, so it transferred a lot of energy to the car, propelling it through the shaft.

     How does Miles know to meet Cobb? 
  • How does Miles (Michael Caine) know to meet Cobb at the airport arrival area? Saito only mentioned making a phone call to get the charges dropped against Cobb. Wouldn't Cobb, such a meticulous planner, have played it safe by traveling alone and going back to his home on his own? What if the mission had not worked out?
    • If the mission had failed, Cobb would have been stopped by airport security; I guess Saito couldn't/wouldn't allow Cobb to just plain skip past security after getting to LA. It was really an all-or-nothing deal.

     Thematic significance of Mal's death in Limbo 
  • Not really Fridge Logic, more of a question. When Ariadne shot Mal, she of course didn't die instantly. Now killing a projection doesn't affect the subconscious at all. However, the scene afterwards held a lot of significance for Cobb. He seemed to be putting his guilt behind him, once and for all. At that point, Mal finally dies. My question is this: is it mere thematic coincidence the projection died from Ariadne's bullet at that moment, or was there something deeper happening there?
    • At some point it is stated that "Mal" is a projection of the guilt that Cobb has for the real Mal's death. Since he was finally confronting his emotions and working through that guilt, his subconscious no longer had a reason to project "Mal", so she "died".
      • Yeah...I got that she was a projection of his guilt; I just didn't know whether or not her death coincided with the moving through guilt or if it was caused by it. Based on the scene and your assessment, that seems most likely.

     Bland dreamworlds 
  • It bugs me how bland dreams are in this movie (Real Dreams Are Weirder). A highly realistic dream would probably weird me out more than the dreams with the animate shopping malls.
    • There's a suggestion that it was very lucid dreaming, so an amount of precision is possible.
    • One could theorize that this is the reason an architect is needed, to set up a controlled environment within the dreamscape so that the target doesn't realize that they're inside a dream.
    • Don't forget that Ariadne specifically went through each dream-construct with the team members before they started the dream sequences. They built dreams to her specifications, so of course the dreams are going to be relatively simple.
    • And, with two exceptions, we only see dreams in which one of the dreamers is trying to trick another dreamer into thinking it's reality. The team members are really more like con men than members of a caper. That's why the dreams are always realistic - if there were Alien Geometries and flying kangaroos floating around, Saito or Fischer would be tipped off immediately and wouldn't play along with the dream layers. Exceptions are Limbo, Dom's memory cage for Mal, in which the dream is built out of concrete memories, and the second dream share session between Cobb and Ariadne. During that dream, the surrealism cuts loose and Ariadne has fun fucking with physics, which caused the subconscious to detect her as an intruder. That's why I hate this criticism of the film.
      • The problem with that, though, is that it doesn't really matter how fantastical the dream is, you almost always think it is reality while you're in it. Now, it might be different because of the nature of what Dom and team are doing, they're invading another person's subconscious. It's possible that weird things are believable if your own subconscious is coming up with them, but are more noticeable if they are coming from someone else's thoughts. The real reason I think most of the dreams are fairly mundane, however, is so that Nolan could continue with his theme of blurring the line between dream and reality by making the dreams look no different, or possible more real, than reality. Ala Platonic Cave/The Matrix.
      • The thing about extraction and inception, is that regardless of what the dream world looks like, obtaining information from the mark, or implanting an idea in the mark's mind, requires interacting with him/her and/or the representations of his/her subconscious (people walking around in the dream). If the dream is designed to be a utopia of flying dragons and a perpetual Aurora Borealis sky, someone like Eames might be able to transform into a dragon and interact with the mark and its environment in that way, without the mark even so much batting an eye. But everyone else (Cobb & co.) would stick out completely in such a fantastic environment (almost like the Only Sane Man trope applied to a fantastic dreamscape), causing the subconscious to reject them like they did Ariadne when she was playing around with dream physics. They have a better shot at blending in if the dream environment is more mundane.
      • Well, Cobb does mention some form of 'dream training' that people can take in order to fortify their minds from Extractors. Maybe a part of that training is telling them how to tell if they're dreaming (Remembering how Fischer quickly believed he was dreaming after 'Mr. Charles' pointed out the changes in gravity and weather in the second level) and how to snap themselves out of it.
      • And on another level, there's such a thing as Conservation of Budget: the more fantastical sequences require more CGI, which means more money and more time.
      • Some points to the realism of the dreams. This part is probably one of the more realistic parts of Inceptions representation of dreams, since one can train one's mind to actively look for things that shouldn't be part of reality, such as personal dream signs and so on. Saito and Fischer could both be somewhat trained for this, so that the more realistic the dream, the higher chances the mission has of succeeding.
      • ^ This is actually invoked twice in the dreamworld. The first is with Saito's lovenest, where he notices one aspect of the dreamworld that was off (the carpet is not stained correctly and is of a different fabric that the one he is familiar with) and later when Cobb is talking with Fisher in the "Mister Charles" guise. While playing Mister Charles, Cobb even specifically says "You've been trained for this," and notes the strangeness of the dream, and specifically calls Fisher's attention to it. Once he sees the strangeness, he accepts he's in a dream - so clearly, there is a training process that allows people trained to defend their minds against intrusion by noticing the weirdness of the dreamworld, and thus is makes sense that they'd try to create worlds as realistic as possible to defend against it.
  • Another possibility: The "normalness" of the dream represents how normal dreams feel when you experience them. A dream with blue rain feels just like reality with clear rain, so for purposes of telling the story, we're shown clear rain, regardless of whatever is "really" going on.
  • Another possibility is, y'know, not everyone has super-weird dreams. My dreams are pretty much like the ones in Inception - fairly normal environment, just with weirdness around the edges.
    • This is the comment I was going to make. My dreams are generally extremely boring; just a lot of talking to people and reading stuff and going places. If I start having surreal or exciting dreams, it's time for a pregnancy test.
      • Same here. It bugged me when some reviewers said the fact that the movie's dreams weren't psychedelic trips was a negative point against it. Some people I know even said (quite pretentiously if you ask me) that Paprika was a better movie about dreaming. I was glad the movie treated dreams as weird mashups of real-world elements, as that's how I tend to dream. In any case, if the film's dream worlds were LSD trips where anything could happen, it would be very difficult to write a meaningful story built around a heist.
  • The way that the subject fills the dreamworld with meaning is very dependent on the symbolism of each part of that world. During an extraction, the team knows they need to gain access to the safe, because that's a universal symbol of protected property and secrets. If they were instead all at a swimming pool that was flying through space (one of this troper's top 5 weird ones...), they'd have no idea where to look because they wouldn't know what the weird elements really meant to the subject's subconscious. For the first two levels of the inception, the explanation is even easier - they need to manipulate Fischer in very specific ways to set up his subconscious for the next level, which requires him to be predictable, which requires the environment to be one they all have a similar understanding of, thus reality. If they used a surreal world, Fischer's dreaming mind might let him forget it wasn't real, but the process would impose such weird dream logic on his thinking that they wouldn't be able to interact with him dependably. For the third level, it's basically the same as an extraction - they know they need Fischer to relate to his ailing father somehow, therefore it's a sort of hospital, and they know it must involve hidden thoughts and emotions, therefore it's a safe in a fortress.
  • One thing lots of people forget on the whole Non-Surreal Dreamworlds topic is that the PASIV machine was originally designed as a form of harmless yet realistic military training. It's not that helpful to train your soldier how to fly around and burn things as a technicolour dragon if he's not going to be one in a real combat situation, so it makes sense that the dreamworlds are realistic enough that any skills or experience practised in them could be applicable to the real world.

    Dom and Mal's Limbo World 

  • This might be a slight extension to the last topic of bland dreamworlds which could make sense in the context of the movie, but this Troper think Mal and Dom have very little imagination on their limbo world they created. A beach and a empty city, why not put some waterparks, roller-coasters, or an all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet with robot butlers. So did Mal and Dom just walk around for 50 years while occasionally creating another boring building?
    • They both studied to be architects (literal architects as well as dream ones.) Creating a city is probably their idea of the dream job. Plus, we never got to see much of the inside of those buildings, and that may be where the interesting bits are stuffed.
    • Who said they didn't do that? What we see in the movie is literally the decaying remnants of a leftover Limbo world in Dom's head, years after the fact. This is the dying, empty remains of a world that he built with someone else, inside his own unstable subconscious. Of course it looks dull and dying. In the flashbacks of the world that Dom and Mal created, it was much more alive and active. The ruins of the city they created are no more indicative of the world they lived in than the blank faces of ancient Greek architecture is indicative of how ancient Greek cities really looked.

     Pain in dreams 
  • Okay, so dying in a dream wakes you up, but apparently getting shot in the leg wouldn't. It seems to me that being in extreme pain would cause you to wake up. I know the pain isn't actually real, because it's in a dream, but still. Maybe it's just me, but whenever I feel pain in a dream it's usually right before I wake up. I guess I'll just have to chalk it up to the fact that it wasn't just a normal old dream. Maybe it's harder to wake up from a dream you've used phlebotinum to plant yourself into.
    • Maybe dreams are different from person to person, but I don't experience pain in dreams. I only wake up after I die; any pain leading up to my death is about as real as, well, watching a first-person movie. My guess is that it's the same principle, except phlebotinum makes you more aware of the dream and therefore able to feel pain.
      • This definitely varies from person to person, and sometimes from dream to dream. Some people can't read text in dreams, others can.
      • This troper does experience pain in dreams, but it doesn't wake her up at all.
      • I don't experience pain in dreams but on one occasion I did die. I ate a crayon and it had cyanide in it (it was prussian blue or something) and then everything just went black, and as soon as I realised I was still aware I woke up.
      • Just throwing my hat into the ring with that I die in my dreams all the time, almost always by drowning, and the suffocating feeling (and on at least one occasion, exhaustion from treading water) is very real every time. Different strokes for different folks, I think— I didn't learn until I was a teenager that not hearing sound in dreams was weird.
      • For what it's worth, this troper feels pretty serious pain in dreams.
      • This one's pretty simple: they're sedated. While the sedative is stronger for Fischer, they still have to use one for regular extractions.
    • I think psychological pain causes the dreamer to wake up, not physical pains. It might sound off-track, but if you could feel material beings in a dream, then wet dreams would really be wet, if you know what I mean.
  • Here's another one: How does Arthur even know what being shot in the leg feels like? They're inside a dream, meaning it's not really happening and his kneecap isn't really being blown off. Has he been shot in the leg in real life before, so when it happens in a dream the memory of it is called up and he feels it again?
    • Why would memory factor into this? He doesn't need to have ever experienced getting shot in the leg because he just got shot in the leg in the dreamworld, which creates bodies for the dreamers that act exactly like real world bodies in just about all respects. I'm fairly certain that Saito has never suffered organ failure due to a chest wound either, and neither Dom nor Mal suffered from old age, but they experienced all of that in the dreams.
    • Oh, that makes sense. Thanks.

     Dreaming up a better defibrillator 
  • If Eames was able dream up a better gun, and Cobb was able to dream up a whole train, why couldn't the team just dream up something to heal Saito's wound? Especially since Eames was apparently able to dream up a defibrillator to save Fischer later?
    • Eames got the defibrillator from the wall, but your point is valid, because in that same scene he dreams up a PASIV Device and appears to pull it right out of the little defibrillator - if he could pull something that complicated out of thin air, they could have easily dreamed up a first aid kit.
    • The ability to use a defibrillator is kind of different from surgically fixing a bullet wound...
      • Course, Fischer "died" from a bullet wound as well...
      • Fisher however knew he was in a dream in the third level, so it allowed them to play fast and loose with the laws of the dream. However as far as Fisher knew the first level was the real world, so his subconcious would notice anything that was out of the ordinary. They could have tried to dream up something to save Satio, and in doing so caused Fisher's subconscious to become even more aware of them. While they might not have to worry about everyone in the dream suddenly trying to kill them, things were already bad and they figured that they shouldn't make things worse.
    • Eames didn't dream up a defibrillator. He got one out of a case on the wall in the hospital - probably placed there during the architect's creation of the dreamworld.
      • Ariadne says the third level is a hospital (yeah, I know- scariest fuckin' hospitalever) when she's talking about the levels. So, the defibrillator makes perfect sense.
      • Of course it was a scary-looking hospital. It was designed to look like the kind of ultra-private, high-security hospital which an ailing billionaire with tons of enemies would hole up in to die.
  • Speaking of the defibrillator, this has nothing to do with why they couldn't dream up a better one but why didn't Eames cut or take off Fischer's shirt to shock him? It's one of my pet peeves when they show people being defibrillated through their clothes, but at least it makes sense with women given how uptight about even non-sexual nudity the MPAA and FCC are, but with a man there is no excuse. Unless maybe Eames learned how to do it from TV.
    • The pads are under Fischer's shirt. I don't believe they actually showed Eames putting the pads there, but when he starts to shock Fischer, if you look quick, the wires actually go down to the bottom and up under Fischer's shirt. So they're not being used through the clothes. However, Eames may not have learned how to use one in real life, only saw it done on TV or in movies, and since it's his dream, it worked the wrong way.
    • It was freezing in the third-level dream. They all had so many layers of cold-weather gear on, it probably was quicker to slide the shock-pads under Fischer's clothes than to remove/cut through shirt, coat, and multiple sweaters.

     How does a totem work? 
  • How does a totem work? Why should its properties be different in dream and in reality? The dream world seems to abide to normal laws of physics unless the architect screws with it or something drastic happends to the dreamer's body in reality. Speaking of which...
    • If you have a totem, it acts in a specific manner. If you're in the dream world, you create a totem (the same way you'd create, say, a grenade launcher) but have it act differently than the totem you possess in real life. Then, you test the totem to see if it acted the way you created it to be or the way the original totem was supposed to act. I.e., Cobb's totem in real life falls down. The totem he creates in the dream world keeps spinning endlessly. If the totem you used to test acts differently than the one you created originally, hey, you're dreaming, wake the fuck up.
      • Ok, then how can one possibly seize to discern dream and reality if all he has to do is conjure a totem and test it? Why couldn't Mal do that in dream or in reality?
      • If you're the architect, then your totem is useless. The point of a totem is to make sure you're not in someone else's dream, because no one else would be able to duplicate it. If you're in your own dream, or if you are the architect, then the totem will act like the dream is reality, unless you specifically remember to make it act like it's a dream. (That's possibly another reason why Dom doesn't architect. He's afraid that he will forget he's in a dream and the totem won't be able to tell him.)
      • Doesn't the totem act the way you want it to act in the dream? Isn't that the point? What if you make it act in a physically impossible way (like an ever-spinning top)? If you succeed, then obviously you're dreaming whether you're an architect or not.
      • This is one of the problems that I have with the top. If dream-physics are like real physics then the ONLY way that the top would continue to spin is if Cobb (or Mal) was the architect and remembered that it was a dream. Which kind of defeats the purpose. I suppose that they chose it because it looked cool/was easier to represent on film. It doesn't look as cool to show Cobb picking up a totem and knowing its weight as opposed to the spinning top.
      • That's not how it works. The architect or dreamer can change the physics, but Cobb is the one who creates the totem, and therefore sets its properties. The architect furthermore doesn't know about the properties of the totem, so they can't set the dreamworld's conditions in such a way as to trick the totem's user. Cobb's totem is very simple in that regard, as well; unless he's in an area of complete zero-gravity, that top is going to keep spinning, as to keep spinning it has to be ignoring gravity in the first place - and if he's in zero gravity, Cobb is in an obvious dream anyway.
    • In addition to all the above, I'm guessing that totems just aren't a common thing. Arthur said that they were Mal's idea and we only ever see Mal/Cobb, Arthur and Ariadne using them. Maybe all other Extraction agents and trained targets rely on their own skills to help them figure out if they're in a dream and totems are just Team Cobb's little trick.
    • I always thought the point was that in the dream, the totem would behave exactly as in reality, but it was designed to behave in an unusual way in reality. For example, suppose you carry a loaded die. If you're in someone else's dream, sure they'll come up with a die for you, but if they don't consciously or subconsciously know it's weighted then in the dream it'll be random every time you roll it. If you spin a top in dream, it's possible that Dream Logic will make it spin forever unless you know how long it takes to stop spinning.
    • To firmly clarify: the point of a totem is not, repeat not to tell you whether or not you're dreaming, but to tell you whether or not you're inside someone else's dream. In either reality or your own dreams, a totem will behave exactly as you expect it to, whereas (as long as totem secrecy is maintained) no architect or dreamer will ever be able to correctly simulate its properties in their dreams. Note Saito's entirely accidental use of the rug as a totem - he correctly intuits due to it being made of the wrong material that they're dreaming, but incorrectly assumes that they're inside his own dream.
      • Exactly. I feel like most people on this site don't know what a totem is actually for. Cobb's totem is actually pretty crappy. The dreamer could just will the top to fall and Cobb would probably be convinced it's reality. The point of a totem is that if you don't know something, you can't recreate it accurately. So if you don't know the exact weight and feel of someone's totem, you're not going to be able to fake it very well, and therefor the person with the totem will be able to tell their a) in a dream, and b) it's not their own.
      • I wondered the same thing. Then I came up with a theory: Cobb's totem works in reverse - it can only tell him that he's not trapped in his own dream. Anybody who saw the damn thing would assume that it would fall, and would make it fall if they were the architect. But if he's trapped in his own dream or in limbo, he can make it spin forever. Then again, since Cobb is the one to conjure up the totem, he may be charge of its physics of it in any dream, so it would only fall in reality, where his mind can't affect physics. That may be what Nolan was going for.
      • The top isn't Cobb's totem. It was Mal's. Cobb uses the top to tell if he's in a dream or not, because he's the only one unhinged enough to need to know that. From what I've read above, Cobb's totem was his ring. When he's in a dream, he has the ring, and in the real world he doesn't wear a ring. Cobb didn't tell anyone (that we could tell) about the totem, so he kept that secret. He only told Ariadne about the top, so he didn't break the rule of keeping the specifics of your totem a secret.

     Freefall? 
  • I understand it that when a dreaming person's body is affected in some unusual way, like falling or having water splashed at it, dreamer's brain will interpret them and the dreamer will experience some alterations in the dreamworld. But how can a van with the sleeping team spinning on dream level 1 result in change of gravity on dream level 2? Can a dream actually affect the vestibularis of the dreamer?
    • Freefall. Same principle behind the Vomit Comet that is used to film zero gravity scenes in real life.
      • So? The van (or any of the inceptors) wasn't falling in reality why would it affect Arthur's brain? And if it does, why is in-dream death so cheap (well, limbo issue notwhithstanding)?
      • Why shouldn't it? All other sensory perceptions and bodily functions appear to be perfectly simulated, up to and including physical pain and organ failure, so why shouldn't the inner ear be affected?
      • I assumed that the dream was affected by the level right above it, whether that be reality, or another dreamlevel. So, because Arthur (the architect for dreamlevel 2) was falling in the level above, the dream changed to match.
      • Except that he wasn't - it was a dream. Dream is a figment of mind. And if a figment of mind can affect an organ of the body, then why is in-dream death so cheap in the movie?
      • My guess is that, as level 2 Arthur and co. were also mental beings, they were simply subject to the mentality of the mental beings in level 1 (if that makes sense). So Arthur isn't really falling, but all level 2 Arthur has to go by is what level 1 Arthur is thinking that he's feeling. As for death, I would imagine the mind can't really process what the state of death is like without actually being dead, hence the Death Is Cheap nature of dreams.
      • The way I saw it was, it doesn't only depend on the feeling itself, but on the dreamer knowing and interpreting correctly what they're feeling in a previous dream level. Yusuf knew he had forgotten to pee in real life, and as such level 1 was flooded by rain. Arthur knew they were in a van and being shot at, knew it was raining cats and dogs, and he also knew what the plan for the kick was in level 1, so when his level 1 body received those signals, his dream self in level 2 interpreted them and modified the dream world accordingly. Eames, on the other hand, had already gone under to level 3 by the time level 2 started going wonky— so his body in level 2 was probably feeling the weightlessness, but his mind had already gone down a level and didn't interpret it that way; as such the dream world in level 3 was not affected.
      • ^This makes sense, but it should be noted that it has to be a subconscious/non-voluntary thing in order to work properly. Arthur didn't want to be in zero gravity.
      • And Cobb didn't want to kill Ariadne. Dreaming seems to be only partially controllable.

     Why didn't Level Three collapse? 
  • If the snow world was Fisher's dream and he was killed inside, shouldn't the world have started to collapse?
    • Eames was the architect for the snow level. Fischer was the subject, it was his subconcious populating the world. But the team was able to convince him that his godfather was the subject, because Fischer thought that his godfather in the second level was a dreamer, not a projection. That's also why Fischer said the line about "Why couldn't someone have dreamed up a beach?", because he wasn't the one who created the dream.
      • Ok, shouldn't the dream-mooks dissapear then?
      • Remember, the mooks are subconsious; there's no way to control them. Cobb fought against his own subconsious mooks when they came to kill Ariadne too.
      • They are a creation of the Fisher in the Hotel level, so no.
      • Or maybe they persist, but stop respawning when killed.
      • Err guys, Fisher didn't physically die, he was just trapped in his own subconcious. His subconcious that was also the mooks in the upper levels. Considering that limbo is effectively the fourth level down, it would make no sense for all the subcons to vanish. They didn't vanish in the first level after they went down one and didn't vanish in the second when they went down again. They're his subconcious; as long as his subconcious is still connected then it'll still populate the worlds.
  • You know why the dream-mooks don't disappear? They never were Fischer's subconscious at all. They were COBB'S subconscious all along! He's the most experienced, he's got issues with Mal and his kids (each of whom also appear on the dream levels) - and he persists in keeping his memories in the Elevator Dream World. He KNOWS that Ariadne wants to help him get over Mal, for one, and he KNOWS that if they're successful he can see his kids again. His subconscious (and therefore the mooks) are fighting this on all levels of the dream! COBB tells us that Fischer must have had training, remember?
    • Doesn't work; the whole point of the Mr. Charles routine was to take Fisher's training and turn it against him. If it wasn't Fisher's subconcious then that would mean he was never trained, which means when Cobb says remember your training, Fisher would remember that he wasn't trained, thus causing every sub con to club Cobb and the rest of the team to death. Mal is the only sub con who ever intentionally interfered with Cobb's missions; the other sub cons only grabbed Ariadne because she made it apparant that she didn't belong and they switched over to "expell the intruder" mode. Even more to the point, if the dream-mooks were Cobb's subconcious then they would instantly know every little detail he knew, which would mean that they'd know the team was entering the warehouse on the first level (unless he didn't let himself be briefed on what the plan was), they'd know he was going to enter the bar, they'd know which room he was going to lead Fisher into and be able to wait in there, and they'd know he would go to the South Tower and wait there. Only one aspect of his subconcious (his guilt over Mal's death) was shown to work against him, at no point are we given any evidence that any other part of him wants to stop himself.
      • Actually, it does work. The only reason the Mr. Charles routine works in the first place is because Cobb is able to approach the target and gain his trust by pointing out the weirdness of the dream. Even a basically trained dreamer (eg. Ariadne, Saito) is able to realize when they are in a dream. Fischer, on the other hand, supposedly has a militarized subconscious yet doesn't realize he is dreaming at all until Cobb approaches him in the second level. That's why Arthur objects to running with Mr. Charles. The last time they tried it, the target was trained enough to see through them.
      • Ariadne doesn't realise she's in the dream the first time, she only realises when Cobb spells it out for her, and every other time she knows she's about to go into a dream before she does (Fisher for instance knows he's dreaming when they take him down to the third level). Saito is a special case because he's not "basically trained," he's specifically trained to be an eulicid dreamer. Also we don't know why the last time Mr. Charles was tried it failed; maybe Cobb slipped up and gave the subject reason to suspect he was an extractor instead of a subcon. Eames does ask Cobb if he learned from his mistakes. Besides, there's no real evidence that Cobb's has such a militarised subconcious. He and Arthur said they've had experience dealing with them before, and Arthur specifies that it means an extractor went in a trained the subject's subconcious showing that he knows the signs. He knows Cobb's problems with subcon Mal (by way of being kneecapped by her), so if there was something off about these subcons he would be able to figure out it was from Cobb's mind. And again, you're drawing on an increasingly controvulted train of logic that doesn't reflect the movie; at no point do we see any other Cobb subcons besides the kids and Mal, and if the guards were his subconcious then they wouldn't have followed Eames since Cobb's knew he was a diversion.

     Where're the superbadass projections? 
  • If a person can be trained to have their subconscious use military force to deal with dream intruders, can't someone be trained to conjure up something like say, Superman, Goku or just about anything on the Reality Warper list to deal with any intruders? I would think that would be a lot more effective than a bunch of MPs who can't even hit their targets.
    • You probably could, but if going from mob to Stormtrooper-level-accurate shooters takes militarized training, I'd imagine it practically impossible to project Superman or Goku.
    • It may also be affected by how "fantastic" the dreamworld is. Note that the projections' gear changed to match the dreamworld each dreamer created (M4 rifles and PMC-style security for a generic American city at level one, pistols and hotel security outfits for level two, military forces for the military base at level three, suited guards with pistols for Saito's castle, armed mob for the generic Third-World city Saito's lovenest was hidden in) Their capabilities are directly effected by the world that is created, which in every case is a relatively stable world based on real-world physics. If someone created a more fantastic world, the projections' abilities would likely shift to reflect that.
      • Good idea. What happens if the person who controls the projections decides to get uppity? They're subconscious, after all, and Cobb clearly didn't want Ari "killed" in their first dream. The only person who can change the laws of physics inside a given dream world is the Architect, and if it was a superhero world, the information targeted would likely be in a Kyptonite safe.

     Why is there gravity in Level Three? 
  • If the free-fall in dream level 1 removes the gravity in dream level 2, why is there gravity in dream level 3?
    • Effects in one dream level doesn't necessarily translate across more than one level. I get the impression that the freefall effect was influencing Arthur, but it didn't transfer to the next dream level because it was only affecting Arthur in his dream. Confusing, I know.
      • That makes sense, except that level 3 was Fisher's dream, and level 2 Fisher's body was in a zero gravity environment because level 1 Arthur's body was in freefall. Shouldn't the level 3 dreamworld be affected by the state of Fisher's body on level 2?
      • No no no no no no no and no. And did I mention, uh, NO? For level 3, Fischer was NOT the dreamer, it was EAMES. Furthermore, Eames had already gone into dreamland by the time zero-g came into the equation in level 2; if you accept only "conscious" changes to the environment being able to be transmitted to the deeper levels (such as Arthur being in freefall in level 1, explaining the full lack of gravity in level 2), Eames didn't notice that level 2 was in zero-g and could therefore maintain HIS dream level with stable gravity (to an extent at least, as the avalanche later shows).
      • I believe an effect on a dreamer only goes down one level. Arthur is experiencing zero G, and thus everything else is going zero G, but that effect is being caused one level up, so it stops at the next level. For comparison, note the first dream at the beginning of the movie. The effects of the train descended into the first dream world, but effects caused by the train effecting the first level didn't go to the second. Thus effects caused by the zero gravity in the first level (Yusef's dream) will not extend past the second level (Arthur's dream) Confused? Yes, you should be.
      • Copied and pasted from a previous JBM, but I think it applies: The way I saw it was, it doesn't only depend on the feeling itself, but on the dreamer knowing and interpreting correctly what they're feeling in a previous dream level. Yusuf knew he had forgotten to pee in real life, and as such level 1 was flooded by rain. Arthur knew they were in a van and being shot at, knew it was raining cats and dogs, and he also knew what the plan for the kick was in level 1, so when his level 1 body received those signals, his dream self in level 2 interpreted them and modified the dream world accordingly. Eames, on the other hand, had already gone under to level 3 by the time level 2 started going wonky? so his body in level 2 was probably feeling the weightlessness, but his mind had already gone down a level and didn't interpret it that way; as such the dream world in level 3 was not affected.
    • It might be the gravity in the dream is based more on body motion than on gravity sensation. In the level 1 section of the dream, Arthur's body is getting thrown around as the van rolls and tilts around, which would translate into the dream as gravity changes or rotations. In the hotel, however, it seems that the bodies of the level 3 team don't move around too much. (This is another It Just Bugs Me!, actually, the hotel room doesn't seem messed up enough after the rotation of that dream level) This might not produce much of a sensation, apart from some slght pressure changes andpossibly balance sensation, but nothing too extreme, and would thus not translate down to a third level as anything more than slight physical disturbances (like the avalanche.).

     Arthur/Ariadne UST 
  • While everyone else is asking questions very much relevant to the film's plot, I have a very minor gripe. What was with the UST between Arthur and Ariadne? What it meant to go anywhere (and had been cut out) or had they just thrown it in a comic relief? Maybe the DVD will shed some light.
    • THANK YOU! What purpose did that kiss between the two serve, other than to act as a "distraction" and to cause hundreds of Ariadne/Arthur Fan Fiction stories to come into being? Seriously, it felt like, "Oh, our movie isn't centered around a cheesy romance, and therefore, we have no kissing. I know! Let's make these two characters kiss!"
      • To this troper you're making it much more of a token "cheesy romance" by freaking out about it and trying to find the meaning than simply accepting it as portrayed - spur of the moment UST that may or may not have any significance off-screen but certainly had no relevance to the plot.
    • They're human. Sometimes people flirt, and it doesn't go anywhere. It doesn't have to have any bearing on the plot, but it just made them more realistic as characters.
    • There is unresolved sexual tension between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and all living things. And some inanimate objects, like cars and bits of string. The Ho Yay surrounding Eames pointed out by some tropers? That's just the JGL Effect at work.
      • It's funny because it's true. You are my new favourite person.
      • I second the reasoning above.
  • What I think is funny is that there seems to be UST between Arthur and every other member of the team including Mal (i.e. Mal and Arthur were knew each other and Arthur saying "She was lovely" when talking about Mal). Also this is a JGL Effect, because the kiss scene and Eames calling Arthur "darling" were things that were not in the original script and added when the actors had chemistry.
    • Arthur and Ariadne had chemistry, or Nolan just got an idea. Eames' line was a slip of the tongue the director liked.
  • Once you've figured out the plot of the movie and can rewatch it without struggling to understand what's going on, it's kind of easy to see Arthur's feelings from day one. All the lovestruck expressions and stuff, they're there if you look. If the kiss was added last-minute, then Nolan had no UST between them planned, so the subtext sort of sprang up due to the actors thinking it was in-character or something. People play roles differently than scripted all the time. Besides, the kiss, there's no moments between the two in the script—it's all look and tone of voice and delivery and other subtle stuff like that. This troper actually liked the UST because it wasn't too ridiculously obvious, like some subplots get.
    • Although it does sometwhat reek of token shipping...
    • Arthur just saw an opening and went for it. Ariadne is pretty attractive. The fact that he laughed it off doesn't make seem like UST.
    • I'd assumed that it was meant to sink any Cobb/Ariadne ships fans might try to offer based solely on Cobb being the protagonist and Ariadne being the main (living) female character. A typical movie might have pushed Cobb to see Ariadne as a Replacement Goldfish for his dead wife, which would not have served the story. By simply showing some attraction between Arthur and Ariadne, Cobb's story arc can focus on getting over his wife, not people thinking he might replace her.

     Why are Cobb and Mal young again? 
  • Why are Cobb and Mal young again when they lay themselves on the train tracks to get out of limbo? They had lived at least fifty years in limbo and you see them both as old people.
    • The scene where it first shows them laying on the train tracks is when Cobb is recounting the story to Ariadne; we see it via flashback. Their younger appearance implies that Cobb didn't tell Ariadne that they had actually aged while in limbo. It's only at the end that he reveals that they had aged. He says, "We had our time together."
    • Watch the movie again, when you see them as old people there's a clear shot of their elderly selves lying on the train tracks.
    • There might be a slightly deeper answer here, too: Cobb is only able to overcome his guilt when he reminds Mal that they had their time together. Perhaps this time was a truth he chose to forget when he was drowning himself in guilt over Mal's death?
    • It was just Once More with Clarity.

     Why didn't Cobb's kids age? 
  • Why were Cobb's kids the same age and wearing the same clothes as they were the day he left? It makes sense if the end is a dream, but not if the ending is supposed to be ambiguous.
    • They're not. The actors playing the children in the different scenes were different ages. (also, possible dream world, etc.)
    • Cobb's been aging them up in his mind. All the flashbacks could be subjective, remember? Mal's suicide wasn't his real memory, so he might be altering the kids too.

     No bodyguards? 
  • Wouldn't high level executives have bodyguards in the real world as well as in their heads, seeing as you need to be physically connected to steal their dreams? Perhaps Fisher's bodyguards were in Business class and Saito was leaving himself deliberately unprotected on the train for the 'audition'.
    • Not necessarily. It depends on the corporate head, but a lot of them do go without bodyguards in "safe" areas, preferring not to have them being visible/bothering them. Also, remember that Fisher's mind has been militarized, so his projections effectively are his bodyguards, at least in the dreamworld (kind of like how Saito had an armed guard detail in his dream).
    • Fischer only wound up on the flight at all because of the (arranged-for) problem with his private jet. Saito bought the airline that Fischer always used for that particular trip, then presumably made sure that there was "only one seat available" in first class on such short notice.

     How did Saito get to that awesome castle in Limbo? 
  • In the opening sequence (when they're trying to extract from Saito), Mal says that Arthur is hosting the dream, "judging by the decor". No one contests this. So how does Saito get there in Limbo? Did he just like the house?
    • I think it's more likely it was a real place Saito hung out (like the love nest) and Arthur just expanded upon it (making the safe and all that).
    • Saito hangs out in a period castle? Damn, I love him even more.
    • I don't know if he actually lives there or not, but either way I assumed the reason he was there was because it was where he remembered meeting Cobb, and he subconsciously knew that's what he needed to do to escape.

     Why isn't Fischer suspicious when he wakes up? 
  • In the 'Mr. Charles' bit, Cobb introduces himself to Fisher as, basically, a figment of his imagination. But then, when he wakes up, he's surrounded by all the people he thought were 'dream agents'. Wouldn't he suspect something? (Especially because he's been trained in 'dream security')
    • He might have thought that his subconscious turned his fellow passengers into dream agents. Whose imagination doesn't recast random people into new roles in their dreams?
    • It might also be a case of how well a subject can remember he's dreaming. The same question could be raised as to why he didn't recognize Mr. Charles as the guy toasting his dad on the plane; he simply didn't remember being on a plane.
    • Fisher's subconscious will also be projecting familiar faces into the dream. Note that at the end of the movie, the man holding Fisher's card at the airport is also one of the mooks who appeared earlier in the dream as one of Fisher's bodyguards. It makes sense that Fisher would use familiar faces as guards.
      • He wouldn't've met the man at the airport at the time that he dreamed him, though.
      • People are usually picked up from the airport by people they know, rather than strangers.
      • A better example would be the first security guard that Arthur fights in the hallway fight scene, who looks a lot like Saito. (not someone that Fischer saw directly, but someone his subconscious did invent.)
    • Maybe Fischer did remember Cobb though. In the sequence after they leave the plane, Fischer glances at Cobb and seems to stop and think for a moment before going back to his phone. Of course, this is all moot if that whole sequence is in Cobb's head.
    • It's said that when you dream, the brain is incapable of creating new faces. Every face you see in your dream is someone that you've seen in your lifetime, even if you only looked at them for a few seconds. It's the reason why you can have a dream where your mom looks like your high school science teacher, but you KNOW it's your mom despite her appearance. If Fischer did recognize Cobb's face (or any of the other passengers' faces), he would have seen it as more a curiosity than anything else, and figured it was due to them being close together plane and the last faces he saw before he fell asleep. There's no reason to believe that Fischer is any better at remembering dreams than any random person, so there's no reason to think he'd be suspicious of anything.
  • All the same, if Fischer knew it was all a dream, wouldn't that make the "information" about his father not wanting him to follow in his footsteps invalid? Why would Fischer believe that what he'd dreamed about his father was actually true? Unless, of course, he knew it might not be true but believed it anyway because the idea was just planted that deep?
    • There's no "information" in the conscious sense. The change is subconscious. Inception works like that. Fischer's not going to remember the dream very well, but being down that deep into the dream allows them to make a fundamental change to Fischer's perceptions and memories of his father. Inception affects a complete subconscious shift from "hates his father" to "father had good intentions and loved him." There's a reason why inception is such a morally gray concept here; you are, essentially, rewriting a person's subconscious to your own ends.

     Why does the team work with a headcase like Cobb? 
  • Why does the team still allow Cobb to work with them, let alone rely on him as a leader? I get that he's the best extractor in the world, but his problems with Mal are a huge liability, and that's definitely not a secret to the crew. With work as delicate as extraction and especially inception seem to be, why allow such a big risk? Saito's load is a pittance in comparison to Cobb's baggage.
    • Three points-1) Most of the team may not even know about the problems he's having. Although he's worked with Eames, obviously, it's not a regular thing (possibly because of the whole Eames/Arthur "thing", whatever you believe it to be) and he's never worked with Yusef. Saito knows about Mal from his dream, but may not know if it was all part of the elaborate plan, or if she was his own projection. So, only Arthur and Ariadne know- and even Arthur doesn't know how bad it is. Which brings us to 2) It's never been this bad before- Arthur seems surprised (although not pleasantly) at Mal's appearance in Saito's dream, but he doesn't automatically think they're completely screwed. I think she's probably been more of a fly in the ointment before this, not a real danger. And 3) Arthur isn't just Cobb's collegue- he's his friend. He genuinely wants to help him get back to his kids.
    • Cobb only even lets Ariadne come along for the job because she's the only one who knows how bad Mal's gotten and makes the very good point that he needs someone along who knows what they're dealing with.

     Arthur is either too fast, or too awesome 
  • Alright- i can justify this in Rule of Cool, but it's still buggin' me: They set up the time dilation very clearly, and have a lot of fun with using slo-mo for the hotel when most of the team is at the fortress (and super slo-mo for the van falling). 20 times difference- when Cobb says it's 10 seconds Van-time (VT) to the first kick, it's about 3 minutes (or 200 seconds) hotel-time(HT)and about an hour (4000 seconds, or 66 minutes, 40 seconds) fortress-time (FT, if you haven't caught on). And, for the first kick (the van hits the guard-rail/barrier on the bridge, causing Arthur to be thrown against a hotel wall and an avalanche at the fortress this is all played out pretty evenly. For kick #2, they have the length of time it takes for the van to punch through the barrier and hit the water. HERE WE GO- to be generous, it might take 6 seconds for the van to fall (it didn't look like it would be quite that long a fall, but that's what they seem to be basing their calculations on in-movie). that's 2 minutes HT, and 40 minutes FT. The fortess level, I'm fine with - we don't have a clear sense of the distances involved, and there are a number of jump-cuts, so let's say it's 40 minutes. At the hotel, now- Arthur has to get up from the 4th floor room to the 5th floor room, see them all floating, get down to the 4th floor room, take down the C4, get back up to the 5th floor, tie them all together, put them on the elevator, get on top of the elevator through the trapdoor, set the first C4 charge, climb up the cable, set off the charge to destroy the emergency brake, get back in the elevator, and set off the remaining charges to send the elevator hurtling down the shaft. All while weightless and battling the occasional mook. I really don't think so. (And I love this movie!)
    • That's because Arthur is more awesome than you. He moved and thought that fast.
      • ^ I love you.
    • This is arguably the biggest plot hole in the film. You even notice the writers try to cover it up a little when Cobb refers to the time Arthur had as "a few minutes" when actually, according to the calculation that they have twenty minutes in the snow fortress, he actually only had a single minute.
      • He has two minutes. Ten seconds on level one (time takes for van to fall and hit the water) = 2 minutes on level two = 24 minutes on level three. Cobb's giving them a ballpark estimate. It may give them longer, too, as it would take a few seconds for the van to start sinking and thus start waking everyone else up, which would give Arthur another minute and Eames another ten minutes or so. And again, Arthur is just that awesome.
      • Time distortion is times twenty per level. Cobb estimated roughly twenty minutes for the snowfort level meaning roughly a single minute for the hotel level, and roughly 3 seconds for the van. Which even then is stretching things. Try throwing an object outside the second/third floor of a building and time it to reach the bottom, it barely takes a couple of seconds. Though the idea that the kick is the result of the water and not a result of the impact on the water surface seems like a valid argument, though it wouldn't give him much more time.
      • No. Its already demonstrated in the movie that time distortion is times twelve. Five minutes in the real world is one hour in the dreamworld. This is explicitly stated by Cobb when he and Ariadne wake back up after they talk at the cafe.
      • When discussing the actual mission however it's stated that the distortion is "about twenty times" each level. Read the just bugs me below for a summary. It is strange that they would change the rates like that mid film though (unless one argues that an hour and forty minutes can be summarised as "about an hour"), I suppose it's likely that the depths they were using for the Inception is deeper than the ones they use for training, not that it still doesn't confuse matters.
      • The time dilation for the dreams in the beginning where Cobb demonstrates the dream-technology to Ariadne is 12 times, yes, but the dilation later on when they use Yusuf's specialized sedative compounds is 20 times. The heavier the sedation, the higher the time-dilation, it seems.
      • Actually, Arthur did not complete everything in 3 minutes. He missed the first kick (when the van hits the bridge), meaning that the 3 minutes was up, and he had to improvise his kick to synchronize with the second one (when the van hits the water). This was the reason why he had to take the group to the lift in the first place, because he was too late to do the kick before the freefall. The time period between the first and second kick probably gives him the additional "few minutes" Cobb was referring to.
    • They explicitly stated that Yusuf's sedative speeds up the brain as well. That's the reason time slows down even more in the mission.
    • Remember Authur is skilled at Paradoxi (the Pemrose steps demonstration for Ariadne, same thing to get behind the mook chasing him). So, it might not be too much of a stretch to think he might have warped the world a little to allow for a few shortcuts.
    • From what this video shows, the time from the beginning of the van's fall causing zero-g to the elevator's crash took Arthur just about four minutes. Not only is that too long for the time duration of two minutes, but the film's also jump-cutting for things like floating through the floors, tying everyone up, riding the elevator up to the right floor, etc. Arthur even appears to wait in the elevator for a while, counting down seconds, meaning he finished with more time still left on the clock. So yeah, the film cheats here.
    • I'd assumed that it was the being too awesome. By this time, Arthur is already being attacked by the projections. The cover is already blown. The way I took it, Arthur was taking some reality warping shortcuts. Those cuts and scene transitions we look at as a convention of time passing in film were actually Arthur taking advantage of the fact that he's in a dream and making shortcuts. The things we see him doing were the only things he was doing. He started manipulating the dream he was in, because he was already a target for the projections. He had as much time as he needed, even allowing for some time in the end to subtly gloat by counting down extra seconds. It works for me.

     Time dialation is too fast for human brains to handle 
  • Okay, I keep repeating the MS T3k mantra, but seriously? The time dilation is just a wee bit insane. If one layer down you've got 20 times slower, two layers down it's 400 times slower, three layers - 8000 times and four - 160000 times slower. You don't need to fear spending decades in the limbo. You need to fear for your brain melting into goo because it's working 160 thousand times faster than it should.
    • Yeah, which they specifically mention is a problem. If they stay in the dreamworld too long their brains will fry because they're processing that fast.
    • Then how did Cobb stayed in the Limbo for 50 years or so without frying his brain? Saito looks messed up there...(from what it seems, the limbo is no different from the fourth layer...)
      • Saito died in the Van layer. Limbo doesn't correlate exactly to a 4th layer. Things break down completely over there.
      • He stayed 50 years in the Limbo layer, but for him and Mal it was an afternoon nap. Ditto for Saito; he was down there until he became an old man, but when he woke back up, less than ten hours had passed in the real world.
    • Most likely its due to the fact that dream-state bodies are fully formed within the dreamworld. The real life body is still running at the normal time dialation, but the dreamworld body is being put under, and it's brain is undergoing increased time dialation. Each time they go a layer deeper, they're subjecting the dreamworld bodies to the dream-state instead of the physical bodies.
      • That's not the point; the point is that it would just be absolutely ridiculous for the chemical reactions that are the brain function just can't happen that fast. Besides, the reaction time would be impossible to work with: large nerve bundles conduct impulses at around 100 meters/second. If you were in Limbo (fourth layer) - where you perceive 160,000 seconds for each one that actually passes - you would perceive that as less than a centimeter per second, and even when you ignore the body (let's say that since the nerves aren't real, what you sense with your foot you actually experience as a direct input to the brain), that isn't enough speed for a single impulse to traverse the brain in a second. Even in the third layer, it would be only 1.25 centimeters per second, still not enough to cross the brain in a second. You simply can't perceive time as passing 160,000 times or even 8,000 times faster than normal, because your brain can't work that fast.
      • Why are you assuming that dreamworld bodies are limited by the same physical constraints as real world bodies?
      • We're not. Everything that happens in a third-level dream is imagined by a second-level dreamer, himself imagined by a first-level dreamer, himself imagined by the real-world dreamer. So the real-world body is actually suffering the cost of creating the dream world. The point is: The world of Limbo is ultimately entirely inside Codd's mind (and anyone else's who happens to be there), is more detailed than anything they are capable of imagining in reality, and still leaves them enough processor power to think 160,000 times faster than normal. Cobb says we only use 10% of our brain's potential when awake. It seems closer to 0.001% to me.
      • Perhaps you're not grasping what the previous troper meant. The real world's brain is only handling accelerated thought on the first level. Accelerated thought on the second level is being handled by the dreamworld body on the first level, and so on. That's why it is important to note that dreamworld bodies are for all intents and purposes the same as realworld ones. PASIV creates complete dreamworlds, including bodies, and those dreamworld bodies' brains handle the accelerated thought processes of each successive level. At least, that's what the above seems to be indicating, and it makes sense.
      • So, in other words, the argument is that the PASIV system is the one "simulating" the lower level dream worlds? (Of course, this still doesn't fully solve the problem, as either the dreaming people's brains would still need to handle some of their own thoughts, emotions, etc. at extremely fast speeds, and/or the PASIV system would need an extremely powerful processor to handle a person's thoughts for them, plus simulate the dream, at ridiculously fast speeds.)
    • There's also the possibility that the brains aren't actually handling every second of that dialated time. Within the dream, we see several rapid cuts involving the same characters in the same scene, especially on the deeper levels. Perceived time seems to be twenty minutes, but they only "actually" experience and process a minute or so.
    • And a lot of what they allegedly "experience" during the higher-level dreams may, in fact have been skipped over by their brains in favor of an instantaneously-built memory of having experienced them. Who's to say that not being able to remember how they got there is the only trick their memories play on them? Possibly they never actually pass through all of the hospital's corridors to get to the targeted room, they just do a mental jump-cut to that location and remember having traversed them. It's like how you can think about going out to the store, or recall the last time you did so, a heck of a lot faster than you can actually go there.
  • The question is a valid one, and attempts to answer it by referring to the altered physics "one level up" miss a basic point (which is also frequently missed by humanities students discussing tales within tales): there are no deeper levels. There are only two levels: reality and dream. If you go "one level lower" within the dream, that is just as phoney as everything else in the dream. The notion of and endless hierarchy of levels of relative reality overlooks the point that only in going from reality to dream do we make an actual transition: if we make that transition again within a dream, it is just as illusory as anything else in the dream. Incidentally, dreams within dreams (within dreams...) in real life are very unstable and the levels tend to merge. Also, things move more slowly in a dream, as the brain struggles to render the thing; dream time only seems dilated because in trying to make sense of the dream, the brain gropes for a lengthy back story that was never actually experienced as a dream. Long answer, but in a nutshell: the question is valid.
    • ....except there are multiple levels. This is an explicit element of the setting's rules when it comes to dreams. It is as set and established as any other law of physics within the setting. Transitions to multiple dream levels are fact, demonstrated multiple times over the movie. Deal with it.
  • The brain isn't necessarily "working 160,000 faster than it should". What exactly do we know about the chemical processes necessary to create worlds, or actions within a dream? Why should it be the same as actions required in the real world? And additionally (as touched on above), it may simply be that your perception is what's making it normal speed, (because things seem normal in a dream), when in fact they're slower. Does that make sense?

     Couldn't Cobb have simply shown Mal her totem didn't work? 
  • Why didn't Cobb just show Mal the top falling over in the real world? Wouldn't that have convinced her that she was back in reality and not just another dream?
    • Presumably she did so on her own, as we see her sitting with the stopped top next to her (when she has the cutting board and knife). But because the dream top kept spinning in her subconscious, it didn't matter what she saw with her own eyes, her hindbrain kept telling her that "really" the top hadn't stopped. Dom accidentally destroyed the effectiveness of the totem by ensuring that it can only have one reaction: to keep spinning. She sees it stop, but she feels it keep going.
    • Cobb handled Mal's totem, effectively destroying any credibility it had, and she knew that. At one point the movie also shows Mal staring at her top and it had fallen over, but she was handling a knife, so it's quite clear that the totem was useless for defining whther or not she was in a dream.
    • It is implied that the totem's only work if you're populating the world which is why Cobb is so pissed at Ariadne for remaking the world from her memories as the totem wouldn't help her should she be unable to tell which of the world's is real. Mal could've claimed she was the architect of said world and hence still in the dream.
      • What? Totems have nothing to do projections. They determine the physics of the world they're in.
    • The whole reason that Cobb knew that inception was possible was because he had done it to Mal. In limbo, he implanted the idea that the world she was in wasn't real, and she carried that belief into the real world despite any evidence to the contrary — she knew that her world wasn't real.

     What was Cobb's original totem 
  • Here's another mindbender for you - what was Cobb's ORIGINAL totem? And why did he switch to Mal's after she 'died'?
    • I just assumed he didn't have one. It was her idea to begin with, and maybe he didn't see the necessity of one until after she was driven mad by the not knowing. And after she died, he probably kept hers out of guilt/nostalgia.
      • Makes sense. They were experimenting, rather than heisting, and he was probably the architect (which would have made a totem useless).
      • I was under the impression that his original totem was his wedding band. It's only on his hand when he's dreaming, so maybe it's specially weighted. He may not trust it anymore, or maybe he can always feel that on his hand, and thus needs to check with a second totem. Purely a guess on my part, but I thought the wedding band was subtle-yet-important.

     Cobb's kids quickly recognizing him 
  • I don't remember if they ever said how long Cobb was gone, but I got the impression it was at least a year and those kids were really young, so I doubt they would remember him all that well. Yet at the end they recognize him immediately. I kinda think the end was Cobb's dream based on this, because I just can't believe that they would run to him that quickly after not seeing him for so long.
    • They talk to him on the phone regularly and I'm sure their grandparents keep photos of their parents around. A child might forget someone who's been out of their life for a year but Dom made an effort to stay in their lives, with phone calls and gifts sent with grandpa. It's safe to assume they've kept photos of him around.

     Eames knowing when to use the defibrillator 
  • How did Eames know exactly when to use the defibrillator on Fisher Jr. so it synchronized with the kick of Ariadne pushing him off the building in Limbo?
    • The time dilation probably meant that Eames could do it immediately and give them enough time for their kick.
    • Arthur was playing music for Eames, so he knew the kick was coming. The music went down one more level so that Aridane and Cobb could hear it, so they knew they needed to drop. Eames hit the defibrillator because he trusted them to be kicking off, so it would revive Fisher.
      • But Eames needed Fisher to wake up only on ONE level up so that he could get to the vault, if he timed it 'correctly' then Fisher would be kicked all the way up to level one and never reach catharsis.
      • Remember, time dialation. When Eames heard the music, he knew he had a window to get everything ready to get Fisher to get catharsis. Once he heard the music, he knew that he had a set period of time before Arthur triggered his kick, so he had to get everything ready - the same way Arthur knew he had a set amount of time to get his kick ready on his end when the gravity went haywire. He knew that Fisher had X amount of time to wake up, get catharsis, and then Arthur would be triggering his kick.
      • Thanks—this is what happens when the characters in the movie know MUCH more than the audience, but explaining every minute would kill the film.

     Are totems really useful? 
  • If a dream architect can render your totem useless by handling it, what's the point? If the architect is ever in a position to try to fool you, the architect has captured you and can easily take your totem and learn how it works before starting the dream.
    • I think the idea is not so much that it protects against malicious interference in one's dreams, but against the uncertainty that comes with going in and out of dreams so often. It's only extraction teams (possibly only Dom's extraction team) that carry them; people who fear being captured by extraction teams are protected by training their subconscious, not totems.
      • OP: There's some evidence for this in the film, but it contradicts what they actually say. Cobb and Ariadne won't let the other touch their totems...why not?
      • Its probably a simple case of paranoia that is associated with their line of work. Touching the totem gives a potential architect more information on the totem than simply looking at it. Minimizing the degree by which someone else interacts with your totem reduces the likelihood of it being faked. Hiding the totems' properties among the team probably isn't entirely necessary (they trust each other quite a bit) but its good practice, especially for Ariadne who is new to the whole thing.
    • For the sake of argument, though, while it may not be hard to guess after searching the guy, the fact is his totem could still be anything on his person. You'd have to do some guesswork as to which object it is (though to be fair, the totems we see aren't exactly completely innoccuous).
      • OP: Cobb and Ariadne blithely show each other their totems. When Cobb asks to heft Ariadne's, she refuses. This seems like closing the barn door after the cows are gone.
      • Seeing the totem != as knowing its physical properties.
      • Just looking at a totem won't work. You have to actually handle it to understand what makes it unique. Just by looking at Ariadne's totem, Cobb doesn't know what side it falls on.
    • The totem is like any other object in the dreamworld - conjured on-hand when you need it (like Eames' grenade launcher) You won't have a totem on you until you need it, so the Architect can't take it from you.
      • OP: Sure, in the dreamworld. But in reality, you have to have it on you at all times or it's useless. If Cobb ever needs to rob or incept Ariadne, he'll capture her, take her chess piece, play with it a while, then start a dream.
      • That's part of the trust issue involved with working with someone who enters a dreamworld with you. As Cobb says very clearly at the beginning, when working with an extractor, you have to trust them completely - especially if they're on your team with you. Yes, its possible to fake a totem; its possible to fake anything in this setting, even thoughts. There's no truly foolproof means to prevent someone from fucking around with your mind, just countermeasures you can take to make it harder, and there's no such thing as a completely foolproof countermeasure.

     Why would Cobb be charged for Mal's death? 
  • Why would Cobb be imprisoned for Mal's murder? Surely it would be trivial to show that while he was in the messed up room, he was never in the room on the other side. Also, while it might not be easy to prove which room Mal fell from (given how small the gap between the two was) it would be just as easy to show that Mal had been in both rooms. If Cobb was the killer, then there's no explanation for her to have been in the second room, so Cobb's story must be true. It's unclear in the film how well known/legal the use of PASIV technology is for purely personal use, but it can't be worse than murder, and it would seem perfectly reasonable that a machine which screws around with your subconscious could have some unexpected side effects which may not yet be known to the average psychologist (who presumably wouldn't have been told by Mal that she had used the machine).
    • Earlier in that scene, Mal mentioned that she sent a letter to child welfare (or some other authority, please correct me if I'm wrong) saying that Cobb was getting violent against her, and threatening to kill her in an effort to convince him to die with her. Because of this, I'm pretty sure an average jury would find Cobb entering the hotel at roughly the same time that Mal died + the obvious signs of a struggle in the hotel room + the aforementioned letter pretty convincing evidence against him. It would be too difficult to prove if Mal actually fell from the other ledge and even if they did prove it, I hardly think that would be sufficient enough to prove his innocence. I just kind of assumed either the opposite hotel room was either vacant or Mal somehow convinced them to leave.
      • You're right, just before she jumps she tells Dom she filed a letter with her attorney stating that he had threatened her and she was fearful for her life. After she says that, he turns and looks back at the room she has wrecked, and you see the lightbulb click on in his head that he's been framed for murder.
      • I doubt Cobb would be convicted of murder based on the night Mal died. However, he ran, and flight is evidence of guilt. Even if he explains the flight, he could still be convicted of involuntary manslaughter based on his screwing around with Mal's subconscious.
    • Mal also had herself declared sane by three seperate psychiatrists, so any claims that her dream-generated psychosis was behind her death would be dismissed. She took every step necessary to convince Cobb that the only way forward was to jump; otherwise he wouldn't have a life worth living in the "dream world" she thought they existed in.
    • That memory was false. The second hotel is exactly like the first. Cobb was trying to talk his wife in from the ledge, and she jumped. No evidence either way + him running when he knows the police are coming for him = wanted man.
  • He wouldn't. It would explain a great many things if Dom's issues were more psychological than legal, that no one other than Dom himself holds him legally responsible for Mal's death and that a quick conversation with the authorities explaining why he fled would clear everything up. This explains why Saito finds it easy to "fix" things (i.e. his people tell him that Dom isn't really wanted), why he can travel from country to country outside the US, and why Ariadne was so helpful (she was selected by Miles who either intentionally or unintentionally knew that Ariadne would fix Dom's issues).
    • I don't see what needs to be explained about Cobb traveling outside the U.S.. And if Cobb was really delusional about being a wanted man, it'd seem pretty ridiculous for Miles to, instead of just directly intervening and trying to drag him back to the U.S. and/or straight-up get him psychiatric help, coyly pair him up with an empathetic student of his in hopes that she'll eventually get around to helping him deal with his issues in a roundabout way. And then there's the fact that no one, not even Arthur, seems to give a shit about Cobb needlessly exiling himself. And for that matter, Cobb was already getting ready to return to his kids long before Ariadne even started to help him with his issues. He'd already locked himself in by getting on the flight to LA before he was even in the clear yet, and as far as he was concerned, the only thing that immediately mattered at that point was getting the job done. Him dealing with all his guilt issues was just an incidental thing that wasn't expected to happen during the mission.

     Dream-machines within dream-machines 
  • How, exactly, does a dream machine conjured up inside of a dream function? How is an imaginary object able to create a dream inside of a dream? Does dreaming up a dream machine somehow cause the real dream machine to create another dream level?
    • It works exactly like every other piece of equipment created in the dreamworld works. Which is to say exactly how realworld equipment works.
      • Yes, but how does something that doesn't exist function? It's not like conjuring up a dream-gun to shoot a projection - the dream!Dream Machine has a physiological effect on the people inside the dream.
      • And dream guns have physiological effects on the people inside the dream as well. Ditto for dream chemicals and physical blows by dream people. Why are you assuming that a dream-dreaming machine will behave any differently than a dream gun, when we can visibly see other dream-conjured weapons/objects having physical effects on dreamers?
      • Because the conjured guns act in a different way than the fake dream machines. The dream-bodies are affected by the dream-conjured guns. The real world body isn't. Death of the dream-body by a dream-gun causes the person to wake up. The use of a dream-made dream machine is somehow able to have a neurological effect on the real body, by somehow causing a new dream to happen inside another dream.
      • Except dreamworld bodies act exactly like they do in the real world; i.e. Saito was shot by a dreamworld gun and suffered gradual organ failure exactly like he would in real life, Fisher was exposed to a dreamworld sedative while under the hood and passed out exactly like he would in real life, etc. Ergo, the dreamer's physical body in the dream world acts the same way it does in real life, and can be affected the exact same way by dreamworld objects. There's absolutely no reason to believe that a dreamworld dream-inducing machine will have any different effect than it would in real life, exactly like dreamworld sedatives or dreamworld guns. We can simply assume that the dreamworld machine is affecting the dreamer's body inside the dream, the same way any other dream object is affecting a dreamer's body.
      • OK. It's too difficult to articulate the level of recursion and simulated realities going on in my head when I picture how the machine can work without it existing in a physical form, especially since gunshot wounds don't have a deadly effect on the real life bodies of the dreamers while the dream machine can have an effect on the real life brain of the dreamer, by creating a nested dream. I'm thinking of a video game console: a video game can simulate gunshots and the death of a character, but can it simulate a video game console capable of playing another video game that requires same amount of memory to function? And so on for four levels? My skull just combusted.
      • Its because the dreamer's body is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as that in the real world. It can be shot and suffer organ failure. it can be tired, it can experience hunger and exhaustion. It can be sedated by chemicals, it can experience shifts in gravity. It can, apparently, be knocked unconscious, and it can experience pain. Thus, reason holds that it can be affected by neurological technology; the dream machine is creating a dreamworld in the mind of the dreamworld body. The only difference between a realworld body and a dreamworld body is that complete cessation of vital functions wakes the dreamer up.
      • ^This is an important point that needs to be remembered: dreamworld bodies look and act exactly like real world bodies. From all observed properties, the dreamworld bodies have internal organs, respiratory system, etc. Saito was bleeding out from a punctured lung. Cobb got intensely hungry when Saito's troops recovered him. Pain sensations indicate there is a nervous system in the dreamworld body, and both Saito bleeding and Fisher passing out when sedated indicates a circulatory/respiratory system. Hell, Mal, Cobb, and Saito visibly aged while in the dreamworld. Thus we can reasonably conclude that dreamworld bodies are fully-formed and act exactly like realworld bodies. It makes sense that they'd have a neural network that can be affected by a PASIV.
    • To understand this, just kill somebody in a dream. Did they die? No, because they never existed, but you perceive them as dying. So, does the dream machine work in the dreams? No, but all the dreamers assume it did. This is why they say it's harder to make someone dream while they're dreaming—you're psychologically persuading them that they're dreaming.
    • What if the machine isn't a figment of anybody's imagination but a program within the real machine, that does cause it to create another level? It would make sense for the device to "follow" its users.
    • I always interpreted it as the dream machine being just an in-dream representation of somehow controlling the actual dream machine, but that's just my take. Of course, I guess it does seem like kind of a big leap to say that the dreamers can mentally control the dream machine from inside, so...idk.
    • This troper always just figured it worked because they expected it to work.

     Why doesn't Cobb bring his kids to him? 
  • So Cobb's goal is to see his kids again. What's stopping him from bringing the kids to him? Of course there's the whole murder framing, but... Assuming the grandparents have custody of the children, can't they just leave the country with both kids? It doesn't even have to be permanent, it could be excused as a vacation trip out of the States that has no connection to Cobb.
    • It is implied in the conversation with the kids' grandparents that they don't like Cobb, and bringing his children over is a quick way for Interpol and/or bounty hunters to track Cobb down.
    • Bringing the kids to him is risky, as they might get caught in the crossfire if the bounty hunters show up. They're safer at home.
    • There is a scene in the Inception shooting script in which Miles and Cobb are talking that explains what is happening. The issue is that the kids are under the custody of their grandmother, who is estranged from both Miles and Cobb. In that scene (which I don't remember from the movie) Cobb asks Miles if he could convince his ex-wife to bring the kids on vacation and Miles responds with "She blames me as much as you."

     Time dilation 
  • Time dilation doesn't happen in Real Life. A five-minute dream, for example, takes five minutes of REM sleep to play out. This bugged me so much that I stopped wanting to see the film and even looked for reliable references about the lack of time dilation to add to the article about dreams on The Other Wiki.
    • Two things about that: There's no way that Christopher Nolan was going to rewrite a script he'd been working on for 10 years to accommodate two studies by one researcher published in 2009. Secondly, other dream research, and experience, says other wise. It's still up for debate. His methodology wasn't exactly air tight. So yeah, don't go on an article destroying crusade based on a few paragraphs long pop science page.
      • I remember reading about these studies far earlier than 2009. This is just the one that I happened to dig up while in a bugged mood. In addition, I've heard TVs and alarm clocks intrude into my own dreams, and those were at the same pitch and same rate as real life.
    • Time dilation doesn't happen in real life, but in real life we don't have lucid dreaming machines that let people invade your subconscious either. Its an aspect of the Applied Phlebotinum of the setting. Lighten up.
    • I'll add that there are drugs involved, so really anything is possible within that context. I.e., the drugged dream state is essentially a novel experience. Which is something I can buy into, as I had some pretty amazing lucid dreams when I tried taking anti-depressants. And lots of drugs can screw with your sense of time passing.
      • Yusef explicitly says that the time dilation effect is caused by the sedatives.
    • That article doesn't even discredit time dilation in dreams. It just says detailed dreams take longer than short dreams... well yeah, of course they do. But that doesn't address whether it's an exact 1:1 time match, or if it's a ratio like the movie suggests. It's almost surely not an exact ratio, but really, everyone's had a dream that subjectively lasted way, way longer than a few minutes. The exact mechanism behind it is still a mystery: does the brain work faster, is it just a trick of Conservation of Detail and narrative jumps, like the scene cuts in a movie, or does it come from the dream never being "experienced" at all, and instead being created as a ready-made memory during REM sleep? All three theories have been suggested, and since the movie's about people going into dreams, it had to pick an answer.
      • Of the three hypotheses you mentioned, the narrative jumps most closely explain effects seen in my own dreams. I've had dreams that seem to take 24 hours, and I've had dreams that seem like several disjointed scenes, and they're probably the same mechanism: a completely new scene starts during each REM period. If my brain can stitch them into a narrative, I get a long, cinematic dream; otherwise, I get a "channel surfing" dream.
      • I just want to add my experience concerning time dilation in dreams, I was involved in a scientific study (quite a few sessions) in which I wore in-ear headphones and had to relax in a chair in complete darkness. I was allowed to fall asleep (it was encouraged) as the study concerned was about subconscious audio processing, I distinctly remember laying in the recliner for what seemed like ages, and then slowly falling into sleep. I was later woke up for a mid-session break, meaning AT MOST 90 minutes had passed. Within my sleep I dreamed, nothing interesting but that's not important. When it came to waking up from that dream (which lasted 'minutes') I realised that I was in fact still dreaming, although the dream was me in the chair in total darkness (I could hear the tones). I only realised it was a dream after what seemed like a few minutes, I then woke up. Except I didn't, because I then went to another dream in the chair where I could not move. It seemed like hours were passing, paralysed in that position unable to move a single muscle. Then suddenly the door opened, and the researcher came in to give me a glass of water. This was the mid-session break? No, it had only been 15 minutes, she had just noticed I was licking my lips a lot, which meant they were probably dry (the more movement the subject makes the more interference on the ECG I was wearing). Within that <15 minutes I had experienced several minutes in one dream, an unknown amount of time in the second, even more but still unknown in the third, and hours in the forth. Time dilation does happen, but I agree probably not exactly the way it is described. For the record, those dreams I had were probably one of the worst experiences in my entire life, it is horrifying to go through all that, and still be dreaming.
      • I have personally had dreams which seemed to last for years. I had a dream in which I arranged a nine-year campaign to set up a certain person as president, and I had physically aged by the end of it, which lasted about eight hours. Now, granted, there were long periods in the dream that had very little detail, so my brain didn't have to work very hard to process them; I spent a year in a hospital room in that dream, which I expected took my brain all of a minute to calculate. But it still demonstrates the point that you can have an extremely long dream in a short period of real-world time.
      • That isn't actually possible - nobody ever dreams for more than a few minutes, and you have lots and lots of dreams every time you go to sleep - you just don't remember most of them. Typically you'll only remember a dream you had just before waking up, especially if your sleep is interrupted by something - say, an alarm clock. Probably, you slept for 8 hours and remembered one dream out of the many you had. However, as far as time dilation goes - yes, a five-minute dream can be five minutes of sleep, but that doesn't mean it can't -feel- longer. In dreams sometimes time moves slower, sometimes faster - really, they're just a construct of your mind, so in theory, anything can happen. That's why lucid dreams are so fun.
      • Not going to argue with the troper above me. We should also remember that the mind plays tricks. I've, for instance, been inside a dream that only took place over a very short period of time, but during which I had memories of things that had happened in "the dream world" before I started the dream. These were memories of things that had not happened to me, but I would've sworn were a part of my personal backstory. Within the dream, it would've seemed like I was there for far longer than I actually was, because my story started before I was actually in the dream. Which reminds me, I also have a memory of Nolan claiming this film was an allegory for films.

     Was the movie deliberately screwing with us? 
  • Am I the only one who felt like the whole film was Gaslighting me? Either they were slipping in evidence that the whole thing was actually a dream all along, there were some continuity errors, or I am majorly paranoid. It seemed like there were scenes where, for instance, Cobb would pick up a coffee cup. The camera would cut away, then cut back. Cobb would pick up the coffee cup again. Or. . . did the cat keep disappearing and reappearing behind Yusef when they first met him? Or. . . maybe it's just the camera angles, but it seemed like they'd cut away, then cut back, and the person would be standing a bit off from where they were. Things like that. Things that would just be minor continuity errors in a normal film, but because this one was putting me on high alert, anyways. . . Of course, I might just be crazy. Somebody please reaffirm my sanity?
    • Once you accept that Cobb's real totem was his wedding ring and the whole thing most certainly wasn't a dream, everything makes sense. What I think is confusing this community is that this film may be one of a new breed of 'trope backlash' (Avatar is another one) where the director deliberately manipulates tropes for either comic or dramatic effect. Nolan wants you think it was all a dream and then leave clues it isn't; which is exactly what he did. I mentioned above this may be a new trope, but I guess it could be covered as an inverted All Justa Dream. The sticky bit here is that it seems it was deliberately left ambiguous, when it in fact wasn't.
    • I definitely saw the cat thing.

     Grenade launcher totem! 
  • Ok, after multiple FAQ viewings I have to admit that what bugs me the most is every plot hole I think I found turns out to be due me missing something! The only thing left is what I call the 'grenade launcher totem', in reference to the gun battle on dream level one. So if anyone can 'create' objects in arbitrary dream states, why bother with totems in the first place? If I can't create a greanade launcher out of thin air, then I'm in reality. That's my totem.
    • If you were in a dream and thought it was reality, you either wouldn't even consider creating such an object in the first place, or creating such objects would be completely natural. The totem is also there to make sure that if you're in a dream, you can tell whether or not it is someone else's dream.
      • To put it another way, it's not the logic that's important, it's your familiarity with the action. Being able to pluck a grenade launcher from thin air only works as a totem if you try to pluck a grenade launcher from thin air every time the thought pops into your head; otherwise your dreaming self will just accept the magically appearing gun. note 
    • Its also possible that they don't actually conjure up the weapons, but rather that the architect/dreamer creates the dream equivalent of a dropbox loaded with equipment, and the dreamer goes in with whatever they'd chosen as their "default" equipment. In this case, Yusef would have created a dropbox of guns at the warehouse, loaded with various pieces of gear that included a grenade launcher. It also is supported by Eames recovering a defibrillator from the wall inside the hospital; he knew it would be there, because he helped build the dreamworld.
    • Great Googly-moogly. I forgot that Yusuf is the dreamer/architect of level 1, so if you want a grenade launcher, you simply ask him for it. They just have to tread lightly as if they go too nuts (creating a tank for example) they will just multiply the response of Fishers subconcious or possibly even disrupt the entire dream state. So the totem becomes more a mechanism to determine if you are under the influence of a hostile architect or not. Except in the case of Cobb, whom uses the top as a crutch to constantly remind himself of the real world as he is still a little nutty from his extended stay in limbo.
      • But this raises the question, how come Eames can change his appearance in dreams where he is not the architect, like level 1? Is it because the architect gives him this ability?
      • That may be an acquired skill that Eames picked up, like being an architect. Remember that while Ariadne picked up building dreamscapes very quickly, she's explicitly said to be exceptionally skilled, with Cobb saying he's "never seen anyone pick it up that quickly." Eames can probably only change his physical appearance but not his on-hand equipment.
      • I'm pretty sure that it's a special skill linked to a very warped sense of identity. I've actually been able to change my appearance in dreams, but looking back I've noticed that I can only do it in time periods when my mental health is slipping. (Right now I'm off medication but still doing well, so I can only do it in lucid dreams and don't think of it normally.)

     What does Miles teach? 
  • What exactly does Mal's father-in-law teach that teaches you how to build dream worlds without apparently having any sort of familiarity with the fact that building dream worlds was even possible?
    • Ariadne was perfectly aware that the dreamworld technology and architecture existed. She just didn't know the specifics of how PASIV technology or extractors worked. Its kind of the equivalent of knowing that it is possible to hack into a computer network but not knowing anything past the basics of computer programming. In this case, she's probably taking entry-to-mid-level courses involving the technology/dream state, but she hasn't actually worked on it in the field or actually engaged in PASIV dream-states. Presumably, there's a whole branch of science and study around the dreaming tech; Ariadne just hasn't experienced it firsthand outside of a classroom.
    • Just to answer the first part of the question, from the general setting of Mile's desk and classroom, he was probably taught Architecture (real life architecture, that is) or Architectural History. There was no PASIV machine in sight in the classroom, so I wouldn't support the theory that Miles was teaching dream technology. The rest of would be just my Wild Mass Guessing: During the start of PASIV technology's development, Miles, Dom and Mal would have been involved in PASIV research as an extension of architectural design. Notice that in the Limbo Dom and Mal spent most of their time experimenting on building cities and such. After his daughter's death, he might have chosen to drop the PASIV research and just go back to Architecture. But as I said, just my WMG.

     Why did Cobb flee from an obvious setup? 
  • This isn't really a plot hole in the movie, just in Cobb's logic: I don't think Mal's murder frameup was nearly as airtight as he did. She went to three seperate psychologists to have herself declared sane? That just comes off as a Suspiciously Specific Denial taken to the extreme: surely the question would have to be raised of why she'd go to such overblown lengths, and the fact that, as a psychology expert herself, she'd be easily capable of manipulating the results would be brought to light. Likewise for the letter to her attorney about fearing for her life. Such Suicide, Not Murder cases have happened before, and what usually throws the suicidal person's plans off is exactly what Mal did: she's going through such implausible lengths to establish a paper trail of suspicion and sanity that the question instantly arises of why, if she had the independence and resolve to do all that, she didn't simply leave him. Remember, the standard is "reasonable doubt": Cobb doesn't have to actually prove that he didn't kill her, he just needs to show that there are reasonable alternatives, and given that Mal's own father is sympathetic to Cobb and seems to understand the truth, that shouldn't be too hard. Now, that's not a problem with the story because it seems like Cobb went on the run immediately rather than facing trial, and once he became a fugitive, and then an extractor, he made things a whole, whole lot worse for himself. It's more an observation that, if he'd chosen to go to court and fight the charges, his situation wouldn't likely have been as hopeless as Mal had planned.
    • I think there's a big fact here in that Cobb isn't entirely sure he didn't kill her, via the inception. Some part of him, canonically, feels like he at least had a hand in it. And he deals with this guilt extremely badly, which isn't surprising for a grieving man who thinks he may have accidentally killed his wife; he runs away from it emotionally and physically. He still hadn't come to terms with his guilt by the beginning of the film, where, as you say, he'd gone on the run and made his case pretty open and shut. When he comes back to his kids he's not only free of his legal guilt, but his emotional guilt as well.
    • Yeah, even as I typed that I realized that Cobb does feel like he killed her, and probably didn't feel like he had any right to defend himself in court (especially if defending himself meant shifting the blame onto her). As you said, his running from the situation rather than facing it may have been one more example of how his self-destructive guilt's been out of control ever since she died. After all, Dream Mal is just a projection of himself, and the way it sabotoges his missions is just an extension of how his guilt's sabotoging his own life.
      • All that, and there's the fact that even if it does feel a little suspicious, there's enough evidence that in court "there are other options" doesn't stand and can't really be investigated.
    • My answer is that Cobb runs because of his guilt, even though no one else thinks he is responsible. One other possibility which was alluded to in the movie and made somewhat more clear in a deleted (?) scene is that the kid's grandmother (i.e. Mal's mother and Miles's ex-wife) is making Cobb's life a living hell.
    • The "declared sane" part doesn't make sense to me. This doesn't seem like a service psychiatrists provide; Cobb makes it sound like there's a pysch version of coming back negative on an STD test. Does this world have insanity testing centers? As far as Cobb goes, he feels some guilt, but it's also implied that others advised him he looks guilty (e.g., the guy who tells him it's "now or never" and gives him his airline tickets). Even without the "sanity declarations", the wrecked hotel room and letter saying Cobb threatened Mal are enough to at least get Cobb arrested, and almost certainly prosecuted. And as for a trial, how would his defense proceed? "Ladies and gentleman of the jury, Mr. Cobb didn't kill his wife by pushing her out of a window! He killed her by driving her so insane that she committed suicide!"
  • This troper believes it would be more along the lines of "Mr. Cobb emotionally and physically abused his wife to the point of suicide", leading to charges for either spousal abuse or manslaughter depending on how the court case went. After all, she did send a letter to her attorney stating that he had 'threatened to kill her', which, along with medical testimony, the wrecked hotel room, the manner in which she died, hotel records and a grudge held against him by the children's grandmother, is a pile of evidence which his defence would struggle to overcome unless they had a specific reason to (after all, the PASIV technology is not well-known, and Cobb outright stated that he couldn't explain her particular brand of insanity in a way that made sense to the uninitiated). Without prior knowledge of the PASIV device, intricate understanding of how it works, and the (illegal anyway) crimes and operations that can be committed with such technology, Cobb has no defence at all.

     Dreamworld body armor 
  • Apologies if this has been brought up before, but, in the dream world, why can't you just imagine yourself up some nice, light-weight, flexible, bullet-stopping armour? That shouldn't change the environment enough to piss off the projections.
    • The projects still react to the changes. Escalation. If you start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. If you start wearing kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds. If you start wearing a mask and jumping off roof-tops...
    • They probably do; in the third dream level everyone appears to be carrying vests save Fisher - Fisher himself probably didn't think to give himself armor. Prior to that, in the first level they weren't expecting trouble, and in the second body armor would likely interfere with the immersion of the dream.

     Where does the dream-sedative come from? 
  • Where do they get the sedative in their dreams? It's a chemical of very specific composition, as Yusuf explains it. To conjure it up inside your dream you'd have to have in-depth expertise in chemistry. Assuming that you don't, and all you needed to do to pull it out of thin air was to think "Ooh, I need a sedative that works so-and-so but conveniently lets you wake up when you feel the kick", then why weren't Cobb and the others doing that in the first place?
    • This was already asked above in relation to how a conjured dream machine can work despite its complexity and obscurity (everyone knows what a gun does, but the dream machine...not so much). It just works, apparently, because that's what you think it should do.
    • I don't think they need the sedative past the first dream level. The entire reason they were using the sedatives was because the slighest disturbance at the top would come crashing down deeper and disrupt the dreams at levels two and three, and they needed to keep the dreamer's real world body stable and asleep. Once they've sedated Fisher in the real world, his body and everyone else's is deep enough under for three levels.
    • Yusef could probably have given the dreamers the chemical composition and instructions on how to create it. Once he's actually developed the compound, it would be easy to synthesize it. That is if, as note above, they actually need the heavy-duty sedative in the dreamworld instead of just in the real world....

     BWOOOOOOOOOOOOONG! 
  • Okay, other plot holes raised on this page I can deal with, or explain in my own way. But you know what really bugs me? The soundtrack and how it is determined to drown out people talking! Sometimes it wouldn't be too bad, but there were points where I felt the music and dialogue were almost at the same sound level, so I ended up missing bits of exposition that would have made things clear without a second viewing. There are some wonderful compositions for the soundtrack, but it shouldn't be so to the front.
    • Not sure what scenes you are referring to, but what you heard probably wasn't the soundtrack! It was the musical 'countdown' from the higher levels, just drastically slowed down. There is even a vid that demos this http://youtube.com/watch?v=UVkQ0C4qDvM Damn you Nolan!
    • Yeah, I'm not sure what your problem was, because I could hear the dialogue just fine. The soundtrack never got in my way
      • The opening scenes could get pretty muddled in IMAX due to that format's insane sound system. Especially because it's at its most booming during scenes that are heavy with Ken Watanabe's dialogue. He needs a bit more attention to understand than the rest of the cast, which can be difficult whenBWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOONG!
      • That's more an issue with IMAX than the movie itself; normal theaters don't have that problem.
      • There is some egregious use of music, but that's kind of a Nolan trademark - see The Dark Knight, for example. It might leave you with a slight headache if you're used to quieter films like that of The Coen Brothers, though. But no, it didn't mess up the dialogue for me. That might be a theatre problem.
      • I saw it in IMAX and could hear all the dialogue very clearly. Almost got sick from watching 50-foot-tall zero-gravity fights, but nothing was muddled.

     Pronouncing "Mal" as "Moll" 
  • This isn't a question. But it seriously bugs me that no one in the entire movie ever pronounced her name "Mal". Everyone said "Moll" as in "Molly" and I was so confused when I went to find discussion and everyone was saying Mal.
    • It's the French pronounciation. Mal is French. She's played by Marion Cotillard, who is French. Her father lives in France, and a large part of the movie takes place in Paris.
      • Actually, it's not. The French pronounciation of "Mal" would be the same as the English one. (For confusion, see how Mal is pronounced for the character in Firefly.) It would sound a little different due to the accent, but it would definitely be an "ah" sound and not an "aw" sound.
      • Also, it means "bad, wrong, or evil" in French.
      • The french dub used the english pronunciation, either because Everything Sounds Sexier In English or to avoid confusion.
    • It's a perfectly possible and acceptable pronunciation as far as English goes. Just compare it to words like fall or almost.
    • While watching the movie, this troper assumed she was called 'Maul' since she attacked people whenever she showed up.

     Giant doom fortress-hospital 
  • Why, exactly, was the hospital a gigantic ice fortress in Alberta? Was it an attempt to force Fischer to place his father-projection in the only habitable place in the level, or is the Canadian health care system that hardcore?
    • Ariadne specifically constructed that layer. Yes, they wanted a place where they could control where Fisher sent his own projections of his father, but they were also running with the idea that they were going to have Fisher entering someone else's mind - specifically, Browning's - so setting it up like its a fortress would make it more convincing.

     Why doesn't Cobb try to incept Mal again? 
  • Okay, so the whole idea running throughout the movie is that an idea will grow like a parasite, etc. and that's why Mal couldn't shake the whole reality-questioning after Cobb planted the idea that she wasn't living a reality by having the top always spin. Am I getting that part right so far? Assuming yes, why didn't he just go back and stop the damn top? Why didn't he throw her in level three of a dream world, then get into limbo and go implant the idea that she shouldn't question reality and everything that happened was a fluke, or something? In other, less graceful and specific words, couldn't he have just rewritten her mind by going back and countering it with some other inception? And to protect himself from losing his own mind in limbo the next time around (and from then on), why didn't he just ditch the dumb top and carry around a sheet of paper in his pocket that says "Hey, you screw with dreams for a living. You might be in one right now. Figure out whether or not you are." Or you know, construct a huge floating sign in the limbo sky that says "THIS IS FAKE AND A DREAM, BATMAN'S BUTLER HAS YOUR KIDS IN THE REAL WORLD, QUIT MAKING IDENTICAL SKYSCRAPERS, WAKE UP, AND GET A JOB AS AN ACCOUNTANT" or something.
    • In order.
    • Assuming yes, why didn't he just go back and stop the damn top? Doesn't matter. An idea is a parasite. Stopping the top will not get rid of the idea now.
    • Why didn't he throw her in level three of a dream world, then get into limbo and go implant the idea that she shouldn't question reality and everything that happened was a fluke, or something? Because, again, the idea has already been planted there, and he can't just get rid of it. Inception doesn't allow you to completely rewrite someone's mind; if it did, it would be easier. It has to be something subtle and simple and created entirely by the person who is being incepted. Inception is not some magical method of completely rewriting someone's thoughts; implanting an idea is a careful, specific process. Also, Mal is unlikely to want to go back under and into the dreamworld where an inception would even be possible, and Cobb has no way of knowing that an attempt at inception won't make things even worse.
    • And to protect himself from losing his own mind in limbo the next time around (and from then on), why didn't he just ditch the dumb top and carry around a sheet of paper in his pocket that says "Hey, you screw with dreams for a living. You might be in one right now. Figure out whether or not you are." Face Palm. Did you miss the entire point behind why they create totems? Totems have specific properties only known by that person. A piece of paper that says "You're in a dream" can be faked. Totems can't be faked.
      • Also, the top has extreme personal value to Cobb. Don't treat him like an emotionless robot; he keeps the top because of its personal value to him. A piece of paper that says "yo dawg, you dreaming fool" is more rational but its also meaningless.
    • Or you know, construct a huge floating sign in the limbo sky that says "THIS IS FAKE AND A DREAM, BATMAN'S BUTLER HAS YOUR KIDS IN THE REAL WORLD, QUIT MAKING IDENTICAL SKYSCRAPERS, WAKE UP, AND GET A JOB AS AN ACCOUNTANT" or something. Double Face Palm. They spent fifty in limbo building stuff. Creating a giant sign in the sky would literally have no effect because they've been doing that for fifty years already. It would be as natural as anything else they're experiencing.
      • In order, re-rebuttal.
      • And now another troper, putting in a rebuttal to your rebuttal of his rebuttal beneath your points.
      • Yeah, and people tend to deal with parasites by using regular treatments, not by shouting "you're wrong!" He can't get rid of the idea, but he could combat it with another one. I kind of had a problem with the way he reacted after she went crazy because I could understand his guilt not letting him back down when they got into arguments about "reality", but could he really not have come up with a better plan for dealing with a problem he caused other than getting really upset and trying to have her admitted?
      • Except how do you counter the idea that your world isn't real? That idea was symbolised by a top constantly spinning without tipping even a little, and had already taken hold. The exact opposite idea would be the top on it's side not spinning, but Mal firmly believed the idea so that one wouldn't take. The whole point of them doing the three layers in the film was so they could subtly manipulate Fisher into a situation where they could give him the idea on a higher level so when they went to a lower level he would repeat the idea back to himself so he'd think he made it himself. So how exactly would you convince someone who thought they were lost in their own subconcious that they were in reality by going deeper in their mind. An inception can't take hold if the person is completely opposed to the idea you're trying to plant.
      • There's something fundamentally flawed about assuming Dom wouldn't attempt to just put somebody under by force, considering that's all he did the rest of the movie. Yes, he became a thief and a calculated criminal, but considering he was doing everything for the sake of his family, why he wouldn't have done whatever possible to fix Mal? And yeah, there's no guarantee that more attempts wouldn't make things worse, but that's kind of what I would expect: for things to get worse. I'm not saying he should have solved the problem this way; I'm saying I think this is what he would have realistically tried. He knew how the mind worked, or at the very least understood that a problem caused in a dream wouldn't be fixed in the real world, so why not attempt to go back in and fix things rather than accept that they were ruined and live that way? In my opinion it seemed to fit his personality to see himself as capable of fixing a problem he made, even if he definitely wasn't.
      • There's a difference between putting people under by force when you're wanted for the murder of your wife and don't have any other choice and putting your wife under by force when you've had no experience doing that. Her grasp on reality was horrible enough after they got out of limbo, putting her under might have royally fucked her mind up completely even if he did manage to plant a different idea. The reason he never tried to incept another idea was because he knew it wouldn't work ahead of time and was trying to do what he could in the real world, not to mention that he didn't expect Mal to actually commit suicide. He might have actually thought he was making a difference in the real world.
      • So he carries both - the audience recognizes him as someone who's not a heartless robot and also not a simpleton. My example was bad, yeah. But the basic idea - some kind of personal item that would lead someone to question their reality - seems like a kind of obvious safeguard. This ties into the next part too. I'm not saying make a totem that's nothing but a piece of paper with no special properties. Have a consistent totem, and also put safeguards in place once in a dream so that your subconscious is wary, or gets warned about potentially being in a dream. Even bizarre impossible architecture might be bought in the dream world, but the written word would be much more straightforward. They knew it was limbo the first time so it didn't matter, but if Cobb was even the slightest bit concerned that he would wind up in limbo again, why not put some visual clues to his future self (who would have no idea if anything was real or not, as shown in the end) to at the very least question his surroundings. It might stir up an idea in him. After all, it just took a brief conversation with Saito (where he recognized the totem) to remind him that they had to make "a leap of faith". Why not carry around an item, doesn't have to even be a totem, that would open up the possibility of everything being a dream? Hell, give him a copy of that Zhuangzi poem. I just suggested a huge sign because it'd be harder to miss.
      • The thing is you can't really enter your own subconcious to train yourself, you need someone else to do it for you. And there's no evidence that it would even work. See the page quote here; even with impossible archetechture the mind could just accept that it's real, which is the whole danger of limbo. It's just basically the deepest part of your mind; in order to put in such safeguards Cobbs would have to let someone go down four levels into his mind, which would require them to be sedated, which means that if they happened to get ambushed by Mal he's got someone else stuck in his mind.

     Why doesn't Saito buy out Fischer's company? 
  • The whole justification for the movie bugs me. The entire reason why Saito hired Cobb was to bring down the rival company, right? In order to execute the plan, Saito paid Cobb a big reward, arranged so that the charges against him were dropped and bought a goddamn airline company just like that. In spite of all this, we are supposed to believe that he couldn't just outright buy Fischer's corporation. Even if the acquisition would have cost more money, you have to consider that the operation was ridiculously complex and extremely risky.
    • There's nothing saying that, as rich as Saito is, Fischer isn't even richer. As Saito said, they're just one acquisition away from becoming a new superpower. Even his Scrooge McDuck-like wealth amounts to just one more measley company buyout for them... that's how rich and powerful they are.
    • Saito flat-out says that his company is the only thing standing between Fischer's company and total energy dominance, and that he "can no longer compete." Implying Fischer's company is much more powerful that even Saito's.
  • Also Saito may be lying about his real motives. Saito may have other motives for messing with Fischer which Cobb (or frankly the audience) really doesn't care about.

     Most stable flight in history 
  • Here's what bug's me, almost the entire plot of the film takes place on an airplane during a ten-hour long plane ride. Given the fact that the sedative didn't interfere with the inner-ear so that operatives could still use a kick to get back to reality, is it just me, or was that the smoothest plane ride in the history of flight?
    • Unless the plane suddenly went into a complete nosedive, they're not going to have a violent-enough kick to trigger the wakeup. Also, the kick doesn't just involve falling, it also requires a violent stop to be associated with it, as shown multiple times in the dreamworld.
      • You've never been in a plane when it's hit an air pocket? That's not just turbulence, the plane literally drops (often hundreds of feet in the air). It feels kinda like when you go down a vertical slide as a kid and I assume would produce enough of a kick to wake someone up.
    • People sleep in planes all the time without any kind of sedative, and the bumps that occur aren't enough to wake them up.
    • They're also in first class, which tends to be located in a more stable part of the plane.

    Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Mal? 
  • At the expense of sounding downright evil; If I were Cobb I would have "killed" Mal again once I realized she was putting the "lives" of myself and my team at risk, as the "dream prison" clearly was not working.
    • I don't think there's anything evil about that suggestion. It's not really Mal he's shooting, just his own self-destructive guilt given Mal's form. That said, though, shooting her wouldn't really solve the problem, since she'd just remanifest a moment later. The only way to really get rid of her is for Cobb to make peace with what happened. The dream prison idea showed that he's not facing himself, he's just trying to bottle everything up and pray that it doesn't get loose; as any therapist can attest, that never goes well.
    • At the only points where she directly threatens a teammate, the first instance has Cobb covered by multiple opponents and the second instance he hesitates because he's not sure whether she's "real" or not. And in either case, shooting Mal won't help. He has to actually confront that part of himself and make peace with that guilt to actually "destroy" her. Shooting her just doesn't work in dreamworlds, because she's simply a projection.

     Why doesn't Saito just kill Fischer? 
  • Saito wants to break up Fischer Jr's company. It's fairly clear from the film that Fischer Jr. is the sole beneficiary of his father's will and therefore the inheritor of his empire. So...Why not just kill him?
    • Killing him would just mean that someone (or a collection of people) would take ownership of the company. It would in no way prevent the company from taking over Saito's. Do you think Sky and Fox would simply shut down if someone killed Rupert Murdoch?
    • Because not all corporate bigwigs are willing to commit murder?
      • But committing mindrape with a murderer (and Saito has no real reason not to think that Cobb's not guilty) is okay? I suppose you could go the even evil has standards route, but it all seemed too much of an excuse plot for me.
    • Aside from the fact that inception is a lesser crime that's not actually hurting anybody, murder will leave a body and an evidence trail and a massive scandal that could be traced back to Saito. And on top of that it won't solve the problem - Fischer's company will still be intact and control will likely fall to a board of directors or other high-ranking official, likely Browning. Unless you actually think that think a company as huge as Fischer's doesn't have a continuity of control set up beforehand, which any corporation will have.
      • Plus, Saito owns a company put in serious danger of being bought out by Fischer's. If Saito has Fischer killed, guess who's going to be at the top of the police's list of suspects? Interpol is going to be all over Saito's company in minutes once they realize he's got an extremely good motive to kill Fischer, and he definitely has the means to pull it off.
    • But committing mindrape with a murderer (and Saito has no real reason not to think that Cobb's not guilty) is okay? ....well, yeah. It is. Keep in mind, this is a setting where industrial espionage of the mind-intruding sort is apparently commonplace enough that extractors get paid well enough that mind security is a booming business. They're not doing anything men like Saito don't apparently do semi-regularly, and that sort of business is not engaged in by the squeaky-clean.
    • Also, you don't know if some great nephew or the board of directors or someone like that would get the company if Fischer Jr. is just killed off. Saito wants to make sure that the company is dismantled and the only way he can make sure of this is to incept this thing into Fischer Jr.'s brain.

     Underuse of the awesomeness of Michael Caine 
  • Sort of a minor complaint, but if Michael Caine is going to be in your movie and receive rather prominent billing for it, why not have him appear for, I don't know, MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES? Seriously, would the movie have lost anything had Caine's character not been there? I think one of the only reasons Caine was in this was because he's been in each one of Nolan's movies since Batman Begins.
    • He's Nolan's self-proclaimed lucky charm, and he's awesome. In addition, Caine's character established a lot about Mal and Cobb's background, connected Cobb to his largely off-screen family, enabled a scene in which Cobb talks about his predicament and his attitudes about his new, desperate lifestyle and thus adding a much needed emotional core to the story, helped provide information about the setting (as he was the inventor of the Dreamshare technology), and introduced Ariadne to Cobb. So other than establish the emotional backbone of the story and start the second act, he didn't do much in his five minutes of screen time. Would the movie have gained anything had Caine's character not been there?
      • I think that if Michael Caine's character hadn't been in the film, people would have been like "Gee, I wonder why Michael Caine wasn't in this movie. I mean, he was in all the other ones..."
    • In the original shooting script, the scene is actually longer. Bits of the conversation were cut from the final film, including a short explanation for why Cobb's kids couldn't come to see him in Paris.

     The Cobb children are blond 
  • This is a very minor nitpick, but... Mal has dark brown hair. Cobb has darkish, dirty blond hair. How the hell did both their kids get to be a very fair, golden blond? Rule of cute, maybe? I know some kids start off VERY blond, then get much darker - but by the age the kids seem to be, wouldn't their hair be darker already?
    • Genetics. Just because someone has dark hair, it doesn't mean the children will have dark hair. Both of my parents have dark hair, and I'm pale blond, for example.
    • Genetics is the correct answer. It's about recessive and dominant genes. If we're going to simplify it, dark hair is dominant and lighter hair is recessive. If we are going to assume that Mal as a genotype of Bb (B being the gene for dark hair, b for light) and Cobb has either Bb or bb, then it's entirely possible for both children to have a genotype of bb, thus having light hair. (The genetics of hair color is a little more complex than that, but it's the easiest way to explain it.) It's also possible that their hair will get darker as they get older. This troper's mother has medium brown hair, but was bright blonde until she in her preteens. The kids have plenty of time.
      • It's also possible for children's hair color to change later on in life. My mom is a redhead and my dad is a brunette. When me and my sister were born, we were both blonde; seventeen years later, I'm a redhead and she's brunette.
    • Not to mention that Leonardo DiCaprio has about a litre of hairgel in his hair in Inception. It's actually lighter.
    • This troper's parents are both dark-haired brunettes, and she and her brother were born with golden hair and kept it until well into our teens. (Yes. Really. My brother even had ringlets.) It happens.
     Aging in the dreamworld 
  • Why do people age in the dreamworld? There's no logical reason for it.
    • Incorrect; it actually is logical. Aging is a bodily process. In the dreamworld, their bodies act like they do in the real world. They bleed, they respirate, they feel pain, they can pass into unconsciousness, they can be affected by drugs, they can suffer organ failure. Why shouldn't they age?
    • It could also be symbolic of the mind becoming weaker and weaker.
    • This troper always just figured they aged because they expected to age.

     Humanoid projections  
  • All the projections in the movie take humanoid forms. Given the nature of dreams, one would expect things like supermen, wall masters, malevolent architecture and Eldritch Abominations too.
    • Remember that these dreams are artificially generated and controlled. The dreamworlds are based on the real world, and the subconscious projections are created to reflect the world the dreamer and architect have crafted. As a result, the dreamworld contains humanoid people.
    • Yusuf, Arthur and Eames had "summon malevolent architecture" in their abilities, but it was apparently Too Awesome to Use. Ariadne tried to do it, but resulted in the projections rejecting/attacking her.
    • There were a couple nonhumanoid projections at one point: the train on the first dream level was created by Cobb's subconscious, as was the broken wine glass in the hotel on the second. Projections are most likely context-sensitive depending on the dream world they're in, which is another reason for the architect and dreamer to create very controlled and realistic dreams. Making a freaky fantasy dream probably will result in monstrous and inhuman projections. In fact, its probably reasonable to suspect that most of the cars on the first level were projections as well; pretty muich any moving object is likely created by the subconscious if the architect didn't put it there themselves.
  • The answer to this is that the projections are humanoid because the mark thinks that they are in the real world, and the mark thinks they are in the real world because the team does everything they can to make the dream real. That explains why the "Mr. Charles" strategy is so dangerous. Once the mark realizes that he is dreaming, then the projections stop becoming human and when Arthur says (their subconscious tore us apart), he might be talking literally (i.e when the person realized that he was dreaming then the projections became invisible flesh-eating vampire zombies rather than soldiers).

     Why doesn't Cobb sneak Mal into a dream after the first inception? 
  • Why didn't Cobb just take Mal secretly one level down whenever she felt she was in a dream, let them kill themselves together, and wake up in the real world and live happily ever after?
    • ....why would that change anything? Its not going to change the fact that she believes they're still in a dream. Especially if she's been taken there "secretely" - when she wakes up, she'll still be uncertain if she was in a dream or not.
      • Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.
      • And? Repeating the same sequence of events is not going to undo the inception. She will never be certain that the real world is the real world - ever. That's part of the problem with undergoing an inception - especially one as simple and powerful as the one Cobb put into Mal's mind. No matter how many times Cobb "kills" Mal in the dreamworld, she will not be convinced the real world is real.
      • If anything it would make things worse. Even if Mal was convinced by this trick, it would lead to her believing that she was trapped in a long cycle of dreams, willing to kill herself at the first thought that something was wrong. If the first 15 kicks didn't get them into the real world why should she believe that the sixteenth worked?
    • Part of the problem with this proposed solution is the nature of inception as a whole. Note one of the earliest statements in the movie: an idea is the most resilient parasite. When Dom speaks of inception, he says that when an idea is planted into someone's mind, that idea "will grow to define" them. He's talking about Fisher, but he could easily be speaking about Mal. Also keep in mind, implanting an idea into the third level of the subconscious is enough to generate an idea that will radically redefine who they are. The inception done to Mal was implanted at the fourth level, and it didn't just redefine her, it drove her insane. Further complicating this matter is the nature of the idea itself. There's no way to disprove or otherwise verify the idea that the real world isn't real, especially for someone who has had the idea implanted so deeply. Simply leading Mal into a dreamworld and killing her to make her think she's returning to the real world is not going to change the fundamental idea that the world isn't real. Its still going to be there, and every time this is repeated, Mal is going to wake up with the innate suspicion that the world isn't real. That's the whole point behind inception in the first place - that idea is resilient enough and deeply rooted enough that it will not go away. Ever.

     Totems don't work in your own dream 
  • From what I understand, a totem will only let you know whether you are in someone else's dream. You know how your own totem is supposed to act, so couldn't you be inside your own dream and never be able to tell, because your totem will act however you think it should if you think that you're in reality?
    • Yes. That's the whole point behind the totem - to make sure you're not in someone else's dream. If you're in your own PASIV-induced dream, then you're already aware that you're in a dream anyway.
    • Totems are only there to prove you are in reality, and not dreaming at all.
  • Is it just me, or is Dom's totem not very effective? Anyone can see how it behaves. He even tells Ariadne that it will spin in the dream and topple in reality. Since it's pretty obvious to everyone what it's supposed to do, unlike the other totems we saw (Arthur's dice and Ariadne's chess piece,) what's stopping someone from recreating that totem? Even if you assume that the top is supposed to spin for a certain number of seconds before falling, that would require using the exact same amount of force to spin the top each time, wouldn't it?
    • Because its not Cobb's totem. It's Mal's totem. Cobb's totem is apparently his wedding ring. Notably, he never tells anyone about it, but its obvious that it is his totem if you're paying attention - it is only there on him when he's in the dreamworlds, and he never mentions anything about it to anyone, which is a critical aspect of the totem. Cobb holds onto Mal's totem both out of sentimentality and as a piece of misdirection - everyone assumes that its Cob's totem, but the actual totem is that innocuous ring on his finger which no one even glances at.
    • No, the top is Cobb's totem. The reason the ring appears is because it's apart of his risidual self image. Notice at no point does he fiddle, play, or even look at his ring through out the entire movie. Whenever he checks to see if he's in the real world he spins the bloody top. When the movie ends it's a shot of the spinning top, which he started spinning to see if he was awake. The critical part of the totem is not that nobody knows about it, because Arthur shows Adriadne his totem casually, it's that the unique proproties of the totem are only known to the user that makes them valuable. The ring is not his grasp on reality, it's the exact opposite; it's his inability to let go of what happened to Mal. That's it. Plus having it be the ring makes it a piss poor totem because if he thinks he's woken up the ring would disappear and he'd have no way of checking, whereas with the top he'd always keep it with him and he'd always check it. Seriously, why do you think every time he needed to make sure he was awake he took out the top, spun it and stared intently at it while not checking his ring finger? Why go through all the trouble of heading to a room by himself to spin it every time if it was only a piece of misdirection that he wouldn't want others to see? I'm sorry, but Occam's Razor calls bullshit on the "ring = totem" idea.
      • Except that it's firmly established that Mal's totem was the spinning top, which is why he performed her inception using it. The top was only used by Cobb because he knew how it worked, sure, and he probably used it out of sentimentality as it was. But his TRUE totem is, indeed, his ring. However, his doesn't use it probably because of his insecurities when it comes to Mal.
      • If he never uses his true totem, how does it work as a totem in the first place?
    • The critical aspect of a totem is not that you never talk about it. The essential point is not to let anyone else hold it, because then they can recreate the "feel" within a dream and fool you into thinking you're awake. Proof: Everyone shows their totem (Arthur shows Ariadne his die, Ariadne shows Cobb her bishop) but no one lets anyone else touch their totem. So the fact that Cobb doesn't talk about his wedding ring is not part of the definition of a totem and is therefore moot.
      • I perceived it very differently. The point of the totem is that it behaves differently than it should, and the dreamer doesn't know it. To screw up with viewers, all "announced" totems have a behavior that could be learned by somebody getting hold of them. The die is an object that is not really surprising to be pulled out by a somehow desperate person, so it behaves like a dies hould in normal dream, assuming the dreamer does noy know it. The top however takes it to the next level: it is random to pull out, so the subconscious of a dreamer assumes it is somehow special, therefore it does the most obvious thing - spins forever - in such situations, but normally, it actually doesn't. We didn't see much of Ariadne's bishop, but we can see it toppling in a specific way. It is quite possible that Ariadne conjured another, even better meta totem - the chess piece is random to pull out and most obvious special behavior would be it not toppling, but just in case subconscious won't end up that smart or something, the bishop still does its own thing.
    • They could work in your own dream. Suppose that, I don't know, Arthur's die is loaded to land on 4 every time, but he thinks he's in his own dream. He could will it to land on 3; if it's a dream, it will bend to his will.
      • Not necessarily. Suppose that if Arthur is not aware of dreaming, it's his subconscious doing the dream logic. In such situations, either he has no control over the dice or he has to somehow make his subconsciousness believe it works differently, by doing which, he forgets how is it supposed to work anyway.

     Why the need to incept, anyway? 
  • Why did Dom incept Mal in the first place? Even if he didn't realise how dangerous it could be, doesn't it seem like an awful lot of effort to go to? All he had to was kill himself to wake up and then take the PASIV needle out of Mal's arm. Sure, she might have been angry/upset with him, but it would've been the safer option, since Dom had to realise that there were risks associated with performing inception?
    • People's brains can't last long in Limbo's Year Inside, Hour Outside rate. By the time Cobb had woken up, turned off the machine and woken Mal up, decades would have passed from her point of view and she would have already been a vegetable. That's the same reason he had to go into Limbo to save Saito: if they'd tried to just wake up and disconnect him, it would have been way too late.
      • Then why didn't he just shoot her and then shoot himself like Saito later does? He should've realized the consequences of inception in the first place, as he had to have known about it in order to do it, and so he should have just killed her and then killed himself to wake them both up.
      • He didn't realize the consequences of inception. Cobb even says this outright. He didn't know doing such a thing to Mal would have that kind of an effect. And I'm not entirely sure shooting her would have the same effect in Limbo; you apparently have to willingly commit suicide to get out of there, as that's how everyone seems to leave Limbo - which makes sense, as they're essentially all Physical Gods there. He had to convince Mal that she wanted to leave Limbo. Plus, y'know, walking up on and shooting your wife is kind of damaging to your relationship.
      • And worse, it might've Incepted her with the idea that Dom actually wants to kill her.
      • Inception had, to Dom's knowledge, never been performed before. It seemed to be more of a theory than something anyone had done; after all, Arthur thought it wasn't possible. Dom and Mal also liked to experiment with dreamsharing, which means that they're probably used to doing things that had never been done and might be risky. There was no way for him to know what would happen.

     Mispronouncing Saito's name 
  • Memo to just about everyone in the film: Saito is not pronounced SAY-toe. It's pronounced SIGH-toe. Christ, that bothered me.
    • Yeah, its not like people mispronounce foreigners' names in real life all the time.
      • It'd be different if Saito was just some random character, but the guy is their boss. Wouldn't he have pointed out how to pronounce his name at some point?
      • Obviously, you don't have a difficult-to-pronounce last name. At some point, you just give up and deal with the mistakes.
    • Some characters, like Cobb, Ariadne and Eames, pronounce his name correctly. Other characters, like Arthur, pronounce it incorrectly. I used to have a coworker named Kirsten (pronounced KEAR-sten) and half the people we worked with called her KUR-sten. She just got tired of correcting everyone every time someone mispronounced her name. It's obvious that Saito deals with English-speaking people all the time; he is probably used to both pronunciations and considers them both acceptable. Also, after JUST watching the film, his name is pronounced SIGH-toe MUCH more often than SAY-toe.
    • What drove me crazy is when his mooks call him "anata-sama" in the opening sequence. What the hell?
      • Anata-sama is correct, but it's fairly rare and only used in business situations, when a subordinate is addressing an executive-type. Otherwise, anata is mostly used by women to mean something like "Dear." Anyway, I'm pretty sure that the mook's actors and Ken Watanabe are all Japanese and knew what they were doing. It's not like Nolan wrote those scenes in Japanese and forced them to read it his way.
      • I almost found it more annoying that some characters switched between the two pronunciations, but that's just me.

     Holding your breath in the dreamworld 
  • In the movie, Totems are treated as the only way you tell if you're dreaming or not. The problem is, the real-life way to tell if you're dreaming is to hold you nose, like you're underwater. If you can still breathe, you're asleep, because your nose isn't really plugged. Usually, it's used to get lucid rather than to make sure you aren't in danger of not knowing the difference between real life and fantasy, but I've still gotta wonder, how the hell did these guys get to be dream experts without knowing that? Even if the totems are for telling if you're in somebody else's dream rather than your own, you'd think Mal could take two seconds to check it before not killing herself. Seriously, this would have ruined the movie for me were it not for my MST3K Mantra.
    • Because, has has been pointed out repeatedly, over and over on this page, A) PASIV dreams are not normal dreams, and B) dreamworld bodies function like realworld bodies. They have circulatory and respiratory systems, they can suffer organ failure, etc. For fuck's sake, they can visibly age! Hell, we even see the characters have to use a goddamn breath mask at one point! If you tried to prevent yourself from breathing in a PASIV-induced dream, you'd stop breathing in that dream just like in real life. That's kind of the whole point behind PASIV, to create an indistinguishable reality.
    • Also, back on the subject of real-life lucid dreaming, reality checks are - like almost everything - highly subjective (not very surprising considering it's all about dreams). Not every reality check works with every person. Some people can hold their nose in a dream and still breath, while with others holding the nose produces a realistic effect. The same with other common reality checks: Some people can see their own nose (looked at with one eye closed) even in dreams, some people do see their dream-hands in perfect clarity and with the correct number of fingers, and so on. It can even vary from dream to dream with the same person. I thought that manufacturing your totems in the movie was a good metaphor for the real-life equivalent of finding a good reality-check for oneself (that is, one that you are comfortable with and which seems to work consistently) - especially considering they had to make something which can be easily observed and understood by the audience.
      • To piggyback here, a lot of the questioners about dreams on this page seem to forget that all of the rules can be different in a dream. There are tropers who've been able to fly, shoot energy beams from their hands, move at super-sonic speeds, use functional telepathy, and, yes, breath underwater while dreaming, along with any number of other abilities they aren't able to manifest in real life. I've been a mathematical genius in a dream, quite literally bending the laws of physics to my whim when, in real life, I'm only a normal genius. Dream logic takes over in all types of ways. The rules of reality don't exist outside of what you make them in your dreams.

     Overblown use of Penrose Steps 
  • I put this at the end because it really is a minor point. But it bugs me that people make Arthur's confrontation with the Mook on the Penrose Stairs in the Hotel level so much more complicated than it is. They seem to think it is Arthur's doing, and that he has some sort of control over this (and evidently only this) aspect of the dream, completely forgetting it is the architect Ariadne who designed the dreams. Early on, when explaining the principles of dream architecture, Arthur uses the Penrose Stairs as an example of a paradox. Ariadne simply copies his example and includes one in the hotel dream, and at the crucial moment in the film, Arthur says "Paradox" (like he did earlier) as an expression of his flattery that she would follow his example like that, and as a recognition of the homage to himself.
    • Except Arthur does have control of that part of the dream. He's the dreamer for that level, and therefore has control over the environment of the dreamworld itself. Ariadne designed the dream, but it is Arthur who controls the dreamworld.
      • It's even spelt out when Dom asks Ariadne what Eames added to the third level. Ariadne designs the core structure but the dreamer adds their own modifications to it.
  • Here's something that bugged me about that. In the movie, the camera moves that we can see the steps as they are normally depicted, as endless, and we see someone run around on them. However, how does that work from that person's viewpoint? I mean it must be incredibly disorienting to keep going down and end up in the same place. It would be an Eldritch Location. It's impossible to make in real life, so what would the reference be for a dream version? What would the connections between the step be like? This more than anything else really bugged me in the movie.
    • From what I remember of my own dreams, sometimes I tend to just sort of jump from place to place, or the world just kind of changes over the dream, and like many elements of dreams, I only realize how nonsensical it was when I wake up. Presumably the penrose steps are designed to work in a similar way, where in the dream's logic, it makes sense, whereas in the real world it doesn't work. I imagine the way Arthur would experience it was something like: run through door, run down stairs, look up at guy shooting, run down more stairs, look down, now guy is down a flight, come behind guy and throw him off.

     Hostile projections are too discriminative 
  • Why do your projections attempt to protect you from imaginary harms that could wake you up? This only makes sense with Fisher, because of the special limbo-daring sedative, but he doesn't know that and neither should his projections.
What I am saying here is that if those projections were anything like the nightmares I get while feeling sick or irritated, they would display indiscriminate violence.
  • The projections are reacting to the presence of other minds inside the dream, like white blood cells attacking a germ (which, to me, was really clever on the movie's part - rather than the mind being a passive dreamscape, it actually senses the psychic intrusion and reacts with an appropriate, if subconscious, freak out). The projections aren't thinking "if my dreamer wakes up then he'll be safe" so much as an immediate, violent "you're not supposed to be here" reaction towards the outsiders.
    • I thought that too but then I realized there is no trespassing into the mark's dream. Instead, the mark and his/her projections are trapped inside the mazelike dreamscape of somebody else. They should be trying to escape the place, not repel an invader. The movie treats the projections as if they were agents of the Matrix, while they should on the contrary be tearing the dream to pieces.
    • Hm, good point, and that might have been even more interesting, having the projections ripping apart the dream world and everything in it as a time limit. For an explanation, though, I'd say that while the mark's subconsciously aware that it's a dream, they're not supposed to be aware, on any level, that it's not their own dream, so the projections only recognize the intruding minds as a problem. As Cobb showed Ariadne, even the projections are normally only a threat if the visitor makes herself obvious; Fischer's hyper-aggressive projections were an exception to the rule because he'd had some anti-extraction training (though not enough to recognize the dream itself as foreign).
    • Another thing is that it's distinctly a shared dream. The dreamer is the one setting it up, but the reason why it works is that all participants see it as their own.
  • The projections' actions are probably a unique result to the use of PASIV technology to intrude on someone else's subconscious. The mark's subconscous realizes that somehow, someone is intruding on their own mind, and they act to drive out the perceived threat.
  • The way I saw it was that the projections were always that of the dreamer's. Though the dreamer doesn't create the dream, it is still -their- dream because it's in their mind. Therefore, the subconscious doesn't notice or care that it's a foreign area - it's still the dreamer's dream, therefore they attack anything that isn't the dreamer. However, that still doesn't explain why they attack the dreamer on occasion, such as Arthur in the hotel - I believe that was his dream, yet the guards attacked him. I think it's mostly an oversight.
    • That's not how it works. The projections are created by everyone in the dreamworld; Cobb lays this out explicitly. "We create the world of the dream, and the subject fills it with their subconscious." When Cobb was demonstrating this to Ariadne, Ariadne was the dreamer and Cobb's projections were filling it. The projections created by Cobb's mind didn't really attack Cobb in that instance; they were restraining him while they attacked the perceived threat - kind of like bodyguards holding back and shielding their principal while subduing an attacker.
    • However, that still doesn't explain why they attack the dreamer on occasion, such as Arthur in the hotel - I believe that was his dream, yet the guards attacked him. No. Those were Fischer's security projections. All of the projections that were attacking the team were Fischer's security projections.
    • Cobb CLEARLY states when introducing Ariadne to dreamsharing that there is always the DREAMER and the SUBJECT. The Dreamer is the one that creates the world, and the Subject is the one that fills the world with his/her subconscious. In the case of the Inception, Yusuf was the Dreamer of the first level, Arthur was the dreamer of the second level and Eames was the dreamer of the third level. Fischer was the Subject on all of these levels, thus every single projection (with the exception of Mal) belonged to Fischer. The projections attack everyone but the subject because they realize that the Dreamer is a foreign entity. It doesn't matter what the Dreamer is doing, the mind simply doesn't like that the Dreamer is there. Going back to the white blood cell analogy, it's similar to when a body rejects a transplanted organ. It doesn't matter the reason why the organ that's there, all that matters to the body is that it's foreign and shouldn't be there in the first place. The projections' goal is to destroy the foreign body any way possible. Doing that is much faster than trying to destroy the stability entire dream world.

     Backup plan? 
  • What was supposed to be the "backup plan" in this? Having had numerous dreams in my life, I can honestly say that only a few left a strong enough impression to be memorable after a day or two. Even if Fischer was known to be influenced by his dreams,what are the guarantees that he wouldn't have simply sloughed off the dream as just a really weird experience? And given that Cobb had failed a test w/ Saito under very controlled conditions at the outset where was the proof that something more complex was going to work any better?
    • It wasn't just influencing Fischer in a dream, though. They use the dream state to access the mark's actual, literal subconscious; this is spelled out in the film in the scene where Cobb explains shared dreaming to Ariadne.
    • They discuss how to get the idea they're incepting into Fischer extensively; the methodology they use was intended to ensure that the idea was implanted deep in Fischer's subconscious, to the point where he won't pass it off as a weird dream, and the methodology they used guided Fisher into creating his own idea so he wouldn't ignore it. As for Cobb's "failure," keep in mind that Saito knew he was coming. More importantly, Saito was testing Cobb out to see how effective a con man he was. The fact that Saito was largely fooled by Cobb even when he knew he was coming, that Cobb used multiple dream layers to con Saito (something that is apparently extremely difficult), and Saito only realized he was in a dream within a dream because Cobb's architect made a tiny mistake, all came together to convince Saito that Cobb was very, very good at what he did.
    • Having had numerous dreams in my life,I can honestly say that only a few left a strong enough impression to be memorable after a day or two. You haven't had deliberately-induced dreams with technology designed to enter and project your subconscious and allow people to implant ideas within your head, either. Don't go acting like you've had experiences like those in the movie.
Even if Fischer was known to be influenced by his dreams,what are the guarantees that he wouldn't have simply sloughed off the dream as just a really weird experience? Because inception has happened before. They know it's happened. They know how to make it work. They know the idea won't simply "slough off". And given that Cobb had failed a test w/ Saito under very controlled conditions at the outset where was the proof that something more complex was going to work any better? The test on Saito wasn't a failure. The only reason they "failed" was because Saito knew they were coming and had arranged the entire thing. More importantly, they succeeded - Saito says as much when he learns about the dream-within-a-dream trick they pulled.

     Corporate Power dominance 
  • So...the reasoning behind the "Inception" was to prevent a private company from controlling 50% of the world's energy resources? Given that most energy outside the US and Western Europe is controlled by governments and not private companies...umm..how would that be possible?
    • Inception takes place in a future where private interests apparently have greater control over energy resources than governments, most likely through government-corporate dealings.
    • Don't remember that being in the movie. Where was that stated?
      • Its not, but it can be inferred from the fact that private interests apparently control that much of the energy reserves, and it is set in the near future.
      • Plus even now in the US you can see just how much power corporations have already, with them having several legal rights as citizens (the decision to allow them to donate unlimited funds to political campaings was justified as such). Most likely that trend continued and corporations are even more powerful.
  • The point of the inception from Cobb's point of view was to get home. Everyone else except Ariadne and Saito was in it for the money. Saito may have been lying about why he was doing what he was doing, but no one in the team cares.

     Cobb's Travel Habits 
  • Here's another Headscratcher: Dom Cobb is a wanted fugitive, yet he travels to three countries (Japan,Kenya,Australia) that are signatories to MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties) and also a fourth,France, which has various other treaties w/ the US. All of these countries, he apparently travels to by air. How would that have been possible?
    • Cobb is very good at what he does. He's a professional con man. He knows how to get past customs.
      • Plus, extradition is a long and tricky process. Not to mention that said countries have to be looking for him to catch him first. So long as he doesn't draw attention, he'd be fine.
    • It seems likely that Cobb is a dual US/French citizen (having married a French national), and under French law a French national cannot be extradited under any circumstance (if a French citizen has committed an overseas crime, they can be tried under French courts for the crime). If he enters those other countries under a French passport, then that may prevent deportation to the United States. This may also explain why the grandmother will not allow the kids to visit him overseas since they may be afraid of losing custody. The headaches of French extradition is well known in Hollywood circles because of Roman Polanski.

     Being declared "sane" 
  • Cobb's wife is said to have had three doctors "declare her sane." Umm... Since this proves not to be the case it raises several questions: 1) How,exactly,does somebody get a doctor to declare them sane? 2)How was this possible, since this character is portrayed as being disturbed throughout the film? 3) Why didn't Cobb simply sue her caregivers for malpractice making his concerns about money irrelevant?
    • 1) Go to a psychiatrist. Have them give you a mental examination, request they provide documentation that they have done so and certified you as free of any clinical mental disorders. Get it in writing. Possibly pay them off to get it in writing. 2) The mental disorder Mal suffered from was not one that could be readily detected by psychiatric evaluation or CAT scan. It was a subconscious compulsion. 3) Hard to sue people when you're wanted for murder.
    • 1) And you know a doctor that will you do this for you, w/o a reasonable explanation for why you would want something like this to be done? And most psychiatrists are notoriously hard to bribe. 2) Where did you get that information? The way she was portrayed would have made it difficult for anybody to believe that she WASN'T mentally disturbed. 3) Actually, he was accused of the crime because he didn't stay around to clear himself. So had he stayed to clear himself... Which, given the way the "murder" was shown as having happened, probably wouldn't have been that difficult, he could have filed several suits.
    • 1) Any psychiatrist can do that if requested. If someone is holding your mental competence questionable, you can have them examine you and declare you mentally fit. And where's the statistics on "psychiatrists are notoriously hard to bribe"? 2) The information is blatantly obvious in the movie. Cobb incepts Mal, inducing a behavioral change. It's no different than the person thinking up an idea themselves. Also, Cobb outright says that her madness cannot be detected by its very nature. 3) And? You just pointed out that Cobb did not stay. He was a grief-stricken man suspected of murder; he's not thinking perfectly clearly. He can't sue anyone.
    • Another troper here to take a crack at this: 1) Go to said doctor and say "my husband is making plans to divorce me and I think he will question will my mental fitness in an attempt to get custody of our kids." Repeat twice. You now have three doctors who have declared you mentally fit and who heard you talk about your husband planning underhanded tactics in an upcoming, brutal divorce. 2) Mal isn't disturbed, not in any true to life way. She knows that the dream bit would sound crazy, and is well aware of the consequences of dangerous actions in the real world. And, if she used the cover story I just yanked from my rectum in point one, she has a damned good explanation for her depression. It is not super unlikely she could pass herself off as mentally fit. 3) Clear himself how? No one but Cobb saw her jump, she'd wrecked up the hotel room in a such a way it looked like there'd been a struggle, had already informed their lawyer that she was in fear for her life, and leaped from a hotel room across the courtyard from the one she'd wrecked so it would look more like (if my years of watching Law & Order haven't failed me) she was pushed out the window. There is literally no evidence of his innocence.
    • While she could have fooled a therapist the same way she did the lawyer, I have to argue the point that "the mental disorder Mal suffered from was not one that could be readily detected by psychiatric evaluation or CAT scan". If, hypothetically, she bared her soul to the doctor(s), she would likely be declared delusional, suicidal, and a potential danger to others (i.e. her children). These things would be obvious to a psychiatric professional after an evaluation (they wouldn't need to do a CAT scan, they only pick up physical abnormalities, and aren't used a great deal in evaluating mental disorders), which Mal would have considered, lending credence to the idea that she faked it and made up a sob story about an abusive husband. What I'm wondering is why she thought the lawyer, in the event of her death, wouldn't think anything of a woman who is mortally afraid of her husband going to a private anniversary dinner with him.

     Cobb's calling his children 
  • Which reminds me, when you are on the run as a fugitive for murder and you call home to talk w/ your children, why would you use the PHONE IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM? Umm... No payphones in Japan?
    • They leave not five minutes after using the phone. Unless the authorities have the home phone for Cobb's family tapped, which they likely won't, and even then Cobb talks to them for only a few minutes.
    • Umm... Not sure where you are from, but they have a thing called a CDR which is a list of all calls received and made from a phone. The police can access it w/o a warrant (Smith v. Maryland) and can use that to track callers. And since Mr. Cobb decided to become an international fugitive, he would actually have the FBI searching for him and they have more legal powers than a normal police force does. Also the police have been known to illegally wiretap telephones. The evidence gathered can't be used in court but could be used to make an arrest. And the fact that they used an illegal tap would probably be presented as them gaining the information from an informant.
      • And can the police tap the phone of Cobb's family, backtrack his location to a hotel in Japan, contact the Japanese police, and arrange for an arrest inside of, say, five minutes? Because between Cobb making the phone call and leaving on Saito's helicopter, about that much time has passed.
      • I work in the security business, and am familiar with the procedures for police dispatching and police response times. Now, assuming the FBI was even tapping the phone at the family's home, it would take at least (let's be conservative here) two to three minutes to backtrack the call overseas. From there, the FBI would need to find contact information for that district in Japan, and would need to contact the police there, who would need to go down to their dispatchers, who would then have to locate and dispatch a police officer or car close to that address - a process taking two to five minutes at very best. They could also attempt to contact hotel security, but that would mean the dispatcher finding the contact information for hotel security, calling, verifying, and then getting security moving - and hotel security would be wary of directly confronting an armed international criminal without police backup. Since security would be likely to wait for police to arrive, and depending on the speed of police response, it could take five to ten minutes for cars/patrol officers to arrive and ascend to the top of the hotel. So, assuming that the FBI, local police, and security all move with exception aclarity and commendable efficiency, it would take about ten to fifteen minutes (a blindingly fast response time) to get police into the hotel - and by that time Cobb and Arthur would already be on the helicopter and a few dozen kilometers away.
    • I want you to think about how many people could call that household in the few years Cobb has been on the run. Picture that number? In order to trace the call first someone has to go through every last call made to see if it was Cobb. Cobb's father in law teaches in France as well, so it's probable he'd get plenty of international calls too. So it's unlikely the FBI has wire-tapped the phone on the thousand to one chance they caught Cobb's phone call, when they know he's abroad and would be long gone by the time they got their act together.
    • Did you even watch the movie? Cobb doesn't call home from his hotel room. They call him. And also, they leave right afterward. It's clear that Cobb was waiting on the call while Arthur was getting their helicopter ready. It seems likely that what happened was that Cobb left a message for the kids to call him back (probably either email or text messaging), and was hoping they'd call back, but was ready to move in moments. He obviously wasn't sitting around, especially after botching the Cobol job. And even if the FBI traced the call, they'd still have to go through the beauracracy of another country to notify them of the presence of Cobb, and by the time there would have been any response on the Japanese end Cobb would have been on a private helicopter to a private airfield and out of the country on a private jet.
  • Cobb is wanted for murder, not international terrorism, and he's been out of country for a few years. You people are vastly overestimating the amount of manpower that the FBI would be devoting to tracking him down. Even if they did have his family's phones tapped they certainly wouldn't have an agent monitoring them 24/7.
  • Also, its not even clear that he is wanted for murder. He could have been convicted for something like involuntary manslaughter, which is serious enough to keep you in jail for ten years if he returns to the US, but it's not serious enough to trigger an international manhunt. It's also possible that he has prior felony convictions, and what he is being charged with in Mal's death isn't that serious, but gets him in lots of trouble because of "three strikes."

     Fischer breaking up his company 
  • Here's another one: If the "Inception" had worked... Then what? Fischer has enough clout in his company to change its entire direction based on a idea of unknown provenance? Without any of the other members of his board opposing what would be the most lucrative business deal in human history?
    • Yes. Fischer owns a controlling interest the company. He can make that decision if he wants to.
    • And that means...what? Even with controlling interest in a company,you can only do so much. If you make decisions that run counter to the financial health of your company, public or private, the other directors and shareholders can have you removed from the board and even have your decisions reversed by a court judgment. This movie may require a "You Fail Corporate Finance/Business Law Forever" category.
    • Who said he was just going to outright break apart the company overnight? The ultimate goal here is to prevent Fischer's corporation from obtaining an energy monopoly. The inception planted doubts in Fischer's mind about whether he should form the monopoly and that perhaps he should go his own way. The most likely response here is that Fischer is going to oppose any efforts at forming a merger to establish a monopoly and begin taking steps to break apart the corporation over time, negotiating with his board and gradually reversing the direction the company was taking. He's not going to just wake up and go "FISCHER SMASH CORPORATE!" He hasn't been turned into some mindless zombie whose entire goal is to destroy his company.
    • A radical decision like they were trying to "incept" into Fischer's mind would definitely count as an irrational one.
      • Except the idea they implanted into his mind is just an idea. Its not mind-control, and he's not going to instantly decide to wreck his company. Its simply a notion that his father wants him to be his own person and that he should build something of his own, instead of stand on his father's shoulders. An idea like that, in the head of a rational person who is business savvy, would grow into a gradual shift in corporate business practice and direction, not an overnight breakup of the company.
    • Which raises the question (although it would kill the film) why not just have Fischer meet a woman (or a man since it is the 21st century) and have that person change his mind? It would have been easier... Certainly cheaper... And wouldn't have involved mind rape or unnecessary witnesses.
      • Because you'd have to make sure that Fischer met someone he was attracted to, would fall madly in love with, and be so irrational that he'd listen to this person over all the advice of Browning and his directors. Even on the off chance that that could work - and it wouldn't - you would need years to establish that level of trust. The inception took place over a plane-trip, and it worked.

     Why isn't Inception widespread? 
  • You have a technology that can implant ideas into the mind of another, without causing insanity, brain damage or death, and instead of using it to cure insanity, criminal behavior or to train people quickly on complex tasks (you know, things that would improve society and make you BILLIONS) you waste it planting an idea in someone's mind that may be so subtle that they may not even realize that it's there?
    • Inception is supposedly impossible, just an urban myth among people who know about extractions. As far as anyone besides Cobb knew, it'd never been done before they tried it on Fischer; the technology's only supposed to extract information, not implant it. But even so, the PASIV possibly does have legitimate uses: Mal's father mentioned that Cobb could do a lot of legitimate good with his extraction skills, but Cobb says that that, while he's a fugitive, corporate espionage is the only work available to him. Presumably the legitimate options would be exactly what you described.
    • Inception is purely theoretical (except to Cobb and Mal, who are the only ones who've ever used it). You would know this if you paid attention while watching the movie, because Arthur, one of the foremost experts on PASIV tech, says it is impossible and Saito, one of the best-connected and richest businessmen in the world who is deeply interested in this tech and has apparently done his research on both the tech and its users, doesn't know whether it is even possible. So, no, they don't use this technology to cure mental disorders because no one knows it can be used to do that. And the technology can be used to train people quickly in complex tasks; PASIV tech was originally developed by the military to allow soldiers to train in intense, live-fire combat that includes pain and simulated death without actually getting killed. You would know this is you paid attention, considering how Arthur also lays out its use explicitly when explaining the mechanics to Ariadne.
    • "You have a technology that can implant ideas into the mind of another, without causing insanity, brain damage or death" Funny, because prior to the events of the movie, only one person had ever been exposed to an inception before, and that person suffered insanity and died from it. I can understand how you missed this, as it's not like its a major part of the movie or anything.
    • It should be noted that during their conversation in Mumbassa, Cobb asked Eames if he had attempted Inception. Eames and a different team had tried, and it didn't work.
    • And the army does use PASIV (not using inception) to train their soldiers. It's probably too expensive to use to train on mundane tasks.

     Why didn't Satio use legal means to stop the monopoly? 
  • Saito was unwilling to wait for the market forces to end Fischer's POTENTIAL (not existent) monopoly?
    • Because he didn't want the monopoly to happen at all costs, and he knows that market forces are unpredictable.
    • The biggest problem with a monopoly is the fact that once it gets established, the monopoly is the market. If Fischer's company obtains a monopoly on a non-alternative industry like the energy industry, they can control the entire industry without needing to worry about market forces. That's why people are afraid of monopolies in the first place.
    • Ficher's monopoly wasn't a "potential" monopoly. It was only one acquisition away from owning the world's energy supply, and in Saito's own words, his company was the only thing standing in the way of total energy domination, and they can't compete anymore. Saito can't rely on market forces because market forces have already damned his company. And even if market forces somehow managed to end Fischer's monopoly, it's going to be too late for Saito's company.
  • If Saito saw Fischer's monopoly as a potential threat,why not simply lobby legislatures in key areas to prevent it from happening?
    • He understands that powerful companies get to do whatever they want, and decided to go the mindfuck route.
    • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!. Corporate interests with lots of money can run circles around the law - after all, aren't you arguing that a powerful man like Saito can run circles around the law by making Cobb and his crew disappear? And he's already shown the capacity to run around the law anyway, by making one phone call and getting murder charges dropped - and Fischer has more money.
    • Its also quite possible he did lobby such legislatures. But Fischer's company has more money than Saito's, and politicians listen to money.
    • Saito has enough money to completely erase murder charges with a single phone call and buy an entire airline outright because it is "neater." Keeping this in mind, remember Ficher's company has much more money than Saito's company. If Saito lobbies against Fischer, Ficher lobbies back, and the politicians will listen to the company that offers them more money.

     The Plan's success rate 
  • Why the Byzantine plot that required EVERYTHING to go right to be successful?
    • I'm sorry, but did we watch the same movie? Because nothing went right once they got into Fischer's mind. Between the security projection ambushes and Mal's interference, nothing went the way it was planned at all, and they had to improvise almost from the beginning.
    • It's a heist film. That's why the characters are sympathetic criminals, and why there's a Byzantine plot that requires everything to go right. These aren't flaws in the film, they're genre conventions. This is the Italian Job, if said Italian is Federico Fellini. None of those things are logical flaws, simply moral flaws in the characters, which don't make the film bad. "Charles Foster Kane drove everyone away and betrayed all his ideals, so Citizen Kane is a bad film." "The Corleones were murderous mobsters. The Godfather sucks."
    • Don't forget that they outright say they're going to have to improvise once they get inside Fischer's mind and make it up as they go. Once you enter the subject's dream, you're running on an Indy Ploy all the way through.

     Character's skills in the real world 
  • It just bugs me that they are supposed to be conmen or spies, or even scientists, and that they know how to drive/ shoot/ fight like James Bond. I mean, Cobb was supposed to be a regular family man, who explored the possiblities of the PASIV technology with his wife from time to time, right? A couple of years later and he's shaking off hired killers in the streets of Mombossa like he's Jason Bourne. Made all the more excruciating with Yusuf, isn't he supposed to be a chemist? You know, one of those guys who spend all their time doing experiments in their labs, not driving around at high speed in cities flooded by rain, while shooting people targeting them. The only relatively normal person is Ariadne, and I guess it was just because the transition from "normal person" to "black-belt sharpshooter action girl" was completely unjustifiable.
    • PASIV technology allows for one to be trained in complex tasks in a short timeframe. Its not unfeasible that Cobb gained his training using the increased time dreams give him.
      • It's not even about training, it's about dream-world logic. In a dream I still remember, I was a master swordsperson who laughed and fought ludicrously-enormous snakes that were quicker and more agile than anything in real-life, all with only one hand wielding the weapon. In real life, I hurt myself if I even look at my shoelace the wrong way. Dreams are the ultimate in Rule of Cool mixed with New Powers as the Plot Demands. If you've seen one Bourne film, you know what would be "cool" in a fight scene, but that doesn't mean you could ever approach it in real-life. In a dream, though...
    • They did most of those things in dreams, where even a normal person can have mad skills. The only real life action was Cobb fleeing from the hitmen in Mombosa, and there he was kind of a klutz who barely squeezed through an alley way. He didn't shoot anyone, and didn't do a very good job getting away. He tried to blend in with Kenyans. It took Saito randomly showing up to save his ass. Also, at least a handful of real life chemists can drive vans, not that Yusuf was a very good wheelman - he flipped the damn thing and freaked out the entire time.
    • Actually,the name of the city is Mombasa. And you have pointed out yet another of the plot holes in this film: Why would Cobb (who is on the run, according to the story) meet with people in a public venues or in the city instead of remote areas that he chose in advance?
      • Why wouldn't you? Public places give you cover from crowds, objects to break line of sight, witnesses, and police. There's a reason why most clandestine meetings where someone is afraid they're going to be shot/ attacked in the modern world take place in public places. Cobb simply didn't expect Cobol to be that brazen in attacking him and to send dozens of armed mercenaries after him, and even then, he managed to avoid them for a long while, taking advantage of the urban environment and crowds.
    • Because you meet with people that you don't trust in public places. Assuming that Cobb DID actually trust the man he met, wouldn't that trust have implied that a private meeting would be possible? And I state that implication of trust comes from him later using the same man in the inception despite the fact that he (Cobb) was almost caught when meeting with him earlier.
      • Its not an issue of trusting Eames, its an issue of him being hunted by mercenaries. Cobb meets Eames in a public place because if he's being tailed, Cobb can lose his pursuers in a crowd. The only thing that kept the Cobol goons from simply walking up and shooting Cobb was the fact that he was in public; if he'd met Eames in a private location, they'd have killed him then and there. They only start overtly chasing Cobb through the streets when they realize he knows about them.
      • Meeting in public was both a foolish and unnecessary move on Cobb's part. He knew that he was been tracked by both Cobol and by the authorities for his part in the "murder." If he really TRUSTED Eames (which, again he obviously did as he used him even after the ambush) a private meeting in an out of the way place that Cobb had chosen would have provided all of the security and privacy that would have been required.
      • Except that meeting in a private location would have allowed Cobol's goons to track him down and kill him without any witnesses. The only reason the Cobol goons didn't simply shoot Cobb right away was the fact that he was in public. Public places present crowds and public urban places present cover that can break line of sight and allow you to escape pursuit.

     Effects of sedative on Fisher 
  • Here's another one: without knowing Fischer's medical history how did they know that the chemical used to knock him out wouldn't have caused him injury or death thus rendering the plan useless? And why wasn't a doctor present to ensure that nothing went wrong?
    • Arthur does an extensive background check on Fischer, and they have Yusef along to handle chemical administration. Also, PASIV technology is fairly safe, judging by its performance in the movie.
    • Besides, its not like Yusef runs a clinic where people are regularly put under for prolonged periods of time, something which will no doubt require him to be skilled at preparing and administering the drugs to a large number of people with various health conditions.
      • So that makes him qualified to administer sedatives to a man he's never met... Why again? Not using a doctor to monitor Fischer was fairly stupid even using the logic this film's universe.
      • Gee, I don't know, maybe the fact that he specializes in administering the drug in question? You generally don't operate a clinic whose sole purpose is to put people into prolonged dream-states without having some proficiency in administering the drugs in question, especially when you're already an expert on creating said chemicals. Not to mention that, as noted above, the chemicals associated with PASIV seem to be fairly safe.
    • Saito bought out the airline. For all we know, the stewardess attending to them is a trained physician. He could easily have arranged for that.
    • The team spent an extensive amount of time learning everything the can about Fischer, part of this would have certainly been his medical history and any possible allergies he may have.
      • They even ask if he has any operations planned, implying that if he did, they could take it over and use it as an inception opportunity. Given that, it's likely they had access to his medical information.

     Too many team members? 
  • Given that the movie implies (at first) that inception has never taken place and given Byzantine nature of the plan, wouldn't fewer people being involved made more sense than the number that were?
    • Nope. Everyone there was necessary, except for Saito who insisted on coming along (he was the Tourist). For one thing, you need at least four people just to establish and operate in the three dream levels. Yusuf, Eames, and Ariadne were necessary due to their specialties, and Arthur and Cobb had the actual dream heist skills. You could have collapsed Arthur's role into that of the architect, but if you've got a spare Joseph Gorden-Levitt, you should use him.
    • Sounds good to me.
    • And actually, they planned on running it with the bare minimum (Arthur, Cobb, Eames, and Yusuf.) Then Saito insisted on coming along because he wanted to see what was going on; then Ariadne insisted that somebody be on the team who was aware of Cobb's issues, and Cobb didn't want to tell anyone else, so he brought her.

     What's up with Mal's totem? 
  • Something that seems to be at the root of a lot of debate and confusion over the film is the issue of Mal's totem. From the off, the way I understand it is the way she designed it, it spins perpetually only in her dreams, whereas in the dreams of others it would topple. What bugs me is this behaviour - it does something essentially magical, whereas other totems seem to rely on things that are physically possible in both scenarios, but occur differently depending on whose dream you're in. In the case of Arthur's loaded die, he knows what number will appear on it when he rolls it, but no-one else does. In the case of Ariadne's chess piece, it's never explicitly stated how it behaves but the implication is that it has something to do with the way it falls. In both cases - your own dreams and those of others, both outcomes are physically possible but only one outcome is valid - i.e. only the right number appearing on Arthur's die would imply that he's in reality or his own dreams, but it is physically possible for a loaded die to occasionally roll other numbers (it just never would in his own dreams, and very seldom in reality). Mal's top causes issues because it casts questions on how exactly totems are supposed to work - do you consciously create a totem within a dream, and then observe how it behaves? If so, why do totems, as an entirely internal function of that person, not always behave as they expect them to?
    • There should be no confusion as to how totems work. Totems are only meant to prove that you are not dreaming. How the totem behaves is not important, only how it feels. The main point is not to let anyone else touch it, because someone who has only seen the totem won't be able to make a replica that "feels" right within the dream. In Arthur's case, he doesn't actually roll the die and see what number comes up. His words to Ariadne were "only I know the particular weight and feel of this loaded die". Same with Ariadne's bishop. She made the base heavier so that she has to push it harder to make it fall. Cobb's reliance on the behaviour of Mal's totem to prove to himself that he is not dreaming is either a plothole or a deliberate indication on the part of the scriptwriter that Cobb is not thinking logically.

     How did Mal get over there? 
Now, I only saw the movie once, but me and my co-watcher both agree that Mal seems to hang out the window of the building across the street from their hotel room. Were they in a dream? Was her belief in the dream state of the world so strong she was able to walk on the air over there? Or was it just confusing camera work?
  • There was a second hotel room. The hotel itself was sort of U-shaped, and Mal was only a few meters away from Cobb.
    • Ok, how did she get into the second hotel room? If she rented it, wouldn't it contradict the supposed set up?
  • It's also possible that this is a distorted memory, so Mal was actually outside Cobb's room, but in Cobb's later memories, he is imaging Mal from the point of view of somewhere outside the hotel.
  • She snuck into the room across the way.
  • Nah. The ledge looked to be at least a foot or two wide. Assuming that the hotel is indeed U-shaped, which seems reasonable, she could've just walked around the inside of the U to get to the other side, pried open the window, and sat down to await Dom's arrival. With a reasonably wide ledge, it'd be easy; and it's not like Mal was scared of dying regardless.
  • Actually, it's probably a bit of dream manipulation like the Penrose steps going on: if you look past Mal into the room, it's the exact same room Cobb is outside of. It's a bit like there's a mirror hovering in the air outside the window, but Cobb sees Mal in it instead of himself.
  • Dom mentioned that it was a suite, not just a room.

     US immigration procedure 
Something that bothered me was US customs procedure, although this is because I travel a lot, and I'll accept, they had to do it this way to make a cool scene. Usually, US customs will not stamp incoming US citizens (although it happens). What bothered me more is baggage claim. What happens is that you go through immigration, then you get your bags, and then you to through a second set of people that look through your bags for customs items. Now maybe there is a special line out for people that don't have items to declare, except that the last baggage caurosel before you get in is a spot where you put your bags back *on* so that it gets sent back to connecting flights. It's also the situation with most US airports that they have double doors so that people on the outside can't see you until you've done all your immigration stuff. It also bothered me that Dom is a US citizen but got the long form for people with visas into the US.

Again, this is sort of a minor nit, since I can accept that you needed to do this for dramatic purposes, and if you can assume that people developed technology to share dreams you can assume that the US changed their immigration process (or maybe they changed it since the last time I went into LAX). I think this would have bothered me less had I seen Inception in a movie theater rather than on an international flight (although not to the US).
  • Good grief we are talking about a movie that is totally unreal anyway. I had no prob with that scene. It got him home quicker and I was happy about that. The time for leaving the dream world behind had long passed for the characters AND the movie goer. Besides, very very few films get their facts right when it comes to showing the procedures and fail safe mechanismns of these organisations. However, if films were accurate all the time, most films would be very very dull.
  • I always operated on the assumption that Saito had simply gotten Dom a fake passport, and someone to look the other way at the passport check. So it's not strange he'd be given a foreigners form. The REAL Dom is still wanted for murder.
     Dreams indistinguishable from reality 
"It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." I call BS. From my own experience, whenever I had some unpleasant or messed up dream, which indeed seemed real, there was always a moment when I realised: "Wait, this is not right. I cannot possibly be here. How the hell did I get in this place from home? Whew, I must be asleep. Ok, guys, carry on with the quartering." What, does the Lotus-Eater Machine provide the user with a fit of short-term amnesia? Otherwise, shouldn't the very fact that you can't remember how you got somewhere, alarm you that something is odd?
  • If you have such an experience, you're now in a lucid dream, a concept dealt with in the movie. Normal dreams without such a realization follow the "It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange" rule.
  • Creating a dream where it is indistinguishable from reality is kind of the whole point. You create a place from memory that looks and feels and behaves real, and the subject feels it is real. Also keep in mind your personal capability to lucid dream is not the same as everyone else's. I, for one, have very strange dreams that I never realize are dreams (for example, a few hours ago I had a dream where I was fighting Nazi ninja-zombies atop a flying Walmart, and I didn't even begin to think it was a dream until I'd woken up). You're just good at lucid dreaming; most people aren't.
  • This Troper can't speak for anyone else, but the ideas that a) You don't know it's a dream until someone points it out and b) You can't remember how you got there, are both valid in my experience. The way my dreams go, I could be sitting on Neptune watching a clown eat his own hair and it would likely never occur to me that it was a dream. Most people I talk to are the same way. In reality, lucid dreaming tends to take a lot of practice and you have to consciously try and do it, it rarely seems to happen inadvertently. In real life, if it was raining inside the hotel bar you'd know right away something's up, but when you're dreaming, you're in a totally different mental state, one that, as stated in the movie, is much more succeptible to suggestion.
  • I think there's a sliding scale between lucid and "normal" dreams. Often I'm aware that "something weird is happening", and I even spend the whole dream trying to solve that mystery, yet the possibility that I'm dreaming either never occurs to me, or it does but I brush it away (on what turn out to be mistaken grounds). Sometimes, the "solution" turns out to be something that (in retrospect after waking up) only makes sense by dream logic — for example, "Oh, I'm in a movie". (I've seen enough movies that my subconscious thinks they can outright warp reality.)
    • Me too. Some of my dreams are completely lucid, others I have no idea that I'm dreaming at all until I wake up, and others are somewhere in the middle, like one I had last night. I was speaking to television characters, knowing full well that they were fictional, even referencing occurances from what I knew was a TV show, but I never realised I was in a dream. I knew that it didn't make sense, but I didn't make the next jump from 'this doesn't make sense' to 'it can't be real.' At another point in the same dream I was visiting a friend who lives in Canada, even though I was in America in the dream. My mind even conjured up a big map of the North American continent as I thought 'wait a minute, America and Canada are not the same place' but I still didn't realise I was dreaming, even though I had just literally disappeared from my friend's house, and reappeared hovering in space above a giant map thinking 'this is impossible!'
    • As someone who just yesterday was talking to their mother saying "I don't know when I'm getting home! I'm in a freaking dream, the bus is going trough a shopping mall, I have no idea how long it will take!" and STILL didn't really grasp the concept that I was, you know, dreaming, I can attest to the fact that realizing something is weird is different from actually realizing you're dreaming.

     How was Cobb sure that Saito was dead? 
Cobb convinces Ariadne to leave him by saying that he was going to look for Saito, but how was he sure that Saito was dead. Or maybe he wasn't...
  • He just assumed Saito was dead because that was the logical conclusion of everything that he saw. He sees Saito on the floor of the hospital, his health rapidly deteriorating even on the Third Level (which means he's seconds from death on the 1st level), and says to Eames (just before he and Ariadne go to Limbo), "Saito will never make it, will he?" to which Eames responds with a dismissive head-shake. He had no reason to believe that Saito hadn't died and slipped into Limbo, and nothing to live for unless Saito was safe and sane back in reality. He had to push on and find him.

     Mal's name 
More of a minor one compared to some other plot issues described above, but what is Mal's actual name? It would seem strange that someone's full name would be something meaning "bad", but I don't know of any french names that might be abbreviated to "Mal".
  • I don't know, but I always assumed "Mallory" or "Madeline" or something like that, even though they're not really French names. Or she just had a really unfortunate name.
    • Her father is English, so "Mallory" or some other such English name is perfectly plausible.
    • (Original poster here) I'd never heard that Mallory was a possible female name (Or first name, for that matter), so now have a potential full name for Mal. Thanks for a good possible explanation.
    • I'm much more bugged by the fact that "mal", the French word they were apparently trying to make a pun with, is a masculine noun, and while that may seem subtle coming from a language without prominent grammatical gender (like English), pretty much defeats the association. I'm a native speaker of Portuguese (and the word has exactly the same meaning as in French) and I didn't even notice there was a pun until it was pointed out to me. The fact that it is a short word probably helps, but still.
    • I'm quite certain that Wordof God has her full first name confirmed as "Mallorie."

     Saito going to Limbo and staying there 
From what I understand, you can escape Limbo via a suicide if you realise that it's actually Limbo. So, how come Saito didn't realise it? He knew about the deep sedation, didn't he?
  • Because Saito died. Dying while under heavy sedation is apparently similar to being put under without realizing you're being put under (Fischer experienced this in the van level, for example). Cobb, too, ends up in Limbo in a similar fashion (drowning in the van level) and ends up in Limbo without any immediate realization as to why he is there in the first place, until Saito spins the top.
    • Do you mean he forgets what happend to him before he died?
    • If I understand correctly, it is like when you dream of school days. You should remember you are a grown man now, yet you don't.

     Cobb and Arthur forgetting about the original Architect 
It does seem out of character for Cobb and Arthur to just forget about the original architect and not worry about whether he'd gotten killed or not. (Not that they wouldn't be really annoyed at the carpet thing, and the "getting scared and going to Saito", but it still seems a bit much.)
  • Seeing how they were perfectly fine with mind-raping Fischer and with Cobb having driven his wife to suicide, I'd say it was totally in-character for those assholes.
    • Cobb driving his wife to suicide was an accident. Morally, the worst thing Cobb does is lend his skills to corporate espionage. And as far as Nash goes, there was nothing they could do about him, and and they still seemed genuinely concerned.
    • They didn't know that Cobb "drove his wife to suicide." The only person that knows the truth is Ariadne in the final scene in the dream heist. And she looks fucking disturbed.
      • Well, she had nothing to do with Nash, did she? Mostly, it's Cobb. Anyway, what are they supposed to do about Nash? They are being hunted themselves.
      • Exactly, the group is obvious criminals, regardless of how likable they are. The Original Architect had already previously botched their first assignment, and then proved himself untrustworthy by ratting Cobb and Arthur out. For the type of work they do, both efficiency and trust are extremely important and the guy failed at both aspects. Saito realized it, hence why the loose end was cut.
    • What? Nash tried to sell out his partners to Saito. He essentially betrayed them. The question isn't why they aren't concerned with the fate of the treacherous weasel, the question is why should they be concerned if anything happened to him. Were I in Cobb's place, I wouldn't care what Saito did with the guy who turned on me and tried to sell me out.

     Insufficient kicks 
If I understood the concept of the kick right, you have the perform it on the level N in order to bring the dreamers back from the level N+1 (starting from N=0 for reality). So, Arthur propells the lift to bring everybody from the snow fortress (3->2), Yusuf plunges the van to bring them from the hotel (2->1) and...then what? What exactly brings them back to reality? They've only spent several hours on L1 out of the sedative-enforced week, and they couldn't just wait it out because of Fisher's dream-guards (please, don't tell me the guards just calmed down after Fisher's "catharsis").
  • The armed projections calming down after Fischer's inception is suggested by the movie, so they would wait things out for a week. As for being woken up, the dream system has a timer on it, where presumably the sedation will end after a pre-programmed time, and after that point the people could be woken up normally. You can see this a bit better at the beginning of the movie with the Saito extraction attempt, where Arthur, and seemingly Cobb, wake up on their own when the timer runs out.

     Kicks and the levels they return you to 
A 'kick' seems to be designed to wake you out of a dream and return you to the level above it, whether that level is reality or another dream. In other words, the kick brings you back to the level on which the kick is performed. So at the start of the movie there is reality on the bullet train, level-1 dream in Saito's love nest apartment, and level-2 dream in the Japanese castle on the shore. In order to get Cobb out of l-2 and back up to l-1 he is dunked into the bathtub. However, in the Fischer heist dream scenes, there is a kick set up on each level and it seems designed to bring the dreamers up a level from the level on which the kick is performed. Ariadne is seen falling through the floor of the mountain base (level 3), then waking up in the hotel elevator (level 2) and falling inside that, then waking up inside the van (level 1) and hitting the water, but staying at level 1 instead of returning to level 0, i.e. reality, the flight to LA. Is this not an inconsistency? If you look at the Fischer kicks the other way and assume they work the same way as in the Saito dreams, then Ariadne falls off the building and returns to level 3, where she should actually be woken by the fact that the elevator falls in level 2, and then hitting the water with the van should wake her up into level 1. Which renders the mountain base explosives kick pointless?
  • I figured it was a redundant kick just in case the previous level couldn't prepare a kick for you in time. The same thing happens in the first dream. Cobb got Arthur out of the second level by killing him within the dream, but he himself got out with a kick from a higher level.

     Mal's Suicide 
  • I find it pretty unlikely that someone would die from a 4 story fall, especially if they land feet first. It would definitely break both her legs and dislocate her hip. A free-fall from that height would've only had her land at about 35 miles per hour, not fast enough for an instant death when falling feet first. She didn't have time to somehow spin herself to land headfirt either since she was still falling feet first at the 2nd story height. The street below wasn't especially heavy with fast traffic so assuming someone didn't just accidentally run her over, they would've called an ambulance and Mal would've probably lived. Even Cobb would've called the ambulance since he was RIGHT THERE. If he didn't want to get framed he still would've been able to run for it after making the call, not to mention Mal probably called the police already before she jumped.

     Yusuf after the flight 
  • Yusuf must have a monster headache after the flight, or at least will be feeling kind of poor (in health terms). Had to go to the bathroom already before the dream, than didn't release anything for another 9-10 hours. After a lot less time I tend to feel kind of crappy when holding something in like that.
    • He probably had to go really bad upon waking up, but it wouldn't have devastated him. Occasionally when really really tired, I've gone to sleep with a noticeably full bladder and still slept a full night; the sedatives would certainly substitute for the tired part.
    • Or maybe he just ended up peeing his pants. The film doesn't say he didn't.

     Parodies and Whatnot 
  • Here's something about Inception parodies: most of them make reference to the totem, but that's not the problem. The problem is that the totem is always Cobb/Mal's top. It really bugs me not only because it goes against the concept of the totem — it's a particular object of significance only to the owner —, but mostly because these are done by people who pay attention to this sort of detail, i.e., nerds. You know, the sort of people who would complain about Shallow Parodies.
    • I'm trying to parse your problem. Exactly what detail are the nerd-parodiers missing? Do any parodies make it seem like "totems" are spinning tops in general (which would definitely consitute Shallow Parody)? Anyway, the movie makes a much bigger deal out of the top than the other ones; besides Cobb, only Ariadne ever checks hers, and when she does it's an easy-to-miss moment. (Unless I missed the other ones, of course.)
      • This comic out of the top of my head(no pun intended). The movie does make a big deal out of the totem, but it explicitely shows and explains what a totem is. Before I watched the movie, I thought they used the top because in dreams in general they'd never stop, and the same could be said about anything in cyclic, not that it's a personal thing.
      • The comics need a quick visual indication that the character is checking their totem. Since the spinning top was the one totem that had a big deal made about it in the film, that's the one they use. If they wanted to give the characters unique totems then they would either have to end the comic on a panel showing the character looking at a random object, which would make no sense to most readers, or they would need to explicitly state that the character is checking his totem, which would fall foul of Don't Explain the Joke.
      • In the PVP strip, it seems to me that they're using the limited, though still mass-produced, tie-in tops, especially considering that they each have one. They could, of course, also be bootleg/"not really a replica, wink wink" metal tops.

     Why doesn't your brain normally time-dilate 
If your brain can run at 20 times normal speed, why waste it on a dream? If it can go at 160,000 times normal speed, this is especially so. It would commonly be helpful to be able to think about something longer. And if the brain really took advantage of this, it could be optimized for thinking deeply rather than fast, and then run at 160,000 times, and you could get by with a far smaller brain.
  • According to the movie, it's because you're not processing external stimuli while you dream. And as for the 160,000 times rate, it's said that such a speed leaves you in danger of overclocking and essentially melting down. The brain isn't meant to run like that. Also, just because something can run faster doesn't mean you can remove parts of it; the brain's structure isn't there just to improve processing speed.
  • Your brain isn't actually dialating time. It just seems that way, because of the nature of the dream. The brain can devote processing capability toward the dream instead of external stimuli. Also keep in mind that the brain is being "helped" by the PASIV technology and that the dreamworld is being created by the architect, which allows for faster mental processing of what's happening in the dreamworld. In addition, sedatives and other drugs are being used to help the process. Yusef explicitly says that his sedative helps the user get a greater amount of time dialation than normal.

     Projections always from the target of extraction/inception 
  • Obviously, there are a few projections (Mal, the train, the wine glass) that come from the characters performing an extraction or inception, but why do none of the "background" projections seem to? Notice how, for example, all of the hotel projections react to Cobb doing the Mr. Charles trick on fischer, as opposed to, say, a fraction of the projections (from Fischer) reacting by looking at the dreamer and Cobb, while most others wouldn't react at all thanks to the other characters knowing already that they are in a dream.
    • Because those projections are incredibly rare and come exclusively from Cobb. 99.9% of all projections come soley from the Mark's mind, with that .1% belonging to someone elses. Also the wine glass was not Cobb's projection, it was just one of Fisher's projections that caused Cobb to remember Mal's suicide and begin to draw the projection's attention to him.
    • The vast majority of the projections will be from the subject. That's how the PASIV tech works; they want the subject's subconscious to project itself into the dreamworld, and not anyone else's. There probably are other projections from the subconsciouses of the teammates, but they're not as numerous because they're not from the subject.
      • The first answer is understood, the thing that was bugging my is why the team members don't produce projections. To the second answer: from what the movie, it seems that dreams have a single dreamer, and everyone else is subjects in the dream. Is there some outside the movie storyline that says that there are three types of interactions, dreamer, subject, and third thing that the extractors are supposed ot be doing?
      • Dreamer, subject and sleepers, according to the Inception Wiki. In the movie itself, they go deeper and deeper into Fischer's subconscious.
      • The teammembers do produce projections. It's just that the teammembers' projections don't attack anyone else because they don't sense them as threats. Mal's actions were the exception, not the rule, because of Cobb's self-destructive nature.
      • It's also likely, though not explicitly stated, that the other sleepers besides the dreamer and the subject are capable of creating projections (as Cobb does) but actively avoid doing so. Mal is not something Cobb consciously creates, but something he is unable to block out. He is unable to keep his own subconscious under control, and thus he projects. The subject is usually unaware that they're dreaming or have entered the shared dream willingly, so they have no motivation to try to suppress their influence on the dreamscape. But on an extraction/inception job, the sleepers would want to disturb the dream as little as possible so they can get in and get out undetected. Thus, they resist projecting. Cobb just doesn't have the mental stability and focus to do that anymore.

     Limbo dreaming 
  • What would happen if you went to sleep in limbo? Would you dream?
    • You'd go into another dreamworld, which would likely collapse very quickly due to the fragile nature of dreamworlds the deeper you go.

    Safes 
  • Seriously who keeps there secrets in safes? What about in computers, mobile phones, laptops?
    • In real life, people who don't want their secrets stolen incredibly easily. In the movie, it's a stylistic choice. It is a heist film, after all.
    • Because, as was explicitly stated in he movie, secrets are hidden by the target's subconscious in a site that is symbolically protective. In Saito's case, this was a safe. In the case of Fischer's heist, they were deliberately building a safe that looked impressive in order to convince Fischer it was a place of importance that his "godfather" was trying to keep hidden. Besides, where else are people going to keep secured materials? Hard drives, laptops, and mobile phones are trivially easy to steal compared with safes. That's why people use safes in the first place.
    • No in real life they keep material valuable objects in a safe such as jewelry and money. But for information in this age it's either hidden in some obscure hiding spots or in some computers. But it's still stupid to hide information in something that's symbolically protective because that's the obvious place where people would look. Hard drives, laptops and stuff could be hidden away in obscure places or on moving objects like trains which makes it even harder to get. "Symbolic" is just another big excuse for using deduction and using no investigative skills for a co called "clever" movie.
      • But the targets aren't doing it consciously. They're put into a dream, and the dream logic of their subconscious kicks in, hiding their secrets in the safe construct. They have no control over it, and aren't even aware that they are dreaming, most of the time. Dreams consist of symbolic elements, so I don't know why you're complaining about people saying the use of safes are symbolic.
      • But for information in this age it's either hidden in some obscure hiding spots or in some computers. No. Secured information is stored on hard drives or servers that are locked inside safes. This is standard procedure in banks, government institutions, and military bases.
But it's still stupid to hide information in something that's symbolically protective because that's the obvious place where people would look. Hard drives, laptops and stuff could be hidden away in obscure places or on moving objects like trains which makes it even harder to get. Again, if you bothered to pay attention to the movie, they outright state that its not a conscious decision to hide the information in a safe. The subconscious creates a secured location within the dreamworld to hide the information, most commonly taking on the form of a safe.
  • Servers are locked in whole rooms because they take up so much space, locked rooms as well. I dunno if you want to call that a safe but a vault maybe. Either way, the information is primarilly in something technological and then the safe/vault which is then hidden somewhere that's hard to reach and is guarded. Even if it's a subconscious decision to hide information, its going to be more abtract and bizarre than a mundane safe, I mean give the subconscious some credit here.
  • Servers are locked in whole rooms because they take up so much space, locked rooms as well. I dunno if you want to call that a safe but a vault maybe. Vaults are simply larger safes.
Even if it's a subconscious decision to hid information, its going to be more abtract and bizarre than a mundane safe, I mean give the subconscious some credit here. Why exactly would it be more bizarre and abstract? Do you have access to scientific reports on infiltrating shared dreams that the rest of us don't? Do you have accounts and studies on how the subconscious reacts to infiltration via PASIV technology? Of course not; its a fictional technology involving a fictional process, and the subconscious creation of safes and other such protective measures within the dreamworld is part of the established rules in the setting. You might as well be complaining about the fact that you have to wave your hands and speak arcane gibberish to cast spells in D&D or that users possess superhuman abilities inside the computer worlds Tron.
  • There is a difference between safes and vaults. Safes can be moves around for one. There is no science behind PASIV anyways it connects in some vague way on it's subjects and there doesn't seem to be any viewing screen. I wouldn't complain about magic because its not supposed to make sense. Its allowable in Tron because it's pre-programmed and far more rigid, Users are far more complex compared to other programmes so they can do more. See for Inception to use terminology like dreams and make references to visual illusions as well as the abstract. So because they relate it to a dream, the audience would expect wierd bizzare stuff like those famous paintings with melting clocks. I'd accept in Tron that a computer has the ability to run these calculations and simulate gravity but an Architect? I trust that what we see in the Matrix and Tron is a computer as we see interfaces and monitor screens as well as computer terminology but the PASIV tech could be some random junk put together.
  • I'm looking for something coherent in your counterpoint, but I'm not seeing anything at all that really makes sense in this beyond "they don't explain it so spluh!". PASIV technology generates dreams based on coherent and consistent rules; generation of protective measures like safes/vaults is one of those rules. If you don't like the rules that the fictional tech operates under, then go cry some more.
  • "Coherent" and "consistent" is a problem when you're dealing with the basis of dreams. But if Nolan actually wants people to believe it is a system then it will take more than the exposition of b.s. rules just because the movie says so.
  • Which why they're shown by more than just exposition. They are put in action by the characters all throughout the movie. Time dilation, kicks, movement between dream levels, death, Limbo, dream disturbances, projections, dream architecture, all of these things are demonstrated in the movie.
  • "Coherent" and "consistent" is a problem when you're dealing with the basis of dreams. Why? Dreams are not some mysterious, magical, eldritch happening. They're simply chemical processes in our brains that we don't precisely understand yet with current technology, but which the tech of the setting has come to understand. Science allows for an understanding and technology allows for control and manipulation of natural processes. Technology based around manipulating and controlling dreams should result in consistency and coherence. That's the whole point.
  • it will take more than the exposition of b.s rules Why are the rules "b.s."?
  • Note that safes were used twice in the story, and both times they were placed there deliberately. The first one was created by Saito deliberately because he was testing Cobb and knew/suspected he was in a dream. The second one was a vault that was deliberately created by Ariadne to house Fischer's projections of his father. When Cobb is explaining how extraction works to Ariadne, he says that the subconscious hides sensitive information in defensive or protective constructs like a safe, but that doesn't necessarily preclude other defensive mechanisms, especially if the subject is trained to resist extraction. One person's subconscious may create a different contextually-sensitive defensive construct than another's. Part of the extractors' job appears to be identifying where and how the subject is hiding their secrets; note how in the beginning, Cobb and Arthur deliberately push Saito into revealing the location of his secrets.
    • Expanding on what was said above, Cobb specifically says that if the Architect creates a safe or a prison cell the target's mind will automatically put any information they're trying to hide in there because it's a safe and secure place. Satio didn't create the original safe, Arthur did. That's how Cobb knew that he was looking at the safe (alternatively he could have guessed it was a safe). The vault in the third level was created specifically so that Fisher's mind would put what he thought was being kept secret from him in there. As for using laptops or computers, in the prequal comic the information is on a computer because of how they created the dream, with the kicker being that since the target in question didn't know Saito's plans those files weren't present. But in all situations the creator of the dream makes the secure location based on the context of the dream, and the target's subconcious automatically puts it in there because it makes sense to do so in the context of the dream. The real question would be if the target knew they were going into the dream ahead of time, could they put the information somewhere else?

     More Bizarre Architecture 
  • It seems strange that, after spending a good amount of time setting up the idea that Aridane will be setting up a maze, and the associated idea that the maze will use impossible shapes, that they only use 1 actual impossible shape (not counting possible implications for the city). It seemed a lot more could have been done with the impossible shapes and connections than actually was.
    • Coulda had some fun with a Möbius band.
      • Bizzarchitechture If Christopher Nolan were to use every architecture possible, the movie would be a lot longer than it is now. There is a bunch of stuff they could do, but they only showed the penrose steps because it was an easily visual example...
    • It's kind of the point that we don't see the weird architecture. Weirdness = things that the mark can notice are out of place, which triggers dream awareness, and then mobs of pissed-off projections. Most of the maze-like content is designed to keep the projections away from the areas where they're supposed to be operating in. It doesn't really work very well in the first dreamworld because there's only so much you can really do with a city, and in the third world they built the big snow fort so that there wasn't anywhere else for Fisher's mind to put his projection about his father.

    Buying the airline 
  • Wouldn't a major company buying a major airline be all over the news? And wouldn't Fischer have heard of it and been suspicious of this? And then he sees his main rival on the same plane.
    • Not really. Corporate buyouts happen all the time without really ending up all over the news. In fact, sometimes it is kept very quiet to avoid arousing attention. That sort of thing can spook stock prices. Besides, they only need to keep it quiet for a few days, until Fischer has boarded the plane.

     "Inceiving" 
  • Was the word "to incept" used in the film, or did it develop in the fandom? I mean, judging by the words conception, deception, and reception, and conceive, deceive, and receive, the verb form of "inception" should be "to inceive."
    • Actually the verb form is incipere.Yeah, I don't know how that works either.
    • Incept is the verb form. Think intercept - interception, or inspect - inspection.
      • It means "To take in; ingest", which is not we are looking for here.
    • I think the characters only ever referred to "doing inception" or "performing inception".

     Why Would Saito Hire A Guy Who Can't Control His Projections? 
  • Saito may not have known that the woman who sabotaged Cobb's extraction attempt on him (Saito) was a projection, while they were IN the dream...but he surely would have made it his business to find out who she was, after he awoke. Clearly she had to be either an associate of Cobb's if a real person (because she would have to have been hooked up to that dream machine in the Japanese train), OR a projection. If Cobb lied to Saito and reported that she was a real person, surely Saito would have questioned Cobb's judgment in making her part of his team. If Cobb told the truth and said she was a projection, then the question should have arisen for Saito: even if this guy is supposed to be the best in the business, maybe I'd be better off hiring the SECOND best in the business for my 'incept-Fischer' project. Cobb had a very strong motivation to make sure his extraction of Saito was successful: the threat of Cobol Engineering's displeasure. Yet he could not prevent Mal from sabotaging the job. (It's true that Nash's failure to get the carpet right was a factor, too, but Mal's actions led to the premature collapse of the "Saito's palace" dream.) Why didn't Saito fear that Cobb's Projection-Problem would sabotage the expensive Incept-Fischer project, too?
    • He's got no choice. The entire thing is a pretty big risk already. Besides, "not being able to control your projections" is not an issue that is exclusive to Cobb. No one can control their projections. All they can do is mitigate the threat they present.

     Why were the projections on level two following Cobb and Fischer? 
  • It wasn't clear earlier in the film when Cobb was explaining to Ariadne how projections get hostile whether they were hostile only to the dreamer or to any foreign person, but then Arthur said that because Cobb told Fischer that he was dreaming, the projections were "looking for the dreamer—looking for me." He did not say looking for us. So if the projections only attack the dreamer, why did they care about the others?
    • they look for everyone intruding on the dream. The dreamer probably gets a higher priority, but projections will go after eveyone the subconscious determines is an intruder. They also appear to place a higher priority on one who is in proximity to the subject.
     We'll bring you back from limbo... half the man you used to be. 
  • One can be saved from limbo by a friend going down there himself and killing you to bring you back. But once you're brought back and revived, what about your injuries? What happens if a guy inside a sedated dream is killed in an explosion, blown to pieces, then brought back from limbo? Is he now alive again, but aware while being a million bloody fragments across the room? More directly pertaining to the movie, how come after Fischer was revived, he didn't immediately collapse again from the fact he still had a gunshot wound in his body? Did returning from limbo heal his injuries?
    • I guess it depends on the injuries. Yes, if Fischer was blown into a million pieces in that particular dream level, getting a wake up kick wouldn't wake him up. But he just had a bullet wound, so he could get a wake up kick and come back to life. One should bear in mind that this is a dream world, and the physics of a dream world don't always align with real world physics. Also; there is a scientific phenomena where in a critical situation, someone's adrenaline kicks in, and this allows people to do crazy stuff for several seconds, i.e. lift a helicopter. And maybe the wake up kick managed to get the adrenaline to kick in. Besides, Fischer was only kicked back to life for a minute, so maybe he would have collapsed if he stayed conscious a while longer, but he could have held on for the period of time necessary.
      • True, but he acted as though he didn't have a wound at all. Why wasn't the adrenaline that kept him alive already activated by the time Mal killed him?
      • Maybe he was not quite dead, and being killed in Limbo, combined with the Defibrilator, would have given him the wake up kick he needed? As said before, it's a dream world, so the physics might be different.
    • You wake up. Killing yourself in Limbo makes you wake back up in the real world.
      • That's only if there is no higher level you came from. In the case of Fischer, it brought him back to the third level. Would perhaps the limbo skip to the 2nd level if he had been destroyed, since there was no body he could return to on level 3?
      • Nope, killing yourself in the limbo will always wake you up in the real world. Fischer and Ariadne didn't die in the limbo, they used the kick to escape to the previous level.
     Can people learn with the PASIV? 
  • You can obviously form memories, feel pain, steal knowledge, and implant ideas while dreaming. I don't see why people couldn't be taught while under the PASIV, and this has big implications for the real world. Even if Cobb's the only person on Earth who knows how to stabilize multiple dream levels, even a single level of dreaming gets you 20 times. It seems like wealthy people could rapidly accumulate tremendous amounts of skills and training with PASIV technology. Is the Earth being overtaken by hypereducated elites?
    • Yes, you can be taught while under PASIV. Arthur even says outright that the whole point behind PASIV was to train soldiers in how to fight and kill and suffer injuries in a controlled, safe environment. We don't really know much about PASIV technology's use beyond what we see in the film, for fairly obvious reasons, but considering the nature of what Dom's father-in-law was teaching at the university, PASIV tech is likely being used by a lot of people.
     Waking up wide awake without any ill effects? 
  • This troper, if she takes two sleeping pills instead of one, sleeps for 12 hours and struggles to get up afterwards, and could easily (and has in the past) sleep for 24hrs. That was a sleep I could be woken from (even if it was difficult to actually get out of bed), and I have a fast metabolism so things go through my system much faster than everyone else I know. Why is it that Cobb & co are unconscious deep enough that you can slap them and they won't wake, but when they wake up in the plane after the operation, they're wide awake as if they'd had a normal sleep? With a drug that powerful, they should be exhausted even after waking, surely?
    • PASIV technology does not apparently have that effect. It's consistently shown that waking up from it is quick and not complicated. Must have something to do with the device and how it regulates the brain's functions.
    Extraction 
  • So... how does that work? "We create the world of the dream. We bring the subject into that dream and they fill it with their subconcious...Build something secure like a vault or a safe and the mind automatically fills it with information it's trying to protect." And then extractors break in and steal it. So when the extractors wake up what do they have? Surely they don't awake with a piece of paper, a valise, a draw-up of some schematics in hand. Now it's occurred to me that the filmmakers would Handwave this with something to the effect of, "Well when you wake up you automatically have some working knowledge of the thing you were trying to steal. If you needed to know about, I don't know say, ethanol subsidies- you awake with a lay knowledge of that industry. If your an extractor with a business degree and you go into the dream and pull Saito's confidential paperwork from his vault and read it, better still." And needless to say if you need to know something simple like a person's favorite color, well that's no problem. But what if you're employers need specifics. It's highly unlikely that the majority of extractors have keen enough knowledge about a relatively wide array of subjects to be able to see something complex in a dream and understand it fully and be able to eloquently explain that to their employers. Unless they are specifically hired by those employers for specific areas of expertise they have (outside of extracting itself, that is). Seems like a GIGANTRONIC plot hole, but maybe they mentioned it in the film and I missed it. Can anyone explain?
  • Knowledge is knowledge. When Dom is extracting the data from Saito's mind, he leafs through a document, scanning it, but when he awakens he knows that a critical part of whatever he needed to find regarding the expansion plan was missing. So what appears to happen is that the knowledge is indeed directly accessed and transferred to the extractor, in a symbolic transfer of information like reading a sheaf of papers. He could then repeat that information verbatim after extraction is complete.
    Use of the music 
  • Watched the movie twice and I'm not sure if I missed it, but is there an in-universe reason why they picked that music to use for the kicks?
    • My guess is that Cobb, Arthur and Mal as a team picked the song (it's a French song, and Mal is French). They use the same song every time because it's familiar, so they can easily associate it with an impending kick. Of course, the real-life reason is that awesome bass in the slowed down dream world.
      • The song is also thematically meaningful: Non, je ne regrette rien i.e. "I regret nothing", in ironic contrast to Cobb's regrets about his wife, and tying in with the recurring line about being filled with regret and waiting to die alone.
      • Why can't that also be the in-universe reason? They hear it from the dream, and they'd prefer it to sound good from there too.
    Recursive Fan Fiction 
  • Neither the FanFicRecs/Inception nor Recursive Fan Fiction pages have any mention of recursive Inception fan fiction. We need to go deeper. I currently own a T-shirt that's a fourth-iteration fan work, but inception has nothing?

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