How many of you have seen the movie Inception?

If you have not, please do yourself a favor and do so. It is one of the better movies I saw in 2010 and is sure to have you thinking. The remainder of this post contains major story spoilers, so please do not read on if you are troubled by this.

Many people have been turned off by the final frames of the ending, which, if you paid attention during the expository parts of the movie, leaves the interpretation of Cobb’s fate open to the interpretation of the viewer. To remind you, in a Sopranos-style cut to black, the top, a totem which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, uses to determine whether he is in reality or a dream, spins. In the dream states, the top continues to spin, and in reality it falls. The cut to the credits leaves the viewer to decide the final fate of the top.

Logically, I do not have a very strong argument, but I feel that Cobb may still be in a dream limbo at the end of the movie. It’s really based on a feeling and based on how you’re kind of thrown into the middle of the action at the beginning of the film. I recently came across an image which has been making its way around the internet that may help my case. Supposedly, the image is a sketch drawn by Christopher Nolan which shows the layers of dreams and outlines the kicks that are experienced throughout the movie. Here is a link to the image (click to enlarge in a new tab or window).At first glance, it shows that for the “Heist” portion of the film, which is more or less the whole film, each layer is resolved by the end of the movie. I argue that conveniently absent from this image is the left side of the page on the left, which may very well show that the entire plot of the movie may be buried in one level of dreams.

Maybe someone put that idea in my head in a dream.



3 thoughts on “Inception

  • -S

    Actually there is little ambiguity as to where he is at the end, in my opinion (I posted that same answer on KM’s blog back then). I had a suspicion the first time I saw it, and double-checked thoroughly the second time. The answer is in the final few scenes but it was concealed so that we would only be 100% sure until somebody freezes a few frames from the DVD.

    Your answer is the wedding band. Starting from the very beginning of the movie, up to the final scene, Nolan shows Cobb’s left hand very much on purpose: after his wife’s death, he is only wearing the band when he dreams, never in reality. Is he wearing it after they all come back at the end? I’ll let you check. Nolan is completely in control of the editing here, he knows a few people will be looking for it. Sure enough he makes explicit directing choices at the end to conceal that hand. DiCaprio will grab his suitcase with his left hand, thus hiding the ring. As he spins the totem with his right hand at the end, you will notice he put his left hand on a chair so that his fingers are hidden, etc. Your answer is still there because there are enough frames where his left hand is reaching for something, and I’m 99% sure whether he has it or not. I saw it on a flight to France a month ago, check the few seconds spent in the plane after they wake up, when they pan on Cillian Murphy.

    Anyway, this is not very important, the totem is a gimmick. What is important in that scene is that he is ignoring his totem, and so should you 🙂 It doesn’t matter to him whether he is in reality or not, since he found inner peace and acceptance.

    • derryX

      I’m definitely gonna watch for that next time I view the film. Thanks!

    • Jeff

      As someone who hated the ending to the movie, I honestly never even considered ignoring the top (or, more importantly, even realizing that Cobb ignores the top). That’s actually a much more poignant question / statement than “is it a dream or not”.

      This is actually really cool, and thanks for a new view on the ending!


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