Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


The single biggest ‘Inception’ plot hole as I see it…

As previously mentioned here, I saw Christopher Nolan’s Inception during the week (in a professional capacity) and wasn’t impressed. The film is being hyped as a rare ‘intelligent’ action film, but as far as I’m concerned, for every highfalutin concept the audience is asked to get it’s head around, there are at least ten precepts of basic common sense it must studiously ignore.

How does one person get into another person’s dreams? With a piece of wire. Of course, how ingenious! The Slumberland A-Team don’t wake up when their people carrier is careering through densely packed city streets and being riddled with bullets. But drop one of them backwards into a bath and – BAM! – they’re back in the land of the living. It just makes sense!

But even taken on its own terms, which I am really loathe to do (as I find the entire sci-fi/fantasy genre cringe-some in the extreme), there seem to me to be a couple of major plot holes. And this, to my mind, is the biggest… WARNING: ***MASSIVE SPOILERS*** One of the films most nonsensical conceits is that the totem DiCaprio’s character carries everywhere with him will spin forever if he’s dreaming, but only for a short time if he’s in real life. The film ends on a cliffhanger. Finally reunited with his children, DiCaprio spins the totem to verify that he is back in the real world. It wobbles a little but seems to spin a little longer than we would expect it to. Then the screen fades to black.

The audience is left wondering whether his wife was right all along, whether this ‘reality’ is not in fact just another dream. My problem with this ending is that the ‘reality’ DiCaprio is returning to is surely the same one he left when they hatched the inception plan. And in that ‘reality’, when DiCaprio explained the spinning totem concept to Ellen Page, the totem quickly stopped spinning and fell on its side.

So unless I’m mistaken, and it’s entirely possible that I am (my patience with the intricacies of the plot began to wear thin at about the hour mark), it seems to me that there was never any question that his wife was right, there was never any question that this ‘reality’ was not actual reality. Maybe I’ve gotten this all wrong, and if I have, can someone kindly explain how?

July 18th, 2010.

93 Responses to “The single biggest ‘Inception’ plot hole as I see it…”

  1. Chris Says:

    You got it wrong because its an ancient concept. Plato explored it and I’m sure others before him. The Matrix took a hit at it as well. The theory that we live in something other than “reality” only has strength because it cannot be proven or disproven. There is no way to know if we do live in a state or “dream” or awoken.

    BUT IF YOU WANT TO TALK PLOT HOLES! How about the fact that Arthur was able to: 1) Fight off a man in zero gravity. 2) Wrap the entire crew in wire. 3) Set the explosives off in the elevator shaft. All within the “3 minutes” he was supposed to have? He was in the second dream world, which was supposed to last 20 times longer than the first dream world… They said they had 10 seconds from the music playing on the first dream world, that gives Arthur a little over 3 minutes, and the rest of the crew an hour.

    And another plot hole bursting at the seams. When Cobb was in limbo, his wife stabbed him in the chest. They leave Cobb to find the last crew member who was sent to limbo. Somehow, Cobb is able to leave limbo (it is not said or shown at all how) and enter Saito’s limbo. Now, had Cobb died, he would have simply gotten a “kick” out of limbo. How did he enter another limbo?

    The movie attempts to be “confusing” and “intelligent” but only manages to be predictable (I don’t know about anyone else, but I was calling the movie out at each turn, super predictable) and riddled with plot holes.

  2. Eoin Says:

    Chris, I’m with you on 90% of that. But I’m not sure that you’ve explained away my ‘spinning top’ plot hole?

  3. Ralph Says:

    I saw the ending a little differently. The thing is, we never see how Cobb escapes from limbo with Saito. We simply see him waking up and assume he is back in the real world until he spins his top. Then we are presented with this question: Did Cobb finally escape limbo with “Old Saito” or is he stuck in a dream he no longer remembers creating like his dead wife was?

    As to how he was able to get to limbo with Saito, it is explained that the limbo fallen into will be the limbo of whoever in the group who has experienced it before aka Cobb’s.

  4. Ben of the Bayou Says:

    I would like to suggest another possibility: it seems to me that Cobb was in a dream from the moment of the basement scene. If you will remember, he tried to spin the top after he “woke up” from the super-sedative experience, but it fell from the sink. After that it never showed him trying again until that moment. In other words, the whole airplane scene was itself a dream. I theorize that this dream was actually an act of inception on Saito’s part, in retaliation for the attempted stealing of his own secrets. Cobb’s father-in-law chose Ariadne (who, in Greek mythology, helped Perseus escape the labyrinth) as someone already paid off to do this work (she learned faster than anyone else). Did you notice how Saito “appeared” just in time to save Cobb? He thus gained Cobb’s confidence and right after that Cobb took the drugs. The others went down with him to insert the idea (inception) that he was in the real world and was going to get his freedom in the US. Thus, in the end, Cobb came back to the “real world” and finally tried the top, thought we could not see how that turned out. Anyway, it seems evident that he was still in a dream because his kids had not aged one day from his old memories. This also helps clear up a lot of the “holes” since (pace Eoin), the dream world has fewer rules (i.e., it’s not reality).

  5. Eoin Says:

    Even if you’re right Ralph, and to be honest I can’t even be bothered putting the amount of thought required into figuring out whether you are or not, then surely it only serves to illustrate how ludicrously overcomplicated the fantasy elements of the plot are.

    Meanwhile, the morality of what they’re doing to Cillian Murphy is barely given a second’s consideration. Ditto for the motives of all characters other than DiCaprio. Why the fuck is Ellen Page getting involved in fucking up this guy’s life? Is she in it for the money? Who cares, here’s another cool explosion!

  6. dave Says:

    I’m just back from the cinema and its late so here’s my review in three words…. long and boring. G’night!

  7. dave Says:

    P.S.Is it true that you can’t read in dreams and if so couldn’t they just have made that the test? That shit about spinning tops didn’t make any sense. I’m going to bed now and I’m deliberately going to dream about spinning tops falling over just to prove a point.

  8. Chucho Flores Says:

    My brain can’t understand your point with the spinning top eoin, but the following:

    “The Slumberland A-Team don’t wake up when their people carrier is careering through densely packed city streets and being riddled with bullets. But drop one of them backwards into a bath and – BAM! – they’re back in the land of the living.”

    was (if I’m not mistaken, which I obviously could be) explained as the sedative entirely numbing the body, except the inner ear.

  9. Eoin Says:

    First of all, what the hell kind of sedative numbs the entire body but not the inner ear. Please?

    My point re: spinning top is straightforward. It spins and falls over when DiCaprio demonstrates for Ellen Page near the beginning of the film.

    This proves that the reality they’re in then is indeed reality. That also proves that the wife is wrong about that reality being just another dream. And assuming that’s the reality he ends up back in at the end of the film, the the cliffhanger ending is a nonsense.

  10. Dave Says:

    I thought the totem was to make sure you weren’t in someone else’s dream, not proof that you aren’t dreaming at all or are in “reality”. Nolan needs to come out and explain a bunch of crap or tell everyone there’s going to be a sequel or better yet, prequel that explains everything or at least more, until Inception 3 which would be the end all/explain all of the Inception franchise.

  11. Chucho Flores Says:

    OK, I get what you’re saying now.

    I don’t think you *can* safely assume that the reality Leo wakes back into when he opens his eyes on the plane is the same reality from the start of the inception plot. Nolan films it exactly like the start of the other dream sequences: i.e. Leo opens his eyes, blinks and looks confused as to where he is. It may well be another dream.

    As to the ending, I liked it not because we didn’t see whether the spinning top fell, but because Leo didn’t and didn’t seem to care either. He was content just to be back with his kids, whether in reality or in a dream.

    Overall, I’d like to see it again. I’d say your point on it lacking emotional depth is true. It’s not a Schindler’s List. But I’ve rarely been that entertained in the cinema, and the two hour discussion that my mate and I had after on it was just great.

  12. Stan Says:

    Wait till you get stuck into Twilight lads, months worth of material in that……

  13. Eoin Says:

    @ dave (lower case) – so did you dream about spinning tops falling over?

    @ Dave (upper case) – no, no sequels. I couldn’t take it.

    @ Chucho – fair enough, too complicated to think about

    @ Stan – no, no… I got a whole pile more questions about this film. Why does Ellen Page design a dream in snow without even checking that everyone can ski? Why does she create a world where the only way you can make a couple of people fall backwards is by blowing up an entire fortress under heavy fire? It just doesn’t make any sense….

  14. Saul Goode Says:

    The top falls over.
    right before it fades to black
    its starts to teeter
    and you have to listen carefully after that.
    You probably didn’t hear it because of the collective sighs and moans from the audience.

    how do you know she didn’t check if everyone can ski?

    why question ariadne’s creativity?

    I think the only question I have is how the drug makes everyone share 1 dream.
    A drug inducing the dream state and the machine that pumps the drug into your arm is believable, but how does it connect you to another dream?
    Its the only question I have but it doesn’t factor in on how good the movie is or not.
    And I really don’t want to hear the answer because it will just be a bunch of hollywood sci fi mumbo jumbo because the technology doesnt exist.
    And I don’t think it needs to be explained to the audience during the movie because its only necessary to the unimaginative few who need to see how Cobb and Saito wake themselves up.

  15. Saul Goode Says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention,
    the top isn’t even Cobb’s totem.

    Cobb’s totem was
    the ability to see his children’s faces.

  16. trevor Says:

    Inception was a massive let down. Too long too confusing. Also I forgot how much I hate Cillian Murphy. Grrr.

  17. Colin Says:

    Just saw it. One of those movies that lays down some rules to the audience and then becomes ambiguous as hell about them. That way you can interpret what you like from it and find enough proof to convince yourself your version is right.

    Case in point, maybe the whole damn film is a dream construct of DiCaprio’s. Him and wifey are real damn old and take a trip into dreamland, go deep deep into each others constructs. Live eventually in HER construct to HER rules where time at this point means little, they’re young and have kids (they never had any in reality). Eventually she grows to hate playing house forever with eternally young kids and bends the reality to block out the children and grow old, returning them to their true age cause and she wants to return to die together, like they promised.

    He however is happy where they were and wants to return to the kids and youth so he incepts/convinces her that this shit aint real and that they should step out of the construct quickly by commiting suicide, however when they die they just in fact step up into his version of the construct. He brings them back to youth and the kids but she twigs it aint real and he has betrayed her. She then sets up shit that plays to the rules of his universe. An inception where he cant return to his kids without imprisonment. She thinks that he cant repair the construct reality he has made without turning it on himself and he will have to die to step out of it entirely and return to reality.

    He resists and remains in his own construct but is a prisoner of its rules. He then creates a perfect team and circumstances to enable him to purge her from the deepest recesses of his subconscious and remove the confines of her inception. Then he can at least return to the kids without breaking his own rules.

    Few things that play to this, he always pictures the kids the same way, talks to them over phone. Grandpa Caine has never seen the kids to avoid creating a timespan. At end the kids are the same age.

    He uses her totem, did he ever have a totem of his own? He uses as when he returns to his own construct he can will it to topple, look at how intense he looks at it, repeating “this is real”. Deeper he is unable to control it.

    The A-Team, everybody and everything he needs to purge her and her inception from his mind. One phonecall and everything goes away, really, how perfect?

    Of course, this can all be bollix but just a quick theory to show how ya can read anything in to this somewhat entertaining, well acted but overall directionless/choiceless storytelling.

    OR IS IT?!!!

  18. Eoin Says:

    Okay, I’ll be honest… You’ve lost me there, Colin.

  19. Colin Says:

    Yeah, spat it out after I got back last night. Never read it over. Perhaps Nolan approached the script in the same way.

  20. jgoogy Says:

    The movie is a list of rules. I doubt I’ll take the time to make a complete list of everything they tell you and re-watch it… BUT… I have heard much chatter about “what’s the audience’s totem?” as that would be the key to what is what…

    I believe the plot holes are our totem… so in every scene that is clearly a plot hole… well that is proof it’s in a dream… which means the whole movie…

    …and I honestly can’t even say who’s for sure… or if any of the characters are even real… since many dreams are populated by people that don’t exactly exist…

    …it seems a puzzle with no answer and many answers… and you get out of it as much as you want to put into it…

  21. Eoin Says:

    I disagree. Physical exercise. Good works. Those are activities in which you get out as much as you put in. With science fiction on the other hand, the more of an eejit you are quite honestly.

  22. Alex J. Kane Says:

    Since I enjoyed the movie, and it’s one of my new favorites, I’m going to do my best to defend it.

    Logically, why waste time brutally critiquing a speculative film when you don’t like speculative fiction stories?

    This film is not science fiction. It is contemporary fantasy. At no point was any effort made to describe the scientific intracasies of the dream-entering process. There’s a machine in a case, and that’s it.

    The guy makes neurochemical concoctions, like for a living. Who says he couldn’t manage one that left inner ear (dizziness) unimpaired?

    With good fantasy, the logic of the plot relies on an unspoken set of “rules” for whatever magic the story exhibits. The same goes for the dreams in this film, which also lead to my categorizing it as ‘fantasy.’

    Each dream is a separate reality, all with the same rules as apply to the initial dream reality. The real world is scarcely represented in the film; most of it takes place at least one layer of subconscious into the shared-dream-mind, which is in itself an element of contemporary fantasy, in no way scientifically plausible as it is presented in the film.

    If you pay attention to the film with these basics of contemporary fantasy in mind, noting the ‘rules’ the film does an exceptional job outlining early on, the film flows effortlessly, never breaking stride in its logic and flawless writing.

    And nevermind the dialogue, acting, casting, and cinematography. It’s all masterfully executed.

    Also…in regard to the issue of morality. Did you even watch the ending? The scene with the father/son post-mortem redemption, and the truth that is revealed in that moment, spoke volumes about the nature of emotion, life, reality, and relationships.

    The morality of tampering with Cillian Murphy’s intentions — which, let’s be honest, was not the point of the film at all; ‘business is business’ is not the theme of the movie — is that Cobb was obsessed with a very personal issue internally, in addition to the external hope of going home to his children and proving to himself that he has reached reality.

    Which, I must argue, he achieves. If the point of the ending was to say that he’s still dreaming, then what would be the point of the whole damn movie? This is the director of The Dark Knight, people; in case you weren’t aware, that movie was pure excellence. It bled gold, and not just at the box office.

    The reason the top/totem continued spinning at the end was to reinforce the theme of film, which as someone mentioned earlier was in regard to the nature of reality as questioned by Plato and a number of philosophers for millennia.

    While it is never seen toppling over on screen, the totem does wobble quite a bit mere seconds before camera abruptly blacks out.

    Just the director trying to get audiences thinking. Not a crime, but rather a sign of good writing. And Christopher Nolan both directed and wrote the screenplay for this film. Quite a feat, but again, he made Batman Begins.

  23. Ahmed Says:

    @Chris… Cobb is stabbed by his wife in his dream within the other dreams, which he and Ellen Page enter, not in Limbo. Getting stabbed kills him and sends him into Limbo where he finds Saito.

    1. If your head is covered with a sack how can you be convinced in a dream that a few drops of a sedative, which you cannot see being dropped on you and have never smelt before, will sedate you?

    2. If you can just leave Limbo by killing yourself (Cobb and Mal on train tracks) why was it stressed so much not to die in the dream and enter Limbo?

  24. Vega Says:

    Hands down, this was best movie I’ve seen in years.

    One thing that has been nagging me (after it all sank in), was:

    - In the final sequence, when the characters all return to ‘reality’(all awake in first class landing in LA), Saito is just metres away from Cillian’s character, yet the two never interact with each other (they should be well-aware whom each other is, given they are both now heads of their companies in the same industry).

    I found it odd that Murphy’s character didn’t suspect he was targeted in Inception right then & there, given he was trained for such an occurance….Hmmmmm….

  25. shane Says:

    @Vega – I think he knew it was Saito’s airline he had to take, and was very begrudging about being forced to take it, and so didn’t want to talk to him as far as we knew.
    Cobb didn’t leave his limbo and go to Saito’s, it was all the same limbo, but because Cobb was the only one who’d been there before, it wasn’t just unconstructed subconscious space, it was something familiar to him.

    To be honest, I don’t think the top keeps spinning, it teeters at the end. Nolan just doesn’t show it, to give a bit of cheeky nod to Moll’s ideas and fears, and to inflame people leading to posts like this one, I suppose.

    Oh, and Ariadne had to design a big impenetrable fortress so that Cillian Murphy would believe that’s where the secret is: Cobb explains the principle earlier on.

  26. Eoin Says:

    @ Shane – if you agree that the top must stop spinning at the end, as I was arguing above, then are you conceding that the cliffhanger ending is a sham?

    What about the fact that the fortress was surrounded by snow? Ellen Page couldn’t tell anyone in advance about the places she had designed – so how did she know they could all ski?

  27. shane Says:

    Yep. I don’t think it’s a cliffhanger at all, and I think he probably shouldn’t have ended it on that. When I saw it, I didn’t think of it as a big twist or anything, just as a nice closing reference. But that’s just me.

    As far as skiing goes, maybe she just asked at one point, there’s quite a lot of pre-job conversation we don’t see. Was it just Cobb that couldn’t know the layout of the place because of Moll, or was it everyone?

  28. Lisa Says:

    Anyone who’s anyone can ski. Simple as.

  29. Serge Says:

    The thing I liked the most about this film is how it sucks the audience in by introducing aspects of dreams that we all identify with, such as not having any sense of where/how it began and how the sense of falling usually brings about a nasty awakening, but then insidiously slipping in plenty of Hollywood sci-fi mumbo-jumbo under the radar.

    Overall a bit of a let down though. Too confusing for something so far fetched. For example the “dream machine” that everyone connects to is an ingenious component that makes it kind of pointless trying to disprove anything else if you’re happy to let that one go.

    The idea of “nested” dreams and going up and down dream levels is something that must have been thought up during some serious substance abuse. And the theory of going into some state of limbo if you die because you’re still alive in the parent-level dream is just as ludicrous. It would stand to reason that if you die in a dream, you normally wake up, but if you’re in some drugged up state that prevents you from waking up, well you just stop dreaming and that’s it right? Either that or you just never die. It’s a dream after all and anything is possible.

    This is the sort of movie where you can have many different interpretations of what’s going on and they’d all be right if the argument supports the view even if ourageous.

    The ending is more of a let down and not in the league of The sixth Sense or even the last DiCaprio film, Shutter Island where we slowly learn that he really was crazy from the beginning of the film.

    Here we are left to ponder if he was dreaming or not, and in fact if the whole movie is a dream. Who really cares? And who can prove one way or another anyway?

  30. Banished Says:

    “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven”.
    We see things not as they are but as we are.
    Change your mind about someone…

  31. Sam Says:

    @eoin Re. this: What about the fact that the fortress was surrounded by snow? Ellen Page couldn’t tell anyone in advance about the places she had designed – so how did she know they could all ski?

    Because it’s a dream – in a dream anyone can ski, shoot, fist fight, make a people sandwich using electrical wire to shove in a lift, blow the cabling and thereby somehow trigger gravity in a weightless environment – it’s all doable in a dream. Didn’t you ever dream you could sing like jose carreras? (can you sing like him?)

  32. Eoin Says:

    Sorry Sam, I forgot about all of those rock solid rules about dreams that Christopher Nolan didn’t just pluck out of his arse or anything while he was writing this monumentally boring, confusing film.

    Here’s the Paris Review with a Freudian analysis of Inception (well, kinda)…

  33. Mel Says:

    Really, the only plot hole I feel like tinkering with is this:

    We’re told, point-blank, that the sedative is designed to “spare” the inner ear, thus making “the kick” a viable key to recovery, even under chemical influence (which, as already established, is a prospect ridiculous enough). If this is the case, then any disturbance of the subject’s physical body–ANY sensation of falling, tipping, or sliding–should be sufficient to produce an awakening. We’re shown this during the sequence where the sedation is first explained: Arthur is pushed backwards in his chair, and then tipped over sideways, startling awake in both instances–each time, before the chair reaches a 45-degree angle to the floor.

    So WHY, then, when the van careens through the traffic barrier and flips over four times in the dirt, spilling the sleeping subjects all over the backseat (seatbelts or no), doesn’t anyone wake up? Someone argued to me that it’s a question of impact–after all, in the opening sequence, Cobb doesn’t awaken until after he breaches the surface of the bath water, and all of the other instances of “kick” we’re shown in the film involve a collision between subject and object. But I can’t buy it–in the first sedation sequences, when Arthur is being tipped out of the chair, he seems to startle almost as soon as his body is set into motion, his arms and legs in action before his center of gravity even passes a point of no return.


  34. theoster Says:

    Somebody metioned this earliar. But if you can leave limbo by dying, as Saito and Cobb did, then whats the big problem with it.
    If the problem with limbo is that you don’t know youre in it, as Saito didn’t then how come Cobb did know when he was in his limbo? does each person have their own limbo? Cobb the city and Saito the Japanese castle place. Can you create projections in limbo as Saito did?

    Were was it mentioned that the childrens faces were Cobb’s totem? In limbo he turned his face away as not to see his chidrens faces and be tempted to stay. surley this means that they were not his totem.

    Isn’t a totem something know one else knows such as how the die was waited for the other guy. countless other people would know what his childrens faces look like.

    Did Nolan simply forget to make the children older, or was it intentional?

    Who controled the people chasing Cobb in Mombassa? I heard that it was his backyard, or base, or something?

    To answer mell. I agree it should have kicked them out of that level. But pherhaps as it was the first level and the seditive had not worn off yet nothing could happen.

  35. Nolan Says:

    Ok since you’ve been whining all the time here’s my explanations:

    The flight
    – Yusuf dreams the Van
    – They wake up when the sedatives wear off

    The Van
    – Arthur dreams the Hotel
    – They wake up when Yusuf’s van hits the water

    The Hotel
    – Eams dreams up the fortress
    – They wake up when Arthur’s elevator impacts

    The Fortress
    – Cobb dreams the shared limbo
    – They wake up from the floor falling from Eams exploisons.

    Note that the Limbo is a shared state. Its originally empty but only one man has entered it: Cobb and Mal, from going too deep. Normally the Limbo isn’t a threat since you leave your dreamstate when you die. However under such strong sedatives you enter this limbo state when you die. The danger of the limbo is basically your sanity. Who are told that 5 min = 1 hour in dreams, even moor under such a potent mixture. So how to keep one insane in an empty world, it feels like you’re there forever. Cobb and Mal stayed there for 50 years. Note that as soon as these strong sedatives wear off the limbo behaves under the same principle, when you die you wake up. This is why people stay there for such a long time, you have to stay there until the sedatives wear off. When you come back to the real world, you come back “as an old man”. In Cobb’s case he’s experienced 50 years gone by, gotten older and then is put back into a young body. This is the threat of the limbo, basically your sanity when you come back.

    The reason Cobb doesn’t want to be the architect anymore is because he is basically a nutter, we are shown this again and again how his projections and Mal expecially are very dangerious. Also we are told he cannot dream anymore. Basically when he dreams he enters the limbo and therefore Cobb and Ariadne can go and retrieve Fisher.

    Now the reason you see Cobb wash again upon that shore is because he died in that van (drowned), since he missed the orignal kick (die = enter the limbo).

    Pretty simple aye?

  36. theoster Says:

    Who was whining, if it was me you anwered very few of my questions.

  37. Nolan Says:

    “But if you can leave limbo by dying, as Saito and Cobb did, then whats the big problem with it.”
    – You can’t leave it unless the sedatives has worn off. Since things happen much faster in dreams for each level, the few minutes it might take to wear off you are experiencing dozen of years go by in the limbo, so when you finally get out of there you’ve experienced like in Cobb’s example 50 years gone by and are now an old soul in a young body. So it basically comes down to if you can keep your sanity while the sedative wears off so you can die and wake up, like normally and then keep your head straight…which Cobb was on the verge of managing.

    does each person have their own limbo?
    – No it’s a shared state, originally empty but then filled in by Cobb and Mal (when they got stuck) and then later by Saito (who also got stuck there). This is why they can retrieve Fisher and why Cobb finds Saito.

    Cobb the city and Saito the Japanese castle place
    – its all within the same limbo, Cobb’s city and Saito’s palace

    Were was it mentioned that the childrens faces were Cobb’s totem?
    – it isn’t mentioned, totem is a object that only you know the true behaviour of, e.g. how the chesspiece will fall, what side of the die is weighted, like you mentioned yourself.

    Did Nolan simply forget to make the children older, or was it intentional?
    – intentional, just to let people think a little and or make up their own mind if the ending was a dream or not, cutting of the spin and not making the children look older gives you the option to believe what you want.

    Regarding the kicks
    – its the impact that kicks you back, hitting the water, elevator crashing, floors of the fortress falling down. The clips of Arthur testing the sedatives and the kicks on the chairs are simply tests, just few secs of frames to show us that they are testing this potent mixture.

  38. theoster Says:

    Thanks for clearing somethings up.
    But I didn’t think the children’s faces were Cobbs totems I was questioning an erliar poster.
    Also i noticed that whenever hes in a dream hes wearing his wedding ring, in reality he does not.

  39. Laura Says:

    Hi, I stopped reading half way down because it’s late but I notice so far no one has mentioned the below theory it seems to be the crux of the basis of the film to my mind. Also I know why Arthur put Browning into the 3rd dream (to fool Fischer) but why would he take the effort to pull him out if he was just a figmant. Lots of holes but it was entertaining if empty.

    Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment, often described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The thought experiment presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event. In the course of developing this experiment, he coined the term Verschränkung

  40. Eoin Says:

    @ Laura – for what it’s worth, I stopped reading about a week ago!

  41. ted leski Says:

    Its a freaking dream!!! There are no plot holes in a dream. Plot holes are the conscious, rational minds attempt to make sense of something that otherwise might be misinterpreted as a “plot hole”.

    In other words if you find any in this movie they are by all means permissible and perhaps you should try a second or third viewing while allowing your subconscious mind to roam free. I suggest trying it under the influence of some hallucinogenic substance such as LSD or SHROOMS. It might help.

  42. Matrixjr Says:

    Heres my take…its going to be black or white…reality or dream. In the real world, people walk, planes fly, dogs bark and there is no such technology that allows people to enter into dreams. (The setting seems like present times, not futuristic). However, in the dream world, people can float and fight, buildings fold over, stairs can disappear and there is a crazy technology out there that can allow people to enter someone’s dreams. Therefore, everything about inception is all a dream. So Cobb’s ability to go into people’s dream..its all a dream…because, no one can do that in real life. Had the movie stated that in took place in the distant feature, then I would be more incline to believe people can do this (futuristic technology)…but, it looked like our current present time…cars/vans/clothes are all current times…..therefore, Inception is a figment of the dreamer’s imagination…doesn’t exist…The whole movie is all a dream.

  43. Lucas Says:


  44. Lucas Says:

    I have seen this movie twice now and I am still confused. I believe it is not my fault I am confused but rather the director’s. The plot holes in this movie are ridiculous.
    One that nobody seems to have noticed is: Cobb and Mal were stuck in limbo together for 50 years. They grew old together as it shows in the movie – their old hands holding. However, when they leave limbo, they are young again. They leave by laying their heads on the rail tracks and dieing. If they grew old together in limbo then why were they young when they left?

    Another is(and maybe its not I may just be stupid): the entire end of the movie while they are in limbo. First of all Cobb apparently stays in limbo because he guesses Saito has now died and ended up in limbo. But, he gets stabbed in the chest by Mal, and then when Ellen Page is about to shoot and kill Mal, Cobb stops her. Ellen Page jumps but they never come back to Cobb and Mal. You then see Cobb wash up on the shore of limbo again, like in the very beginning of the movie. But wait… wasn’t he already in limbo with Mal, and the reason he stayed was to look for Saito there. How then does he wash up on the “shores of his subconscious” when he is already in limbo. Then what even further confused me was that Saito was old while Cobb was young, and that in the beginning of the movie it is the same scene – but in the beginning, the very first real dream that isnt limbo is in the exact same room, where Cobb tries to steal from Saito. Many questions can be asked here. Perhaps the Cobb is not in limbo when he is with old Saito and maybe it is just a legitimate dream state. Or maybe Cobb died from the stab wound in limbo, then washed up on the shores of limbo again. What is never gone into is what happens when you die in limbo when the sedative is still in effect.

    One more thing that leads me to believe there is no reality. The use of “leap of faith” by both Saito and Mal in what were are lead to believe are reality. Saito says it in the helicopter while proposing his offer to Cobb and Mal says it before she jumps off the ledge to her death. Hmmmmm?

  45. Francisco Baster Says:

    Christopher Nolan is among the few directors/writers (Scorcese, Spielberg, Eastwood) who has the gift of regularly producing outstanding movies. He’s just like a Picasso and churns out masterpieces. A lot of directors get lucky for an individual flick and fail to duplicate their achievement. For Inception, Nolan masterfully engages his market as he builds up the account to intrigue you by way of the highly end though injecting activity scenes and graphic results to excite you.

  46. Andrea Says:

    Honestly, I didn’t give a crap about the plot holes and they seemed to become a moot point after a while when I understood the possibility that the entire experience may well be a just a dream anyway. The entire movie is a conundrum.

    I thought it all made sense in that context.

    I agree that I had to really relax my rational mind so I got baked the second time and fell asleep. The third time me and some good friends all took LSD about an hour before the show.

    Amazing in I-Max.


  47. Linda Says:

    Okay so we are all arguing over whether to go the beach or to the park, but the car won’t start and we can’t go anywhere.

    We could fly through the colors of pale concrete and metal looping through flesh and blood…

  48. Michael Says:

    So Limbo. Lot of interesting things to explore there.

    You end up in Limbo if you die in a dream but do not wake up when it happens. This appears most easily done through heavy sedative usage.
    Since going deeper into multiple layers of dreams requires heavy sedatives (an insignificant applied force in the real world could wake you up easily if you’re in a third dream within a dream, they did basically paralyze their entire bodies for the duration of that 10-hour flight), it sounds like the Cobbs couple basically ended up there because they sedated themselves too heavily to wake up at all and then when they tried to wake up they ended up there. Only a guess, and the truth of the matter wasn’t even touched upon beyond “we tried to go deeper and ended up there” but ok, sure, let’s leave it at that.

    So the heavy sedatives made them incapable of waking up from being killed in the dream, ok. Nothing suspense of disbelief-breaking there.

    Waking up from Limbo appears to be possible by just killing yourself like in any regular dream. Oooookaaaay… So the reason they were “stuck” was… Ok, so they WEREN’T stuck.
    Does this mean they were just playing around, that they really, really liked being in there, that they were afraid that killing themselves may not actually be enough or that they at this point in time didn’t actually know that killing themselves would wake them up (not impossible, Leo may have opted for a “either we kill ourselves and fail, or we die, or we may just get back to the frickin’ real world if we’re lucky” solution to the problem)?
    Again, not clarified (though I guess it sounds like “really, really liked it” is a likely answer.)

    Now comes the fun part.

    So. Assuming we accept that despite not being the dreamer, Leo’s subconscious could still affect the dream world (freight train, etc.), how is it that they end up in that Limbo where the Cobbs had been “stuck” before?
    Now, bear with me here, because there are multiple ways to look at this.
    Someone said earlier that they would end up in Leo’s limbo because he’s the one who had been there before, but I do not actually recall this being said in the movie. All I recall them (and by them I mean Ariadne) saying is that he was the only one who had been there.

    So, there are either two ways this could go.

    Either everyone has their own, individual, Limbo.
    In which case the question is why they ended up in his specifically, despite him not being any of the three dreamers in their three-layered escapades.
    And why his limbo would be prioritized, when they had three other dreamers. Or hey, how about the person who actually died and went there? What about his Limbo? And why would Saito end up in Leo’s Limbo?

    Or there is one, common, Limbo (which is the way I believe the movie pretty much conveyed it, the individual-Limboes explanation being more a product of intuition than anything else).
    In which the question is why (and how?) everyone in the world can be connected to it. I guess both of those can be explained with the fact that the movie is a fantasy sci-fi movie rather than a sci-fi movie, but still. It’s kinda weird.

    I can imagine why nobody else would have ended up in that Limbo, though. Not everyone would sedate themselves strongly enough to go THAT deep into it all.
    It sounds a lot like extraction isn’t exactly the most common of practices (as he said, there are very few legal applications of it, so I have a hard time imagining it being a wide-spread trade, especially since there are drugs and fancy machinery involved) so it makes sense that not many people would have tried pumping themselves full of horse tranquilizers and going as deep as they can. I got the impression that the Cobbs were being pioneers in their experimentation since, well, it was experimentation.

    Oh and in the case of both interpretations, what happened in the end was basically that Fischer ended up in Limbo (either the common Limbo, or Leo’s Limbo godknowswhyhislimbowouldbeprioritizedbutohwell) because he died, where he met and was captured by the projection representing Leo’s wife, whom his subconscious likes going around projecting everywhere.
    Saito was sent to the same Limbo, but for some random reason not to the same physical location within it. No reason why there couldn’t be more “islands” in the ocean (who says the ocean stretches forever anyway? It was originally a blank space, so I can’t imagine they didn’t create the oceans themselves, which means they really didn’t have a need to make it endless. Not that it matters, because dreams are deliciously vague about where boundaries are anyway) or why he couldn’t have ended up somewhere else on that beach and just couldn’t find them (by merit of the place being frickin’ huge).

    Leo stayed behind in that Limbo (be it a common one, or Leo’s own) to find Saito before leaving.
    Maybe the knife wound and the resulting death sent him somewhere else in the Limbo, or maybe it made him lose his memory, or maybe it made him fall in the ocean. This was intentionally left out, there might even be a point in not even thinking about explaining it (fantasy movie, wooooooo magiccccc etc.), but eh, yeah. Many ways that could have gone.
    So he didn’t kill himself to get out of the limbo, to get himself to the kick in the third layer of the dream and stayed behind. And then he and Saito killed themselves so they could escape from it, the key here being that they had forgotten why they were even there and finding the other lead to them finally remembering. Or rather, it lead to Saito remembering. Leo went in on purpose, which appears to keep you aware of its nature as a dream.

    Oh crikey, this is a wall of unorganized text already… Oh well, just a few short things to add as notes then.

    * It is strange that they even COULD go into limbo just by hooking themselves up to, ehm… I guess the dream of the guy who just -died-? Does that mean dreams only reach four layers down? Or that Limbo is just a place you dream of inside a dream if you die?

    * The totem clearly stopped spinning at the end, I can’t see how anyone doesn’t just see the camera cutting off before it falls over as something being done either for dramatic effect, or for comedic effect.
    Everyone in the cinema I saw it in laughed, which I must say is pretty appropriate.
    The last two frames I saw clearly showed it toppling, and there’s no way that’s just because they cut too late or anything else. (surely that spin-top must be 3D-generated for it to spin that perfectly in the exact same spot for that long)

    * In a way they did the kid a favor in making him have good memories of his father and trying to stand on his own two feet. Totally sweet, if I might say so.

    * I’m pretty sure they only grew old in Limbo because they figured they reasonably SHOULD grow old if they hang around for that long. It’s not just a world of dreams, it’s a world of dreams that they are in full control of. Wanna be purple-haired and more ripped than is physically possible? Think it and it happens. They did liken themselves to gods.

    *Man, I love Cristopher Nolan for not only conjuring the exact same kind of plot I love to conjure myself, but actually making a high-quality movie like this out of it.

    *There are at least two viable explanations for why the weightlessness in the second dream didn’t affect the third dream, yet people I have talked to in real life about the movie only point this out as the “big gaping hole” in the plot, not even paying the whole Limbo cluster**** any attention.

    *I love the whole Limbo cluster****. I gotta make myself one of those sometime.

    Hope you enjoyed this wall of text full of my unorganized ramblings.
    There’s at least six more points I could discuss, but there’s so much that I can’t even keep track of it.
    Despite all this, there are possible explanations for all of these things.
    I have not seen any holes in this movie so much as I see things that are counter-intuitive due to their abstract nature.
    Well played, Nolan. Well played.

  49. N Lucas Says:

    Firstly, you’re wrong because, quite simply, he could have just span it harder at the end (perhaps in frustration)? Problem solved!

    Also, people like you really annoy me. I don’t mean to sound rude, but why go and see a brilliant sci-fi thriller if you hate sci-fi films?
    Also, how can you ever enjoy a film if you find suspending disbelief impossible?
    Films are about escaping to another world from someone else’s mind – don’t bother going if you’re so wrapped up in logic and reality that you can’t do that.

  50. Eoin Says:

    I saw it because It was being discussed on a radio programme I was appearing on. Mentioned at beginning of article.

  51. Jamie Q Says:

    “…it seems to me that there was never any question that his wife was right, there was never any question that this ‘reality’ was not actual reality.”

    I quite agree, Eoin!

    In my opinion, the only “reality” that existed in the movie was the TRUTH that Mal was dead and that there was nothing Cobb could do about it but accept it for what it was and move on. Cobb accepting this truth was what the whole movie was about!

    The spinning top totem is a meaningless teller of reality in Cobb’s hands, because it was not his own totem to begin with. Still, he holds onto it and treats it as if it were his own in an act of self-deception: he’s in denial of the fact that his wife is dead and that he needs to let go of her. In short, whether the top drops or not is irrelevant – the top simply represents his unwillingness to let go of his wife.

    What was Cobb’s totem then? I believe Cobb’s totem was his wife, Mal; only he knew how she felt in his arms, who she was as a person, in all of her complexity and beauty (yadda yadda). Hence, when Mal commits suicide, Cobb not only loses his wife, but also his totem, ergo his sense of reality.

    Cobb tries to deny the fact that Mal is dead by avoiding his projections of her and by keeping her alive in his memories. He doesn’t want to encounter “Mal” (or rather his projection of her), because if he gets close enough to feel her, he’ll know that she’s not real and that she doesn’t exist anymore, which is far more terrifying to him than knowing whether he is “awake” or “dreaming”.

    Remember near the end of the movie when Cobb is holding the projection of his wife in his arms and he tells her that she isn’t the real Mal? That was how he knew that he “dreaming”. At that point, Cobb is able to “wake” from his “dream” and enter “reality”: a “reality” in which he knows that Mal is gone. This might be a stretch, but you could go as far as saying that knowing Mal is gone is his new totem.

    As for the mystery of the ever-spinning totem left on the table at the end of the movie, I think it’s merely there to show us that the reality in which Cobb ends up in is not reality as WE know it.
    In this case, reality is simply knowing the truth.

  52. Rachel N. Says:

    Screw this, I’m gonna play WoW.

  53. Jorge Jones Says:

    I didn’t read the replies, only your post and it annoys me about the gadget they use to enter dreams, it’s not a wire, it’s some gadget supposed to be complex and it’s the size of a suitcase so there is enough space to build something of worth, your other observation about them not waking while being shot and chase, etc. They took a special remedy supposedly powerful enough to do that, they woke in rather big falls and plunges the bathtub plunge was in another dream…and about the totem if you spin something similar on real life it OBVIOUSLY won’t fall always at the same time, it depends on a lot of factors like the velocity of rotation the angle at which is thrown etc…so you have to pick other so called plot holes, Personally I don’t buy these ones…pardon for any grammatical mistakes, I’m Portuguese.

  54. Jorge Jones Says:

    By the way, a link about you’re so called “piece of wire”, quite a complex wire lol http://www.pasivdevice.org/

  55. Jonathan Says:

    The title of the movie “Inception” is a reference to the beginning of a concept, the planting of a seed of an idea in someone else’s mind while they are dreaming, so that when they wake up, they are convinced they had an epiphany, or thought up the idea on their own… The movie itself has four of these.

    The main inception of the movie is where they plant the idea of rejecting the inheritance, thereby dismantling the company that Robert Fischer is to inherit. The flaw here is that you don’t know if this is going to be successful. Couldn’t he simply step down from the Board of Directors and take no salary? The Board would simply nominate a new CEO, probably Browning, whose interests align with the companies interests and business would continue as usual. Realistically, the board of directors would never allow one person to destroy an entire multi-billion dollar, global, mega-conglomerate.

    The second inception in the movie is where Cobb plants the idea in Mal’s mind that she does not live in reality and she has to kill herself to return to reality, so that when she does return to reality, she commits suicide. This plagues Cobb so much that Mal keeps appearing as a construct of Cobb’s subconscious.

    The third inception is based on the first… or maybe the first is a double inception. The entire mission itself seems to be an inception to convince Saito’s mind that the mission has succeeded and that his “phone call” should be made to get Cobb off the hook and give him the freedom to go back to the United States to be with his family.

    The fourth and final inception is the entire movie itself. The entire movie is a dream that Cobb is having. I speculate that his Therapist, represented by Miles, introduces him to Ariadne who represents his hypnotist who then hypnotizes him and delves into his subconscious to administer therapy and plant the inception that he can let go of the death of his wife, be his own man and be a father to his children.

  56. Eoin Says:

    Haha. Inception concept copies from unlikely source. To everyone who has called Nolan a genius and a visionary, I present…. Scrooge McDuck:


  57. soulwarrior Says:

    I don’t get the people who say “how come Ariadne knew that everyone can ski” is an argument in any way…

    I’ve been flying in my dreams and I’m pretty certain that I can’t do so in real world. Might as well try out again, but yea…
    Don’t tell me you’ve never done something “impossible” in one of your dreams? That would be just plain sad…
    And “skiing” is something far from impossible as far as I can tell. And I’m saying this with all the conviction of someone who apparently can’t ski.

  58. Colin Says:

    Turns out Nolan stole the idea for Inception from a Scrooge McDuck comic – “The Beagle Boys have entered the mansion of Scrooge McDuck while he is asleep and set plan to invade his dream with the use of a machine to ask him the combinations of the vault door”.

    “When you fall in a dream you wake up”

    Read the comic here -disneycomics.free.fr/Ducks/Rosa/show.php?num=1&loc=D2002-033&s=date

  59. Themadmathematician Says:

    This is a most rewarding and amusing comnversation. I hope I don’t kill it by pointing out that just as they say in the beginning of the film: You don’t notice what’s strange with the dream until you wake up. So there are plotholes? I’m glad you noticed, cause otherwise you’d still be dreaming. While we see the movie we are seduced by it and let our guards down, as if we dream. After the movie we notice all these little quirks. But the point is that we don’t have to make it work – because it was a film of a dream (weather the top topples or not at the end). They’re in a dream all the time. Notice how the walls close in on Cobb while he’s chased in Africa, in “reality”. And of course, in a sense any film is a dream. So with the 4 obvious levels we add the “reality”-level as level 0, the film as level “-1″ which would make this conversation hanging in level “-2″. But if you look at the conversation from outside the world of people who are trying to explain it all, it almost feels as if I’m on level “-3″…

  60. Alv Says:

    For me, the biggest plothole was that Mal was certified sane by doctors. No sane person would willingly kill themselves in the belief they are living in a dreamworld. If you do, what’s to say you won’t think the next world will also be a dream, and the next and so on so forth. If you keep killing yourself, eventually you’ll make a mistake and kill yourself for real. As you can never know for sure, then only option is to NOT kill yourself in the current world.

  61. This enormous woman will devour us all. | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

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  62. Alex Says:

    Inception plot holes were intentional, in my opinion…
    Nolan wanted the audience to discuss the movie and NEVER achieve a definite conclusion about what really happened. The whole thing could simply be planted in Cobb’s mind by his father-in-law, who could just be his mentor in real life… Cobb’s totem proves nothing, but if you pay enough attention at the end of the movie, you can hear it wobbling and falling after the screen goes black. More food for thought.
    Here’s the old man’s words in Yusuf’s basement: “They come to be woken up, their dream has become their reality. Who are you to say otherwise?”

  63. Adam Says:

    I can’t be bothered reading all the comments above to find if someone has explained this theory, but it may well rebutt EVERY theory above – DiCaprios character FAILS to show he is back in reality after he tests the potent sedative in the meth/dream lab at the chemists house! –His attempts to spin the top are interupted by Watanabe’s character, DiCaprio character is in the chemists lab for the whole of the Inception process(about half the movie)–If there is a sequal it will have to start with DiCaprio waking in the chemists lab.

  64. alle1111 Says:

    Hi. In fact you may be more right that you think. You might not have uncovered a plothole but a hidden secret that indicates that he was, in fact, in reality and not in a dream. The moviemaker ended the movie with a cliffhanger: was he in a dream or in reality? The moviemaker maybe deliberately planted the early scene when the totem stopped spinning for the observant viewer to know that in the end he was in reality! I forgot about that scene until you brought it up.

    Although the early scene when the totem stopped spinning may also in fact just be a thing the moviemaker didn’t know was going to be a plothole, if the moviemaker really wanted the end to be a cliffhanger to which there is no sure answer.

  65. Kate Says:

    finally saw inception last night. After Scrooge McDuck, Glenn Harrold should consider taking legal action against Nolan for breaching intellectual property. At least Harrold’s take on “inception” is kinda believable. Also, id like to think in my dreams that my projected world class security force could hit a target.

  66. John Says:

    It is a DREAM, period. His kids are wearing the same clothes as in his dreams !

  67. DarylT Says:

    Conceptual holes?

    They all hook up to a device (or iPod 7 or something) that connects them in their dream state so they share the same reality. But what happens the next level down? It’s not a real device just a dream one, so what this means is you’re still in a single level of dream just you’re dreaming you’ve gone into another (and another) as part of the first. Not sure that the whole procession of kicks makes a lot of sense then, there’s only one gravity to trigger the middle ear at the top level. I’m way over thinking a fantasy concept…: )

    More obviously how come setting off explosives to accelerate the lift isn’t enough to be the ‘kick’ that wakes them up? That’s just bad physics (dream physics 101) the force of stopping which wakes them is surely less than or equal to the explosion force that accelerated them? At the very least it’s a gamble.

  68. Alec Says:

    I think that the whole movie is intended to confuse and force you to think about it well after the movie has ended, not just for conceptual reasons but so you go back again to try to figure it out.
    but as for the biggest plot hole (and this may have been explained in the movie so correct me if im wrong) is how he is enveloped in a scheme to try to get back to his kids in america. . . why not just have someone fly them over to france or wherever he is?

  69. Chadd Says:

    I have a big problem with the handling of the totems. I liked the idea, but it seems like this concept contains more than a few holes.

    The idea of the totem is that it is something with certain weight or balance characteristics that only you can positively identify. I’m fine with that. The chess piece works — only Ariadne knows the exact force needed to knock it over. She apparently even changes the characteristics of her “stock” chess piece by hollowing it out or something, on the off chance that someone gets a hold of that exact piece. If her totem requires more or less force to push it on its side, she knows she’s in a dream. No architect can replicate it because they do not have access to it. Likewise, Arthur’s weighted gambling die — no architect knows exactly how it tumbles nor even what number it’s weighted to favor. Great. I’m still on board.

    Then we come to Cobb’s totem. It’s completely different. In a dream world, it defies the laws of waking physics by spinning forever. Why is this? What is it about a dreamworld that suspends this one object’s obedience to simple laws of gravity, friction, etc? These laws apparently apply universally to other things like vans, bullets, and snowmobiles. The chess piece totem (presumably) does not float when you tap it to knock it down in a dream, nor does the weighted die do anything incredible while in dreamland. The totems work because each has a certain weight, balance, feel, heft, etc., not because of differential adherence to physical laws. If various objects were immune to dream gravity, for example, then there would be many such things that would reveal dreams, like autumn leaves falling upwards.

    Also, the characters seem rather free with the information they share about their totems — Cobb tells at least one character how his totem acts differently in dreams. Arthur reveals that his totem is a weighted die. This seems to be the same as letting someone handle the totem itself. Once Cobb gives away his totem secret, for example, why couldn’t an architect simply dream a top totem that stops spinning in the dreamworld in order to fool Cobb? Why would you ever reveal what your totem is at all? In a world in which the characters run the high risk of being asleep in each other’s presence, it seems stupid to even choose a totem that could be easily identified as such. If your rival ever got access to the contents of your pockets, it’d be cinchy to spot the totem — wallet, gun, carkeys, and a heavy, intricately wrought coin from the 12th century. I wonder which one is the totem? Why not use the keys or the gun as your totem?

  70. Silvestre Says:

    I don’t think it’s a dream. I think that the whole point of Nolan not showing us if the top stops spinning is to tell us that Cobb doesn’t need it anymore to tell dreams from reality. It shows us how the main character evolves through the film. He always needed it to be sure he’s not in a dream, but after confronting his wife he knows what’s real and what isn’t.
    @ Chadd. One could argue that Cobb’s top spins a very particular way that only he knows, maybe how long it spins for, the way it topples and so on. And they only seen to reveal knowledge about their totems to people they trust and not random people. I mean not even some members of the team are told about the totems. For all we know Mol is the one who came up with the idea, so i guess the only ones who do have totems are Cobb, Ariadne and Arthur.
    @ Alec, yeah thats what i kind of thought.

  71. Dan Says:

    Can’t be arsed to read all the comments on this page, but the argument with the top spinning and tilting for Ellen Page and then later maybe not can only be explained as Ralph did it, that he is in fact still dreaming. Either way, it’s not important to the experience of the film itself. Arguing that there are no drugs that’ll numb the body but not the inner ear in a science fiction movie is also pointless. It’s a science fiction movie, you already stated you don’t like the genre. Why did you go watch in the first place? And why write a review when you’re obviously biased towards not liking it simply based on genre?

  72. Dan Says:

    Oh and as to why Ellen Page didn’t design a world with an easy kick? She only designed the first two levels of the dream. Once inside the hotel things have gone wrong and Cobb comes up with Mr. Charles gambit and then on the fly decides to go further into fischers mind. In the the hotel room right before they set up the dream equipment Ellen Page even says she’s confused and don’t know which of the two (Fischer or his dads friend) Cobb wants to enter.

  73. man Says:

    should’t they be all in zero-gravity??? after the van falling down all the stages should be in zero gravity…

  74. LT Says:

    All the agonising over whether the top falls over or not after the movie ends is missing the point. It was deliberately crafted so there is not right, correct, or knowable answer- this is, after all, fiction.

    It is no coincidence the movie cut to an ending at precisely the point it did – it was timed to perfection to cause maximum confusion and uncertainty. The little wobble was necessary otherwise the implication would be that it was not going to topple over.

    As to whether the whole movie was a dream etc, I think that is overthinking it. You could say that about any movie. I think the movie is what it is for the whole movie – the moments of reality are moments of reality, etc, and seeming inconsistencies that don’t bear scrutiny are probably just that – inconsistencies. Trying to justify them requires all sorts of contorted logic that requires all sorts of assumptions which are not verifiable from the actual content of the movie.

    What they just decided to do was throw in the spinning-top at the end just for fun as a clever ending to make audiences think. The whole movie, after all, was about confusing reality with dreams, so why not end the movie by introducing a little bit of confusion?

    It’s masterful, but I suspect we are all vastly overthinking the underlying logic.


  75. LT Says:

    PS but on the topic of plot inconsistencies, one idea the movie propounds is that the longer you spend in a dream, the harder you find it to tell the difference between a dream an reality.

    I would have thought that the opposite would be true. The more time you spend in this conscious dream state, surely the better you would get at spotting anomolies and inconsistencies with reality.

    The totem is but one example. Dreamers would spot literally hundreds of other small tip-offs like this if they spent a lot of time in dreams/limbo (not being able to remember how you got there was another one in the movie; your kids not aging; distortions of physical reality, etc).

    Just like Cobb says in limbo towards the end, that his projection of his wife was “just a shade” of who she really is. There are limits on the creative power of our brians – we can’t create something we don’t know about.

    Could you ever visit a city you’d never been to, or learn a new language you didn’t know, or a new skill you couldn’t do? Would all the people you meet be too similar? etc etc


  76. Sam Says:

    The main thing I didn’t like was the film’s breaking of it’s own rules. A clear example towards the end of the film is the first “kick” set off by the van hitting the railing of the bridge which starts an avalanche. They mention missing this kick and it is stated that they need to wake up on each level to escape. The characters in level 3 don’t wake up to the van level as they need to be woken up to the hotel level by the explosive charges that were not blown. I cannot see why the character on the hotel level does not wake up to the van level with this kick, for him what’s the difference between the van hitting the railing and the van hitting the water.

    If you want to say the whole things a dream and there are no rules thats fine but it seems pointless and lazy writing to me.

    Also the “totem” spinning at the end I think is just poor directing, Nolan feels the need to shove the question mark in our faces, it’s insulting. It would have been better to let Cobb walk off and leave it there, I would still have been able to formulate the idea myself.

  77. Algrokoz Says:

    The top has bothered me as well, but for a slightly different reason. The whole idea of a totem is that it is something that is easily identifiable to you but not to anyone else. For example, Saito has banged that chic on his carpet so many times he knows exactly what it is made of, but Leo and crew didn’t. So it acted as an unintentional totem. Ellen Page’s totem was a hollowed out chess piece that would tip over too easily. Levitt’s was a dice that was loaded a specific way. These are bath items that you could not approximate with any degree of reliability unless you knew the secret. However, Leo’s is the exact opposite. The effect it has can only occur in a dream. But if you were in someone else’s dream wouldn’t they naturally assume that your top will eventually fall over? That is counterproductive. Also if someone knew the general idea of Leo’s totem it would be super easy to reproduce unlike the others’. But I certainly agree that the inconsistencies with the top are obviously key to unraveling the film’s intended interpretation.

  78. Pete Says:

    “How does one person get into another person’s dreams? With a piece of wire. Of course, how ingenious! The Slumberland A-Team don’t wake up when their people carrier is careering through densely packed city streets and being riddled with bullets. But drop one of them backwards into a bath and – BAM! – they’re back in the land of the living. It just makes sense!”

    You are an idiot. In fantasy/scifi movies they make an initial postulate that you either accept or you don’t watch the movie. You don’t sit around and bitch about it. In Superman it is that a man can fly because he is not from around here. Here they have technology that allows you to enter someones dreams, and can sedate so specifically that your balance aren’t affected. If you don’t accept that postulate you leave the movie.

    “The audience is left wondering whether his wife was right all along, whether this ‘reality’ is not in fact just another dream. ”

    Not really.

    “My problem with this ending is that the ‘reality’ DiCaprio is returning to is surely the same one he left when they hatched the inception plan.”

    Its the dream his mind has created to allow him to live happily ever after. He’s still sleeping on the plane.

    The movie is fairly straight forward all the way through, and that is the reason its not that special. (The only reason people talk about it being intelligent is because most americans aren’t very intelligent to begin with)

    He never entered Saitos limbo – he stayed in his own.

  79. pete Says:

    I see the whole film as a more ‘action-packed’ and ‘easier to follow’ memento. at the end of memento he chooses his reality. same applies here. it kills me seeing so many people asking whether or not the totem fell. the whole bloody point is that he didn’t care whether it fell or not, hence choosing the reality which made him happy.

  80. Noe Says:

    My biggest and most obvious plot hole is the fact that they could only go three levels into the dream with the sedative because ellen page’s character designs the levels and inputs the sedative device into the level, so how is that her and cobb go another level deep with yet another sedative device that puts them to sleep, i dont get that.

    Also, i believe cobb and saito kill them selves at the end to get out of limbo becaus ethey arent as highly sedated as before so therefore they can eake up since they have been there so long, just like cobb and mal did when they killed themselves in front of the train.

    One more thing, can someone explain to me how cobb plante dthe idea into mal’s mid while in limbo with no machine?? Plz and thx

  81. David Says:

    You guys are hilarious! I couldn’t bring myself to read all the comments but the overanalysis is so ludicrously small-minded and idiotic. I think the tone is set with Eoin’s “I find the entire sci-fi/fantasy genre cringe-some in the extreme”. Why did you see it? Why are you writing about it? Do something else. I just enjoyed the ride.

  82. Eoin Says:

    I saw the film because I’m a journalist and it’s my job. Mentioned in the very first line.

  83. aye Says:

    Why r u on here then David? Don’t tell me u stumbled on here randomly. nope. u wanted to see what other ppl had to say.

    I’m just gonna list the biggest problems I had with this movie:

    If Mal jumped off a building across from Cobb, then it is clearly suicide. Any detective could have known that, unless it was an American detective. kidding.

    Who were those ppl in South Africa chasing after Cobb? Oh yeah. Cobol Engineering! From the prequel:
    Why wasn’t this mentioned in the movie? and how were critics to dumb to realize that this info is missing?

    If Ariadne can shift environments in the dream, why doesn’t she do this to kill projections? If Cobb’s guilt sends a train through the streets, does this mean only he is capable of guilt? Why aren’t other people showing signs of their guilt… nevermind they have no guilt. Only Dicaprio is capable of guilt.

    Where did the projection of Fischer’s father come from (the one in the safe)? Projections can’t be controlled… otherwise Ariadne would have placed the combat projections conveniently behind bars when she planned the dreams.

    The machine that injects the dreamers with sedatives is explained quite well on the internet.
    It’s ability to dream-share is STILL not explained… Come on, everyone’s been fussing about this. If Nolan’s crew made a site explaining the machine’s sedative delivering capabilities, they can at least show us how the machine lets ppl share dreams.

    Is Saito just a wuss or what? He wants Fischer to dismantle his fathers conglomerate, and wants to do so through inception…. He wants to do it by going in his dreams?? How lame. Can’t he just hire a hitman, or sabotage the operations of the other conglomerate?

    Did Cobb really have to do inception on his wife? Couldn’t he have just jumped off a building and died? That way, his wife will prolly be sad and jump off as well, waking up in the real world, because if u die in Limbo u wake up. And if she won’t, he can turn off the dream machine and the dream will end.

    The action is subpar in this movie. With the exception of the back tires of a car flying off, a rotating hallway and a zero gravity fight scene (which is 30 seconds long :( ), there was nothing special about the action. The ballistics were exaggerated, just like it is in every other blockbuster film. A grenade does not make a huge gasoline type explosion, as far as my knowledge goes. Same thing goes with the Molotov cocktails thrown in the beginning that make a 7 foot tall explosion. I don’t mind bad ballistics, but I thought Nolan stood for realism, not the action movie antics on par with Transformers 2. If he wanted to be unrealistic, at least make it cool… you know, like in the Matrix.

    I gotta say, this was a confusing film, but I got most of it on the first time I watched it. This doesn’t mean I’m smart, I had read a chapter in psychology a few months before and applied the things I read to the psychology presented in the film (what goes on while we dream etc.). Yet, it didn’t wow me, not like Fight Club did…. Or even Dark City. Inception should learn from movies like those two as well as The Thirteenth Floor, Eternal Sunshine, and Paprika.

    Just for the record, this is probably the worst dream movie I have seen so far. The best dream movie for me, was Eternal Sunshine, because it had great visuals as well as a storyline that played much like Crash. Paprika was also a great film, and it would just play with ur mind over and over again. It answers the “Is this a dream or not?” question in a straightforward manner, but we the audience are surprised by when the movie is dream and when it isn’t. At one point, a character thinks she is dreaming, and tries to jump out of a building in real life.

    11. THE ACTORS
    Good acting? Are u serious? I don’t think I sympathized with any of the characters, and that is partly due to Leo’s overacting and Cotillard’s lack of dialogue. Well, it also is Nolan’s fault for not showing enough of Mal’s past.

    Can I see her in one movie where she isn’t someone’s trophy wife? Where she can act happy go lucky like she did in Love Me If You Dare?

    There actually a lot more to this list, but I’m tired of writing. I really needed to get this off my chest, cuz I waited a whole year to see inception, and was greatly disappointed. I noticed a few of these the first time around, that just shows how bad I thought this movie was. It’s only saving grace was that it was about dreams and dream are cool, and that it had action in it. And even the action wasn’t that great.

  84. Mark Says:

    Just saw the movie (a bit late, I know). The reason the scene cuts before the top falls is not to leave us with doubt but because Cobb by the end of film no longer needs to see the results of the test. Down in limbo he passed the test of knowing what’s real based on his deepest feelings, without the top. He spins the top now out of habit but doesn’t care to see the result because he just knows that these are really his kids. That’s the message of cutting before it falls.

  85. Kelly Says:

    My biggest problems is, if the sensation of falling is what wakes you up from the dream because the sedative doesn’t effect the inner ear, why would you do the Inception on a plane? One bout of turbulence and it’s all over. WTF Nolan. There is so much that isn’t explained in this movie I had a really hard time giving into the film’s world and constructs. In my opinion, this MOVIE needs a better architect, boo ya!

    I mean what does Cobb’s father do anyway? What is he a professor of, mazes, psychology, what? Why can’t his kids just move abroad with him? If the ultimate goal of the film is the inception of Cillian Murphy, why is Marion Cotillard in the film, what is the point of the substory? What purpose does it serve, it’s like she just shows up conveniently to help explain a turn in the plot. I like the concept a lot, it had some good moments, but in my opinion it was a complete mess. These were major plot holes, not points of interpretation. I keep thinking about how great this film could have been in the hands of someone like Kubrick, Antonioni or Tarkovsky.

  86. Jake Says:

    Wow I am impressed by the level of discussion that has gone into this film. Bravo for pointing out all the short-comings in this movie that was obviously based on a true story. Or was it a documentary? Wait, now I remember. It’s a work of fantasy about the dream world. The level of depth given by the writer/director is enough to give the audience the amount of information required to suspend reality to the perfect level for a fantasy story. Anyone poking holes in the plot of a movie about dreams is quite possibly totally insane. Like the argument about the movie, Wanted. “a man that can shoot bullets around corners. Ha! Not physically possible”. Well it is a comic book adaptation, so I think we’re on safe ground. Is anyone going to comlplain that middle earth couldn’t possibly exist, or is it just movies that have some basis in reality? Honestly I think that anyone unable to suspend reality should stay away from this genre and leave it to us – people with imaginations. I’m sure Jules Verne would have been over the moon to hear all of you naysayers telling him “nah that story’s just too unbelievable”.

  87. Tracy Says:

    The key is Cobb’s wedding ring. In dreams he’s wearing it, in reality he’s not. The final scene with the top doesn’t give a good look at his hand, but when he’s going through customs he’s not wearing it.

    Also in limbo with Saito, just before they wake up on the plane it shows Saito’s hand moving toward the gun they took off Cobb when they hauled him in from the beach. It stands to reason that he shot Cobb & himself to get out of limbo.

    Head scratching questions aside, I really liked the film.

  88. James Says:

    So there are only two ways the plot holes in this film can be explained:

    1. massive accidental plot holes, so a bad movie

    2. Massive intentional plot holes because it was actually all a dream this is the most cliched cop out approach to story telling and this is therefore a bad movie.

    Conclusion over rated poorly thought out bad film… That said it has raised a lot of interesting discussion so thats good.

  89. dirk Says:

    People who think Mal commits suicide by jumping out of a different building are many and stupid.
    Suites often have such layouts. For an example in Paris, look at the apartment in “Taken” from which Liam Neeson’s daughter is abducted. She sees her friend attacked through the window, but they’re both in the same apartment!

  90. Owen Says:

    What happens if you die in limbo before the sedative wears off?

  91. Aoibh Says:

    The spinning top works-
    Whatever you want to happen in dreams will work. So, when in dreams, he wishes for his top to stay spinning. If it falls, anything he wishes won’t come true and he’s in reality

  92. Emma Says:

    Trevor. Well said. I thought I was the only person who realised what a waste of space Murphy was. You have restored my faith in humanity.

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