Saw a midnight screening last night and have been thinking about this film non-stop since. First off, I loved it, in a rather drab summer movie season, Inception is a great example of solid, thought provoking AND mainstream entertainment.
Now, on to my thoughts of the film. MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.
First off, I have more questions than answers. I think a 2nd viewing will be in order in the next week or two to really sort things out. One of the great things about this movie is its holographical nature, the film itself functions as an Inception with the fantastic final shot that plants a doubt, which combined with a number of fuzzy ‘moments’ in the film make you question what you just saw, and what you remember. An idea is planted in the audience, the film “does” what it’s “about”. Brilliant!
‘Now, to the fun stuff. Immediately leaving the theater I thought 2 things:
1) The top keeps spinning. He’s still in the dream.
2) Something was up with Ari (Ellen Page) and Saito (Ken Watanabe), particularly the former, as she planted a number of seeds in Cobb’s head. I think there was a 2nd layer of Inception happening, definitely involving Ari, possibly involving Saito, and made even the rest of the team. It’s Saito that plants the idea to Cobb that he can “go home” and see his kids, and it’s Ari that plants the seed that he’ll need to confront Mal in order to do it. For a ‘new’ architect, she picks it up suspiciously fast, she’s constantly trying to get to deeper levels of Cobb’s subconscious, and she was ‘recommended’ by Cobb’s Father (or Step Father, can’t remember which). She manages to convince Cobb that she needs to be on the plane and needs to enter into the dream with him. I think Michael Caine/Cobb’s Father hired Ari to ‘incept’ Cobb. Why else would he be at the airport at the end? Was Ari’s line that she thinks Cobb will “be alright” he acknowledging she think the inception worked?
Beyond that, I just have lots of questions about moments and details:
- The top. Cobb said a totem needs to be something hyper personal, yet he’s using Mal’s the entire time.
- Seito interrupts Cobb’s test spin in the bathroom, RIGHT after he’s taken the super sedative in the chemist’s creepy basement. How’d he get to the bathroom? We never actually see him ‘wake up’ from that…
- Memory vs. Dream is brought up a few times. How do we know Cobb’s memories of Mal and the window weren’t dream, and not memory?
- We see images of Cobb and Mal grown old in their ‘universe’. Yet when they lie on the train tracks they’re young. Did they ever grow old together, or was that ‘memory’ just the ‘dream’ he told her when he proposed?
- The awesome possibility that Mal was right and that she got out when she jumped.
- The kids don’t seem to grow up.
- It’s unclear whether or not Seito uses the gun at the end. Perhaps the sedative wore off and they just woke up?
- Seito is super old because he dropped into limbo minutes before Ari/Cobb in snow time. Because of the exponential layering of time, that few minutes was years in limbo (layer 5?) by the time Cobb found him.
- Mal shows up in just about every layer we see, if the space is set by architects, but populated by the dream, it has to be Cobb’s dream right?
- Other than the chase through Mumbai, after the plane Cobb is NEVER actually in danger. They’re never hunting him, because they’re his projections? He’s never shot at once if I remember correctly.
- Cobb can’t dream without a machine anymore, and says he can’t create/architect anymore. Because it’s his dream?
- I don’t remember them specifically, but there’s at least 2-3 phrases repeated a number of times. (you’re waiting for a train, the seito/cobb dialogue)
- Cobb tells Ari how his totem works. Big no no.
Kicks, Layers, Russian Dolls, & Limbo
Limbo: It’s not a layer as much as confusion. It’s not being able to discern between waking and dreaming anymore. The mind gets confused. You can get there by A) Dieing while under heavy sedation. You die while body is under heavy sedation. Since you’re body can’t actually wake up, the mind is left in a state of confusion, wakes up in limbo, and doesn’t know its not reality. Time approaches infinity there, so 50 years can be just a matter of minutes.
Cobb and Mal apparently get there by going to deep with dreams in dreams and by using memories as the building blocks for their dreams. After a while, Mal can no longer tell she’s in a dream….Cobb has to convince her to commit suicide by planting a doubt in her mind via inception.
Dreams within Dreams are like Russian Dolls. The transclude the layer above it.
Example #1: Initial Saito Heist
Layer0=Waking (Train), Realtime
Layer1=Dream (City Riot/Affair Hotel) Timex10
Layer2=Dreamx2 (Saito’s conference room in fortress) Timex100
Example #2: Fischer Heist (assuming the ‘plane’ is reality)
Layer0=Waking (Airplane), Realtime
Layer1=Dream (Rainy City / Van), 1minLayer1time = x(Realtime)
Layer2 =Dreamx2 (Swanky Hotel / Elevator), 1 minuteLayer2time = x(1minLayer1time)
Layer3 =Dreamx3 (Snow Fortress), 1minLayer3time = x(1minLayer2time)
So here’s how I understand it:
Ari and Cobb use the dream machine to go into Limbo because they need to bring Fischer back to level 3 to open the safe and complete the inception, before the sedative wears off and the kicks ripple through the layers.
The super strong sedative they’re using puts the brain into a forced deep sleep to stabilize the dreams inside dreams. Yusef concocts it specifically so it DOES NOT impair the equilibrium function of the ears, or the ‘falling awake’ dream function, thus ‘falling’ can still wake you up, but death/suicide can NOT. Under the sedative, death/suicide pushes you into limbo, since the physical body is still drugged, the mind wakes up into nothing, and it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between dream and reality. The time distortion isn’t clear, but it appears to be quite significant in limbo.
Falling, on the other hand, can still trigger the equilibrium of the ears and corresponding section of the brain, meaning its still a ‘safe’ way to wake up within the dream. Falling pulls you back A SINGLE layer.
Layer0 = Sedative wearing off is limiter for the wakeup. Roughly 10 hours.
Layer1 = The van falling WAKES up everyone asleep in the van, so they’re awake in Layer1 when the sedative wears off. It’s also possible it wakes up Yusef early and that he’s not heavily sedated, just normal sedated. Yusef warns joseph with music
Layer2 = The elevator wakes up everyone asleep in the hotel, so they’re awake when the layer 1 kick happens, so they can be awake when the sedative happens. Joseph warns eams with music
Layer3 = There was initially no kicker for this level, as it was supposed to be as deep as they would go. This is where Fischer’s inception takes place. eams warns ari/cobbs with explosion
So, when Ari and Fischer jump off the building, it’s the FALLING that brings them back to the snow level. The fall wakes them up before they ‘miss’ the kicks at the rest of the levels.
Everything is rushed because of the surprise attacks in Layer0, and thus Yusef drives off the bridge so they don’t get shot too early, which would put everyone in limbo.
Love to hear more thoughts other’s have!