So I finally got around to seeing Inception. After all the hype and talk about it – I have to admit, it was worth it and I can only regret nto having seen it earlier to partake in the discussion with my friends.
Having being told a lot about how it is confusing and one has to pay lots of attention while watching, I analyzed just about every scene trying to formulate the different possible endings and explanations behind them. Upon reaching my car, I immediately Googled the different theories on my iPhone because of how curious the movie had made me.
NOTE: Avoid the following if you have not yet seen this movie as I am not holding back on spoilers when it comes to theorizing!
My theory throughout the movie was that the entire thing was a dream. Clues are littered all over the screen and I will go through a few that I can remember.
We first note how Cobb’s father (Michael Caine) continuously tells him to wake up and re-join reality. This is an obvious hint to the fact that Cobb is still asleep and needs to wake up. Cobb himself mentions wanting to “go home” and so-forth instead of repeatedly saying he wants to return to America.
Another questionable issue was how his children had not aged at all towards the end of the film when we finally see their faces. Who was this grandmother they referred to on the phone too – This quite possibly could be a movie error, or maybe a contribution to this theory too.
One thing that really caught my attention was reference to the COBOL corporation (It also can be noted that this coincidentally sounds a lot like “Cobb” too). There is little explanation behind the organization and why they are hunting Cobb down. Towards the end, Mal also mentions “being chased around the world by anonymous corporations, like projections chase the dreamer”. The reality of this idea is also very far-fetched – Armed with just a pistol (that remarkably is never used in ‘reality’) and being chased across the globe for no apparent reason.
The main give away was when Mal herself talks about how Cobb is unable to perceive whether or not his reality truly is what it is. Mal in the film seems to be a creation of Cobb’s regret of his inception – But then again, inception is also never proven except in Mal’s case which can also be argued against. What if, jumping off the hotel window really did cause Mal to wake up to reality? How were they so sure that what they had previously woken up to was reality (in this case, the world is in which the entire movie is in)? This then makes it possible that Mal is not even dead and just awake and unable to wake Cobb up.
The loss of Mal has then caused Cobb to continue projecting his own world of action and excitement including the COBOL corporation and this job.
Another strange idea I had was what if they never actually had children? Cobb mentions in limbo how they moved into an apartment after Mal got pregnant. This then hints to them having children during that 50 years they spent in limbo. If this was so, how was it then possible for them to wake up to children and for Cobb’s main objective of the plot to return home to his children?
Now, I could go into more evidence into how this could possibly be a dream including the similarities to a anxiety nightmare when he got stuck in the alleyway, Arthur’s precision with weaponry and hand-to-hand combat (taking out a guy twice his size with a kick?), Mal sitting on an opposing hotel window sill, the impossible chances of Saito coming to the rescue when Cobb was being chased by COBOL, the spinning top at the end of the movie and more. However, several articles go into this and I think just watching the movie again with the idea everything is a dream will let you pick up on these moments.
The biggest argument against the entire movie being a dream is seeing the top toppling when he spun it in the so-called reality space. The idea of the totem was very unbelievable to me and only seemed to be useful if you were in another person’s dream. Being in another’s space, objects on you may also have been created and hence may not have the same flaws as what they did in reality. However, when you are in your own dream, knowing the flaws yourself (the movie itself makes it clear that you are not supposed to let others know the secrets behind your totems) would result in creating an exact replica of that totem too. So throughout the movie, within Cobb’s dream state, we see that replica of Mal’s top that topples over.
Let us not forget that the top isn’t even Cobb’s. There has been some speculation as to what Cobb’s real totem was and apparently his wedding ring only appears to be worn in reality.
The main thing to note is that this movie is excellent and teases our minds to think (and over-think) about it. Watching it again will be just as fulfilling, to try and figure out the theories behind it. Unfortunately, Chris Nolan does a marvelous job in making just about any theory out there on the movie viable – So there really does not exist a perfect theory as of yet.