- The Rules of the Dream World (this page)
- The characters and their functions
- Inception Ending Explained
- The rainy city – Yusuf the chemist (Dileep Rao) is dreaming this level. Yusuf is drinking a lot of champagne in the “real world” on the plane, so when he goes to sleep he has to pee (hence the rainfall). Since Yusuf is the dreamer of level 1, he has to stay in that level of the dream, hence why he has to drive the van.
- The hotel – Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt) dreams the hotel, which is why he has to stay awake when the rest of the team goes down to the snow level. When the van Yusuf is driving goes off the bridge and is flying through the air, Aurthur’s “body” is suspended in air, which is why gravity in the hotel level of the dream goes haywire – as the dreamer’s body is shifted and moved, it effects the physics of the dream he’s dreaming, since the mind (and inner-ear) is registering the change in gravity.
- The snow fortress – Eames the “forger” (Tom hardy) is dreaming this level of the dream. A question has been raised about why the gravity in the snow world doesn’t go haywire when Eames’ body starts floating in the zer0-gravity hotel. Well, you could say that Eames’ body isn’t being shook up or shifted in any way his mind (or inner-ear) would actively register or that being so deep in a dream state cushioned Eames from the effect of gravity. Or, you could say that it’s a glaring plot hole. Truthfully, it’s questionable.
- Limbo – Limbo is actually unconstructed dream space – a place of raw (and random) subconscious impulse. Ariadne drops a line early on about the fact that the extractor team can bring elements of their own subconscious into the dream levels if they’re not careful, and since Cobb has spent time in Limbo and has a raging subconscious, the Limbo space they enter includes his memory of the city he and Mal built for themselves.
- Was Saito truly powerful enough to make one phone call and end Cobb’s problems or was that just Cobb in limbo projecting his subconscious wish to go home? You can argue logistics all you want, but if it’s said that Saito is a powerful and wealthy man (he bought a whole airline on a whim), then there’s reason enough to infer that he could bend the legal system for Cobb. Rich powerful people bend laws all the time.
- Is there something up with that immigration agent or is he just an immigration agent? After two viewings, the conclusion should be that the immigration guy is just a guy. If he’s staring at Cobb, it’s because his job is to look people over and scrutinize them. Would you want immigration letting people through without face-to-face scrutiny?
- Did Cobb’s father (Michael Caine) arrange to meet him at the airport or is he there because he’s Cobb’s projection? At this point we’re reading way too much into things. There is a phone on the plane, so Cobb could’ve easily arranged for pickup. This was also an intricate plan they were hatching, so arranging for airport pickup would probably be on the to-do list.
- In early dream scenes Cobb is wearing a wedding band that doesn’t appear in the “real world” scenes or the end scenes in the airport – does that mean the ending is “reality?” Details like that are certainly strong evidence that there is a real world and that Cobb does live in it at times – such as when he isn’t wearing a wedding band.
- Does the fact that Cobb uses Mal’s totem mean it doesn’t work as a totem and therefore he never knows if he’s in reality or not? Again, we’re reading a little too deep into things. The only people who know the weight and feel of that totem are Mal and Cobb, and since Mal is dead, Cobb is the only one left who knows the totem’s tactile details. So yes, he could certainly use it as a measure of reality, the totem was not “ruined” by him using it.
- At the end, Cobb’s kids seem to be the same age and are seemingly wearing the same clothes as they were in his memory of them – is it “proof” he’s still dreaming? As carefully documented by our own Vic Holtreman, at the end of the film Cobb’s kids are wearing similar outfits to the ones he remembers, but their shoes are different. As for their ages: if you check IMDB, there are actually two set of actors credited with playing Cobb’s kids. The daughter, Phillipa, is credited as being both 3 and 5 years old, while the son, James, is credited as being both 20 months and 3 years old. This suggests that while it might be subtle, there is a difference between the kids in Cobb’s memories and the kids Cobb comes home to. That would suggest the homecoming is in fact “reality.” But feel free to debate that.
- Will the spinning top keep spinning or was it about to fall over just before Nolan cut to black? Sorry, we will never know for sure, although it does start to wobble and it is never shown doing that in the dream world. Each of us will take away a guess – kind of the point of that final shot.