July 19, 2010 / by zac
So obviously Lauren and I ((Check out our reviews first; Lauren’s and Zac’s)) think Inception is a pretty swell movie. Lauren has picked it as her best picture favorite and it seems to be a lock Top 5 for me as well. But we both agree that the final shot of the film is easily the biggest flaw of the film and kind of B.S.
Either way, we discuss it in depth below and feel free to let us know if you agree.
And Obviously: Spoilers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lauren: Inception is a pretty complex film that throws a lot at the audience, but no matter how dense it all gets it really isn’t that hard to find your bearings when you try, you just have to pay attention. However, the one thing that is most debatable is the open ended final scene.
Cobb’s whole reasoning for doing what he does is to finally get to go back home to be with his children once more, and in the end he does just that. However, the film ends with a close up on the top he uses to determine whether or not he is still dreaming. So is he?
On the one side this could be a full blown example of “a dream is a wish your heart makes.” All he wanted to do is get here, so it is possible that this is his final resting place in limbo. Maybe he never really woke up. Maybe he played the final 10 or so minutes of the film out in his mind to find some sort of peace. Maybe the whole movie was actually in his mind. So is it real?
In all honesty this is one of the only times that I am going to go with the optimistic approach to something like this. I believe that the only thing that could have kept him in limbo was his wife, and he finally being able to let her go is the only clue I needed to decide that he is actually at his home in the real world. We don’t need none of that shutter island heartbreak…
Zac: I completely agree with you on this, this being the film’s final moments are in fact in the real world, and there is no doubt in my brain that the top drops. Having said that, I think the will it/won’t it drop ending is far and the way the worst thing about this movie. While in the moment it was an elating “ohh, come on” moment, I have to admit I was sitting there going, “drop, drop, drop”, but as time passed I became a bit upset that Nolan choose to end it that way.
I will point you to an excellent write up on the subject at Aint It Cool News by Massawyrm if you want some really in depth thoughts on the subject, but I viewed the falling/not falling simply as either everything we saw was real and happened or everything we just saw was a dream. If the whole movie was a dream and there was no “reality” in the picture then the movie is a failure because then nothing mattered. If the dream world had been used as a path for our hero’s progression to a realization back in reality then that would have been something but evidence points to that the film was entirely fake. I whole heartedly believe that the top drops, because one, I want it to, and two there is no evidence otherwise that the film is DiCaprio’s dream.
Lauren, you mentioned that you could view the ending as the last few moments were a Cobb created world in limbo. I guess you could support this by saying that since the film opens with Siato and Cobb talking deep in Limbo that this could be the point Cobb creates a world for both of them to live in. But doesn’t this Limbo scenario twist not end up really being that much of a twist since Cobb will eventually wake up out of it when the land in reality, and most likely be unaffected by the effects of being in Limbo because he is both strong minded, been there before, and the heist’s “kick” was almost over. So even if you view it as this, it’s all a dream twist, not only is that super lame, but isn’t entirely true since Cobb is going to wake up eventually; and most likely unaffected. The film then could play out just like we saw after the plane lands and if not that way he is still alive and capable of still working towards his kids. Also, Cobb could create any world he wanted, but could he create version of his own family if he wanted too? Why weren’t his kids in his and Mal’s Limbo world? (And the appearances by his family in the dream world was as a result of his memories bleeding in, not because of his creation)
Also, one other potential huge clue to whether it was a dream or real might be found in the credits as there were two sets of actors playing Cobb’s kids at ages 3 years and 20 months, and 5 years and 3 years. I have chosen to think this is a nod by Nolan to the truth, at least I am telling myself that, but I can’t remember seeing the kids at any age other than the image of their backs repeated multiple times through out the film. The cynic would say, “well Cobb could have just created older versions of his kids,” but Cobb himself advises not to create from memory/real places as it will alert the sub conscious that it is dreaming. So wouldn’t he creating a world with his children in it almost instantly alert him to the fact that he isn’t in the real world? Does Cobb even care anymore? Can he even tell anymore? Or is Cobb just that good of an architect?
Thoughts Lauren? (Sorry, a lot to digest)
Lauren: And you said I wrote a dissertation in the last Q&A we did?
The one thing I want to touch on first is how they handled the back to reality stuff. When the group was brought back up to the real world we go into this surreal everyone looking at everyone, things are okay shot inside the plane which reminded me way too much of the last episode of the first season (I think) of Lost where we see all the passengers on the plane. People are moving in slow motion and there is that haunting instrumental music playing over the action. I kind of had the same feeling when I was watching this scene in Inception, like I was waiting for the plane to split in two. That’s a bad omen in my book. But even with that in mind the thing that bothered me the most about this scene is that we have just transitioned over from Cobb rescuing Saito from limbo. As Cobb wakes up he pans around the plane checking with everyone, and when we get to Saito all I wanted was to hear him say something just to know he was okay. Cobb saying something would have proven nothing, it could have been a lie created in Cobb’s dream world, or it could mean that his brain just hasn’t turned to mush even though he has been through a lot. I just would have felt better hearing him say something because it would have comforted me to know he was okay.
I completely agree with you about how the top not falling would completely weaken the rest of the film to the point that it really doesn’t matter. It would just be something fun to watch with no real meaning to it. But I think Nolan is way to smart for that, and realized just what we are arguing. I remember when I was sitting there as the credits began to roll and I just kept telling myself that the top wavered. Maybe I was just seeing things, but I think it did because Nolan is too smart to build something so great and original only to completely demolish it by playing the “it was all a dream” card. There is no way that he would try something as stupid and detrimental as that. And if he did, then the film doesn’t deserve all the praise for how original it is.
In all honesty the thing that bothers me more than the fact that we don’t see the top fall is that Cobb doesn’t wait to see if it does for confirmation that this is the real world. On the one hand this shows some growth for him because he is no longer being defined by his relationship to the dream world. He can let it go and move on. However, most people come with two hands, so here’s the other. The reason he doesn’t wait to see the top fall as he does every other time he spins it is because he has no doubt in his mind that this world is real. And maybe he believes it so much that he will stop looking for the signs that it isn’t real, like when Mal locked her totem away because she didn’t want that reminder anymore. It’s kind of the same if you think about it. So in response to what you said about the kick being about to happen and that he will come out of it and be okay any second, I will say this: If he believes whole heartedly in the world that he is in right now, and if it is limbo, who is to say that he won’t crack like Mal did? Your world crashing down around you is hard to handle, and I don’t know if he would survive this one being taken away from him.
One last thing about the kick taking him out of this world (just play along): as the film went on I just felt that the real world was limbo to him, and maybe that is why he would be able to travel out and be fine. His real world was seeping into the dreams, and I think the path went both ways. So in the end it might just matter what is real to him and not what is actually reality.
Wow I completely lost myself in that… To end this rant, I will ask you a question Zac. What are your thoughts in comparing the levels of the dream world vs. the levels of Cobb’s dream that he has separated with an elevator? What about the lowest level of a dream being limbo and the basement floor of his dream/memory storage place being of Mal killing herself? After all, reality was limbo for her in a way. Thoughts?
Zac: Hmmm, I haven’t put any thought into comparing the dream world vs. Cobb’s memories and I think that is the case because I think structurally irrelevant to one another. His memory bleeds might be affecting the events but I can’t really draw any comparisons beyond that.
As for some of your other thoughts, I think Cobb walking away from the top was meant to make you think he doesn’t care if it is real or not, he is just happy to be with them. The cynic would say he doesn’t want to see it keep spinning because he knows it is a dream, but I am in the camp you kind of created with that he knows he is out and is done with the dream world for good now that he is with his kids. You can view him walking away from the top as not an “am I still in a dream or not scenario” but as he is walking away from the life he has been so wrapped up in for years and has almost destroyed him. In fact, I like this idea a lot.
As for the wobbling top, yes it did wobble, you did not imagine that. Here is the rub, earlier in the film he was spinning it and it did that wobble thing and went back to spinning, so I don’t know if that means anything; the wobble that is.
I also agree that Nolan is way to smart to undermine his creation with making it “all a dream” and negating everything, but if you view it as most of the film is real, and the limbo world had something to do with the ending scenes being fake then you have some footing to stand on I guess.
Ok, that is all I got for now, anything else you want to share?
Lauren: I can’t believe you just took my wobble away from me! That is all.