Life as it happens. Time as it passes.


(A long-overdue) Movie Review: Inception

I don’t watch movies in movie houses. Believe it or not, I can patiently wait for either a free TV premiere of a film on HBO or a clear DVD release in the market.

Thus, this long-overdue review on the Oscar nominated film “Inception.”

By now, the buzz about the ending has died. That’s fine, actually, freeing me from the “spoiler syndrome” (I guess). The philosophical and analytical side of me pushed me to blog about it last night, but it seemed the king of sleep has taken hold of my eyes and my weary body. As soon as I ejected the DVD out my laptop, I was out like a log.

This morning, with just enough energy (and creative juices flowing in me) to write a review post, I am giving you my take on how the film ended. Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about, let me first backtrack a bit on two important rules about dreams in the movie:

1. A dream can look and feel so real, especially if the dream designed was based from real events;

2. In order to determine if you are in the dream world or the real world, you use a “totem”, a lightweight object that you flip, turn or tunker. If it falls, stops spinning, or simply goes out of balance, then you’re in the real world. Otherwise, you’re still in your dreams;

Having set down these two important rules, watch again how the film ended:


I’ll minimize discussing the technical evidences, but more on the analytical. Here are my reasons why:

1. Prior to waking up in the plane, Cobb and Saito were in Limbo, the deepest part of the subject’s sub-conscious, which happens to be the final level of a dream. Reaching the final level happens when you die in your dream but does not wake up yet in the real world. Normally, dying in the dream will jolt you back to reality. In Saito’s case, he died while he was heavily sedated and before the kick that could have waked him up. In Cobb’s case, he went back to his own created world in Limbo, where he was once trapped for “50 years” in the dream world. It was there that Mal stabbed her. Cobb told Ariadne that he has to stay in Limbo to look for Saito. Being hooked together in the real world, this means that Cobb and Saito now shared the same Limbo. You will notice that Saito’s mansion was also found along the seashore, the same setting for the dissipating world of Cobb. In the film, the scene transitions suddenly from Saito and Cobb having a conversation in Limbo, back to the real world. In the final frames of the Limbo scene, Saito appears to be holding the gun, about to use it. The cut transition goes back to Cobb and Saito on the plane. This means, they “died” in Limbo, and since there’s no more Limbo to go to after Limbo, the obvious result was that they came back to reality;

2. A preceding scene in the movie will serve as a pattern for escaping the Limbo. This is the scene where Cobb and Mal lay on the train tracks to “kill” themselves and go back to reality. Again, the scene for this “suicide” was in the Limbo world where Cobb and Mal had constructed their “world” for the last 50 years. The problem only arose when Cobb did the wrong “inception” on Mal that they were still in the dream world. Thus the effect on Cobb was that he retained in his sub-conscious a projection of Mal;

In Saito’s case, there was no inception of such an idea. In fact, they even remembered conversations that they have had in the past that actually brought them back to remembering that where they were was actually the Limbo of the dream world, and that the only way to escape was to die;

3. The reason why Mal “lived” in Cobb’s subconscious is because the inception was done in the shared Limbo. That means Cobb had to endure Mal’s projection in his head because, in fact, the inception he made had also affected him. While he never planted an idea on himself, the idea he planted on Mal became “viral” and “contagious” for him, as he was doing it in the shared Limbo. If Cobb was still in the dream world, none among the team members should be there, because Cobb could never project people that did not belong to his subconscious, and at the same time that were not connected to him in the dream;

4. The number 3 reason explains the presence of his children in the real world. If it were still a dream, then the children’s faces should not have projected its faces in Cobb’s dream, because Cobb’s dream were built on his own memories. Precisely why Ariadne was chosen to become the architect was because Cobb’s memories would meddle with the construction of the dream world. During the scene where Cobb was rescuing Fischer, his kids would suddenly appear, but always with their backs turned on him, because the memory he built with them had them turning their backs on him. To see his children’s face can only mean he finally got to see his children’s face for real. In the ending scene, the kids cannot be merely projections by Cobb, because Mal’s death in the shared Limbo had caused Cobb to discard all other memories that composed his own dream world. The kids were real;

5. An even harder question comes into play: if Cobb was still in the dream world, whose dream was it? It cannot be from the other team members–they had all woken up after the kick, leaving Saito and Cobb trapped inside the van sinking in the river. It cannot be Saito’s either–he was himself trapped in the shared Limbo. And if it was Cobb’s dream, it contradicts the rule of coming back to reality from Limbo. And the only possible explanation was that the dream belonged to his father, the character played by Michael Caine. But in order for Caine to construct the dream, he must be hooked up with Cobb. Caine was never in the plane to construct the more elaborate dream of the whole plane trip itself;

6. Finally, the most obvious evidence that they were back in reality was the wobbling of the totem. The totem never wobbled at anytime during their presence in the dream world. What actually caused the confusion was that the top did not actually fall and stopped spinning. But the scene where Cobb finally sees his kids face to face was real;