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My "Inception" Theory
I recently watched the movie Inception. I could understand most parts of it, although the beginning part was a bit confusing until later. I'll deal with that part first.
The beginning part is a flash-forward into Saito's limbo. Remember? When Saito is shot during the inception, he eventually dies in there, goes into limbo, and grows old. The scene directly after it is Cobb's audition for Saito, which takes place some time before the beginning part.
The next point of interest is the spinning top. This is originally Mallorie's totem, which Cobb sets spinning to plant the idea into her mind that she is in limbo. After she dies, I assume it becomes his.
Now for the heist characters, and the circle of dreams.
Yusef, the guy with the curly hair, is the chemist. He creates the drug which sedates all the first-class passengers on the flight (which is real life). The rainy shootout city is his dream. The first dream. The kick for that one is the van falling off the bridge.
Arthur, the guy with the slick hair and suit, is Cobb's coworker. The hotel is his dream. The second dream. The kick for that one is the elevator crash.
Eames, the guy with the mustache (but not curly hair), is the forger. He can take on multiple appearances, such as Fischer's associate, Browning. The snow place is his dream. The third dream. The kick for that one is the explosion on the mountain.
Ariadne (Did anyone catch the mythical allusion?) is the architect. She designed the dreams. She initiated none.
Cobb is the extractor. He planned the inception. He is also burdened with the guilt from having indirectly causing his wife's demise.
The young man Fischer is the target. Saito's men plant the idea in his head to break up his newly inherited corporation, which, left unchecked, could make the business a monopoly.
Mallorie is a projection which seems to appear in any of the dreams Cobb participates in. She appears due to a combination of Cobb's guilt over her death and his longing for her.
What most viewers of Inception are probably arguing about is what happens at the end. While reading the first bits of my article, you were probably thinking, “The heck with the circle of dreams, is Cobb dreaming or not?!?”
My answer? Well, it could take two paths:
Argument for the dream:
The kids are in the same clothes and do not appear to have aged.
Cobb spins the totem and the credits start without it falling.
He is left in the van after the first dream's kick.
It is simply too good to be true.
Argument for reality:
In a dream, you don't remember how you got there. The movie shows Cobb going through customs at the airport and going to his house.
Some people have said that the kids' outfits are slightly different than in the dream/memory.
Two sets of actors for the kids are listed in the credits.
The totem starts to wobble at the end.
Naturally, most viewers are rooting for reality. I know I am. But consider this: The last scene of the totem wasn't for Cobb's viewing. It was for ours, bringing up two points:
Cobb turns away from the totem. He is past the point of caring whether he is in a dream or reality. He just wants to see his kids' faces.
Maybe the writer wanted you to decide. If they wanted to come to a conclusive ending, they would have let the totem fall or would have kept it spinning flawlessly.