Saturday, 27 September 2014

Everything you need to know about Inception (2010) Explained - Part 3

SPOILER ALERT: This article is mainly about the film Inception (2010). Please do not read this article if you haven’t watched the film and if you do not wish to know the specific details of the film. It contains heavy spoilers which will certainly affect your viewing of the film. If you haven’t seen Inception yet, please stop reading and watch it, because it's a great film. 

The purpose of this article is to provide detailed explanations about the terms, various interpretations for one of my top favourite films, Inception (2010) that's written, directed, produced by Christopher Nolan so that people can have a greater understanding of this unusually complex yet fascinating film.

Note: The following explanations are provided based on my personal understanding of the film and what I learned after watching it 5 times in the cinema 4 years ago. (Believe it or not, I wrote this myself 4 years ago!If there are any mistakes found in these articles, please kindly provide any feedback comments below so I can rectify it. 
Q & A for Inception - Part 1

There are total of 44 questions with answers provided for each of them. Brace yourselves.

Some Questions are written by me and some are taken from the following sites:

Note: Some answers are modified or changed completely according to my own views about the film. Answers with ‘A:’ are left unchanged from the sites.

1. The calculations of the time difference in the dream space compared with the real world:

5 min in real world = 1 hr in level 1 dream. (a factor of 12, if the people are normally sedated).
10 hrs = 1 week in level 1 dream = 6 months in level 2 dream = 10 years in level 3 dream for the people who are heavily sedated.  It is unknown how long the perception of time would be in Limbo, but according to calculations it’s 200 years. (a factor of 20)
Cobb and Mal stayed in Limbo for 50 years. Let’s assume Limbo to be level 4.
50 years, level 4 = 2.5 years in level 3 = 1.5 months in level 2 = 54 hrs in level 1 = 2 hr 42 mins in real world. (for heavy sedation)
50 years = 50 months = 125 days = 250 hrs = 20.8 hrs in real world. (for normal sedation)

2. How does the Forger work?

A: Eames is the Forger. In the real world, he can forge identities using his contacts and his ability to fake documents. In the dream world, he can alter his appearance and take on the personality of someone else he's studied, probably using much the same methods used to construct buildings.

3. Who were the dreamers for the different levels?

A: Level one, with the van, was dreamed by Yusuf (Dileep Rao). Level 2 in the hotel was dreamed by Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Level 3 with the snow fort was dreamed by Eames (Tom Hardy). The final level was Limbo and dreamed by no one, since it's a place of shared consciousness.

4. How does the Architect have control over someone else's dream?

The Architect designs the dream levels in the real world, and then teaches the level design to the Dreamer. The Dreamer then constructs the dream according to the Architect’s design.

5. When Ariadne finds Mal in the basement of Cobb’s memories, she starts to tell Mal her name but Mal cuts her off: "I know who you are." How does Mal know who Ariadne is? 

Since Mal is Cobb’s projection, if he knows her, then Mal should know her as well.

6. What’s happening in the Extraction mission at the beginning of the film?

Cobol Engineering assigned Cobb, Arthur and Nash to steal information about a secret document about Saito’s energy expansion plan from Saito’s mind. There are two levels of the dream: Dream 1: Saito’s secret hideout with his mistress, Dream 2: the palace. Cobb is the Extractor, Nash is the level 1 Dreamer and Architect while Arthur is the Point Man and level 2 Dreamer.

Cobb manages to steal the secret document but discovers that Mal has informed Saito about the Extraction. Mal threaten to torture Arthur, so Cobb shot him to wake him up. The dream collapses since the Dreamer is absent. Saito got hit by crumbling wood and Cobb got a Kick from Nash and they wake up in Saito's secret hideout. Saito reveals that he knew about the Extraction all along and changed vital information on the document but decides to go along and used it as an audition for an Inception mission. He’s impressed when he found out he’s still dreaming when he feels the floor carpet is made from the wrong material. A kid on the train (reality) informs the team with music by putting an earphone to Nash’s head as the timer reaching 0. As the timer on the dream machine reaches 0, Arthur magically disappears from the dream and return to reality. Arthur then set the machine to wake up Cobb, then Nash. The team aborts the mission, pack up everything and leave. A few minutes later (could be about 10 min), Saito wakes up.

7. What’s the original plan of the Inception mission?

Time needed in Reality: 10 hours.

In Level 1, time in the dream: 1 week.  
Idea to be planted: I will not follow my father’s footsteps.
Method: Eames disguises and impersonates Browning, Fischer’s godfather and convinces him that his father loves him and doesn’t want him to follow his footsteps. Cobb gets a random number from Fischer’s mind to set the hotel room number in level 2. Yusuf drives with everyone in the van to the bridge where they can perform the Kick.
Kick: the van hit through the barrier and off the bridge.

In Level 2, time in the dream: 6 months.
Idea to be planted: I will create something for myself.
Method: Eames reminds Fischer about the number. The team tricks Fischer by letting Fischer’s projection of Browning tells him that his father (so it seems self-generated) has an alternate will which supersedes the other and his father wants him to split his empire.
Kick: to have the floor of the hotel room with everyone (528) drop from underneath by triggering the explosives in 491 below.

In Level 3, time in the dream: 10 years.
Idea to be planted: My father doesn’t want me to be him.
Method: By now, the random number Fischer comes up will be the security code for his safe. His projection of father should appear in the vault. Eames need to come up with something to put in the safe (paper fan from the picture Fischer cherished most) to let Fischer thinks that his father doesn’t want Fischer to be him.
Kick: The Avalanche.

After all the Kicks are synchronized and Yusuf wakes up, Yusuf performs a Kick on each person in reality to wake everyone up.

8. In the film, Cobb pulled a “Mr. Charles” on Fischer due to the time constraints. What exactly is “Mr. Charles”?

"Mr. Charles" is a gambit designed to alert the Target (Fischer) to turn against his own subconscious by telling him that he’s dreaming and pointing out the strangeness of it all, gaining his trust  in order to move forward with the mission at hand as quickly as possible. Cobb impersonates as Mr. Charles, a projection of Fischer’s subconscious trained by an Extractor who comes to help him to get rid of the intruders.  This is extremely dangerous as this alerts Fischer’s trained subconscious to be well-prepared to find the intruders and kill them (Fischer’s projections in the third level down is militarized and well-armed).

9. Is Eames the Dreamer for the third level or Fischer?

Listen carefully, in the hotel room, Ellen Page asks whose subconscious we're going into, and Cobb answers, "Fischer's." The task of being the dreamer on each level requires being someone within the team so the designs for the dream space can be correctly constructed according to plan.

10. Was the city with crumbling buildings limbo or was it Cobb's dream (memories of limbo) since Ariadne and Cobb didn't die to get there?

It was Limbo. When Fischer and Saito died in Eames' dream, they both went to limbo. When you die in a dream under heavy sedation, you go to Limbo. It is often thought that it was Cobb's dream since Mal stabbed him and he could have died and went to limbo or how Cobb ended up on the beach near to Saito's palace. However, this is incorrect as Fischer wouldn't be there. One could argue that he’s just Cobb’s projection of Fischer. But projections are creations of the subconscious, which Cobb can’t control. Therefore both the city with crumbling buildings and Saito's palace must be limbo.

 11. When Cobb and Ariadne go after Fischer into limbo, do they connect the device to Fischer?

No. They do not. It is only the defibrillator that connects to Fischer and we only see them hook themselves up to the machine. The reason they end up in limbo is because they are putting themselves into sleep, going another level down, without having the architecture of the next level down created. Because it's raw and unconstructed, they can only go to limbo. Since limbo is shared by anyone in the dream, Cobb can find Saito and Fischer.

12. Let’s say the ending is real. How Cobb and Saito managed to get back to reality (in the plane)?

The inception mission is planned to be about 10 hours in reality. So, the sedative was supposed to last "about 10 hours". The flight they were on (Sydney to L.A.) takes about 13 hours 20 minutes. The plane was getting ready to land when Cobb and Saito woke up. The stewardess was passing out immigration forms and telling the passengers to get ready for descent (this happens about 20 - 30 min before the plane lands).

Presumably, the time taken to drug Fischer (after seat belt sign is off, so 30 - 45 min), time needed for the drug to fully take effect (about 1 hour 10 - 15 min), and time needed to perform preparation work before the mission (about 10 – 15 min). Cobb drugged Fischer so they could connect him to the machine. The mission starts about 2 hours 15 – 25 min (the time it takes for the team to fall asleep after connected to the machine) after the plane takes off. Due to unforeseen circumstances (Saito is injured and dying and Fischer’s subconscious is being trained by an Extractor before), the team need to complete the mission as fast as possible.

The Inception was successful. After all the Kicks are synchronized, everyone other than Saito and Cobb woke up on the first level of the dream. Yusuf returns to reality due to the fall and performs a Kick on each person in reality to wake them up and disconnect them from the machine.

  • Yusuf is seen escaping from the van in the water, but he’s not seen after that. Only Fischer, Eames, Ariadne and Arthur are shown on the surface.
  • This is why we saw Ariadne, Arthur, Eames and Fischer all awake in the plane when Cobb wakes up.
  • Since Yusuf woke up instead of being killed like Arthur in the Extraction mission, the dream doesn’t collapse and looks fine. Even if the dream will collapse due to the absence of the Dreamer, the dream could still be momentarily stable due to the fact that heavy sedative is being used. In addition, it probably takes 30 – 40s for Yusuf to wake up (due to heavy sedation), which gives 10 – 14 min in level 1 dream. 
This leaves Saito and Cobb connected with the machine. The timer on the machine is still in countdown.

The team could probably hid the machine from Fischer and wait for the timer to reach 0 to unhook them from the machine (when timer is 0, it’s either they wake up or in a coma) or it could be the drug that Cobb gave to Fischer is a strong sedative that made him fall in deep sleep for a full 10 hours and woke up a few min after the timer on the machine reaches 0 but before Cobb wakes up (the dream machine is absent when Cobb wakes up and his hand is not hooked to a wire.).

When Saito finally aware that they're in limbo, There are two possibilities of what happens next:

  1. When timer is 0 and the team unhooks them from the machine, Cobb and Saito disappear from the dream (limbo) and return to reality, as Cobb remember why he’s in limbo and Saito remember their agreement and finally aware that they’re in a dream after countless deaths and return to limbo. (There’s no scene in the film that shows they kill themselves with the gun.)
  2. They shot themselves, return to reality just in time as the timer reaches 0 and the team unhooks them from the machine. (It is unknown whether Cobb and Mal return to reality from limbo when the timer is 0 or before 0. If it happens when timer is 0, it means that a person needs to be fully aware that it’s dream and kill himself/herself to return to reality from limbo, regardless of normal or heavy sedation.)
However, Cobb and Saito didn't wake up immediately since it may take some time for the heavy sedative to wear off (a few min, could be about 20 min).

13. What happens if you die in limbo before the sedative wears off?

For normal sedatives, you just go back to reality if you aware that it’s limbo. (As shown where Cobb and Mal returned to reality).

For strong sedatives, if the timer in the dream machine didn't expire, you still back in limbo, unaware the fact that you’re still in there or the awareness that it’s a dream becomes vague.

If timer on the machine reaches 0 and you've forgotten where you really are, accepts it as reality (become older like Saito and die), you’ll never go back to reality as your mind perceives that you’re dead (coma).


  • Cobb repeats what Saito had said at the start of the film: “Someone from my half remembered dream.”
This means the two scenes in the palace are different and Saito died and back in Limbo again and again…

  • Cobb: “I've come back for you. To remind you something…Something you once knew…”
This means that Cobb’s awareness that he’s in Limbo becomes vague. However, considering the fact that he’s still looks the same age as he was in reality, he does know that it’s a dream.

14. There are 4 levels of dream. Based on Saito’s age in the palace, it could be about 50 years has passed. (50 years in Dream 4 = 2.5 years in Dream 3 = 1.5 months in Dream 2 = 2.3 days in Dream 1 = 3 hrs in reality.) Since Cobb supposed to wake up earlier and the stewardess shouldn't be passing immigration forms. Could this mean that the ending could be a dream?

No. As the timer on the machine is still in countdown, a person can’t wake up due to the heavy sedation. For strong sedatives, if the timer in the dream machine didn't expire, you still back in limbo, unaware the fact that you’re still in there or the awareness that it’s a dream becomes vague.  Saito died many times in Limbo. Cobb needs time to find Saito in Limbo, possibly died several times as well, but still retains his awareness that it’s a dream, but becomes vague and weaker. Also, it’s stated that in Limbo a person's awareness of the passage of time may not be accurate. Minutes can seem like years and years pass by in the blink of a minute.

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