First, you should not read this if you have never seen Inception because I’m going to ruin it for you. And second yes, I’ve seen the movie several times but I am still not 100% sure what is going on, so please correct me if you think I’ve got something wrong or add on to what I’m saying if you think I missed something.
As always, you’re not going to make me feel stupid, because I already do.
Okay, so all I want to do is lay out my understanding of what happened in this movie, and see if I’ve got it straight. I can’t really recall my exact feelings about the movie when I posted about it the first time I saw it, but I can tell you that the more I watch it, the better it gets. I think it’s probably my favorite movie of this year.
Okay, so when the movie opens, they are in Saito’s mind. They’re in a dream which is being dreamt inside another dream, which is being dreamt on a plane. I am not sure whose dream it is, but I think it’s Cobb’s dream, built by his architect to first resemble Saito’s swank mistress pad, where they then enter Saito’s mind, to another architect-constructed dream set at a party.
Cobb’s projection of his own dead wife keeps showing up in whatever dream he’s in, because she’s trying to drag him back down to limbo. Cobb gets into Saito’s safe and switches the envelopes just before Saito comes in, so he still manages to read and retain the information before they drop him in the water at the sweet mistress pad, where he’s dreaming.
Cobb’s projection of his dead wife is angry at him because Cobb knows that she has every reason to be angry. That’s because he screwed with her head in the past, using his dream skills, and she ended up killing herself as a result. That’s how Cobb knows that inception is possible, because he did it on his own wife and then she killed herself.
When they wake up on the plane, Saito knows that Cobb was in his dream, because Saito hired Cobb himself as a test. He wanted to see if Cobb was skilled enough to steal the information from Saito’s own dream, because if he was that skilled, then Saito wanted Cobb to incept an idea into a young, billionaire’s heir.
Saito grabs Cobb’s architect, figures out how to get to Cobb, and proposes the idea. Cobb decides to do it, despite what happened last time, because Saito might be able to clear Cobb’s name.
We find out later that the reason Cobb needs his name cleared is that his wife believed reality was a dream. She got this idea because her and Cobb were trapped in limbo for about fifty years, and she lost her grip, decided to hide her own totem away so she could forget she was dreaming. The fact that everything was a dream was driving her crazy, so she chose to forget that everything was a dream.
Eventually, when it was time to wake up, she didn’t want to go. She didn’t believe that she was in a dream anymore. So Cobb used his dream skills and incepted the idea into her mind that she was living in a dream. He thought he was doing her a favor, because she really was living in a dream. Once he convinced her, they put their heads on some dream tracks, and killed themselves together in the dream world, and woke up in the room they’d been asleep in for the last few hours in the real world.
Once she was awake, she still had the same idea in her head that he’d incepted in limbo. It was the same idea, she believed it just as strongly as she had before, except it wasn’t true anymore. She understood that Cobb would have a hard time believing it, so she set him up for her murder, had herself declared sane by several doctors, wrote a letter and filed it with her attorney saying he’d threatened her, then she trashed her hotel room and got on the ledge.
She did all that because she needed Cobb to have nothing left to lose. She knew he’d never leave his children, so she took them away. Because of the idea he’d incepted into her mind, she believed that she was freeing him from a dream prison.
Cobb couldn’t convince her that she was in reality, and she jumped. I think you could probably argue either way, in terms of which one of them was right, but I think it was Cobb. Otherwise, it seems to me the movie isn’t grounded in anything.
So then Cobb has to leave the country before he gets charged with murder. His attorney gives him a ticket and he goes on the run. He begins using his dream skills to steal information from the minds of powerful people.
Anyway, that’s all in the past. Cobb needs a new architect because he can’t trust the one Saito got to anymore (that guy also screwed up the carpet in the mistress pad), and so he goes to talk to the Professor, who refers him to Ariadne. It’s then through Ariadne that we as an audience learn the rules of the dream universes and the tragedy in Cobb’s past that led to the hostile projection of Mal.
So in that sense, it’s a very standard-formula heist flick – a skilled thief wishes he could get out of the business but he can’t, unless he pulls off one last, spectacular job. But there’s nothing standard about the heist itself.
(I’ll have the rest of this up later tonight or in the morning and I’ll link to it right here)