(This post is continued from yesterday’s post, right here and please know that there are spoilers galore ahead)
So when they go after Fischer to incept the idea in his head that he should break up his father’s empire as Saito wants, they all get on the same plane he’s on, and Cobb slips him a mickey, and then Fischer goes to sleep and they they all enter level one of the dream that Ariadne the Architect has put together.
But it turns out Fischer has been trained to resist dream crimes, so his projections are militarized, meaning they attack faster and they are more efficient. And by the time they realize that, they also realize what Cobb already knew – that in order to do three levels, a dream within a dream within a dream, they had to use such a powerful sedative that dying won’t wake them up anymore.
Dying instead will land them in limbo. This is when we first find out what limbo is and that Cobb has been there. We realize that if they get killed now, they’ll live many decades trapped in a dream, all while still riding an airplane for maybe eight hours.
So they all get loaded up in the van, and Eames is the driver, and it’s very hastily explained that he’s going to drive the van off a bridge into the river, in order to provide a “drop.” The sensation of falling, it turns out, translates into the dream world in the same way music does. So the best way to bring them out of a dream is to drop them – at the beginning of the movie it was into a bathtub.
The sedatives are specific – they don’t affect the sensations in the inner ear, so falling will still wake them up like normal.
They flee the militarized projections and hole up in a warehouse for a while, and then convince Fischer that he’s been kidnapped and that they want information about his father’s safe. One of the dreamer’s uses a dream trick of some sort to impersonate Fischer’s uncle, and directly suggest to him that in his father’s safe is a will which Fischer could execute, which would break up his father’s empire.
This is part of their inception plan – on the first level they tell him directly, then they get him into the second level where his subconscious should alrealdy start playing with the idea.
So they all go into another dream, this one in a hotel, in which Cobb goes and confronts Fischer, and tells him that his dreams are under attack by dream thieves. The same guy posing as the uncle convinces him that he was in on the kidnapping, and then Cobb convinces Fischer that they have to go into his uncle’s mind to find out what he knows.
So the third level is full of craziness. Fischer believes he’s going into his uncle’s dream but it’s really an impersonater, and what they want him to do is believe that he’s found in the safe what he’s always wanted to find – the love and approval of his father. And attached to that idea is that his father wanted him to be his own man, and break up the company rather than following directly in his father’s footsteps.
Meanwhile, the van goes off the bridge but they aren’t able to finish what they need to do on the third level, so they have to wait until it hits the water. That’s a few minutes on level two, and about twenty minutes on level three.
On level two, a new problem develops because the van is in freefall, so the gravity in that dream is gone. Everybody is floating around as their inner ears detect that they are falling, but they aren’t in those dream bodies to feel it, they’re in the third level dream bodies. So Arthur has to figure out a way to drop them in their hotel rooms, when everything is floating around without gravity.
His solution is cool and brilliant and he has to fight two guys in zero gravity while he’s at it. All the while, the dreamers are on level three shooting people right and left, waiting for Fischer to get to the safe and realize what he needs to realize.
When Fischer gets shot, they follow him down to limbo, and frankly, I’m not sure why they are able to leave limbo by killing themselves, which is what they keep doing. I’m sure they explained it to me, but I thought limbo meant that wouldn’t work.
Anyway, so they bring back Fischer, he does what he needs to do, while Cobb lets go of his guilt, manifested by the hostile projection of Mal. Then Arthur drops them using explosives and an elevator and a bunch of phone cords, and then the van hits the water, and everyone except Cobb wakes up.
Then later, they all appear to wake up on the plane, but that’s the real question. Is that Cobb waking up, or is that Cobb in limbo, living out a reality in which he gets to see his kids again and be normal again. The spinning totem at the end leaves it up to us to decide if it was about to stop spinning, or if this is all still a dream.
I think those are the basic facts. I am shocked by the holes I still have left in what I understand about this movie, so I’ll be watching it again soon and trying again. Any patchwork would be greatly appreciated.