Sorry for the long answer ("=_=)
**Dileep Rao [Yusuf-interview]: "You know what, I'll just say this: Use your ears not your eyes."**
At ending, it WOBBLES --> REALITY.
In dreams Totem spins constantly & smooth, never wobbles.
If we listen carefully after the black out [not after the credits], there's a SOUND of the Totem WOBBLING n FALL.
Cobb doesn’t wear a WEDDING RING in reality, but he wears a wedding ring in dreams [in dreams he's still together with Mal]. He didn't wear it at the end.
He's not dreaming all along. After his mission to get Saito's secret, Cobb sitting in his hotel room alone, spinning the Top [Mal's Totem] and watching it intently, gun in hand. He's ready to blow his brains out if the top keeps spinning, in order to “wake himself up”.
THE KIDS looked a bit OLDER in the ending. In the credits there are 2 pair of kids: Phillipa (3 yo & 5 yo), James (20 months & 3 yo). They're wearing similar outfits to the ones he remembers [in his dreams], but their SHOES are different. Dreams BLACK shoes, at end PINK & WHITE. And there are painting tools & brushes on the table.
Remember, almost all the major of the flick has been taking place in dreams, the MIND WORKS FASTER IN DREAMS. Dream time is longer than actual time (even longer as they go deeper into the dream, and much longer in Limbo). 5 minutes=1 hour; 10 hours=1 week. No reference about exactly HOW LONG Cobb has been away, we can't rely to the age of the kids as an indication that he’s in the real/dream world.
Cobb & Mall learn about dream layers, they go deeper & deeper till they lost their way. In the LIMBO, they built their world based on their memories. They spent 50 years there, at first it feels like Godly, then Cobb feels something just not right. But Mal thinks that it's real. She locked away a secret, deep inside herself, something she once knew to be true... but chose to forget.
Cobb enters Mal mind to find out her secret & found her locked totem. Then he planted the idea [inception] that it is not real and they have to die to return to reality. Then Mal agree & they kill themself on train rail. Unfortunatelly the idea sticks in Mal's mind even after they're back in the real world.
Cobb: You're waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You can't be sure where it will take you. But it doesn't matter - because we'll be together.
Cobb: What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea.
Cobb: Never recreate from your memory. Always imagine new places.
Yusuf: [after surviving a van crash] Did you see that?
[turns his head around – silence, all sleeping]
^ 1 Rainy City [Yusuf's dream] - Yusuf drank a lot of champagne in the “real world” on the plane, so when he goes to sleep he has to pee (hence the rainfall). Since Yusuf is the dreamer of level 1, he has to stay, so he drives the van.
^ 2 Hotel - Room 528 [Arthur's]
^ 3 Snow Fortress in the mountain [Eames']
^ 4 Mal's World where Mal hides Fischer [Cobb's] - Ariadne drops a line early on about the fact that the extractor team can bring elements of their own subconscious into the dream levels if they’re not careful, and since Cobb has spent time in Limbo & has a raging subconscious, his dream includes his memory of the city he and Mal built for themselves.
To return to reality, they need to get back layer by layer, one must stay awake in each level [Dreamer stays]. They need an "alarm" [the music] to synchronize time of the 'kicks'.
KICK: a feeling of FALLING that snaps you out of a dream.
The kicks: Falls from apartment. Hospital room falls when the base is blown. Elevator falls from explotion urge. Van falls to river.
At 1st layer, they just have to wait till the sedatives runs out: before the plane landed [it’s a 10 hours flight].
How they can stay in 1st layer without being attacked, I am assuming it's because Fischer thought he's actually back in reality & he's not feeling threatened, also he got relieved after getting the secret of his father's feeling towards him, maybe this has "switched off" the defense system in his mind.
When people shares dream, if they’re lost they'll go to the same Limbo. At 1st level Cobb died drowning [also stabbed at 4th level - not sure which one actually causing his death], so he also went to Limbo but that doesn't matter since he wanted to go deeper to rescue Saito anyway. That's why he didn't instantly tell the facts when he met Saito, he needed time to regain his conciousness about what's real & not real. Because in a Limbo people usually NOT AWARE that they're dreaming, it FEELS REAL. They need to be reminded first that they’re dreaming.
LIMBO: unconstructed dream space – a place of raw (and random) subconscious impulse.
Limbo is not tied with levels, people might get lost into it from any levels. No standard about what level [or how deep] a Limbo is. Either died on 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level, goes to the same Limbo. No need to go through levels from Limbo, when Cobb & Mal escaped the Limbo, they only suicide once. No kicks needed!
How Cobb & Saito were able to come back? Simple, with the pistol.
They shot themselves in time when the sedative runs out, coz when Cobb & Saito wakes up the other team are already awake [Fischer sits firmly, Eames wiping face with hot towel, Arthur & Ariadne [secretly] looking at him as if they’re wondering if Cobb would ever wake up.
One way to know you're in a dream is that you couldn't remember how you get there. When Cobb wakes up in the plane, he's back to where he was, he's not waking up in some unknown place with no explanation of how he got there.
Die in normal dreams -> awake from dream
Die in sedated-dreams [cannot gain conscious under strong sedatives] -> stuck in a Limbo
Die in Limbo -> awake from dream
Saito: You remind me of someone... a man I met in a half-remembered dream. He was possessed of some radical notions.
Cobb: I came here to tell you... something.
Cobb: Something that... you once knew to be true.
Saito: [remembering] Impossible...
Saito: Dare you take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone.
Was Saito truly powerful enough to make one phone call and end Cobb’s problems or was that just Cobb in limbo projecting his subconscious wish to go home? Saito is a powerful and wealthy man. Rich powerful people bend laws all the time.
Cobb: For this to work, we'd have to buy off the pilots...
Arthur: And we'd have to buy off the flight attendants...
Saito: I bought the airline.
[Everybody turns and stares at him. Saito just shrugs]
Saito: It seemed neater.
Is there something up with that IMMIGRATION AGENT or is he just an immigration agent? The immigration guy is just a guy. If he’s staring at Cobb, it’s because his job is to look people over and scrutinize them. Would you want immigration letting people through without face-to-face scrutiny?
They people in the AIRPORT are NOT Projections. The "people" who are looking at him are his team mates, security & imigration person, & Fischer.
Members of the team acknowledge one another, but they don't talk to each other coz it'd look suspicious for Fischer if everyone in the first class cabin just happened to know each other.
Projections would only "attack" a Dreamer when a Dreamer tries to INVADE a "Mark's mind". It's a defense system trying to locate who is trying to invade/intervere in the Mark's mind. If Cobb is the Dreamer, he wouln't have his own Projections looking/attacking himself.
Dreams feel real to us when we’re dreaming & part of the reason for that is our mind’s ability to construct a faux real-world setting for us to interact with in dreams. Often, that dream is something like a city or any populated area which has other people walking around it. in Inception, those people that the unknowing mark populates the dream world with are known as “projections.”
Projections are not part of the mark’s mind – they're manifestations of the mark’s vision of reality. If a mark has been trained to defend themselves against extractors, they have a part of their subconscious which is always on guard against mind-crime in the form of militarized security which attack mind invaders.
1. Cobb & Ariadne in Ariadne's dream. Ariadne changes the surroundings, creating paradox. Projections started to "attack" her cos Cobb's subconcious mind [as the Mark/Subject] felt that someone is messing with his mind.
2. Arthur's dream - hotel. When Cobb approach to Fisher and tells him that they’re in a dream, Fischer started to become aware, the Projections started to look around, looking for the Dreamer who invaded his mind. Arthur & Ariadne were sitting in other part of the hotel when the people around them started to look at them [Arthur].
Cobb: There's one thing you should know about me. I specialize in a very specific type of security, subconscious security.
Fischer: You're talking about Dreams?
Arthur: Quick, give me a kiss!
[She kisses him and then looks around]
Ariadne: They're still looking at us.
Arthur: Yeah, it's worth a shot.
Cobb's Dad is in the States. This explained when Cobb called his kids, said he'll send gifts through the grandfather. Cobb visits his Dad in the school, drops off presents & asks him to give them to the kids when he goes back, means his Dad flies to the States once in a while. No exact reason why the grandmother not showing up as soon as Cobb arrived, probably coz she was so bitter & once believed that Cobb would never return.
***** ***** ***** ****
Basic thought + TOTEM:
Nolan made the ending seemed "unsolved" coz he wanted to confuse the audience, rather than giving a clear ending, he's giving a "challenge" to think and try figuring out the answer on their own.
Cool movie! \(^o^)/
Watched the movie twice, looking for details here and there. Phew... :P