A. You’d rather catch a cab and get to the nearest theatre to watch it!

B. The article below contains several spoilers.

My Favorite 'Inception' Poster

C. If you haven’t seen it, it won’t make much sense anyway.

I’ve written over and over on this blog that I’m a great admirer of Christopher Nolan’s latest film ‘Inception’. I wrote that it’s “one of the best sci-fi films I have ever seen. It’s a technical masterpiece, with its brilliant special effects and visuals, and a masterwork of editing and concept. The film is an extraordinary one, and that’s an adjective I use very selectively.”

Those statements of mine are subject to opinion… you may have liked it, you may have hated it. However, you cannot deny the fact that it is one of the most talked about films in recent memory.

People keep explaining their theories, debating them out, and watching and re-watching that film over and over again. “The top keeps spinning,”. “No, it stops. You can hear a toppling sound.” “The part in Mombasa has to be a dream!”. “No, it’s impossible. Someone is ‘incepting’ Cobb himself!”. “Who’s dream are they in during that scene?”. “Isn’t that kick thing wrong at the climax?”… It’s a film so mesmerizing and so high-concept, it’ll be debated over and restudied for years to come.

Who'd have know a tiny little top would create such a ruckus?

Did Cobb’s totem, the top, really fall over? Yes, some say. It is said you can hear the sound of the top topple as the screen cuts to black at the end. I’ve caught the film thrice on the big screen, but I’m quite sure I heard no such sound. Some others say that the top does keep spinning. Sure, it wobbles a bit, but it keeps spinning, they say.

And then they question; “How come the children are wearing the same clothes? How come they haven’t aged? It’s obviously a dream!” (To these claims, I say, “The girl is wearing slightly different clothes, and there are two pairs of children listed in the cast of the film, implying the children are supposed to have appeared older in the last shots).

An English teacher of mine, another huge fan of the film, told me she heard there was an after-credits scene in which the top confusion would probably be resolved. I waited for seven minutes after the screen cut to black… nothing; no after-credits scene.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, 'the most skilled extractor'

Since the film takes place in the world of dreams and involves characters going layers and layers in and out of labyrinthine dreams, you can never be too sure about any theories. There’s limitless possibilities. The whole thing might be a dream, just the scenes after Cobb’s sedation test with Yusuf might be dreams, Cobb might still be in limbo, the whole thing might be reality. You never know, do you? That’s the special thing about Nolan’s films… while other blockbusters tend to over-explain their ideas, Nolan literally ‘incepts’ the audience. And, like they say in the film, an idea can grow, and it can grow differently in different individuals

I’d like to believe Cobb’s awake and very well in the real world. But then again, that’s what I’d like to believe. I’m not too sure. And contrary to my initial beliefs, repeat viewings only opened up new ideas; they didn’t resolve my confusions. Perhaps that’s what Nolan had in mind when he littered the film with a plethora of plot possibilities.

Apart from trying to figure out the ‘absolute’ meaning of the film (it’s likely there isn’t one), the online community is scrutinizing and dissecting the film and publishing lists of ‘Inception Goofs and Plot Holes’. Having read quite a few pages claiming to find mistakes in the film, I find that most of these pages are mistakes themselves. Some of the so-called mistakes are ridiculously identified. Some find that Saito being so old in Limbo, while Cobb is so young, is a goof. Some claim that Fischer not recognizing Saito is a goof. These are NOT goofs, and I don’t think I’m going to take the trouble to explain why.

On Facebook, I came across an application: ‘The Ten Stupid Mistakes of Inception.’ I was expecting something a bit juicier than, “In the scene where Yusuf is introduced, a gray cat is seen investigating a large jar behind him. In subsequent shots the cat both disappears and reappears.” All ten of those goofs were petty continuity errors and the like. All movies have continuity errors, so that was a very redundant list.

Okay, I’ve ranted enough. Let’s get to what I’m writing this article for. I’m surprised that after going through hundreds of thousands of words on ‘Inception’, I didn’t find much about the key plot holes I found in the film.

While I realized most of the plot holes I had identified weren’t real plot holes over the second and third viewings of the film, these plot holes have remained through repeat viewings:

In the movie, time in the dream world is faster than time in the real world because the mind works and processes information faster in the dream state. Fair enough. But if you go four layers deep, how fast must your mind be working?! Your mind works twenty times faster when you’re dreaming because it works at its full capacity when asleep. But if you dream in the dream, how can your mind work any faster? I find it illogical that a mind works faster and faster, and that too at a fixed constant ratio, as you go further and further into dream levels. Your brain’s capacity is not limitless. Can the brain work at a higher capacity than its full capacity?
That’s a small goof, compared to what follows.

This is the goof-up that shocked me the most, simply because I did not find it discussed anywhere online, and I think it’s pretty major. Of course, I could be terribly wrong about this. If I am, please comment, and I will happily stand corrected. Or at least I’ll appear so.

The SLEEPING Body is 'kicked' to wake up the dreamer

The Biggest Plot Hole:

In the beginning of the film (Cobb and Arthur’s first operation: to steal those ideas from Saito), we are informed that if the sleeping body gets the kick (either pushed into water or made to sense to fall), the person wakes up. Later on, while testing the sedative on Arthur, they show us that pushing Arthur’s chair (the one on which he’s asleep) causes him to fall and hence wakes him up from the dream.

But the climax of the film just changes everything.

In the fourth level, Limbo, Ariadne jumps off the building… she gets kicked by the fall, only to wake up in the third level, the snowy mountain fortress. Then the fortress floor breaks down, kicking her into the hotel level, where she’s in the lift. The lift crashes upwards, creating the sensation of falling in the lift, hence kicking them into the previous level, the rainy downtown area, where the van finally falls into the water.

That’s the goof right there. All this while, we’ve been told that the sleeping body is kicked, or made to fall, to wake the dreamer up. But in that sequence at the climax, the PERSON IN THE DREAM is made to fall to wake up, not the sleeping body! Illustrative example: In the beginning of the movie, Cobb is in a dream. The sleeping Cobb gets pushed into a tub of water to get the kick and wake up. Here, the SLEEPING BODY gets the kick. Whereas, in the climax, Ariadne, who is in the dream (limbo),  jumps off the building. The SLEEPING Ariadne isn’t getting the kick here, but rather her dreaming self. Get it?

According to me, that sequence at the climax should’ve worked out this way:
Ariadne is in Limbo. The floor of the fortress breaks, waking her up from Limbo. Then the hotel lift crashes, waking her up from the fortress. And then, the van crashes into the water, waking her up from the hotel level.
I hope I was clear, as this stuff isn’t too easy to get across clearly.

But even goof-up like that doesn’t stop me from thinking this film was just brilliant. Even if you have problems with the fact that the main characters have no morals (c’mon, they’re tampering with people’s minds here), or that they have no motives (Why exactly are Arthur, Eames and Ariadne doing this?), or that the plot is too labyrinthine in nature, you’ve gotta admire the scope of the plot, the visuals and the concept. I sure did. Regardless of whether the top keeps spinning.


To read my article ‘On ‘INCEPTION’, and IMDB’s Top 250 List Being Total Crap’, click here.

To read my article on other great films about dreams, click here.

To view a trailer I made for the film, modeled after the films of the 50’s, click here.

– Cinematic Jackass, signing off! 😀


83 responses to “On INCEPTION’s BIGGEST Plot Hole

  • Prakash Murugesan

    Wow, Gotta hand it to you Krishna .
    You have every right to feel like a genius at the moment .
    That never struck me …or the other million or so who have watched the movie .
    Although a rephrasing of the explanatory paragraph could make it a bit more easier to comprehend , a full 4 thumbs up 🙂
    P.S. suggestion : Get a hold of Mr.Nolan, somehow and tell him this please ?

  • cinematicjackass

    Haha, thanks!

    I rephrased the paragraph since it DID sound confusing 🙂

    I’m sure there will be people who will defend the film and say some ridiculous stuff like ‘they were so deep in the kicks got reversed’ and ‘limbo’s kick rules are different’ and stuff like that.

    Oh, by the way, this isn’t all my thinking here. I read something along these lines online. It wasn’t this, but something that was halfway there… I filled in the blanks when I saw the film the third time and realized something was very wrong.

  • Prakash Murugesan

    okaaay still you should get atleast 50 % credit ?
    so 2 thumbs up then 🙂

  • Kara M.

    I’m just saying; during the whole sequence of kicks in the different dream levels, the van was falling off of the bridge at the same time. They were synchronizing the kick so it would go through all of the dream levels. Since time is multiplied as you go deeper into the dream, the van appears to be falling off of the bridge really slowly, and in each of the dream levels, the kick is felt…
    Oh. I typed this whole comment and then realized that the van part was a dream too. You’re right. There was no kick on the plane…
    That movie was amazing yet very confusing. 😉

  • Suraj Sunny Sumanth

    Hello! Perhaps I could help clarify a few of the questions.

    First of, the level in which Adrianne jumps of the building (4th Level) IS NOT Limbo.
    It is infact, Cobb’s Dream. On my second viewing i observed that once Cobb and Adrianne decide to “rescue Fischer” by going in deeper and kicking him out. He, tells Adrianne that he is now in Limbo and its upto them to get him back before its too late…however, they hook up to another Dream Device (Briefcase). We are told that one can enter limbo only IF a person dies in a dream, AND is in a heavily Sedated state.
    Fischer is in fact not in limbo at all, as he never really dies, he was just mildy unconscious or something..hence he is woken up with the defibrillator in the 3rd level itself..where he follows up to enter the vault .
    Cobb and Adrianne do not enter Limbo but it is in fact Cobb’s dream, which because of his history, resembles Limbo.
    The Motive for Cobb in this level is to straighten things out with himself and Mal. However since Adrianne insisted to tag along…Cobb came up with a plan for her to believe she WAS in limbo, and made a projection of Fischer there all tied up. (He tells her to go out and check if he is there in the balcony.) And then then tell her to take him and go back up while he goes and finds Saito (who is in actual Limbo).
    He then follows up to settle things with his projection of Mal (and therefore himself) and dies in the 4th level, (buildings collapse) and enter Limbo, where he now washes onto some shore and finds Saito a really old man (merely because he entered Limbo earlier, which became decades for him). They then get out of limbo by shooting themselves. Now people ask how stupid it is to just die in limbo and wake up would resemble any other normal dream. Well the fact is to get out of Limbo one must not only die, but die with the realization that where they are is not real. (like what Cobb incepted in Mal to get her out). He and Cobb then wake up not by the kicks, but mainly due to the timer on the dream-device running out (which stops them from sleeping).

    The second Goof was about the Kicks themselves, well ..Once a person is in a dream, the mind might now that its is real, hence it will still replicate the effect of waking up due to a jerk / sense of falling when they close their eyes and lie back ( or in whatever position , according to the state of gravity in the level) . Think about that.

  • Suraj Sunny Sumanth

    Oh and also when one is in a dream within a dream , the mind works even faster because the brain is proccessing the information of you being in one dream, as well as the dreams that follow through . Once you are in a 2nd dream level for example, the mind gets a brand new set of allocation of brainpower ( the person cant feel his brain racing) . Hence in the level above that ( where he has to be sleeping, obviously ) his brain is processing his presence in the 1st level, as well the “fact” of him dreaming in that level.

    The easiest way i can explain is this is to give an example of virtualizing an Operating System within an operating system. Like running Windows XP in a virtualization program within Windows 7. The Computer uses more processing power to enable both operating system to maintain both operating systems balanced on the same workspace.

  • Birgit

    I agree with the faster-thinking-thing when you’re dreaming.
    But I somehow disagree with your idea of having a plot-hole when talking about the falling dreamer-thing: Beforehand we have been told that when dying in the dream, you’ll wake up, right?
    Ariadne jumps down the building –> she dies in Limbo and wake up in the snow. This building explods –> she dies and wakes up in the elevator falling down –> she dies and wakes up in the van.

  • cinematicjackass

    @ Suraj : Thanks for all your comments 🙂
    But quite honestly, I find your theories a bit too far-fetched. They are possibilities but not likelihoods at all. And I think Fischer does die in the snow fortress; and when Cobb and Ariadne do go into limbo. How could it be another level? Don’t they have to design and prepare to go into another level? Like they keep showing through out the movie?
    ‘Wikipedia.org’ has put it this way, “Fischer is killed by Mal and goes into limbo, so Ariadne and Cobb follow him down and confront her. There Mal attempts to convince Cobb to stay in limbo by making him question reality, referring to events that occurred while he was awake. Cobb reveals that he planted the idea in Mal’s mind to wake, making him indirectly responsible for her suicide. She attacks him, but Ariadne shoots her. Cobb remains in limbo to locate a now dead Saito.”

    Oh, and you said, “He and Cobb then wake up not by the kicks, but mainly due to the timer on the dream-device running out (which stops them from sleeping).” Since they’re so many levels deep and time’s going so slow, shouldn’t Cobb be MUCH older in Limbo before the time runs out?

    Wow, ‘Inception’ arguments are unending, aren’t they? 🙂

  • cinematicjackass

    @ Birgit: I think they’re getting kicked, not killed. If Ariadne died in limbo, she would wake up in the flight. Remember? When Cobb and Mal get killed in limbo (by the train), they directly wake up into real time. When Saito and Cobb get shot at the end, they wake up in real time. Not in the previous level.

    *Besides, even if they ARE getting killed, like you said… Ariadne jumps off the building –> she dies in Limbo and wakes up in the snow place –> she dies there and… How does she wake up in the elevator? Didn’t dying in the snow place lead back to Limbo previously?*

  • Arun

    It’s disgracing to see people advertising continuity errors as ‘big’ mistakes. No movie can be completely perfect, right? But I have my own theory about the ‘kick’ situation. Assume that you’re dreaming about walking down a staircase. Suddenly, you fall down. All of a sudden you’re up, all sweaty and tired. So you see what happened? You are very much awake in your dream state but you still wake up in real time. The very prospect of falling could wake you up. And that’s not caused by a person falling down in real time. So the kick can be experienced either way. If you can control your dream state on your own, you can produce your own kick.

  • cinematicjackass

    How come through out the movie, they never mention the kick can be experienced both ways? Remember in the beginning when Cobb’s trying to steal from Arthur? He’s hanging on that rope… and Mal gets off the chair. He falls for quite sometime before the rope goes taut. How come that doesn’t count as a kick?

  • Arun

    I’m guessin’ that since he has the capability of manipulating his own dreams, he could easily disregard that fall being a kick. He did get a grip over the situation! The kick being two sided is not mentioned anywhere but I was just searching for a possible explaination to that paradox.

  • Suraj Sunny Sumanth

    @Krishna – “Since they’re so many levels deep and time’s going so slow, shouldn’t Cobb be MUCH older in Limbo before the time runs out?”
    — No, because he is in Limbo for a short period of time. However Saito gets into Limbo in the 4th level (snow fort) quite early…and by the time Cobb gets there, around probably 15 minutes later in real time, 30-40 years must have passed in Saito’s Limbo . Then Saito’s gaurds (projections) find Cobb and take him to him…where Saito then remembers that where is he is, isnt real. and They wake up (They dont really show them shooting themselves)

    But again, these are all perspectives and nothing is canon. I love how Nolan has implemented these so called “flaws” deliberately to keep us wondering. Haha The movie itself incepts a thought into our mind…which sticks, like a splinter in our minds…

  • Ankur Vincent Peter

    I sort of agree with Suraj here. I mean they do go into limbo in the end ’cause that’s where Saito is, but it’s not necessary that the 4th level is limbo. They never show them designing that level because Ariadne didn’t design it, Cobb did, according to his and Mal’s work in limbo. Then his subconscious automatically put Mal where he was sure she would be. Fischer could also be a projection, but he didn’t “create” it, it just subconsciously apeared (i guess?). And after that he ended up in limbo because Mal stabbed him in the chest with a knife. Ariadne and Projection Fischer jumped off the ledge (Ariadne thinking this is limbo and she has to die), but the kick was synchronised so the fortress falling in the snow level woke her up in time. And Cobb having been stabbed, ended up in limbo where he met Saito, and they both DO shoot themselves because their the only ones who don’t go up the consecutive levels and straight back to reality.

    Now what contradicts this is that Fischer getting shocked is traslated into the 4th level as Lightning. MAN, it’s a confusing movie.

    Also, the stuff about you have to die in limbo with the realisation of it being not real to wake up is pretty feasible.

  • cinematicjackass

    Rather than feasible, it’s pretty far-fetched. I’m sure Nolan would’ve at least hinted at all of this somewhere if it were true.
    And it’s not so much that the film is confusing… I think we’re further confusing ourselves this way, trying to over-analyze the film, myself and this blog post included.

  • Ddh

    Whoa, all this is a bit too speculative for me. I’m not even going to start on the comments. Altough, logically, I’m supposing there’s something you missed out on. I dont think the mind that thought up such a concept could have not noticed such a gaping hole. But, this is just my opinion, dont hate me.

  • TLM

    If memory serves me correct, the scene in which Cobb’s chair is toppled into the bathtub is actually still a dream. Saito states this when he is thrown to the rug, and realizes it is not the wool rug he had in his apartment, but actually a polyster blend instead. At the end of that scene, they wake up on the train, with no kick to their “real” dreaming bodies.

  • Kara M.


    Maybe he did it that way on purpose… ’cause you still kinda feel the sensation of falling in dreams; I know I do at least. I’ve fallen off of a few things in my dreams… T.T

  • LJ

    Wow. Im too late to reply O_O I was going to say exactly what Suraj already mentioned about the mind working faster. Since once you are in a dream, you have the ‘dream mind’ which works normally as if it were reality and when that mind goes to dream again, it works up to a 100% adding to the previous 100% factor of the actual real mind.

    But anyhow. Amazing post dude. I like how you attacked each ‘plot hole’.

  • eko 2

    good. but i thought you also wake up when you die, and in limbo, one would need such a double kick to ascend to the next level of world. So, I don’t see how this is a hole really.
    But agreed -best sci fi ever. one of the best films ever, once you get the full meaning.

  • Arden

    There are two ways to kick: kill yourself or experience some trauma to the dreaming body. In the first scene, where Saito’s the target, Cobb shoots his partner to make him wake up. Then, Cobb is dumped into the bathtub to shock his system and wake him up.

    At the end of the movie, they dive into Cobb’s dream (with the nearly-dead Fischer?), which looks like limbo but isn’t. It’s the world Cobb and Mal built, crumbling now since his memory isn’t 100%. You can only get to limbo by dying in level 1. Remember the discussion they had? Normally, suicide wakes you up, but since the sedative keeps you asleep, you enter limbo. There’s no sedative at the lower levels, so there’s no problem going up a level. Saito’s wounds kill him in level 1 to put him in limbo, and Cobb chooses not to ride the kicks (death by exploding base, death by crashing elevator) back up to level 1, so his level 1 body drowns and he’s dropped into limbo. That’s why he wakes up soaking wet in limbo’s ocean.

    The hole that bothered me was how the movie glossed over the time they had left at level 1 before the sedation stopped. Remember, they moved the schedule up and dove to level 2 much earlier than they’d planned. They should’ve had at least several hours of dodging the militarized projections at level 1 before they woke up.

  • Kartick

    I came across this website just today with my friend giving me the link…good stuff…

    Now, before you go on reading, you must know that I really am not a patient reader, but I must tell you I have read the entire post but not all the comments. So, if I am rephrasing or paraphrasing someone please excuse me.

    I have my own theory about the movie actually…the entire movie happens in the real world and it is all pretty chronological except for the first scene which reappears towards the end of the movie. My theory on the conclusion has always been that Nolan has tried to scew with people’s mind. That had to be his selling point. Leave the last scene of the movie and everything suddenly appears normal.

    Now for the first plot hole, I thought that time slowed down as you went deeper. Coz, the van takes ~10 seconds to hit the water, the first level around 20 mins and so on…coz the entire movie cannot go on otherwise..

    For the second plot hole, I think that is the way it works…u wake up the level before the kick sets in…when they try to steal from saito in the first sequence Leo actually falls and wakes from his dream on the second level in the first level…

    As always these are my ideas, would like to know what you think about them..

    I am really impressed with the fact that u write for Ebert…He is the greatest critic alive and I will be sad the day he calls it a day..

  • kukavaan

    Finally someone saw the same hole that i did… i’ve been trying to look for explanation for the whole “where the kick’s supposed to happen” thing and nobody seems to get that it just doesn’t make any sense.even the fact that they clearly had planned to blow up the hospital even before they realized that they had to go deeper tells us that the whole concept of a kick changes during the movie. If it was consistent they would have just waited in the hospital for the kick within the hotel and wake up. I find this so annoying since the movie was so good otherwise and managed to keep it rather logical except for this issue…

  • cinematicjackass

    I completely agree with you, Kukavaan. I have scanned the internet for a reasonable debate on the matter, but I just couldn’t find one.

    I still feel this is major flaw, but, hey, what the heck, I’ve decided to let it be. Why spoil everyone’s fun? 🙂

  • inceptioner

    Hi people,

    Great movie, good article/comments. However, I don’t completely buy what you’re saying.

    Kicks can be performed outside the dream, as well as inside the dream.
    – Outside the dream example is dunking someone in water (e.g. Cobb), and free falling (e.g. pushing Arthur off the chair)
    – Inside the dream example is getting killed (under no sedation), and also free falling.

    Although I’ve never personally experienced it, if you experience free fall within a dream, you wake up from that dream.
    The movie never explicitly makes this point, but I think it’s pretty obvious.
    Also, when Arthur tests the musical context to wake up from the dream, he just wakes up once the music finishes implying he must have fallen within the dream to have woken up.

    Now with the above in mind, here come the plot holes:


    The original plan was for everyone to be ready by the time the van hit the bridge, and when the van falls, they all (including Yusuf) awake from the first dream. However, the rest weren’t ready, but this doesn’t change Yusuf’s situation. He should still have woken up and the dream should have collapsed. Instead we see him at the end swimming out of the van.


    Similarly, Arthur should have woken up to Yusuf’s dream, as his sleeping body experienced free fall. Once awake in Yusuf’s dream, he would still have been falling in the van, and thus also awake from this dream. Arthur’s dream should have collapsed. The rest should all have died and be in limbo.

    I believe these are things that Nolan and crew missed altogether.


    Now to Suraj Sunny Sumanth’s point about the 4th level being Cobb’s dream and not limbo.
    I don’t agree with this either. When Fischer is shot in Snow world, Cobb loses all hope and says his mind is already “trapped there”, meaning he’s already dead. Cobb’s main motivation is to get to his kids, not settle his issues with Mal. He has no reason to dream up a 4th level and pretend it’s limbo – it’s too far-fetched.

    Also, I don’t believe dying is the only way to get to limbo. Cobb mentioned earlier that when he and Mal went there before, they were exploring the concept of dreams within dreams. There is no mention that they died to get to limbo – I believe they just kept dreaming within dreams to get there. So it’s entirely plausible that on Snow world, they used the dream machine to reach the next level – limbo – where they find Fischer.

    Having said all that, I still don’t get why Saito is old at the end.


    When Cobb is in limbo talking to Mal, Saito finally dies and enters limbo as well.
    From then on, time should travel at the same pace for both Cobb and Saito since they are on the same level – limbo.
    When Cobb dies in limbo (I’m assuming since Mal stabs him), and reappears in limbo, he’s the same age (he’s NOT old, just a bit ruffed up).
    Why then is Saito so old?

    Possible reasons:
    – it’s a major plot hole
    – the time between Cobb’s death in limbo to when he wakes up on the beach is decades (however, I’ve discounted this because the same did not happen when Fischer died)
    – time goes quicker for Saito in limbo than it does for Cobb in limbo (doubtful, nowhere does it mention different timeframes for different people on the same level, but who knows? maybe limbo is different)
    – when Saito dies, he enters limbo as an old man already (filled with regret, waiting to die alone :P). (this just doesn’t sound right)
    – when Cobb enters limbo, old Saito is just a projection of Cobb’s subconscious (which doesn’t really make sense. why would Cobb dream Saito to be old?). His own subconscious convinces to shoot himself believing he will awake to reality, but instead enters into another dream state still in limbo as he’s still sedated. The ending is still a dream.

    The last point is just a theory, and I’m not convinced of it myself. Would like to know your thoughts.


  • Pensamentos sobre Inception // A Origem « isso não é nada

    […] não vi novamente, mas alguém tuitou uma crítica interessante no CinematicJackass que eu achei legal guardar aqui para ler depois de ver de novo. E assim nasce meu primeiro post de […]

  • indigo

    I’m a little late for the game, but this quandary about “kicks” also struck me as having a rather odd plot-logistics side effect if you will. The discrepancy between having the dreamer versus the sleeper awaken from falling could be seen as an error. But for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s true either way. The question that comes to mind: why was it necessary to have the kicks synchronous with each other? It seems that a major source of tension arose from having to wake up in a timely fashion. Now, granted they had to worry about prying projections, but this was the plan beforehand. And since we can devise our own kick simply from falling, it further removes the urgency in the synchronicity of the event. All you’d have to do is jump off a high place at the next station. So, the extravagant scheme of blowing up the complex in the snowy alps to the carefully timed elevator explosion to the van drop becomes exactly that, extravagant. For what it’s worth, it’s dreamlike. Whatever the interpretation, the movie is filmed like a dream, almost as a reflection of its own source material. But in all fairness, when speaking about flaws and plot-holes, perhaps it’s better to stick with objective points rather than subjective ones. One point to consider is Saito’s goal to have Fischer dissolve his company by way of inception. Just because we have an idea does not necessarily mean it will manifest itself. So how could Saito know whether or not the operation was a success until sometime later, if and when Fischer actually puts that idea into action? It’s hard to discuss points of logic in a movie when the story is about dreams, after all.

  • Conrad VanLandingham

    I think that the falling in the climax causing the kick is based on the notion that in a dream when you die or fall you generally wake up…so therefor there are other actions that can occur, besides the physical body of a dreamer falling, that can cause a kick.

    The only “plot hole” persay that really bothers me, and it’s more of a continuity thing, but one that I don’t understand, is that when DiCaprio and his wife (I can’t remember names right now, apoligies) are stuck in limbo and “grow old” together, the supposedly escape limbo by getting ran over by a train. However, whenever they show the footage of them being ran over by the train they are not old – they are young.

  • Funny colors

    Agreed with the age continuity thing, that always bothers me. Now, I don’t now abot all that stuff with the kick being with the sleeping body or not… But, in the first level win the rainy city, why didn’t the van hitting the water wake them up back on the flight? All the other levels had kicks ON THAT LEVEL that woke them up into the one above. Yet a short while after the van hits the water-the kick- Fischer and Eames are shown talking, *still on that level*. ??? shouldn’t they be back on the plane?

  • Bryan Way

    How can you just wash over TLM’s comment? More importantly, how can you watch that movie three times and not see ONCE that Cobb’s bathtub kick is in the dream world? I mean, in Saito’s apartment, Saito not only figures out he’s dreaming, but they discuss whose dream they’re in before they WAKE UP ON THE TRAIN.


    They don’t need to spend extra time on level 1, because once Fisher is awake, he’s calm, and as they showed us on level 2, when he’s calm, the projections ease up. Besides, we don’t know that it doesn’t happen; the edits we get at that point are for the sake of time clarity.

  • AJM

    This is going to be long, but I’m pretty sure that my theories/explanations are solid. I gave the movie several viewings, and certain dialog in scenes tipped me off as to how things during the inception job were different than what we initially believed about being inside dreams.

    1) The kick: A lot of debate about this one, and it took me a while to (hopefully) figure it out. We are first introduced to the kick during Cobb’s extraction job on Saito at the beginning of the film. Nash uses a kick on Cobb to bring him out of Arthur’s dream because the dream is collapsing as Arthur has “died” in the dream that he himself was creating. We of course learn that the extraction job was actually a
    dream within a dream; they weren’t at Saito’s seaside castle, they weren’t in Saito’s hidden hotel room, they were all on the train. So the kick that was given to Cobb happened inside a dream and was used to pull him out of a lower level dream. My understanding of the kick at this point is a kick at one level affects
    the level directly below it, and the kick only works on people who are “asleep”. This is why when Cobb drops
    unexpectedly while rappelling down the building he isn’t kicked out of Arthur’s dream; he’s not “asleep.”

    Now we come to the inception job. Already designed to be three levels deep, they enlist Yusuf to create a sedative powerful enough to keep the dream levels stable but leave inner ear function unimpaired so that a kick can be felt. We see them testing this on Arthur, he is sedated but tipping his chair wakes him up.
    Now, we have to catch the dialog here because it tells us this time we’re playing by different rules. Arthur
    makes a point that the sedation will prevent a kick from penetrating multiple layers. Cobb devises the plan to use synchronized kicks at each layer so that the topmost kick will be felt all the way down and pull each person back up to the highest dream layer (Yusuf’s dream). So, this time for the kick to work, you have to both get a kick on the level you are on AND in the level(s) above you. This is why this first kick (breaking through the bridge barrier into free fall) doesn’t work and is missed by Arthur in the building (he didn’t blow the floor in time) and everyone else down at the snow fortress level. This is why Ariadne pushes Fischer off the building while
    he is being defibrillated, to kick him up to the previous level. This is why she had to jump herself as Eames blew the fortress. This is why Yusuf’s dream never collapsed, he wasn’t being kicked on the plane.

    2) Limbo: We learn in Yusuf’s dream that dying will not take you back up to the next level, or out of the dream entirely if you’re only one level deep, but will drop you into limbo. Catch the dialog again, because Ariadne asks what limbo is and Arthur explains it is unconstructed dream space; raw, infinite subconscious. Empty but for whatever has has been built by anyone who has been there before. In this case, just Cobb. This is why limbo looks like the world Cobb and Mal had been creating together previously. It’s never stated that dying while heavily sedated is the ONLY way to get to limbo, just that’s where you go when you die BECAUSE you are heavily sedated. Cobb and Ariadne
    obviously got there via the dream machine from Eames’s dream. Cobb also says, “Saito is dead by now. That means he’s here.” The key word is “here”. If Saito were further down, Cobb wouldn’t say “here”.

    3) Old age: The revelation at the end of the film that Saito is the old man from the beginning is a pretty
    cool way to tie the opening scene with the rest of the film. It also brings up questions about aging in limbo.
    Thankfully, there were clues given that helped me (hopefully) understand what was going on. Someone asked why Cobb told Mal they did grow old but they are shown laying on the tracks as younger people. Initially, the flashback scenes involving Cobb and Mal living in limbo show them as they are when they finally wake up (young). It isn’t until the end as Mal is “dying” that Cobb makes her realize they DID grow old, and they reshow the scenes of them together, now as old people.
    So, why is Saito so old when Cobb finds him in limbo? Firstly, we have to refer back to Yusuf’s dream
    where Cobb explains that if Saito dies, his conscious mind would drop out of the dream into limbo. Trapped in his subconscious mind, Saito would be unaware that he was dreaming and experience everything as reality, including the passage of time. Cobb, having been to limbo before, is aware that he is still within a dream and knows how much time he’s REALLY spending in limbo. This is why Saito is surprised to see Cobb as a young man, as he remembers Cobb from a “half-remembered dream” and would expect to see an Cobb as an old man. Cobb now has to convince old Saito that he is in a dream, so he uses the same dialog as they did together in Yusuf’s dream (the half-remembered dream) to jog Saito’s memory that they are really still young men.

    I invite all to discuss my analysis. I tried to be as thorough as possible without getting insanely long winded.

  • AJ B

    After watching the movie many times my biggest problem with the story was how does Cobb and Saito skip past the previous three levels and go straight to reality after dieing in limbo, and why do Ariadne and Fischer have to travel through all three levels if they died in limbo as well. And I finally came to a conclusion. Saito and Cobb were dead in the previous three levels, Saito from the gunshot wounds in level 1, and Cobb drowning in the van in level 1, causing them to go straight to reality. Fischer was only dead in level three allowing him to wake up in that level after he had died in limbo, and Ariadne wasn’t dead in any levels. Similar to what happened to Cobb and his wife previously in the film when they both killed themselves, they skipped all of the levels and were brought directly to reality, the reason they were able to skip all of the levels was due to the fact that they were not under the severe sedation as in the Climax of the movie. Since Cobb and Saito were already dead, the sedative had no effect and were able to cut directly to reality, how can you wake up in a reality you are already dead in. The only problem here is that why didn’t Cobb and Saito wake up in level 1 where they died like Fischer did in level three. The only explanation I can come up with is that by the time Cobb and Saito killed themselves in Limbo and made it back to level 1, the sedation had already worn off and everyone was awake, allowing them to skip level one completely and come back to reality. If Cobb and Saito wouldn’t have killed themselves in limbo, they would be permanently stuck there.

    I apologize for the run on sentences and repeating myself but I was just trying to go through my train of thought. Analysis and comments would be great, this is what movies are all about, evoking thought and debate.

  • Brendo

    Fischer never died. A defibrillator cannot bring someone back to life, only resume their heartbeat *if it hasn’t been very long* Plus, In Limbo Cobb tells Ariadne to “check Fischer, make sure he’s alive” and we see he is moving.

    I really like AJM’s post, that really cleared up the timing factor of the kicks. Except this:

    I think a main issue people have is Ariadne ‘breaking the kick rules’ and jumping off the building as a ‘kick’
    I think the only explanation is that She and Fischer actually hit the ground and died, and, as we know, when you die in limbo you go back up (to reality, OR to whatever other dream your mind is on, assumably.

    this kinda bother me:

    One explanation ive heard is that when Cobb meets him in Limbo, Saito does not know he is in limbo (obviously because Cobb has to remind him) and that Cobb did know. THE PROBLEM WITH THIS is that when Cobb and Maude were in Limbo, they both grew old even tho Cobb knew it wasn’t real.

    I thought at first that maybe Cobb had to spend some time searchig for Saito, but that doesn’t make sense either because it goes back to the previous theory, why wouldnt cobb age too^^

    Idk… call it a plothole if you want but I think that you just aren’t supposed to over think/analyze it like we all are. If anything its a good artistic choice. I’m glad its there even if its hard to explain

  • Brendo

    whether my theory about Ariadne and Fischer hitting the ground and dying is wrong or right,
    WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THE SNOW FORTRESS NEEDING TO BE BLOWN UP? The only reason it would be done is for a kick, but you wouldn’t need one because there is no lower dream level. Only LImbo, which you have to kill yourself to get out of.

    So really it would be obsolete. UNLESS, under the sedation, you really do need a kick in your level AND the level above to wake you up as AJM sort of described. I’m not saying he’s right, but i mean otherwise the blowing up of the snow fort/hospital was pointless.

    again i dont think they wanted anyone to over think it this much, maybe they just wanted us to accept the theory that AJM presented, that you need a kick on your level and above to wake you up, without blatantly describing it as we all wish they did aha

  • Brendo

    possible answer to the WHY IS SAITO question- Yes the 4th level is limbo, but Saito does enter it before Cobb in a way and this is how:

    Saito dies on level 3- he enters limbo. Cobb dies on level 1 (drowned in the car in the river) and re enters limbo. Because of how time works level to level, by the time Cobb dies on level 1 and goes back to limbo, enough time in Limbo has gone by to let Saito age.

  • Dries Duke Du Preez

    Processing Speed – Yep, but as you go deeper, the mind gets fuzzier, so the brain can slack with details here and there, skip some stuff, and score some speed. That’s how I justify that. The whole fuzzy thing I derive from Satio being old in Limbo, his sense of time is different from Cobb, and he was wounded in previous levels, which may have buggered him a bit more.

    The kick – definitely yep, Coz I was thinking the exact same thing! The SLEEPING body must get the kick. But to justify the film’s mistake, I’d say that because she’s in limbo, suicide would knock her out, not awaken her, so she needed the initial shakes from the bombs in the fortress along with her suicide fall to kick her up. From there the lift awoke her normally, and the water collide also.

    These are all good and well, but the biggest plot hole that I have picked up, and not read anywhere else, I’ll tell you now.

    While in the rainy city, they all agreed that they would finish the mission, then kill themselves to wake up, but because of the sedative, they cant, coz they’d be sent to limbo. They figured out that at the current sense of time, they’d be there for a week. A week in the rainy city.

    After all the kicks, when they wake up in the river and sit on the side, they are done with the inception, but they cant kill themselves to wake up. So they have to wait till the flight is over. Which is 10 hours, but to them its a week. They stayed a whole week before they woke up. And if they did, Fischer Jr’s private army is still there, so they would be killed and end up limbo, as mentioned by Cobb.

    Wouldn’t Fischer Jr have remembered a week long experience and their faces.

    Please let me know what you think of that.


  • Brandon

    Not sure if this was addressed above since there are a lot of comments on here but regarding this that I didn’t go through:

    “The sleeping Cobb gets pushed into a tub of water to get the kick and wake up. Here, the SLEEPING BODY gets the kick.”

    That wasn’t Cobb’s “real” sleeping body. His sleeping body is on the train. So this is consistent with the levels formula. Cobb thrown into the tub is “level 1” of the dream (wakes him up from level 2), the part where he shoots Arthur is level 2 of that dream.

  • Steven

    I watched it many times. Besides what already mentioned above, below are some of the hidden catch discovered.

    1) The first scene and the last scene where Saito grows old look the same. But they are actually DIFFERENT. The conversations are different. Do check it out.

    2) In the first dream when Cobb were trying to steal information from Saito, Saito told Cobb it was an audition and he failed. Could this be indicating that Cobb is being removed from his job or something?

    3) There are two sets of kids used in this movie as we know of. The kids that appear in Cobb’s Limbo are the SAME as the ones appeared in the final scene when Cobb returns home.

    4) Cobb was wearing his wedding ring when Mal jumped off the building. Were they still in dream when Mal ‘commit suicide’?

    Still trying to find out the logical real storyline. If have any thoughts on this, please share.

  • Nic

    To the article itself, and not any comments. The “kick goof” was not really a goof because they HAD to give themselves the kick in the later dreams in the film because they were too heavily sedated, unlike the dreams in the beginning of the film where they were not heavily sedated. And Nash (the previous architect) could just dunk Cobb into the tub to wake him because technically, he was only one dream deep to be kicked by the “tub kick”. Someone may have already clarified this in previous comments, but I didn’t read them all.

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  • Stef

    Ok let’s forget about the kick mistake which – sorry to be pretentious – struck me at first viewing in cinema – that just did not work with regards to the concept dreamer get the kick in the higher level… The one that took me a while to find is this one: when cob wakes up in the plane, every one around him is also awake while saito is waking up as well (not awake but waking up at that very moment as well). Yet the machine is gone and none – especially not cob and saito – are plugged anymore… So how can cob and saito share a dream if they are not plugged, and if the dreamer – fisher -is awake??!!?? If the first scene, when arthur get shot by cob and wakes up, the dream collapses around cob…. Got it? Can one try to explain?

  • Nolan-fan

    My response is a bit late, but like you said, this movie will be talked about for many years to come. Its timeless!

    You almost got it right about the kicks being in reversal when they follow the the sequence in the climax. But if you heard Yusuf, he explained that with this powerful sedative, you wont feel the usual kicks across multiple levels. Thus he designed it so that the inner part of the ear only feels a kick, and hence the music that can penetrate all levels! They hear the music – and that’s the first kick. But because they missed the first, they go on the second when the van hits the water and there’s obviously a splash upon the crash.

    Also, THE KICK DOES NOT WAKE YOU UP! In the tub and water scene, Cobb feels the kick of tipping over into the tub (My favorite scene ever!!!) but that’s not what wakes him up. Its the flooding in the second level dream that wakes him up. Falling is the kick – and the purpose of the tub is just so that he does not get hurt hitting the floor, or hitting his head on the ground which would wake him up on the train.

    The kick just tells you time is up, and you need to die in the dream. Music penetrates all levels. So it can be heard in the snow scene, but the falling of the van is only felt in the hotel. You wake up from dying in the dream.

  • Pepe thunder

    About the order of the kicks and how the sleeping body is the one who should have been kicked instead of the body IN the dream. You seem to forget that dying in a dream also works as a kick. In all thise instances they died with exception

  • Pepe thunder

    About the order of the kicks and how the sleeping body is the one who should have been kicked instead of the body IN the dream. You seem to forget that dying in a dream also works as a kick. In all thise instances they died with exception of the dream where the van drops. That is why their bodies do not wake. In fact, the do NOT want to die in that dream due to it being the very first layer and being locked in it because of the sedative. The only way to wake from that one is by kicking the real body. Something that is on a timer and will be caused by the alflight attendant. So in the end you have Juno killing herself in the 4th dream followed by dying at the explosion of the base, next the falling lift kills them and finally the van drops. The only thing is that the van falling was unnecesary and only served to stress give them a needless time limit withing the other dreams

  • Lina

    Okay i had to read what you wrote a few times to get what you said. When Ariadne jumps off the building, I though she was killing herself, thus going back to the snowy level. Also, when Fischer dies, Cobb says he’s in limbo, and since Saito dies as well, he would be in limbo too. This doesn’t make sense however since Cobb ends up on the shore as if he just entered that dream state. Obviously Saito is older because he entered earlier, but I really dont get why it’s like he’s in a new dream, did he die cause mal stabbed him? But going back to why Ariadne jumped and entered the previous dream state, it wouldn’t make sense if she killed herself there and then went to the previous dream state because Fischer and Saito died and they just went deeper. What I wrote us kind of all over the place and may not make sense, I’m really confused. I’ve watched inception so many times, I’m watching it right now, but still don’t get it. I didn’t read the comments so sorry if anyone already addressed what I questioned.

  • Justin

    The premise you base your plot hole discussion on is not complete, and once it is, you may have the same “plot hole” discovery as I now have. When Cobb is falling into the bathtub in the beginning of the movie, and Arthur is falling out of the chair in the middle are two DIFFERENT situations. In the Arthur scene, he has been dised with a POWERFUL sedative, and thus we are seeing that the sedative still allows for waking if the sleeping body is “tipped”. With the bathtub, there was no sedation. Cobb woke from a dream within a dream because his ‘sleeping body’ was ‘kicked’. The water splashing on him had nothing to do with waking him from the Saito dream, it was mearing his brain incorporating the outside world into the dream as he wakes up. This was covered int he movie, as well as is a real world situation (how many of us have had a new alarm clock be a huge sound or force in waking us from a dream?)
    When there IS sedation, the body can still be woken with a kick, but it seems that WITH sedation, the body must be ‘kicked’ in BOTH states. And I feel IF Nolan said that one line, somehow, somewhere, in the movie, all this would be clear, but hey, why not create some fanfare? So therefore, when doing The Job, the KICKS must be synchronized and simutaneous, becasue of the sedation agent being used. So once that occurs, then you see Adriadne jumping off the building in limbo, which synchs up with the falling floor of the fortress, which lines up with the falling of the elevator (yes, the elevators accleration from the first explosion would also have been a “kick” but thats another hole for later), which lines up with the crashing of the van into the water.
    I assume the above logic to be sound, else when the Van first hit the bridge barrier, they all would have woke up, instead, Arthur gets flung through the air, and the rappeling team just gets an avalanche on them. (Why was there no zero gravity in the fortress dream and just the hotel dream? Another hole?) So we need a “dual kick” to wake up from heavy sedation, both IN the dream, and OUT of the dream.
    WAIT FOR IT – PLOT HOLE!!!… How the heck did any of them wake up on the airplane?!?! So if the van hitting the water was the “terminus” of the kick, bc you need a kick on both sides of the dream, then in order to wake up on the plane, one of two things would have to happen. 1) The team must have all gotten a “kick” from the flight attendant, which is impossible to tell from the flight attendants viewpoint being they wanted as much time as possible… 10 hours minimum they needed. (Ironic, becasue from what we all saw in dream time, from the time they entered the “bridge” dream, was about 2 hours “bridge” dream time maximum, so about 6 minutes on the plane.) 2) the timer on the dream reached 10 hours. IF this happened, then the “bridge” dream would have been a total of a week, and therefore, Fischers sub security would have killed them all.
    Now, if the timer just ran out, and we will say that Cobb succedded in having Fischers security NOT kill anyone, then, we can assume that the team waited for a week on the Bridge level, and woke on the plane. But then how would Cobb awoke to see all his team ALREADY awake? If Cobb was able to reach Saito, and have Saito be aware of the nature of his false reality, then Saito kills himself and Cobb does as well, thus waking from Limbo (which we assume is possible bc that’s how Cobb and Mal awoke from Limbo), then they both would have woken up far before the rest of the team did, and Cobb would be looking at sleeping bodies on the plane, and then either he would have to wait for the timer to run out and assume that Fischer’s security wouldn’t have killed his team, thus pushing them all BACK into limbo, (MAJOR porblem), OR, he awoke with Saito, and then Lifted everyone off their sleeping beds, and let them FALL backwards, thus KICKING them all awake from the Bridge dream one by one. OR, … and the rest is up to the next person to comment.

  • Don

    the “powerful” sedatives may be an answer to some of the questions.

  • Sam1985

    I actually found the whole synchronized kicks kinda ridiculous that there is no way to get around it cleanly even within the logic of this movie. I was thinking what you were in that how can the mind really process and proportionately time all those dreams? But I figure because all their minds were working together that made up for the full capacity thing, haha I can’t say. But I loved this movie, and was actually pleasantly surprised by the attention it got since sci-fi doesn’t typically garner so much praise.

    And I think you did a great job explaining the order of the kicks that the “waking body” must fall to wake up and how it was backwards with Ariadne, but my possible reasoning for that is that a real kick isn’t needed, that if the mind dreams of you falling you wake up out of fear…I mean, this happens to me in real life. Or, to convey that the kick in the van, caused the kick in the lift, caused the kick in the fortress etc, would’ve been more confusing because what happens when the kick wakes her from the last dream/deepest dream? Will her mind switch and wake her up to the real world even though that was the deepest dream or will she dream about waking up therefore slipping deeper. I don’t know if that makes sense

  • Sam1985

    Hi, okay I thought about it again, and nevermind I think you’re explanation for the kicks makes sense if the previous kick caused the other, I just got it backwards hah

  • Sam1985

    Wow, I just made a short chart of how the kicks worked haha, let’s see:
    Kick in van > lift > fortress > limbo
    limbo < fortress < lift < van = awake

  • Bob

    @Birgit remember when Phishcer is in the hotel and threatens to kill himself? Cobb tells him that he is so heavily sedated that if he kills himself then he will go directly to limbo, not wake up.

  • Penny

    Hello, I came across your article while watching Inception on TNT! Sorry I’m coming in late on this… But I am curious about something. When you said that Cobb’s sleeping body gets a kick, that isn’t so? Wouldn’t that be considered the dreaming Cobb, since they’re in a dream already? His sleeping body is on the train, his dreaming body was in both the room and Saitos dinner. My theory is that they’re are two different types of kicks: one being physical falling, the only way to way from a sedated dream because of inner ear function, and the second being just the feeling of falling in a dream even if your real body isn’t moving, that sensation even I’ve felt when dreaming I’m falling or something. Just my two cents! Curious to discuss more, hoping I’m not two years too late, ha! Cheers, Penny.

  • Marlo Lewis

    Saito explains to Cobb why they must plant in Robert Fischer’s mind the idea of breaking up the Fischer energy conglomerate. Saito says: “We’re the last company standing between them and total energy dominance and we can no longer compete. Soon they’ll control the energy supply of half the world.” This is either proof that Cobb is dreaming from start to finish or that the writers have no clue how the world works (doubtful). In the real world, there are several major forms of commercial energy (oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear), each with a multitude of major players. In oil, for example, there are literally scores of major exploration and production companies. Many, like the OPEC members, Russian and Chinese companies, are government owned. The private (non-national) companies are bit players by comparison. The tail does not wag the dog! Few if oil majors have large stakes in coal or uranium, or operate electric utilities. So the most basic premise of the plot — the reason for the inception, the alleged need to stop one company from taking over global energy — is utterly fantastic. It is the stuff of dreams.

  • Nic

    @MarioLewis, I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t delve deep enough into current world energy control to have that little detail about Fisher’s energy company be a deciding factor as to whether Cobb is dreaming or not as far as the movie goes.

  • ZZ

    Ariadne was in Limbo. The only way to get out of limbo is to die, remember? She jumped out of the building to kill herself, therefore waking herself up.

  • rustyrobots

    the explanation to the ending with ariadne and fischer is simple, they don’t recieve a kick from falling off the building, they simply fall off the building hoping to kill themselves and it so happens that it’s synchronised with the other kicks, so they’re able to ride the kicks back up the levels, if they had died in limbo they would have woken up straight back on the plane, as we saw with Dom and Mal earlier in the film, there is no “level surfing” when they die in limbo. as for Dom and Saito’s age difference, Dom’s projection of himself was always young, we saw Dom and Mal’s youthful images kill themselves on the train track, where we later saw that they had actually aged,

  • mojo8412

    This would make more sense to people if they read the other comments, if you conglomerate all of them taking what makes sense from each it works pretty well. That said AJM has the best possible explanation. His post is March 31st 2011. For everything he doesn’t cover the heavy sedation can answer most of those questions. Also they did wait at level 1, I’m pretty sure that is said in the film. Most likely Fischer’s projections no longer were hostile since he was no longer in danger (he probably thought they drowned since he got out first with this “uncle”)

  • Ashwin

    The reason Adrianne jumped was not to feel the kick, but to die…. Which the best way to get out from limbo…. Problem solved? 😀

  • Ashwin

    *which IS the best way…
    missed the is… 🙂

  • Will

    Thanks man I enjoyed reading that

    I am frustrated after watching it just now fir the first time.

    Great movie concept, but HUGE muthaf’in plot hole for me is:

    The main character is not allowed in to the US because they think he killed his wife.

    So they suspect him of murder. Police investigation? Trial?

    Apparently not, as we all know if you are suspected of murder you get instantly exiled.

    W. T. F.

  • David E.

    Why didn’t his dad just fly the kids over to France???? I can’t believe the authorities could possibly prevent it. It’s just a murder charge, for chrissake, it doesn’t work as a plot device. If Cobb got busted for illegally infiltrating the dreams of major global economic players, he’d be hounded by every government and private agency there is – then so much for going home. I’m sorry, 5 or 6 guys with guns can’t manage to pick him up? Who is he, James Bond? I like how Christopher Nolan makes films, but the scripts always seem lacking (like Ridley Scott and Prometheus) and why the hell did he cast Leonardo DiCaprio? The guy fumbles through this thing like a bull in a china shop. Really kills the nice buzz from the concept when Leo gets all intense like he’s performing in some community college production of death of a salesman. Those one syllable names didn’t help, tiresome to listen to people saying “Mol” and “Cobb” all the way through. Could have been a better made film re the framing story (annoying that those fundamental motivations and circumstances were tossed off so lightly – like who the hell was “Global”, the guys show up and never bother him again?) , but got maybe 80% there in any case. Unless the whole thing was a dream – there, I solved it. You’re welcome, heh heh. Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end.

  • Scott McClenaghan

    My problem with Ariadne’s killing herself to escape limbo is that, if all you have to do is kill yourself to escape limbo, then why is everyone so afraid of it? It doesn’t make sense.

    I’m hoping that an answer to my own question is that since she and Cobbs used the device to reach limbo (rather than dying), they retained their memories (including the knowledge that they were dreaming). Saito and Fischer didn’t have that luxary (having entered Limbo a bit more suddenly).

    Actually I really want to believe that because that kind of makes the rest of the movie make sense.

    A commenter above mentioned what I was thinking too about the cumulative affects on time. (That a layer 4 dream is less detailed and requires less cycles to process).

    My only real problem with reality:dream timing was its precision. “Five minutes gives you an hour in a dream”. I would expect it to be a lot more fluid than that, requiring regular stimulus (like music) to help synchronize time.

    Bill for $0.02 enclosed.

  • Tristan

    Ok I have seen this film at least ten times and ready many ideas about this issue I found this to be a problem also and the only way I can come to explain it with out there having been a huge plot hole is this. That 1: the idea that the kick can work either way that you can be woken from the current lvl by falling or by falling from the lvl above must be true and then when Ficher is “killed” what happens to Cobb and Ariadne is they entered and unconstructed dream with Ficher in limbo which is why his subconscious brings memories of his and Mal’s limbo there. During the dream Saito dies and enters limbo apart from the other three and creates his own limbo. Ariadne and Ficher then leave by the falling sensation of falling off the building. Cobb dies from Mal after having reached closure with her, he reenters limbo, since he can’t actually die where he finds what Saito has constructed from his subconscious and his and Mal’s creations are no longer there because he has reached closure with her. Mean while Ariadne and Ficher get kicked by the falling building thus entering lvl two the hotel where they are kicked by the elevator into lvl one the city, where they miss the van kick where they then wait for the time to run out. I am sorry if this does not make sense but this is the only explination that I understand that makes all the kicks work without there being to many. I am open for comments and opinions I would like to know what everyone else thinks.

  • Ranjith

    The kick on the last level(van) is due to the apparent death may be

  • Jesss

    Ok guys….I seriously think I may have figured this out…..Like seriously.

    I was also confused massively by Ariadne being able to kick herself out of limbo. But here is the thing….her jumping off the building IS NOT what brings her back to the snow fortress. To explain in detail; as Cobb holds Mal in limbo with Ariadne, the buildings in limbo start to fall apart. This signals Cobb that the snow fortress is being blown up, which is the kick to wake them up from limbo. After Eames blows up the fortress, they get kicked by the elevator. The snow fortress suddenly drops and carries on falling apart. Ariadne jumps, but is it the jump that takes her back to the snow fortress, or is the building falling apart (essentially a falling sensation) what brings her out of limbo? The defibrillator is what wakes up Fischer and yet Ariadne still had to push him from the building. Why? Its actually simple. In limbo, killing yourself is a symbol of the fact that you KNOW you are dreaming. It acts like a kick. That is why when the fortress blows up, Cobb doesn’t come out of limbo but Ariadne who “killed herself” does.

    So killing themselves was just an extra kick, a symbol to say “I know I am dreaming” and then the actual kicks were the defibrillator and the building dropping. After all, the only reason to blow up the snow fortress was to act as a kick right? And look at what Ariadne says to convince cobb to go into limbo:

    “Down there there will be enough time. We’ll find him – soon as you hear Arthur’s music start, you use the defibrillator to revive him- we give him his own early kick from below. Get him in there- (points to doors) Then, as the music ends you blow the hospital and we all ride the kick back up through the layers.”

    So blowing the hospital was the kick for Cobb and Ariadne BUT they also had to jump. Cobb doesn’t kill himself in limbo, hence the snow fortress being blown up does not kick him and he is able to stay behind and find Seito. Once he finds Seito, Seito has been in limbo already for ages. In limbo time, long enough for him to grow old. On the plane, the sedative has worn off, so when Cobb and Seito kill themselves, their subconsciousness is no longer on all the different levels, so they wake up back on the plane.

  • Valerio Monopoli

    No one noticed that Fischer dies long before Cobb and Ariadne have access to limbo, so Fischer should be actually older when they find him.

  • Moumita Biswas

    The debates and discussions about the kicks are impressive. Of course the plot is confusing and complex. I’ve tried to understand all that. But I’ve also tried to understand this.

    When Cobb goes to Paris and meets Ariadne, he tells her( in a dream) that , “Let me ask you a question. You never really remember the beginning of a dream, do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on.”
    I find this statement intriguing as we don’t see how Cobb goes to Mombasa, to Eames. Well, I might be the only one confused or this is something which is unclear just to me.

    Also, when Cobb, Saito, Eames go to Yusuf’s place and he tests the sedative on Cobb, we see him wake up and wash his face. Then he takes out his totem and spins it but it falls off. And then suddenly they’re seen talking on the terrace of some building. This might mean that Cobb’s still dreaming.

    Well, these are what I’ve been trying to figure out, among many other things and of course that “kick” theory. Please do state your opinions.

  • Moumita Biswas

    Also, Cobb sees his children in the exact way in all his dreams. At the end, they’re again seen in the same way: sitting in the same position, looking in the same way, wearing the same clothes. This might also mean that’s he’s still dreaming.

    Please do clear it if anyone can

  • Monte

    It seems a silly presumption by you that because two set of children were in the credits that the kids aged. To begin because it obviously looks like they didn’t in the movie and second it is difficult to use kids on movies that require multiple locations, movies, or long hours because of legal reasons. Thus having several sets of kids would not be uncommon as they have no lines or even but a few seconds of face time in the movie

  • Monte

    Also, I am continually shocked by what I considered one of the biggest problems not being recognized by any blog I have found. Before I continue I must say it is just a terrible movie based on a over-complicated concept that led to its own problems over and over. Yet here is my issue. There is supposed to be a significant time difference between the dream levels, exponential, we can all agree on that, yes? So then why is the effects from one level, such as the flipping of the van (by the way what a stupid scene with the van being attacked by a motorcycle and the driver not just serving into it), not exponentially slower? Yes, the gravity and room should have changed according to the movies own claims, but it should have taken weeks to do so in the deeper level, not at the same speed, and taken years to do so at further levels down but still occurred.

  • Adriana

    I just watched inception again and I agree on what you said about the dreamer falling instead of yhe real sleeping body. But maybe that was the way to jump from one level to another without necessarily waking up in reality. I’m just going to assume that in reality the plane made a fall in the air so that the real sleeping bodies would experience the feeling of a fall and they then woke up. The airplane was under their control after all (even the stewardess was part of the inception team). But what I found surprising is that nobody explains how they can be in each others dreams. I mean, in your dream anything can happen, but in reality you can’t decide weather your in someones dream or not. I think that part could have been worked out a bit more. But still adore the movie! 😄

  • khushi

    If the fourth level was limbo and cobb’s wife was there, then shouldn’t she be older than saito? After all, Saito had entered the limbo only some hours before while Mal had been there for some months

  • Nobody

    All your plot holes and questions can be answered in the fact that the whole movie is a dream. Cobb is in limbo the whole movie. DONE. Now go watch Primer …your welcome.

  • sachu

    The kick is not her falling .she dies with the fall from that height and wakes up.

  • sachu

    The van freefalls .so no gravity in hotel dream .but there is gravity in snow dream ,how come

  • onward|astray

    Rewatching Inception and it already doesn’t make sense in the first 10 minutes!! The first part of the film is the end, where Leo comes to save Saito in limbo. Saito touches Leo’s totem… Only the possessor of the totem is supposed to do this, as Leo told Ellen Page it would mess up their understanding of reality. Also, on the train they’re in first architect’s dream, but he wakes up and Saito is still in the dream (he looks around at the empty room once people busy in). How could this be?! He couldn’t still be in the dream if the dreamer’s no sleeping!!

  • Christopher

    Inception is the best movie made since the dark knight, both Christopher Nolans finest movies ever made.

  • Tyler T

    I agree with the plot holes I’d just like to add that when Cobb and Saito are speaking in the 4 th level they’ve both missed their kick so how do they get out of the 3rd, 2nd and 1st levels ? It seems to me the ending just proves that Cobb is most definitely in limbo yet it isn’t too bad since he finally can be with his children. PS. I have not read other comments

  • Fincher

    My biggest problem is the amount of time that Arthur takes to fight one more bad guy in zero gravity, tie up his crew, drag them into the elevator, and then set the explosive charges. (1:47:20) Cobb says that Arthur has only “a couple of minutes.” Even in the 3rd layer, they have only “about 20” minutes before the van hits the water. It is humanly impossible for Arthur to have pulled off his feat in only a few minutes. He couldn’t have even fought the bad guy and roped his gang in that amount of time.

    Nolan should have cut the final bout out and had Arthur already anticipate the lack of gravity (somehow), so that everyone is already tied up by the time the van is launched. This could possibly allow him enough time to get them into the elevator.

    Still an extremely effective and entertaining movie, but this was a massive and very obvious flaw that I noticed upon first viewing.

  • Fincher

    Monte also makes a great point above. The changes in gravity should be exceptionally gradual and never instantaneous if time passes so much slower in the 2nd level, yet Arthur and crew are flying immediately in every direction just as the van changes direction. The shift to another gravitation direction must be 10 times slower than that.

    Also, notice that the gravitational shifts from the 1st level don’t affect the 3rd level at all EXCEPT for the first kick when the van hits the rail before the water. Remember that the van already went off a rail before, and they didn’t feel that in the 3rd level, but going off the bridge is so significant that they must feel it in the 3rd level? Um, OK.


  • Fincher

    Moumita Biswas, his kids are wearing different clothes at the end, or at least his girl is.

    Valerio Monopoli, you’re right. Cobb is in limbo much longer than Saito also, but another major issue is that if they can simply defib Fisher to awake him, why can’t Cobb have Ariadne do the same to Saito and avoid wandering through limbo at the end? Defibbing someone from limbo apparently can cure fatal bullet wounds, so Saito would be perfectly healed!

    Scott McClenaghan, people in limbo don’t just kill themselves because they’re convinced that they’re not dreaming. This raises another big problem though! How come Cobb and Ariadne know that they’re in limbo? They didn’t take any convincing from anyone but were immediately aware of where they were. You might argue that Cobb is an expert, but Ariadne isn’t.

    Will, it’s not that Cobb isn’t allowed into the country, but rather there is a federal indictment for his arrest if he enters. See my comment to David E below.

    David E, Cobb’s dad isn’t going to turn his grandchildren into fugitives. That’s selfish in Cobb’s favor. He’s not going to ruin their lives. However, your point raises another problem. How can Saito possibly erase a federal murder charge?! Not even The Commander and Chief can do that! Most of Nolan’s movies were adapted from other stories. He didn’t write any of them on his own except for Inception. Yes, I’m aware that he adapted the screenplays for all of them. My favorite (and IMO the best) Nolan movie MEMENTO was written by Jonathan Nolan.

    Justin, Bryan Way answered this above very nicely. When they all awake to level 1 upon plunging into the river, Fisher is ejected from the van and is safely gathered by his people, who would no longer be vehemently hunting down his kidnappers. Arthur and gang simply hide out for a week before being woken up to reality. How Saito and Cobb awake from limbo is another matter entirely.

  • Kristin S.

    I think you’re wrong on your biggest plot issue. If you recall Leo’s character is asleep when he falls into the water in the beginning (remember, his real body is on a train). Thus, the end sequence works. You wake when your body in a dream feels like it’s falling. There are A LOT of other issues I belive you missed (including that Ken’s character is old and Leo’s character young when Leo entered Limbo first). But that’s another story …

  • Anonymous

    I lean to the dream side of things.

    1. Cobb at the end does not check the totem (or do anything else further to verify he is in reality). Nolan says this is him accepting his world regardless of real or not. But to me, this is somewhat of a passive acceptance of the dream.

    2. The emphasized words “leap of faith” from different people.

    3. Unrealistic issues in the supposed real world. Leaving aside the basic premise of the dream machine (we accept that or there is no movie), the “real world” or top layer has a guy buying an airline (and much faster than any M&A process). It has the perilous Mombasa fight and escape (much more clichéd and movie like and dream like than a real fight, really similar to the games in the snow fortress). Kobol ignoring Cobb. The arranged allowance into the US (really? a snap phone call?) Cobb not getting his kids flown over to see him or just entering the US and grabbing them (after all he is such a badass in Mombasa, and so derring do.) Fisher not recognizing Saito, a competitor. And Fisher not reacting to waking up from a dream and seeing those guys from the dream on the plane–it is one thing to just have them in a dream, but a dream about stealing ideas from him?

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