‘Inception’ – That Ending is a Mind Twister! Have I Found The Right Answer?

by on June 15, 2011

in Entertainment, movie reviews

If there’s anything anyone in marketing knows, it’s that the first and last impressions have the most impact, usually. The first impression keeps you around.  The last impression more than likely will influence your overall feelings about an event.  And to be honest, those closing moments in Christopher Nolan‘s Inception definitely left an impression with this movie-goer!  But with that completely ambiguous ending that contain multiple possibilities, exactly what do we think happened there?

Production still of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Berenger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy and Ellen Page in 'Inception'

'Inception' - Everyone's taking their afernoon nap!

Here are my thoughts, presented as tersely as possible so as to not take up too much of your valuable time.  Do you think I hit the head on the nail or what?  I’d love to hear your thoughts afterwards…  [And if you still haven’t seen the movie, heads up!  There are spoilers in here.]

I just watched Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending masterpiece called Inception again… I think.  Unless the first time was a dream!   It’s a movie about dreams that can be manipulated via outside intervention and the premise is crazy enough, but to start messing with the dreams inside of dreams and such could have been a very complicated premise to deliver.  Yet Nolan created such a world within the movie that the premise was a very digestible concept to follow.

Movie Still of Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard in 'Inception'

But as the movie came to a close, we believe (were shown) that Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) achieved his personal goal of being pardoned for his crimes in the U.S. and reuniting with his children.  But I have to ask, did he really?

During the movie, we were shown that the characters had to carry totems with them to help them know whether they’re in a dream state or reality.  For Cobb, he had a spinning top for a totem.  He knew to spin it at times, to make sure of where he was.  If he spun it and it didn’t fall, he’s still in the dream.

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception', watching his totem spin.

The closing scenes of the movie all seemed too perfect perfect for me.  The tension that was built up to that point had a disappointing release of nothing.  All the kinetic energy that was building emotionally had nowhere to go and yet it seemed to go nowhere, like air from a balloon.

In the final scenes, the characters flowed serenely and happily towards exactly what he was looking for.  So did it happen?  Did he finally get back to his kids?

Where Was Cobb?

The closing scenes are delivered in such a way that you can define the ending in one of two ways…   That Cobb did achieve his private goal or that he’s so many levels deep in the dream world that what we see is Cobb, stuck there, delusional.  (Going down too many levels in dream land is a dangerous procedure.)

He’s in the very scene he’s imagined before… in the same room, staring out at his kids, his totem is spinning and he becomes distracted and walks out to greet the children he’s missed so terribly for so long.  he walks away from his totem.  The camera pans in and the top wobbles but for a second and the camera cuts away.

That wobble is something all tops do.  During and near the end of a good spin.  But was it a mid-spin wobble or a spin-stopping wobble?  That’s the question.  The question that Christopher Nolan wants us to conjecture for a very long time.

Was it falling or did it merely wobble?  I have my own totem… I have a very heavy totem, the very same totem that Cobb carried that was given to me by Warner Bros. as part of their promotional drive.  I’ve spun that thing time and time again.  When that beast spins, it will more often than not, have a slight wobble during it’s strongest point of its spin.  But it also starts to do that mini-wobble as it loses it’s power, as the centrifugal force starts to dissipate..

But did Cobb make it home?

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy in 'Inception'

As the movie closed, everything seemed to fall into place for Cobb.  Since when do things ever perfectly fall into place? Yet everything flowed just as the perfect story-book ending might…  Everyone wakes up with pleasant looks on their faces, despite the obvious trauma they just experienced in their dreams.  They didn’t even look to check on their ‘mark.’  All the calls were made and Cobb was pardoned before the airplane landed.  Miles was waiting at the airport… but then again, he might have already been waiting.

Then Cobb gets home and has enough sense about him to spin his totem… but then he walks away from it when he sees his children.  And what he sees is what he’s been dreaming about for a long time, in what looks like the very same scene.  Too much of the very same scene, despite subtle differences.  But here’s the thing, his rules that he lived by, he never walks away from his totem.  It’s is one and only sanity test he had for himself because he knows the tricks and traps of the dream world.  Yet maybe on some subtle level, he stopped caring and decided to accept the scenario he saw and be reunited with his kids.  He just came from someone elses dream where the man grew to an old age.  So why not?

Before the main story/dream sequence, how often prior to that, did anyone wake up so dang serenely?

What I’d Like To Think

I think Cobb fell for the haze of a deep, multi-layered dream.  He may have given up, stopped questioning what was real and maybe just went with it.  Sure, he may not have been wearing his wedding ring in the end…. as was the case in the “waking world” throughout the movie and sure, the totem never wobbles in the dream state.  And there are other nuances that actually behind it all, would suggest that this was real.  But everything could have just as easily been changed to be perceived as needed to help himself give up.

Notice how I didn’t say “what I think,” but rather “what I’d like to think?”

I say that because I’m greedy.  I want a sequel where the comatose body of Cobb’s has been put in an institution and later on, for whatever brilliant reason that Christopher Nolan comes up with, the team has to go in and dig him out because they need him.  But getting in there, getting to him is the real challenge of the plot.  And this time, they won’t be all serene and smiley when they come out of the dream.

But that’s my selfish movie-goer desire.

But then there’s Nolan’s only take on the ending:

Christopher Nolan directing 'Inception'

I put that cut there at the end, imposing an ambiguity from outside the film. That always felt the right ending to me — it always felt like the appropriate ‘kick’ to me….The real point of the scene — and this is what I tell people — is that Cobb isn’t looking at the top. He’s looking at his kids. He’s left it behind. That’s the emotional significance of the thing.

Arg…  But he called it a kick.  Was that a clue?  Who knows, but one thing is for sure… Our lasting first impressions of Inception helped get us to the end and supported our final impressions, which are still revving up to this day.  Nolan, is the man!  ( Though I hate what he’s done to us…  some day, I hope to unplug from the Matrix and see what it all really looks like!

Inception merchandise on Amazon

[Nolan quote:  insidemovies.ew.com ]

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

halojin June 19, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I really love the movie inception but to be honest! I really didn’t know whether if he was still dreaming on the end of the movie??

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