Three days ago I saw a movie called Inception. Meriam and I left theater about 36 hours ago (9:30 pm on Saturday until 9:30 am on Monday). I have been obsessed ever since I left the movie. Of the 36 hours since I left I bet I have spent 20 of them on the IMDB message boards arguing my theory of the movie, which I present in this post. Parts of this post were originally written on Saturday night as soon as I got home.
One of the wonderful ideas in the movie is that it is possible to ‘incept’ an idea into someone else’s mind, and that once an idea is planted, if it is worthy, it will infect other people’s minds. It will expand and broaden. I wondered on Saturday night if I could infuse my idea of the movie into the internet consciousness – into the discussion about the movie and if it was a good enough idea it could infect it’s way into other people’s minds.
Over the past two days I’ve made hundreds of posts to the IMDB discussion boards about my ideas. Primarily in two posts: Miles Incepted Cobb and Miles is forging Saito. When I first started posting there was no mention of any of the ideas that I proposed in any of the discussions that I saw prior to my post. Since I’ve posted my ideas I am starting to see some references to ideas similar to mine. I’m not claiming that I was the first person to have mentioned any of these ideas. I am saying that these ideas were mine, that I posted them on Saturday August 7th around 9:30 pm and that I checked the message board for Inception prior to making my posting and found no reference to any of these ideas there. I also searched around the internet pretty extensively prior to my post and found nothing (although I did not do this as thoroughly as I checked the message board).
Now for the theory:
I think this was a stupendous movie. I think that the three level dream hierarchy architected by Ariadne and implemented by Cobb to incept the idea that Fischer should break up his father’s empire is excellent and very interesting – but I don’t think it has much to do with what the movie is about.
I think that three level dream hierarchy is part of a larger dream hierarchy architected by Miles and implemented by Ariadne to incept the idea into Cobb’s mind that he should forgive himself his guilt for the death of his wife.
I also think that Miles is forging Saito all the way down through the three level dream hierarchy and that when Saito (Miles’ forgery) dies it is by design so that Cobb agrees to go one more level deep. Ariadne suggests this to Cobb when he says that the mission (incepting Fischer) is a failure. Ariadne says that Cobb should go down one more level which he does.
What Cobb (and the audience) finds at that lower level is his own inner most sanctum – his house – with Mal in it. Ariadne and Fischer are there as well but when they jump off the building Cobb goes down one more level still until he arrives on the beach. When he is taken to the house where the old man Saito sits at his table is the moment in the movie where the idea that Cobb should forgive himself is incepted into his mind – by Miles forging Saito.
In an earlier dream level Saito says to Cobb “we should return to being young men,” and in this lowest level dream level Cobb regurgitates that exact sentence back to him. Remember – the thought that is incepted must be a positive thought. When Cobb regurgitates that line we are being shown that the inception has worked. Cobb has internalized that thought. Saito’s (Miles as a forger’s) hand reaches for the gun on the table and everyone wakes up in the airplane. Mission accomplished. The mission being to incept into Cobb’s mind that he should forgive himself for his wife’s death and ‘go back to being a young man.”
What this theory explains that other theories ignore:
1. Why would Cobb agree to hire a complete novice to help him architect the most important mission of his life?
2. Why does Saito keep appearing magically – in the helicopter, in the streets of Mombassa? Why is Saito, the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, there at all?
3. Why is Ariadne so amazing skilled as an architect?
4. Why is the topmost level of the movie identical to the second to the bottom most level?
5. Why is the city that Cobb and Mal built crumbling?
6. Why does the train barrel through the city in the first level of the Fischer dream hierarchy?
7. Why is the entire Kobol, Fischer, Saito corporation thing so shadowy and ridiculously powerful? How can Saito – a non-US business man make a single phone call and make it possible for Cobb to get through customs? How can Saito buy an entire airline in such a very short time?
8. Why would Fischer’s nurses leave the door open so Cobb and his cohorts could learn about the relationship between Fischer and his father in such intimate detail?
9. Why is the second to last scene – just before everyone ‘wakes’ up – only show Cobb and Saito. If the movie was only about the Fischer inception why wouldn’t the second to the last scene show Fischer being successfully incepted?
10. If Miles is such an important person in the movie (he architected the dream) then why does he only have a few lines and very few appearances?
Refutation of ideas that go against my theory:
1. The children, in the final scene, are older, wearing different clothes. Cobb’s wedding ring is present in a lot of the movie but not the final scene. These things indicate that the final scene is ‘reality.’
2. If the whole movie is just a dream the entire thing is stupid (the Trivial argument).
3. Can’t think of any more.
Over the next few days I will handle each of the above questions in their own blog posts. Stay tuned.
The original post from Saturday night:
I’ve read a lot of reviews of the movie on the internet but I really feel that they are all missing the point. Yes – it was a genius movie about a ‘thought robber for hire’ who would go into people minds and steal ideas. Yes – it is a genius movie about a daring plan to go into a dream-inside-a-dream-inside-a-dream to plant an idea someone’s head that he should disband his own father’s mega-corporate-empire. Yes – it keeps you jumping trying to keep track of which level they are in – the ideas about time how time expands within each level, or about how gravity is effected from the levels above are all genius. Even if these were the only things about this movie it would have been a great movie.
But what makes this a fantastic movie is what happens on the level above the movie itself.
This movie is about Cobb. This movie has nothing whatsoever to do with the Fischer dynasty. This movie is about Cobb’s subconscious.
The real Inceptor is Miles. Cobb’s father. He is the builder of the world. It is a five level deep dream. Remember – at the end of the movie the top still spins. The house in which Cobb finally sees his children’s faces is the same wooden house at the very bottom most level (paradox). This is just like the paradoxical steps. The builder (Miles) used the same paradoxical stairs.
Why would Miles do this? He was the first person to discover the technology. He was actually ultimately responsible for his own daughter’s madness. He was responsible for Cobb’s madness. He found Ariadne and built a world so that he could implant the idea in Cobb’s mind that he could forget his wife.
This explains why the lowest level dream is in Cobb’s mind. In Cobb’s house. The defenses that attacked in the very first level came from Cobb’s mind. The train and the shooters. They wounded Saito. When Cobb is sitting at the table with Saito that is the inner most sanctum of his own mind. Saito says “let us both go back to being young men” which is the idea that was implanted in Cobb’s mind. This is so clear to me now that I’m writing about it. This is what makes this movie so wonderful. The implantation of the idea is into Cobb’s mind.
The entire time I was wondering why Cobb would have accepted Adriane as his Architect but it makes sense if she’s actually a Forger – if she’s just pretending to be an Architect and in reality she is the guide. The one that helps Saito and Cobb reach the very bottom level. Adriane is the Mr. Cooper (is that the right name)? She breaks through his defenses which are manifested in
How can Miles forge Saito and be present at the same time as seen in the helicopter?
I think that’s an indication that Miles is incepting Cobb. Whenever something doesn’t seem to make sense in the “real world” I always think that’s a hint that the character are not and never have been in the real world. In other words–above the movie–outside the movie–Miles is incepting Cobb.