'Inception' -- An Ending Worth Discussing

Scene from InceptionBefore we discuss the ending of Inception, I have a few words of advice for those who haven't seen the movie yet.

  1. Go see it. It's one of those movies that's worth the cost of a babysitter to see in the theater. It's an original, complex story -- not the same old recycled script we've gotten used to seeing at the movies. You'll want to see the special effects on the big screen; plus it's one of those movies that gets an audible reaction from the audience.

  2. Don't read the rest of this post now. Bookmark it and come back after you've seen the film. You'll want to be surprised and I want to hear what you think of the ending.

Spoilers Ahead!


When the screen went dark with the top still spinning, the audience around me erupted in laughter. We were laughing at ourselves. We should have known better, after over two hours of twists and turns, to expect a neat, tidy ending. Yet, we did. Suckers! Director Christopher Nolan had us and we were just along for the ride.

There are (at least) two ways to view the ending and the way you viewed it probably says a lot about who you are -- the eternal optimist (A) or the cynical realist (B).

Option A: Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is home for real. We see Saito (Ken Watanabe) hold up his end of the deal and make the phone call from the plane. The top is spinning, but it's starting to wobble and will eventually fall down. Further evidence -- Cobb finally sees his children's faces which he could never do in his dreams. He needs to spin the top because his mind has become poisoned by the thought he planted in Mal's (Marion Cotillard) mind. He'll never be able to stop questioning what's real, but at least he's home.

Option B: Cobb is stuck in limbo and this homecoming is all a dream. I mean, come on, who has EVER gotten through an airport so smoothly -- that had to be a dream. And his kids haven't aged and are wearing the same clothes as in his dreams. All these signs point to an extended stay in limbo for Cobb.

Sometimes open-ended endings are frustrating, especially when done simply to leave room for a sequel. But, I don't think that's the case here. This ending reinforces the central theme of the movie -- that it's sometimes hard to separate what's a dream from what's reality. Just like the characters in the film, we'll never know for sure. Either way, Cobb gets a happy ending.

What did you think of the ending? Was the last scene reality or a dream?

Photo via inceptionmovie.com

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