Cobb wakes up. He’s home. Finally, home. But… is it real?
Movie: Inception (2010), written by Christopher Nolan.
IMDb plot summary: A thief, who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology, is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO.
Scene Setup: In limbo, Cobb washes ashore where the armed guard finds him. He is brought to the seaside palace where the elderly Japanese man recognizes his brass top.
Here is the scripted version of the ending to Inception:
INT. DINING ROOM, CASTLE - DAY
Cobb WOLFS his food. The Elderly Japanese Man (Saito, 90
years old) watches him.
So... have you come to kill me?
Cobb does not look up.
I've been waiting for someone to
come for me...
Someone from your half-remembered
Saito peers at Cobb.
Cobb? Not possible-he and I were
young men together. And I am an old
Filled with regret?
Saito REMEMBERS, nods...
Waiting to die alone, yes.
Cobb is STARING at something on the table.
I came back for you... I came to
remind you of what you once knew...
Cobb gestures at the table. Saito follows his gaze down to
the polished surface of the table...
That this world is not real.
The top IS STILL SPINNING PERFECTLY, AS IF IT WILL NEVER
TOPPLE. Saito looks at the top. Then back to Cobb.
You came to convince me to honor
Yes. And to take a leap of faith.
As Saito-san listens to Cobb, he looks at the GUN on the
table between them...
Come back and we'll be young men
The elderly Saito looks at Cobb. Nods. And we-
INT. FIRST CLASS CABIN, 747 - DAY
Ariadne watches Cobb. His eyes are closed.
FLIGHT ATTENDANT (O.S.)
Hot towel, sir?
His EYES FLICKER OPEN. He takes the towel with a nod. Ariadne
We'll be landing in Los Angeles in
about twenty minutes. Do you need
Cobb nods. Takes a landing card. Looks around the cabin.
Saito is WATCHING him. Serious. Haunted. Holding Cobb's gaze,
SAITO PICKS UP THE PHONE AND DIALS. Cobb nods thanks...
INT. ARRIVALS, LAX - LATER
Cobb steps forwards to the IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL. Hands him
his passport. Nervous. The Official takes a beat, looks Cobb
up and down, then WHUMP!- the passport is stamped. As Cobb
takes it back, he spots Ariadne at the next counter. She nods
at him. He nods back. Then moves off...
As Cobb passes through baggage claim, he exchanges subtle
greetings with Eames and Yusuf.
Arthur smiles broadly at Cobb. Cobb brushes past Fischer, who
glances back at him as if thinking maybe he should know him,
then moves on...
As Cobb emerges into the crowded arrivals hall, he spots
Professor Miles, waving at him...
INT. KITCHEN, COBB AND MAL'S HOUSE - DAY
Cobb enters with Miles. Drops his bags. Moves to the table,
looking out at the overgrown garden. He reaches into his
pocket, takes out his pewter spinning top, lowers it to the
table and SPINS IT- a CHILD'S SHOUT makes him look up-
Through the window, James and Philippa have run into view,
playing, THEIR FACES TURNED AWAY... Cobb STARES at the back
of his children's heads... Miles moves to the window and
KNOCKS on the glass-
James and Philippa TURN- see their Dad. He steps to the
window, watching their BRIGHT FACES SHINING as they run
Behind him, on the table, the spinning top is STILL SPINNING.
There is some additional dialogue in the movie most notably a line from a U.S. customs agent: “Welcome home, Mr. Cobb.”
A few interesting pieces of trivia:
- If you take the first letters of the main characters’ names — Dom, Robert, Eames, Arthur, Mal and Saito — they spell “Dreams”. If you add Peter, Ariadne and Yusuf, the whole makes “Dreams Pay”, which is what they do for a mind thief.
- During an interview, Christopher Nolan addressed the ambiguous ending, saying he believes Cobb makes it home to his children, although it is open to interpretation by the viewer. He further claimed that the point of not seeing whether or not the top stops spinning is that Cobb no longer obsesses over his dreams.
- Christopher Nolan first pitched the film to Warner Bros. after the completion of his third feature, Insomnia (2002), and was met with approval from the studio. However, it was not yet written at the time, and Nolan determined that rather than writing it as an assignment, it would be more suitable to his working style, if he wrote it as a speculation script, and then presented it to the studio whenever it was completed. So he went off to write it, thinking it would take “a couple of months”, but it ultimately took nearly eight years.
The story I have heard is that Nolan’s original idea was to do a heists movie, however his early attempts at writing the script did not feel right, so he set it aside to do other projects. Over time, he realized the primary problem was Cobb didn’t have a strong enough emotional reason to pull off the inception. Then he thought of Cobb’s goal: To get home to his children. Once Nolan had that, he was able to write the script and move forward with the movie.
This speaks to the importance of character. No matter how mind-blowing and entertaining the spectacle, the audience has to have an emotional connection to the plot.
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