“Was the end a dream or reality?
Although no one can prove it one way or another, unless that person is Chris Nolan, it is hard to say. But the more likely answer, is that the end was reality. This can pretty much be proven without any holes.
Explanation: The reason Cobb is in fact in reality is due to the information presented. Although Cobb does dies in the fourth dream layer (his memory of limbo) and then is in turn sent to the real limbo, along with Saito. It is highly likely they both escaped. From what we learn about limbo during the movie, it is understood that it is possible to escape from limbo, all you have to do is realize you are in limbo and are still dreaming and then kill yourself to escape. We know this is true because Mal and Cobb did it to escape the limbo they built, when they layed on the train tracks and let themselves die. Therefore when Cobb met Saito in limbo and reminded Saito that the world he was in was not reality, Saito then reaches for Cobb’s pistol. Now it does not show them kill themselves, but it can be inferred that they in fact committed suicide to escape limbo, which is in fact possible. Also, there are simple explanations as to why when he sees his kids again they look much like they did in his dream. For example, he never saw his kids faces so we cannot easily tell if they had aged much, from his memory. Maybe they didn’t; this is highly possible since when Cobb saw memories of his father they looked no different then his father looked recently when he finds him to search for a new architect. Also, Cobb never visibly ages much. In addition, the movie never defines the amount of time that has passed since Mal had died, and Cobb was banned from the U.S. So the memory of his kids may only be a few months old, therefore it is very possible his kids look pretty much the same in the memories and in the present. To add, the spinning top at the end of the movie falters, and appears to lose some momentum, this is a sign of reality due to the fact in a dream, the top spins flawlessly, everytime. In conclusion, Cobb would have awoken up on the plane at some time, once the sedative wore off, no matter what. The only difference between him escaping limbo or not is if he hadn’t escaped limbo he would have awoken to his brain “turned to mush” as quoted from the movie, and he would have probably not percieved his awakening on the plane as reality; but on the other side, if he had awoken from limbo, before the sedative had worn off he would be fine. The sedative is a fail safe, once it wears off, you will always wake up (messed up or not). But due to the facts I presented it is more likely that Saito and Cobb escaped from limbo and ended up fine on the plane.
Evidence to Reality: In the opening moments you get a glimpse of Leo’s hand. Specifically, he’s wearing his wedding ring. Now, if you follow the rest of the movie keeping an eye out for this you will notice that he only has the ring on when he’s in the dream world. At the end of the movie he isn’t wearing the ring.” If the ring only appears when he’s in a dream and he’s not wearing at the end of the film, that could be confirmation that in fact, the top does stop spinning after the credits and Cobb is at last in the real world.
Evidence to Dream: Note that at the end of the film Cobbs kids havent aged. They match exactly his memory of them. A memory which must almost surely by now be out of date, since hes been away from them for many months. Though he finally sees their faces, otherwise they look exactly as he envisioned them. They’re even wearing the same clothes. In reality, his kids would now be older and different than his memories of them. This could suggest that Cobb is still in the dream. And just before he wakes up in the plane older Saito seems to be reaching for his gun so it’s possible he had shot Cobb and because he was too deep in a dream that he imagined a memory and this was on the plane thus the latter happened when seeing his kids. But when in his lounge the top seems to keep spinning just before the credits roll.
“Both theories are true” theory: Movie has two main themes: the first one is that the line between dreams and reality can be imperceptible from the perspective of an individual; the second that an idea can be a parasite which, once incepted, can take over one’s psyche. The ending simply reflects the fact that the idea that killed Mal has now taken over Cobb; he cannot discern whether he is now living in a dream or a reality, and we, the audience, witness that intimately. The gyro in the end falters, but we do not see whether it stops or not. Have we witnessed it stop, the movie would be essentially telling us “fear not, this is real and a happy end”. Had the shot ended with it spinning, the movie would affirm the other theory. However, the shot as-is wants to ensure us that we do not know and we cannot know, because Cobb doesn’t know anymore. The lack of definite answer IS the answer; for the rest of his life Cobb will wonder whether everything around him is real, and the audience is deliberately left with that same question hanging in their heads.”
- FunWithCole – Want to know what the ending to Inception means? I have the answer. “…The top spinning at the end is the Schrodinger’s cat paradox. Without seeing it fall, but having evidence it might, we are left with the fact that Cobb’s world is simultaneously a dream and reality. More importantly, Cobb’s action to walk away without confirming the top’s fall is the true...
- MovieFone – ‘Inception’ Ending and Theories: What Just Happened?! “…• So if it was a dream…? If it was real, of course, then there’s not a whole lot to strain your brain over. But if that top is still spinning on some cutting room floor, then a whole new slew of questions open up. Are the other members of...