Yes, there will be some of you that will say that I’m five years late, but no one ever says that to anyone when they talk about Great Expectations, so I’m going to talk about Inception.
I’m taking the risk and assuming that any of you reading this will have watched the movie, as it’s going to take far too much time to explain the plot for the time that we have here.
Let’s start with story basics: the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is easy. Dom Cobb. He tells the story, and the plot is driven by him. Antagonists? That’s actually quite hard to say. Most of the antagonists are imaginary, thought up, “projections” of the mind of one of the dreamers. The guys chasing after them with guns? They’re part of Fischer’s subconscious defense force. Saito? Well, not really, he becomes their ally after the first fifteen or so minutes, almost before the inciting incident. The only real antagonist per se is Mal, Cobb’s deceased wife, who keeps resurfacing in his subconscious and ruining his plans. She’s the antagonist, except that she’s also imaginary, a projection of Cobb’s mind. To speak plainly, the protagonist and the antagonist are one.
Throughout the story, Cobb is on the run because he has been framed for his wife’s murder, which was actually suicide, as she jumped off a building because she thought she was in a dream. However, Cobb’s real problem is that he did, in technical terms, kill his wife: by using inception to plant that idea in her head. He did so because they originally were in a dream that she refused to get out of, but once they did, she never stopped believing that she was in a dream. Cobb refuses to let go of his guilt, which forms a key theme in the movie.
Have you ever met someone who is convinced of something, even though all the facts show contrary? Like a kid who thinks that the moon is made of green cheese? Or the thief who thinks he’s done nothing wrong? Or the person who thinks Androids are better than iPhones? (Sorry about the last statement, Google fans. There’s nothing wrong with your phones. But I recommend you read this.) Anyway, the extractors, or in this case, planters, have an easy job convincing Robert Fischer of his own hopes, save the fact that his subconscious is sending armed gangsters after them. He has a terrible relationship with his father, but still loves him. Maurice Fischer’s last words had been “disappointed”. Sensible people would have taken it to mean he was disappointed in his son. Using his love for his father and some coaxing, they manage to convince him that the old man meant he was disappointed his son tried to be like him, thus convincing Robert to break up his inheritance and sell it. To summarise that, he believed something so much that he wanted it to be true, and eventually, it did become true. For himself and himself only, that is.
Now that I’ve covered what I thought were big blocks, let’s move on to the biggest one, the one that got everyone groaning and moaning about. You know, the bit where the top is wobbling, and then the movie ends. And here’s where I wrap around to my above point. Everybody wants the movie to end in a certain way. So whatever I do say will probably be biased, as I twist the facts to suit my interpretation of things. I’ll be convincing myself to believe what I want to believe, like Robert Fischer. So, I’ll sit this one out.
Never mind, I was joking about that. But what I said in the paragraph above, that stuff is more important than the stuff below.
Here’s my completely biased and untreated opinion which comes from watching the movie only once: he was still in a dream. Like Fischer, Cobb managed to convince himself that a) the immigration won’t arrest him and b) he would see his children’s faces. That was my original opinion. However, after thinking about it, I revised my opinion: He wasn’t. I take my facts from the movie. First, he knew exactly where he was and how he had gotten there, completely unlike a dream. He was on ground, got on plane, did stuff, got off plane, met father-in-law, and then went home and got his children back. Second, if it was a dream, how did he get there? Old man Saito gave him a drug to send him into the limbo of limbo? The guy was so old he looked like he would have gotten a heart attack trying to stand. Also, after reading some theory about his wedding ring, it would appear that it wasn’t a dream.
I’ll leave you to that. But I tip my hat to Christopher Nolan for coming up with the amazing story.