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» Explaining Inception: an FAQ Guide
How did Cobb go into the limbo to find Saito?
Cobb was already in limbo to retrieve Fischer, so he was already there. But what I don't understand is if Cobb was already in limbo, then why did he end up washing up on the beach in the first scene and the same scene where he is coming back to Saito? (if that makes sense)
As an answer to the unanswered question above, perhaps Cobb, Ariadne, and Fischer were not already in Limbo. They were in a fourth level dream created by Cobb. Since Cobb created this fourth level, he replicated his own Limbo so he would know where to find Mal and Fischer. If this was the case, then Ariadne and Fischer fell off the building creating a kick for themselves when they hit the ground. Cobb stayed with Mal and admitted hit guilt, relieving his sins, until he drowns in level 1. At this point Cobb then actually enters Limbo, that Saito has been creating ever since he died a few minutes before Cobb in the movie (but nearly 60 years in Limbo time). To me, this is the only way the whole level 4 scene and Limbo at the end could have played out.
Or it could be that Cobb and Ariadne were in Limbo (hence all the structures he and Mal had created), but lucidly, because they were using the dream-sharing machine. Fischer and Saito had entered Limbo by dying, and were not lucid, which is why they needed to be rescued. Cobb, however, eventually lost his lucidity because he stayed behind (instead of following Ariadne and the kicks back up), and died in Level 1 (by drowning). He then drifts until washing up on the shores of Saito's subconscious. Cobb and Saito regain their lucidity only by remembering together that they are not in Reality.
Cobb "unconstructed dream space."
Ariadne "what the hell is down there?"
Arthur "just raw infinite subconscious, nothing is down there except whatever might have been left behind by anyone sharing the dream who's been trapped there before which in our case is just you"
The reason why Fischer is with Mel in Cobbs old limbo and why Cobb and Ariadne go back to that limbo is because that was Mel's and Cobb's old constructed dream space. Cobb is stabbed by Mel and leaves this level and goes further down into Saitos limbo prior to both of them waking up on the plane twenty minutes before landing in LA.
Cobb doesn't technically drown on the first level which would probably have taken him to saito's limbo anyway. Everyone forgets about him being stabbed by Mel before Ariadne shoots her.
This is the only movie I would choose to rewatch again for the first time if I it was ever possible to do such a thing. It is truly a blessing of a mind screw. Bravo Christopher Nolan. Bravo Sir
Fischer is with Mel in Cobb's and Mel's old limbo mainly because Cobb said Mel would have Fischer bc she wants Cobb to go back down there with her.
I fully agree that it might make more sense for Fischer to go into his own limbo that might be shared with Saito after Saito dies, but the story's author explains this simply to us through the dialogue.
There is no indication that Cobb rides the kick back to the third level just to be killed in the explosion. The footage of Cobb being motionless underwater on the first level only indicates that Cobb is still stuck further down.
When Cobb washes up on the shore in his and Saito's shared limbo, Cobb is much younger than Saito because Saito died on level 3 and Cobb died on level 4(his old limbo). Saito has spent much more time in limbo at this point as Cobb has just basically gotten there. They are both incoherent because they are so far down that they cannot tell what reality is.
And never forget that Cobb and Ariadne share a dream to get to Level 4 or Cobbs old limbo.