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Explaining Inception: an FAQ Guide

Guide to the dreams within dreams in the movie Inception.
Spoiler Alert! This guide contains key plot information and you should watch the movie first before reading it.


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So... cutting to the chase, was everything (after Cobb's exile) a dream? Could it be that the heist never did happen, that Saito, Ariadne and the others were never real, and that Cobb created himself a world where he was presented an opportunity to go back to his family? Or did the heist DID happen? » Improve Q
If you assume that the bulk of the movie is Cobb's dream: Any explanation for why/how/etc. Cobb is in that dream is possible. The viewer can choose whatever view he/she feels most compelled to. » Improve A
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In a part of the movie, we see Ariadne explaining to Cobb that one of the levels would happen in a hospital, where Fischer Sr was interned. But there wasn't any scene that happened in a hospital. What did she mean, then? » Improve Q
the hospital was in the snow level. Last room (the vault) in snow fortress was the hospital where Fischer opened the locked door and found his father.  » Improve A
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Who can alter the world of a dream? Everyone being included in the dream or only the actual "dreamer"?
In the initial "demonstration"-dream of Cobb and Ariadne she can bend the streets even though she is NOT the actual dreamer (it's Cobb's dream, right?).
Another question above though says that Arthur can change the never-ending staircase because he is the dreamer...but apparently everyone can change the world of a dream...
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1.Only the dreamer, and that is what attracts attention to him/her.
2.It's Ariadne's dream, which is why it's filled with Cobb's subconscious.
3.Anyone can bring projections of their subconcious, as Cobb continually does, but that is different than changing a dream at will.
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why is cobb and saito no longer connected to the dream machine when they wake up on the plane at the end of the movie? » Improve Q

As you can see at the beginning of the movie in the train, Saito was still sleeping even after the tubes were disconnected. They used the same dream machine in the aeroplane and the sedative is very strong. The sedative was already in them when they were connected to the dream machine. So, like other drugs, Cobb and Saito have to wait for the sedative to finish or weaken even after the tubes were disconnected in order to wake up.

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Is it possible that, all the movie being Cobb´s dream, his wife might be still alive, in the "real world"? The person "dies" in the dream and awakens in real life, but for the dreamer that person is dead. » Improve Q
If "all the movie" (that is, every single bit form start to end) is Cobb's dream, then, yes - anything is possible. Maybe he never had a wife? Maybe he's a trapeze artist from Thailand? The point is that something in the movie needs to be real for us to be sure of anything.

It all depends on how you choose to perceive the movie. One of the theory says that when Mal jumped, she jumped in a dream. She intended to make make Cobb realise that he is dreaming but failed.
Then there are other theories.. chosing to follow one of them each time your watch the move makes for slightly diffrent experiences
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What would happen if the machine was turned off and the sedative wore off when people were still on different (non-limbo) levels? Would they all wake up, or would those not on the first dream level end up in limbo? » Improve Q

Time simply goes on in the real world, and that people in different layers experience that same amount of time, only dilated by a factor of X (depending on the strength of the sedative used). So if the sedative wore off when people are in different levels, they would wake up normally after spending a certain amount of hours in their respective levels.

For example, in the real world a 20:1 sedative works for 1 second. After 1 second, everyone wakes up:

whoever is in the first layer stays in it for 1x20 seconds, then wake up.

whoever is in the second layer stays in it for 20x20=400 seconds, then wake up.

whoever is in the third layer stays in it for 400x20=8000 seconds, then wake up.

So on and so forth.

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Wasn't it dangerous for the chemist to be drinking alcohol before dreaming level
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No.  I guess he would know, right?  The warning against simultaneous consumption of alcohol and drugs does not apply to dream sedatives and drugs apparently, unless you want to get your dreams rained on. » Improve A
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Cobb stated that they needed to do the mission quickly in order to avoid being killed by the projection of Fischer. Why would finishing the mission quickly help them get back to reality sooner? They can only wake up when the sedative is no longer effective. » Improve Q
The deeper they go, the more security, meaning it would be easier to die in the farther levels. Also because there is more time the deeper they go, meaning the security would have more time to kill them. As you notice after most of the team wakes up from the van, there is no more security after them. » Improve A
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How did Cobb and Saito end up in the same limbo? Why not each their own? » Improve Q
Because they are all connected to the same dream, they experience the same Limbo with elements from both of their subconscious minds.

Limbo is a shared dreamspace. The beach was a feature of Cobb's previous Limbo experiences, from the "memory elevator" Ariadne sees Mal play with the kids on it, and she sees the train rush past on it. For Cobb it seems a site of trauma. Saito adds his Japanese house to the shoreline.» Improve this Answer
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Question. In Limbo at the table there were apricot leafs and the knife placed on the table. what does those leafs represent? » Improve Q
They might not represent anything, they could quite easily be just for decoration. » Improve A
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