This presupposes that you’ve seen Inception at least once.
Think of all the things Cobb explains that they’re going to do to Fischer in his Inception. Now, take every part of that plan and apply it to a second Inception of Cobb.
There are multiple things that suggest this.
Saito repeating a phrase said by Mal. The goons chasing Cobb through Mombassa behaving very similarly to the projections in the hotel, including Eames drawing Cobb’s attention to one in particular as a parallel to the Cobb’s execution of the Mr. Charles gambit. The narrow space Cobb squeezes through seems a bit like something an architect might put into place.
Then there’s what they do with Browning.
The team has Eames impersonate Browning and convince Fisher that Browning is working against him. Then, Fisher’s subconscious takes over and now his projection of Browning behaves as though it is acting against him.
I have a theory that the “dream parlor” Cobb visits in Mombassa is an analogy to how Cobb may have been living his life, spending all of his time asleep, reliving *positive* memories of his life with his wife and children.
It’s my suggestion that (as some others have suggested) the Inception of Fisher is part of a bigger job, and one of the first steps in that job was to convince Cobb that his projection of Mal was murderous and needed to be cut off. In this way, it allowed the team to create their mission and Cobb volunteered not to see any of the plans *as though it was his idea.*
Basically, Cobb is being conned by his entire team, it’s an intervention. They’re trying to get him to kick the “Mal” habit. It’s a version of Mr. Charles, where they ask him to help them perform an Inception, without him ever knowing that it’s actually his mind he’s helping them break into.
There are other bits that strike me as being part of this of this, such as the possibility that Saito “the tourist” is actually an experienced extractor himself, that the reason Ariadne is so quick to “jack in” to the sleeping Cobb is to see how the Mal projection is progressing, the idea that “stick-in-the-mud” Arthur did such a bad job checking to see if Fisher had dream defense training, the fact that Fischer’s “defense training” didn’t seem to include a marksmanship course, why Arthur continues to work with Cobb after his Mal projection proves dangerous, etc.
If everything is straight-forward, this might seem like really bad planning. If they’re all issues set to force Cobb in a specific direction, it’s very well done. Some David Mamet’s films have excellent sequences where this type of thing is put into practice. Everything seems to be falling apart to the one guy who isn’t in on the real hustle and often the audience is stuck viewing it from his perspective. It isn’t until the final reveal that we realize what the TRUE hustle was. Only, in Inception, there’s no final reveal. Some will argue that means it didn’t happen. I’m not so sure.
Some, or all of the “Fischer Inception Team” members are part of a secondary “Cobb Inception Team” in this scenario. The team is basically out-maneuvering Cobb behind the scenes, because they’ve convinced him to help them break into his own mind.
It should be noted that I’m not on one side or the other of the “is it ‘reality’ at the end” question. I don’t know exactly who is behind the Cobb Inception. Is it Miles? Is it the “real” Mal, who actually escaped and is trying to get them to pull Cobb back up to reality from the dream he’s been trapped in with a fake version of herself this whole time? Is one of the “strangers” Cobb meets actually the “real” Mal, or Miles in disguise? These are all things that I’d be interested in exploring after more viewings.
It just seems clear to me that Cobb was being conned, and whether or not it worked exactly as the team had hoped, in the end he seems better for it.
There’s one bit about this that puzzles me then, however. If we believe that the rules of Inception and Extraction are how they’re explained, then the boy on the train and the flight attendant may complicate the “the train is actually a dream” or “the plane is actually a dream” theories that make their way into the “it’s all a long con to perform Inception on Cobb” theories.
They both seem to act too independently to be projections, so in order for either of these scenes to actually be a dream the boy and the flight attendant must either be:
1) Auxiliary members of the “second” Inception team, who have come in specifically for those roles in the job. (Possible, but unlikely.)
2) Members of the “second” Inception team who have taken the form of other people, like Eames did with the woman in the bar.
3) In an actual reality.
For both 1&2 it’s possible that Cobb is inside a dream for the entire movie. This is different than saying the entire movie is Cobb’s dream. The idea would be that there’s a reality just one level higher, and the goal of the team is to get Cobb out. If you wanted to sort through that you’d have to separate the folks Cobb knows from the strangers and figure out who’s “real” and who are just projections.
For 3, it gets a bit tricker. You have to keep track of when Cobb goes into a dream and when he wakes up. You have to check to see when something seems strange. For example, his conversation in Mombassa with Eames and the chase seem like a dream to me. He wakes up after visiting the dream parlor after this happens. Is this real life?
Basically, as it plays out in my head at this time, the plane is still reality, the inception job works as played out, but the “subject” isn’t Fischer, it’s Cobb. Again, I’m nowhere “done” with this theory, it’s just where I’m at trying to sort through everything.
Again, the difference between the “Cobb Inception” theory and the “it was all a dream on the plane” theory is that it’s sloppy, complex, and frustrating. That’s why I like it.
7/23/2010 – 8:35am Pacific Time
I just found this interview Leonardo DiCaprio talks about the movie as a “therapy session” for Cobb and refers to him as a “drug addict, addicted to the dream state.”
I’m not saying this is pure vindication for the theory, but it doesn’t hurt it.