Inception Theory - The Interpretation of the Movie Inception and its Plot.

Author: Jacob Baloul
Published: Aug. 8, 2010


Surely this movie is another brilliant piece by Christopher Nolan. You can take it in so many different directions and really enjoy each one as a separate experience.
In this article, I will explain what I personally took away from the movie, how I reached my conclusions, and hopefully find out if anyone out there shared this "dream" as well.

CAUTION! If you have not seen the movie, this may influence your experience.

Key Questions and Unclear Elements
  • Does the spinning top fall at the end? In other words, are we still dreaming?
  • Does the millionaire, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), actually dissolve his fathers company?
  • Is Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) still dreaming?
  • Was Leonardo in limbo the whole time?
  • Was it actually some other characters dream? Whose?

To skip the build-up and reveal my answers and the Moral of the Story click here..

The Setup

The movie is a paradox maze embedded in a multi-level dream...dreams within dreams.

The Plot

An expert Extractor is hired to execute corporate espionage by stealing and planting ideas through multi-level dreams and shared dreaming technology, a concept called Inception. The deal is, that if the Extractor is successful in his mission, he will be rewarded with a way back to his home and family.

Leonardo's Role:

An Extractor who can perform Inception.

The Solution

Leonardo's Solution to the Mission:

By digging deeper into his own sub-conscious he finds the exact combination to solving his own issues. Piece by piece, dream by dream, he saves Saito (Ken Watanabe) from Limbo, "Incepts" the idea in the millionaires mind, while letting the memory of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), free, and winning his ticket back home.

Repeated Motifs and The Components of the Dream Levels:

Below I will list the motifs and then further elaborate on the interpretation of each one:

  • The Projections
  • The Forger's Multiple Identities
  • Dreams Objective: The Solution to each dream maze
  • The Kick
  • The Totem
  • The Secret Combination
  • The Safes
  • The Kick Music
  • The Stairs - Penrose_stairs
  • Water, drowning, sand castles, and beach
  • The Train
  • Repeated Phrases: Leap of faith, dying old man

The Projections:

Each character at some point or another was forged, projected, and/or implanted...


  • The Spinning Top
  • The Dice
  • The Casino Chips
  • The Pawn

The Forgers Multiple Identities:

  • The godfather, Peter Browning (Tom Berenger)
  • The blond at the bar
  • The millionnaire father
  • Leonardo's father

The Safes / The Secret Combination:

A combination, as in the moral of the story, represents the exact steps necessary to complete the mission and achieve success, for if even one digit in the combination is wrong, you have to start entering it all over again.

  • Saito's safe
  • The wife's safe
  • The millionaire's safe

Leap of Faith:

This emphasized statement is an important reference to hope, courage, and timing.

Hints, Clues, and Repeating Motifs:

The key to identifying the clues is telling the difference between the dreamers projection, planted projections, actual characters, memories and dreams within the multi-level dream mazes. The difficulty obviously being the fact that the whole movie is one big, complicated multi-level dream maze.


  • The Forger defines the strategy, "start with the relationship of the father" - Both the millionaire and Leonardo have complicated relationships with their father.
  • In the elevator Leonardo says: "I need to change one thing..."
  • Saito does not have a Totem - This explains why he continues to live in limbo in which he ages up until Leonardo is able to convince him to come back to reality and wake up.

Dream Levels:

Whose dream is it and how do they solve the maze to escape...

Dream: Rainy City
Double Kick: 1) Drive the van off the bridge and 2) hit the water.
Dreamer: drug guru, Yusuf (Dileep Rao)

Dream: Hotel
Kick: Drop them without gravity
Dreamer: Leonardo's Partner, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Dream: Snow Base
Kick: Defibrillator
Dreamer: The Forger, Eames (Tom Hardy)

Dream: Dining Room
Kick: Find the millionnaire, shoot the wife and jump
Dreamer: The Architect, Ariadne (Ellen Page)

Final and Beginning Dream: Saito's Limbo
Kick: Convince Saito that he is dreaming.
Dreamer: Saito

Spiritual Messages and Relationships

Relationship between Tikkun Olam - תיקון עולם, Reincarnation, and Olam Haba

Tikkun Olam - In mystical Judaism, it is believed that souls of righteous individuals are reborn to continue the ongoing process of mending the world.
Kaballah speaks of this "tikkun" as continuous corrections within infinite reincarnations.

Tikkun Olam
Olam Haba

Mazal - מזל

You may have heard the Hebrew phrase "Mazel Tov" in association with congratulations. This phrase has a second, less recognized meaning - Good Luck.
While the majority see the word for Luck, Mazal, as a word, it can also be seen as an abbreviation.

The Hebrew spelling of Mazal, מ.ז.ל, uses 3 letters:
  • (M - מ) = (Makom - מקום) - Place or Space
  • (Z - ז) = (Zman - זמן) - Time
  • (L - ל) = (Lev - לב) - Heart

So in essence, you can create your luck by being at the right place, at the right time, and having the courage to act!

The Moral of the Story and Main Message:

The true answer to this puzzle, is that their are no answers, only choices. As in a maze, some choices lead back to where you started, others lead to the escape. My choice is yes, the spinning top falls at the end and the Moral of the Story is achieved. The millionaire son dissolves the company. Leonardo awakes in the plane. Leonardo was in limbo through the majority of the movie. It was Leonardo's dream maze.

The Moral of the Story is: That you can escape infinite loops, paradoxes, life's rat chase, and reincarnations by identifying signs (kicks, omens), at the right time, in the right place (level, dream, dimension), and having the courage to change or act upon the things that make all the difference. In other words, you need to see opportunities and have the heart to jump on them.

More Fun:

Other possible tangents to go off on, and hidden messages:

- We are still stuck in the dream from the point where Leonardo first tries Yusuf's sedation in Mombasa, as he never actually got the chance to spin the top and verify that he is not dreaming.

- Every character is a projection in Leonardo's limbo and he is dreaming the whole movie. As his wife says "...because you don't know your dreaming". In which case the wife may still be alive.

- The Perception of Time – seconds become years in different dimensions and levels. Quantum Physics and SpaceTime.

- Is Saito Leonardo's projection, a planted forge, or a real Japanese business man looking to hire an extractor to perform inception on his biggest corporate competitor.
If Projection:
Then Leonardo is projecting him from the beginning to the end, then you must also believe that the movie does not end and the plane scene which leads to Leonardo's escape is just another level in the dream, in which case the spinning top does not fall in the end.
If Partial Projection and Planted Forge: Then at which point was he forged? The forger needed to know about Saito to forge him, so could it be right after they both enter the car - "different tail"

- Dreams and Death are related...

Both are like doors to different dimensions and alternate realities. Dreams are gateways through the subconscious reality and Death is a gateway to reincarnations.

The Secret SoundTrack:

The soundtrack, is another brilliant work by Hans Zimmer, who also created the soundtrack for Gladiator, The Dark Knight, The Da Vinci Code, and much more.
In this one, Zimmer uses slow motion and hidden tunes to create the secret of the Inception Score, take a look...

"... In recent days Internet denizens have gotten very excited about a viral video (posted above) that compares the Édith Piaf song “Non, je ne Regrette Rien” to Hans Zimmer’s score for the movie. When the video’s pseudonymous author, camiam321, plays the key musical cue from that score, two ominous blares from a brass section, followed by a slowed-down version of the Piaf song (which the “Inception” characters play at regular speed as a warning to wake up from a dream state), they sound nearly identical. ..." more

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The content, ideas, thoughts, interpretations, are all of the respective author - Jacob Baloul.
No material was copied and / or influenced by other interpretations.
© All rights reserved - Jacob Baloul - 2023


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