Question: What is the point of so many dream layers to get to the "inception" of the idea? I guess the movie would lose all of its intricacy without it, and would be much less appealing. So what is the excuse to use that trick from the director?
Answer: For inception to work the idea must be planted very deeply within the subconscious. The more dream layers there are, the deeper into the subconscious you get.
Question: How do the people in the film share a dream? I understand that the briefcase contains sedatives to put everyone to sleep, but how do they get inside a certain individuals dream? How do they end up being in the same dream together?
Answer: The details are never explained in the depth, but all the dreamers are connected via the briefcase, so it seems likely that the briefcase acts in some way as a networking hub for them to share the dreamspace.
Question: Me and my friend have debated this each time we have watched the movie and I finally decided to ask the question here to see who is right. When they are discussing their plan and saying they need the plane for it, Saito says "I bought the airline... It seemed neater." My interpretation of this is that he bought out all the tickets on that particular flight so the plane would be empty and weed out risk of interruption from other passengers, as doing that made it so there are no other passengers. But my friend thinks he means he bought the entire brand of the airline, so that he now owns the company that has that plane. Like buying out SouthWest Airlines as a company or something. So who is right? What did Saito mean? Did he buy out all the tickets for that flight, or did he buy the whole airline company?
Answer: He bought out the actual airline company. If he'd bought out all the tickets for that specific journey he'd have said "I bought out the flight" or similar. It's a deliberately over the top moment of exuberance to highlight exactly how rich Satio is. I'm afraid that it is your friend who is correct, sorry.
Question: How can Cobb be accused of killing Mal when she was on a ledge across from the hotel suite?
Answer: The gap between the window Cobb is in and the ledge Mal is sitting on doesn't appear to be particularly wide, so it would be unclear exactly where she fell from; if she was physically thrown from the window, which is the scenario she's trying to fake, she wouldn't fall straight downwards, so a position some distance out from the window would not be unexpected. Add to that her stated claims that he threatened to kill her and the very obvious signs of a struggle in the room, to say nothing of the fact that Cobb ran, and he comes out of the whole sad affair looking extremely guilty.
Question: I mostly understand the nature of the "kicks", but one thing I don't understand is what the kick was that woke the characters up from the 1st dream layer, the one with the van falling off the bridge. Falling off the skyscraper woke Ariadne up in the snow fortress layer, the fortress collapsing woke them up in the hotel layer, and the elevator crashing woke them up in the van layer. What woke the characters up, all at the same time, in the van layer?
Answer: You've got it a bit backward. Falling off the skyscraper (dying) got her out of limbo and back to the snow fortress so that when the elevator crashed at the hotel, THAT kick would be able to wake her out of the snow fortress. Then the van crashing woke her from the hotel, and finally the time entered into the dream machine itself expired and woke them all simultaneously for the final time. The only ways to wake up are to die within the dream or receive a kick from the level above the dream you're in, whether that's in another dream or the waking world.
Question: Fischer has been trained to resist dream invasions, which means he is aware that this technology exists and has had experience using it. Why, then, when he wakes up on the plane, does he not remember everything as having actually happened for all intents and purposes in the same way the team does? Why does he simply look as though he's just woken up from a very strange dream when he really ought to know full well that it was not "just a dream"?
Answer: While Fischer is trained to deal with extractors, he is not an expert like Cobb. He has not been under the influence of the machine more then a few times, and he probably hasn't used one for some considerable time. Cobb even flat out says it: It takes years of practice.
Question: Why do the team require a 10 hour plane trip from Sydney to LA to spend with Fischer to perform inception? According to the theory of "dream time" 10 hours in reality is equal to 1 week the first level down, 6 months the second level down, 10 years the third level down. If this is true, why do they need 10 hours with Fischer? Surely just 1 hour will be enough to do what they need? Secondly, if they were sedated for that entire 10 hour plane trip then they would have been stuck in the 3rd level dream for at least 8-10 years until the sedation wore off enough for the "kick" to work. According to the film they only spent a few minutes on the 3rd level dream (the Ice Hospital / Fortress) which would have equalled only a few seconds in reality on the plane.
Answer: 1) They didn't know how long the job would actually take, so they would certainly try to build as large a window as possible. A 12 hour flight was convenient because it gave them that window and a valid reason for Fischer to be asleep. 2) They never had to wait for the sedation to wear off for the kick to work. The compound was custom tailored specifically to leave inner ear function unimpaired so that they COULD use a kick to get out of the dream layers.
Question: Does anyone understand how the function of the architect works? As told in the movie, the architect creates the world of the dream, and then the subject is brought into that dream and fills it with their subconscious. So doesn't that mean the architect must be the main dreamer, with the subject and others acting as the participants of that dream so that the architect can set the infrastructure for the subject to populate? Otherwise, the story would need to explain how the architect has the power to override the dreamer's dream framework.
Answer: The architect designs all of the dream layouts then teaches those layouts to the people who will be the main dreamer for each level. They could be the main dreamer on one of those levels, but by having the architect teach the layout to different people, that means that the architect can move into each successive level along with the group and you can always have someone in the group who is very familiar with the layout of each dream level.
Question: What is the hotel used in dream level two?
Answer: The hotel is made up of several locations, most of which (the hallway, the hotel bar, the room) were constructed specifically for the film on a soundstage.
Question: In the beginning of the movie, we see Cobb and Arthur get mad at their first architect for not knowing about the wool rug in Saito's "love nest." But further on when Ariadne joins up and they are hiding from the commandos from Fischer's subconscious, no one blames her for not knowing about them beforehand. Since the architect is supposed to know everything about the level she/he built, so why do they blame Nash?
Answer: The architect builds the levels, they don't populate them. Nash screwed up in a physical detail of the dream, the composition of the rug, which is the role of the architect, so he gets into trouble. Ariadne only designed the dream's architecture, the inhabitants of that dream are all formed from Fischer's subconscious and thus are not something she has any control over. Arthur was the one who was detailed to research Fischer's background, and thus should have picked up that he had been trained in the anti-intrusion tactics that manifest as the armed security force. He somehow missed it, so they get annoyed at him for putting them all in danger.
Question: Near the end of the movie, when Cobb is home, he gives his totem a spin and it shortly starts to decay in its spin. Then as the movie ends it pans to his totem still spinning smoothly but then it starts to wobble again. So, what are we suppose to conclude? Is it left intentionally ambiguous?
Answer: Yes, it's an ambiguous ending, so we can conclude whatever we want, based on our reading of the film. There are plenty of theories around the internet, so feel free to have a read and decide which one works best for you. However, according to Christopher Nolan it is supposed to signify how Cobb is leaving the dreams behind and doesn't care.
Question: Can someone please explain how each and every totem works? We understand that Cobb's will not stop spinning if it is a dream, but how does Arthur's and Ariadne's work?
Answer: No details are given within the film. However, Arthur's totem is a loaded dice, so it seems logical to assume that it will always come down on a specific side, one that only he knows. As for Ariadne's chess-piece, we only see her working on it, never using it. Probably it has some specific and unusual weighting built into it, allowing her to determine, in some unspecified manner, maybe by tipping it to a certain angle, or simply by feel, that it's the genuine article.
Question: In one of the first dreams (Think it were the "test" dreams of Cobb and Ariadne) where we're supposed to see some french/Paris-inspired location , from bird's eye view, there can be seen a Mercedes car parking on the left with a German plate (M-IK nnnn, which is most probably assigned to "Sixt" car rental). Where were these scenes filmed? Should car plates be readable?
Answer: IMDB mentions that the filming location is Paris. Streets, monuments are identifiable (you can see the Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower and the Seine) and the French cars all have plates ending with 75 (indicating central Paris). The M on the German car indicates that it is registered in Munich. (Yes, German rental cars are registred in Munich).
Question: I remember Cobb saying that he spent time in Limbo for about fifty years. Was he referring to the time that he spent with Mal, or something else that we weren't shown?
Answer: He's referring to the time spent there with Mal - remember that we see, towards the end of the film, a scene with the pair of them in their Limbo-built cityscape, both of them old-aged.
Question: How come Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) didn't recognize Saito (Ken Watanabe) on the plane, especially if the two are supposed to be bitter business rivals?
Answer: Saito's rivalry is with Fischer's father, not with Fischer himself. With Fischer and his father not being on particularly good terms, it's hardly unreasonable that Fischer might be unfamiliar with his father's competitors. Equally, it's not particularly clear that Saito and Fischer Snr are necessarily bitter rivals - the whole reason for the inception is that Fischer's company is so much more powerful that Saito's that Saito needs Fischer to break up his father's corporate empire so that he isn't pushed out of the market. Saito may have a bee in his bonnet about Fischer Snr, as you'd expect from a smaller competitor looking at a more powerful opponent, but it's quite likely that Fischer Snr gave little thought to Saito, dismissing him as being little threat to his empire. In which case, there'd be even less reason for Fischer to recognise him on the plane.
Question: If they are in a dream and they can imagine and create things (like, for example weapons, or modify the environment) why can't they imagine to create a bunker where the subconscious guys can't shot at them? Or, some kind of any other protection? Or mega-destructive weapons so they don't need to drive and escape all the time in the first layer?
Answer: Aside from the obvious "the movie would boring if that were so," if they change too much in the dream, it would collapse. They only have one chance of making it work, so they can't afford to change anything drastic that might be noticed.