Inception’s Ambiguous Ending Explained By Michael Caine


by Ben Travis |
Published on

After two-plus hours of city-folding, dream-bending, Edith Piaf-blaring majesty, Christopher Nolan’s Inception ends on one hell of a cliff-hanger: has Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb really been reunited with his children? Or is it just a dream that he no longer cares to escape from? It’s a haunting, ambiguous ending that’s entirely open to viewer interpretation – but it may now have a definitive answer courtesy of one key cast member.

Introducing the film at Film 4’s outdoor Summer Screen series, Michael Caine confirmed that he was just as confused by the film as everyone else – and that when he asked Nolan for the key to understanding which scenes were dreams and which weren’t, the director had a simple answer. “When I got the script of Inception, I was a bit puzzled by it and I said to him, ‘I don’t understand where the dream is’,” Caine told the audience (via The Independent). “I said, ‘when is it the dream and when is it reality?’ He said, ‘well, when you’re in the scene it’s reality.’ So get that – if I’m in it, it’s reality. If I’m not in it, it’s a dream.”

Like Inception itself, there’s more than one way to take this – on a literal level, this could confirm that Cobb is not dreaming in the final scene because he’s with his father, played by Caine, and his kids. Or is it more Nolan trickery, with the director telling Caine that his scene is real in order to get the performance he needs? After all to Cobb it would feel real, even if it’s a dream. Honestly, we could debate this until we’re all stuck in limbo for eternity. Nolan has always said that the important thing is that Cobb is no longer looking at the spinning totem – he doesn’t care if it’s a dream or not, as long as he has his family with him. Now, can Caine please tell us what the bookcase was all about in Interstellar?

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