Eight Years Later, We Finally Have an Explanation for That Cliffhanger ‘Inception’ Ending
Eight years after Inception left moviegoers mind-boggled, we finally have an explanation for its ambiguous final scene.
As fans will recall, the critically acclaimed sci-fi ended with Dom Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) staring at a spinning top to test whether he'd made it successfully back to reality, or was stuck, perhaps indefinitely, in the subconscious state he'd been using to extract valuable government information from other people. If it kept spinning, it meant he was in a dream, but if it toppled over, he was in reality. Ultimately, Cobb decided to ignore the result and join his family for a happy reunion outside, but just before the screen cut to black, it looked as though the top had begun to lose its balance, leaving Cobb's fate seemingly uncertain.
In the past, director Christopher Nolan has been purposefully vague about the ending, telling Princeton University graduates in 2015 that “all levels of reality are valid" and leaving the film's conclusion up to interpretation. But now star Michael Caine, who played Professor Stephen Miles and Cobb’s father-in-law, has at last revealed the answer.
"When I got the script of Inception, I was a bit puzzled by it, and I said to [Nolan], ‘I don’t understand where the dream is," he said at a recent screening of the movie, per Time. "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."
As Caine's character was present at Cobb's house, that means they were, in fact, in reality. So there you have it folks! Mystery (finally) solved.