Inception’s ending explained at last by actor Michael Caine? That’s a possibility, if you caught word of his recent interview with Chris Moyles on BBC Radio 1. Obligatory spoiler alert right here. If you are waiting to watch Inception on DVD and don’t want any info on the ending, stop reading here.
For those who have seen the film, the great dilemma of Inception is the ambiguity of the final scene. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally arrives back in the US, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the time he left, and is greeted by his two children. As he’s entering, he starts to spin the top (the totem that will tell him if he’s in the real world or dreaming). He goes to greet his children with Caine’s character, and the camera slowly zooms in on the top, which spins, wobbles, spins further–and then the camera cuts to black before we get any resolution on where we are in that final scene.
Or do we?
In the interview with Chris Moyles, Michael Caine unambiguously declares that Cobb is not dreaming. The top stops spinning and the ending is real.
The question is, from what does Caine draw his conclusion? Is he privy to material that was cut from the theatrical release, material which bolsters his case? (possibly, but not likely). Did Nolan tell him this privately? (even more unlikely). Or is it merely his interpretation of Inception, and if so, what’s that interpretation based on?
One thing is for certain; Cobb’s top is still spinning when the film cuts to black. Caine’s conclusion is kind of curious, in so far as it neuters the film of his character’s importance. If there’s any character who has both the ability and the motivation to be a kind of master architect trying to incept Cobb’s mind with some closure about the death of his wife, it’s Miles (the name of Caine’s character).
When you have the opportunity, go back and watch the scene between Miles and Cobb in the empty lecture hall at Miles’ school and consider how much it might be laced with double meaning, and remember that successful inception requires subtlety–gently nudging a character toward an idea and making them think it was their own.
As amazing an actor as Michael Caine is, he seems to be out on a limb here in declaring that the final scene is definitely real. Perhaps the meaning of the film is, counterintuitively, that the meaning isn’t really knowable at all. For an explanation of Inception’s philosophical underpinnings and how they fit with that ambiguous ending, you’ll definitely want to check this article out.
The Chris Moyles Show. BBC Radio 1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00twxzw. Accessed 10/30/2010.
Brockwell, Doug. “Understanding Inception’s Ending: Nolan’s Blockbuster Tackles an Old Debate in Philosophy.” http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5601894/understanding_inceptions_ending_nolans.html?cat=40. Accessed 10/30/2010.