In 2010, Christopher Nolan, the king of foreboding suspense, gave us Inception. At last, a mindful, unique, and truly thought-provoking film. If you haven’t seen it, then immediately sell all your things and go live under a rock (where you belong). If you have seen it, and you think Cobb’s spinning totem answered it all, buckle up. Actually, the ending isn’t a cliff hanger at all. It’s very clear.
So how does Inception’s ending leave us with the answer? You might recall Cobb’s spinning “totem,” which helped him differentiate between his dream world and reality. Apparently, if it kept spinning, he was dreaming. If it fell, he wasn’t dreaming. In the last scene of the film, Cobb spins his “totem” (not really. Wait, what?), and the scene cuts before we know if it falls. This is Inception’s SO CALLED cliff-hanger.
At the end of the movie, was Cobb still dreaming, or was he actually with his children?
Here’s the question: was the top actually Cobb’s totem? The answer is NO. The top belonged to Mal (his dead wife). A flashback of Cobb and Mal’s former life showed the top as one of Mal’s signifiers. Remember when Cobb explicitly stated that, “once another person recognizes the touch and feel of it, the totem is valueless”? The spinning top was NOT Cobb’s totem!
So what was his totem? His wedding ring! When the ring was present, he was in a dream. When it was absent, in reality.
In the scene above, you can see that Cobb is not wearing a ring. This was before the mission began, obviously a reality-moment.
And when Cobb finds Saito (Chinese guy) in Limbo, the fifth level of inception, we can see the ring. We know very well he was dreaming here.
So what does this mean? Although it is hard to see, during the final scene of Inception, Cobb is not wearing a ring. He isn’t dreaming. Boom. Next problem.