It's one of the great enduring questions in modern movie history: is Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) dreaming or is he back in reality in the ending of Christopher Nolan's Inception? Now, nearly 10 years later, Michael Caine is weighing in with an explanation.
While introducing a screening of Inception in London recently (via SyFy Wire), Caine, who played Dom's father-in-law in the film, revealed that he had some questions about that final scene in the film when he first got his script, so he asked Nolan directly what parts were dreams and what was real. The answer may just definitively solve the mystery.
"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 said. "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."
In the part of the film in question, Dom returns to the United States and is able to successfully enter the country — something he had not previously been able to do due to murder charges. Caine's character meets him at the airport and takes him home to his children. Unsure if what he's experiencing is real, Dom spins a top that in a dream spins forever but in reality, would topple. However, Dom moves away from the top to be with his children and the last moments of the film are those of the top appearing to wobble, but the screen going black without revealing if it fell or not.
By Caine's explanation, that happy ending for Dom is not a dream, but is very real as Caine appears in it. Over the course of the movie, Caine's character does only appear in scenes that are arguably reality. For those who argued all these years that the ending was real, it appears you may have been right all this time. However, if fans expect Caine's remarks to completely settle the issue, they may not want to get too comfortable in their victory. While Caine's comments are pretty convincing and would make sense in terms of making the film, Nolan himself has consistently said that the ending is supposed to be ambiguous.
"The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Cobb — he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality," Nolan said during a Princeton University commencement ceremony in 2015. "He didn't really care anymore, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid."
What do you think? Do you think the ending of Inception was real as Caine suggests or do you think it was all a dream? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.