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Michael Caine confirms what really happened at the end of Inception

Contributed by
Aug 13, 2018

It's been nearly 10 years since Christopher Nolan's Inception hit theaters, and the debate over the film's ending continues to rage on. Did dream thief Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) really make it back home to his children, or was he still dreaming, trapped in a fantasy that was more palatable than living on the run from the law for the rest of his life?

Nolan obviously wanted the audience to interpret the final shot of Cobb's totem spinning (and almost toppling over?) for themselves, but Michael Caine, who plays Cobb's father in the movie, has a more concrete answer. While introducing a screening of Inception at Somerset House in London, the 85-year-old actor said:

“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 crowd. “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.”

So there you have it: Mr. Caine's statement heavily implies that Dom's nightmare is finally over and that he can finally raise his kids like a normal person without the shadow and fallout of his wife's death looming over his life anymore. The top apparently does fall over, and Dom is back in the real world.

You can watch the final moments above, where Cobb wakes up from the successful Inception job on Robert Michael Fischer (Cillian Murphy), who needed to dissolve his father's company, according to Dom's employer and Fischer's biggest competitor, Saito (Ken Watanabe). True to his word (and fresh out of Limbo), Saito uses his vast influence to clear Cobb's name with the American authorities who believe Dom murdered his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), thus allowing our hero to return home after years on the lam.

He comes home and sees his children, but the moment is almost too good to be true, as he spins his totem, which spins forever if he's still dreaming. The top is forgotten when Dom rushes to embrace his family, the camera focusing on the totem, which may or may not be losing momentum before we cut to black. 

During his introduction, Caine also described Nolan as "the new David Lean" and "one of the greatest directors in the world," who regards Caine as his "lucky charm." However, the legendary actor really considers Nolan to be his lucky charm (or totem, you might say), because the writer/director gave Caine's career new life when he was hired as Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins