Something I don't get in the movie Inception:

  • Robert Fischer gets shot and killed by Mal on the third level (snowy hospital level)

That means he goes to "limbo" (following dream logic here) but after Cobb and Ariadne retrieve him from limbo, he is kicked back to the third level while Eames kick-starts his heart with a defibrillator and he is alive again. Thus he goes ahead to complete the inception.

Putting aside that I'm pretty sure a defibrillator can't bring someone back to life after two gunshots to the chest, or even that he appears to be in no pain or dying from blood loss then how does Robert Fischer come back to life in the third level when he has already died in that level?

  • Isn't limbo where you go when you die in a dream? And if your brain is taken out of limbo, you're not stuck there anymore, and can wake up? That was my impression.
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 4:45
  • Yes but Robert awakens in the third level after returning from limbo, where as when Saito and Cobb who died in the third level return back to reality after leaving limbo.
    – Jared
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 19:50
  • I think that's the problem more than Robert returning to the third level. Technically (and this has been debated) they should've gone one level up from the limbo they were in, to an "empty" dream that they would then fill. Some people say this is where the movie ends, and where the children are.
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 20:10
  • Actually from what I understood, if the dreamer leaves the dream e.g. wakes up, then don't all the people in the dream therefor get kicked out of that level? That would explain how Cobb & Saito go all the way back to reality. But does not explain how Robert awakens when he was killed. -_-
    – Jared
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 20:31
  • 1
    I guess I know what my thanksgiving movie is going to be, because I'm definitely going to have to give this another watch.
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


I think the shooting script gives a bit more clarity on the subject. I've edited and abridged for ease of reading...

Eames grabs a defibrillator from the wall and pulls Fischer's jacket open

COBB : It won't do any good

Eames SHOCKS Fischer's chest...

COBB : Even if you could revive his body, his mind's trapped down there. It's over.

ARIADNE : There's still a way: We follow Fischer down... We'll find him...soon as you hear Arthur's music start, you use the defibrillator to revive him...we give him his own early kick from below.

Shortly afterwards,

Ariadne KICKS Fischer off the roof- AIMS again at Mal- Fischer DROPS as the sky LIGHTS UP WITH ELECTRICITY- Fischer SCREAMS, then GASPS, no longer falling, and we are....


Eames pulls the defibrillator from Fischer's chest as he COUGHS AWAKE.

EAMES : Get in there-quick!

Fischer looks up at the double doors. STAGGERS to his feet.

Basically they give him a kick in the limbo level by chucking him off the ledge. This moves his consciousness back up to the third level. At the same time Eames uses the defibrillator to restart his heart and his body magically repairs itself when his consciousness arrives (dream bodies can do that, apparently) allowing him to complete his own inception.

  • It probably helps that most people don't really know what a defibrillator does; it gives it a 'Magic' quality in their minds, which could work in a dream. They think of it as something that starts your heart with a shock, when, actually, it does the opposite. (Stopping it helps clear a multiple source or otherwise bad signal, allowing the heart's natural pacemaker to take over.. or such is the hope.) (Yes; this is a serious oversimplification.)
    – K-H-W
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 23:34
  • 1
    @KHW - I fell asleep in the cinema the first time around and missed the entire second "dream-level". By the time I woke up, I had no idea what was going on or why these people were running around shouting and zero-g'ing
    – Valorum
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 0:01
  • OH, sorry.. that's wasn't meant as a criticism or something; it was meant to support your answer :) It being a 'dream' environment, anything most people THINK does something probably DOES do that. I just find it funny that people know a defib unit fixes a heart attack (well, some kinds of them).. but their understanding of how/why is exactly backwards. TV & Movies have conditioned people to think that a DeFib can almost always bring someone back; in a dream, it probably works that way.
    – K-H-W
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 1:51
  • @KHW - I feel a tropes link coming on...
    – Valorum
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 6:46
  • 2
    @khw - tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicalDefibrillator ta-da!
    – Valorum
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 6:47

Fisher is not dead yet, but dying. There are 3 levels of dreams that are designed - The City, The Hotel and The Snow Fortress. If you further go down using the device you will reach Limbo but know how you got there. If you get killed in any dream level you will reach Limbo, but will not know how you got there.

Fischer is not yet dead, he's in a temporal state in the Limbo. Cobb and Ariadne go one level below using the device that is connected to Fischer. To get the person up one level, a pair of kicks are required.

For Fischer, in the Limbo, Ariadne throws him off and Eames uses the Defibrillator. This pair helps Fischer get up one dream level.

Here's the description of the pair of kicks for each of them: Kick Pairs

Here you can find more info on the kick pairs and why a pair is needed and not one kick alone: Inception Kicks Explained

  • @Jared, did this answer your question?
    – John
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 10:33

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