In the movie, there's one scene that seems very strange to me.

First, the point:

When the team gets in the first level, they find out that Fischer has a militarized subconscious. After they freak out, and argue about it, they also find out that they can't die, otherwise they'd get stuck in limbo.

So, when Eames says that he won't go further, Cobb states that, since the first level sedative will last a week they would be killed. They needed to go on to the next levels as fast as possible, so the combined multi-level kick would make them wake up.

Here's the point: The plan was the multi-level kick would wake them up before the sedative was off

Ariadne: ...is ten years! Who would wanna be stuck in a dream for ten years?
Yusuf: Depends on the dream.
Arthur: So, once we've made the plant, how do we go out? Hope you have something more elegant in mind than shooting me in the head?
Cobb: A kick.
Arthur: Are we going to feel a kick with this kind of sedation?
Yusuf: Well, that's the clever part. I customize the sedative to leave inner ear function unimpaired. That way, however deep the sleep, the sleeper still feels falling, or tipping.

Now, the question:

When they finish the job, they perform the kicks

  • The van hits the water
  • Arthur detonates the elevator
  • Eames explodes the fortress

But they don't wake up. They are back in the drowned van. So, as far as I could understand, they still had to sit and wait for the first level's week to end.

(We see Fischer talking to his godfather)

Why didn't they wake up with the kicks, as it was planned? And how did they managed not to get killed by Fischer's projections after they got out of the Van?

  • It's been a while since I saw it, but doesn't each kick just wake them up one level? So those three kicks got them back up to the Van, but they'd need a final kick to get them out of that level of dream.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:15
  • Actually they talk about a syncronized kick. Otherwise the Van falling would have woken them up. But they needed to syncronize the kicks to travel between all the levels, and wake up.
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:19
  • In the script, it's not clear that they were in the highest level dream for more than a few minutes; pages.drexel.edu/~ina22/splaylib/Screenplay-Inception.pdf
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:30
  • @Richard - Well, I don't see any reason to think that they could be there for a few minutes, and the just wake up. Either you wake up from the kick, or you wait for the effect of the sedative to run off.
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:59
  • No, I agree that logically they should have been there for a few hours (x 20 because of the time difference).
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 23:05

2 Answers 2


It's not confirmed in the film screenplay or the shooting script but I have a couple of theories:

Theory 1

Since the enhanced sedative was only required in order to allow the "inception team" to reach the second and third dream levels, it seems quite logical that Yusuf (the driver) would not be using it.

As he was only ever intended to be on the first level, he would be using the standard Somnacin compound that allows you to wake up when you get killed.

COBB: We need you there to tailor compounds to our particular requirements.
YUSUF: Which are?
COBB: Great depth.
YUSUF: A dream within a dream? Two levels?
COBB: Three.

When they all surfaced from the van, they could simply have killed Yusuf and he, in turn could have turned off the PASIV dream machine.

Theory 2

Note that in the original shooting script, the suggestion is that they could somehow survive inside Fischer's dream for "a couple of days" then use a kick to completely exit the dream. In the film, this whole sequence was much compressed:

EAMES: It’s not going to take us long to crack Fischer open once we get going. We’ll be out in a couple days, max.

ARTHUR: How do we get out once we’ve made the plant? (to Cobb) I hope you’ve got something a little more elegant in mind than shooting me in the head like last time.

As to how they could have survived that long, it seems that the dreamer's subconscious only becomes hostile when the participant makes changes. By passively accepting the world of the dream, you could avoid an attack indefinitely:

ARIADNE: Why are they looking at me?

COBB: Because you’re changing things. My subconscious feels that someone else is creating the world. The more you change things, the quicker the projections converge on you.

They could simply have hung out in the warehouse, played some poker and waited until the dream ended.

  • I liked your theories. You really gave some thinking to it, and I appreciate it (+1). Still, it's not clear to me why did they see as a requirement to go on with the job in order to leave faster, instead of sitting around and wait, as Eames wanted to.
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:38
  • Also, it does not explain why didn't the team kill Yusuf and had him wake them up as soon as they found out about the heavy security
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 16:02

These are the answers I can think of:

  1. After performing the inception and breaking so deeply into Fisher's subconscious, his defenses were weakened or removed.
  2. After performing the inception they are "allowed" to make more drastic changes to the dream. We see they can "dream bigger" and spawn rocket launchers, and I'm guessing they didn't want to consciously reveal to Fisher their objective before the inception succeeded by, say, creating tanks. Maybe after they accomplished their mission they could be a little less conservative and defend themselves for a week, or even change the scenery to a more accommodating location or something.
  • This provides some insight on why weren't they killed. But not on why didn't they wake up.
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:59
  • Wake up from what? Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 23:49
  • There was no kick to return them to the airplane. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 23:51

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