SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT.
First, let me offer up CHUD.com critic Devin Faraci's take on the movie:
Every single moment of Inception is a dream. I think that in a couple of years this will become the accepted reading of the film, and differing interpretations will have to be skillfully argued to be even remotely considered. The film makes this clear, and it never holds back the truth from audiences. Some find this idea to be narratively repugnant, since they think that a movie where everything is a dream is a movie without stakes, a movie where the audience is wasting their time.
Except that this is exactly what Nolan is arguing against. The film is a metaphor for the way that Nolan as a director works, and what he's ultimately saying is that the catharsis found in a dream is as real as the catharsis found in a movie is as real as the catharsis found in life. Inception is about making movies, and cinema is the shared dream that truly interests the director.As a rebuttal to this line of thinking, here's actor Dileep Rao, who plays Yusuf the dream chemist in the movie:
The problem for me is that you're using negative evidence to support a story that isn't there. I don't know what to say about a character who only exists before and after the movie. You're talking about a character who isn't onscreen. And I mean on one hand, it's awesome that this movie can sustain that kind of discussion. It shows you just how well-thought-through and comprehensive it is, but I mean I don't know where that kind of speculation ends. It's like people who are convinced 9/11 is an inside job. It's a mental heuristic failure to think that one or two minor details explain absolutely everything. I mean, kids wear the same clothes all the time.
To me, it's a far more elegant story if it's a vast job that Leo has to pull off. The threat is real, the growth is real, the adversary is real. The weakness of "It's all a dream" — why we hate that, why we feel cheated when narratively anything is revealed to be all a dream — is that you've just asked me to spend so much time and emotional capital investing in the stakes of this, and you've now swept it away with the most anti-narrative structuralism that doesn't have anything to substitute in its place. It's laughing at you for even taking it seriously. You don't want to feel like a victim of the narrative, and I don't think Christopher Nolan would do that.So ... what's your take? How about the ending? Is that real or imagined? Is the whole movie real or imagined?