Is the way we perceive the world actually “true” if it’s filtered through our sometimes faulty perceptions? Could there be an argument that what we experience in reality is not in fact reality?
A Totem has a specially modified weight, balance, or feel in the real world but in a dream of someone who does not know it well, the characteristics of the totem will very likely be off. In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. That way, the owner is able to tell if he is in his own dream, or someone else’s. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct. Any ordinary object which has been in some way modified to affect its balance, weight, or feel will work as a totem.
In the opening moments you get a glimpse of Leo’s hand. Specifically, he’s wearing his wedding ring. Now, if you follow the rest of the movie keeping an eye out for this you will notice that he only has the ring on when he’s in the dream world.
At the end of the movie he isn’t wearing the ring. If the ring only appears when he’s in a dream and he’s not wearing at the end of the film, that could be confirmation that in fact, the top does stop spinning after the credits and Cobb is at last in the real world.
What event in Inception is the audience aware of that no one else can know? There isn’t one. There’s no point in which reality is clearly and unimpeachably established. The film opens in a dream sequence (Saito’s limbo) before transitioning to another dream sequence (Saito’s dinner party), which then slides into another dream (Saito’s secret apartment).
Nolan worked on the script for nine to ten years. When he first started thinking about making the film, Nolan was influenced by “that era of movies where you had The Matrix (1999), you had Dark City (1998), you had The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and, to a certain extent, you had Memento (2000), too. They were based in the principles that the world around you might not be real.”
Initially, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers.
Originally, Nolan had envisioned Inception as a horror film, but eventually wrote it as a heist film even though he found that “traditionally [they] are very deliberately superficial in emotional terms.”
Upon revisiting his script, he decided that basing it in that genre did not work because the story “relies so heavily on the idea of the interior state, the idea of dream and memory. I realized I needed to raise the emotional stakes.”