The Balcony Seat A Tale of Separate Realities

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The Backstory: Inside impeachment hearing room. Hilaria Baldwin is healing after miscarriage. Opinion: Pete Buttigieg is not ready to be president. Georgia woman sues Target over trademarked brand. A New York teacher was accused of raping a student. He went on to teach elsewhere. Is this the future? Tesla unveils Cybertruck electric pickup. They wake up. In his dream, Arthur uses a Penrose staircase to show Ariadne how to disguise the boundaries of the dreams she build.

From the right perspective and, more importantly, with a wide-angle lens compressing the depth of field , the four-sided staircase appears to climb or descend infinitely, but look differently and you can see they cut off abruptly. He calls this "paradoxical architecture.

In Mombasa, Cobb meets Eames Tom Hardy , who forges documents in the real world and his own identity in dreams. Eames has his own thoughts on inception. That way, the idea can take root and grow naturally, so that by the time it flowers into action, its foreign origin will be impossible to discern. The subconscious responds to emotion, not reason, so you need to strip away any hint of politics or calculation. Positive emotion trumps negative emotion, self-definition over destruction.

Cobb squeezes through a narrow crack between buildings, almost too small for him to fit through sideways, and finds Saito waiting in the back of a car, door open. Yusuf Dileep Rao is a chemist, responsible for formulating the compounds that allow minds to connect as well as the sedatives that keep the dreamers dreaming. Impossible, Yusuf says, and yet intriguing.

The team is up to six members. Before they go, Yusuf pulls back a curtain and shows them the dreaming equivalent of an opium den. More than a dozen people lie on cots, tubes running from their arms to the ceiling. They are addicts: without the machine, they can sleep, but not dream. The dream is their reality. Who are we to say otherwise? Cobb hooks himself up, and we enter his dreams.

Images flash by: the furious vibration of railroad spikes as a train approaches; he and Mal with their heads pressed to the rails. They will use a musical cue -- Edith Piaf again -- to synchronize the separate kicks on each level.


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Browning opens a door in his office to reveal a hospital suite beyond. Maurice Fischer is bedridden and incoherent, barely conscious. His son muses on the difficulties of their relationship. Fischer demurs. He put the photo there; he doubts his father is even aware of its presence. In the workshop, Ariadne grows curious about the "experiments" Cobb is performing when no one else is around.

Mal sees Ariadne watching and grows immediately hostile. Cobb, angry and a bit fearful, pushes Ariadne into a waiting elevator, the kind with an accordion-style gate that lets you see the passing floors. He jabs at the button for the twelfth floor. The gate opens onto a beach like the one in the opening scene, only this time the two children are joined by their mother, Mal. Cobb is deliberately reconstructing his memories of Mal to keep her alive inside his subconscious.

He did. It is. He takes her down several floors, to his apartment, to his memory of the last time he saw his children. He watches them through the window, playing in the yard, their faces turned away from him.


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A man is there, pressing a plane ticket into his hand. He has to go, now. Ariadne is appalled. Cobb is subjecting the entire team to the dangers lurking in his subconscious, without letting any of them in on the risks. She presses the button for the basement level. On the way down, she sees another level: her hair blows back with the rush of a passing train.

Her foot crunches on broken glass, sending a high-pitched note singing through the air.

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Mal is there, immediately territorial and threatening. She picks up the jagged remains of a wine glass and advances on Ariadne, her violent intentions evident. Cobb appears and pulls Ariadne into the elevator, shutting the gate just in time. As they ascend, Mal screams wildly, then fixes them with an icy gaze.

Ariadne reads Cobb the riot act. The team boards a bound from Sydney to Los Angeles. Saito has conveniently purchased the airline, so that they own every seat in the First Class cabin barring the one Fischer is sitting in. The hour flight should give them plenty of time, especially since the amount of time increases each time they drop down a level in the dream world.

Minutes become hours become days become years. The team materializes on the streets of a modern city. They steal a taxi and pick up Fischer, pulling a gun on him when he objects to the extra passengers. A gun battle and car chase ensues.

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They escape, but Saito is wounded. Cobb stops him. If they die in this dream, their minds will drop into limbo, an "unconstructed dream space" from which they might never return. The only way to get out is to finish the job: go three levels deep and ride the kick all the way back to the surface. Dissension in the ranks, but the plan progresses. Eames transforms himself into Browning, and begins to scream in mock pain. Think harder, Browning says. Perhaps an emotionally resonant string of numbers, something particular to father and son?

Fischer draws a blank. Their masked captors enter, and draw their guns. Fischer cringes and complies: Time to go down a level. The team piles into the back of a van and hooks themselves up to the machine.

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Down we go. He finds Fischer at the hotel bar, dislodging a comely blonde who scribbles her phone number on the napkin in parting, and points out the sudden bursts of rain and the odd shifts in gravity caused by the careening of the van one level up. They brought Browning in. He was tortured -- or was he? Did you see it? He and Ariadne head to room , directly beneath room , and he starts to apply explosive charges to the ceiling.

We need to find him. That must stand for something in the dream.

source Cobb and Fischer head to room , and wait for Browning to return. Browning comes in and is subdued. We need to do to him what he was trying to do to you, Cobb tells Fischer.