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Most of the characters excluding Cobb and his wife, do not have very developed roles. The roles are actually shallow and it is at times hard to see the motivation behind characters to do what they do.

For example, to me, Arthur holds clutch for a few scenes in the movie but he has no back story to back up this motivation. Say for instance, Arthur was the brother of Cobb, instantly the audience can see his motivation. But despite of all of this, the movie is still good, viewers are still drawn in.

So what fills the void that we do not see left by underdeveloped characters?

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I hate to sound like a broken record, but this sounds like a bit of a subjective question, too. The question itself is subjective (opinion: there is a void), and the accepted answer is subjective (opinion: there is no void). –  Flimzy Dec 3 '11 at 19:25
    
@Flimzy - well if we make the only on-topic questions here those of completely verifiable fact, then its going to be a vastly smaller site. I do sympathize somewhat with the problems surrounding 'i believe this .... ' questions and answers - but I attempted to back my answer up by referring Inception to the Caper subgenre. –  iandotkelly Dec 3 '11 at 22:41
    
@iandotkelly: Is "a vastly smaller site" a bad thing? SE is about filling a niche, not about being the biggest site possible. –  Flimzy Dec 4 '11 at 9:39
    
@flimzy have you been watching the matrix. where is the [spoon] void? there is no void? ;-) –  TheCellarRoom Jun 21 '12 at 11:56
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up vote 22 down vote accepted

I am not sure I agree that the characters are any less developed that many broadly similar movies.

Arthur is his partner - it is a professional business arrangement, he is being well paid to do this job. Eames is also being paid, and decides in the first dream level that it is not worth the risk - so clearly he is only motivated by the money. Yusuf is being paid twice to keep quiet about the dangers of the compounds he has made. Ariadne is being paid, is also fascinated by her new powers as an architect and has started to develop concerns for Cobb and his sanity. Saito is motivated by the power and money it will make his corporation. Robert Fisher as 'the mark' has the most complete back-story outside of Cobb and Mal.

How is this any different than other caper movies - Oceans Eleven, the Italian Job? Inception is very polished and has a ton of subtext thrown in, but substantially the characters have no more or less backstory than other movies about professional criminals.

In my opinion we are drawn in by a movie with very high standards of production, it looks great - the acting is good, the story is well paced and well explained despite its complexity, and we are drawn into the idea of double guessing whether Cobb is still in a dream or not at the end, and we don't quite know enough even at the end. Best big budget Hollywood movie in some time.

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You are right Robert Fisher has the most complete story out of all. I guess I am trying to point at the fact that we are ignoring why each of these characters need the money (other than Saito), how Eames is able to change character (even outside his own dreams) and no else can. The plot itself is interesting and the acting is good so yes we are drawn in to figuring out whether Cobb is dreaming or not or has been dreaming for the entire show –  phwd Dec 3 '11 at 0:25
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