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How can the group exit out of the first level? Was there a sedative timer in the plane that wakes them up? If that's the case it ruins the point of the story:

Eames says that "He's sitting this one out" because this is too dangerous.

Then Cobb is like "n hours of flight will mean x weeks" and I can guarantee we will all be dead by then to which he then suggests that they "continue on with the plan and use kicks"

Ahm Wait, you lost me there. Okay, okay, "use kicks"? Well if you have a kick in the higher level then it doesn't matter what you do right? You can just wait for the kick in the plane level. Then it's the same timespan.

To Clarify: How did they get out of the first level? There's no kick in the plane? If they couldn't get out of the first level, then its the same thing, they have to wait for the sedative. And it will just reaffirm Cobb's "n hours of flight will mean x weeks and I can guarantee we will all be dead by then"

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Asked and answered here; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/91585/… –  Richard Jun 21 at 23:35

3 Answers 3

As you identified correctly, the reason why they use kicks and have to complete their plan as fast as possible is because of Fisher's mind security chasing them down and they wouldn't survive a whole week this way. Now accepting this premise, I would make the following speculation, even though it's admittedly only that, speculation.

But it might be that once the Inception succeeded, and they established the whole idea as a natural spark of his own mind, Fisher's mind would just significantly calm down and be more suspectible to accept those "intruders" as natural inhabitants of his mind. It wasn't only their intrusion into his mind, but primarily them actively messing with it that turned his security against them, and once they didn't need to mess with him anymore, there was no need to violently kick them out anymore. In the same way they reconciled Fisher with his father, his uncle Peter and this foreign idea, they also reconciled him with their intrusion and made him to accept it. And I guess using Fisher to counter his own subconcious security from level 2 onward might also have helped this case. That is ultmately why Cobb wants them to follow the plan through as fast as possible, once it succeeded everything will just be fine, which is also a natural conclusion from a mere story-telling viewpoint.

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Yes, I actually thought of this too, and for the most part this is also my speculation. It is just so unfortunate that this was not made explicit and it feels like a plot hole. Specially when contrasted on how explicit the other rules are. –  Secret Mar 17 at 12:07

It's not confirmed in the film screenplay or the shooting script but I have a couple of theories about how they got out of the first level dream:

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" until the dream timer ran out. 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.

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I'm guessing that once the Inception has taken place, and the 'Mr Charles' gamble has paid off in the second level, Fischer's subconscious thinks that the people who are invading his dream have been killed, and he is safe.

When they return to the first level, it appears that no one is after them anymore, giving them time to hide and wait for the dream to end.

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