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When they are in the limbo, we see Ariadne asking Cobb to find and get Saito and not to lose himself before jumping from the building. However, before they entered this limbo Saito was still alive.

He dies protecting these dreaming people - Fischer, Cobb and Ariadne in the Snow Fortress in third level.

But, how does Ariadne know that he is dead in the upper level, when she asks Cobb to find and get him? He was alive before they started dreaming, so they shouldn't know it right? Am I missing something or is it a mistake?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

(Personally I do have a lot of sympathy with your thought that this is a plot hole - but here is a train of thought that might explain it)

To be fair on Ariadne, it is actually Cobb who first asserts that Saito is dead. From the script:

    ARIADNE
Cobb, I'm not going to let you lose 
yourself in here! You have to get 
back to your children!

    COBB 
Send Fischer, I have to stay

    ARIADNE
You can't stay here to be with her

    COBB
I'm not. Saito is dead by now. That 
means he's here. I have to stay 
here and find him.

I know that making the distinction between Cobb and Ariadne first suggesting that Saito is dead seems very nitpicky, as we can ask the same question 'how does he know?'. However it does give a sliver of a reason why this might not be a plot hole. As pointed out earlier in the story when it is revealed how strong their sedation is:

    EAMES
So what happens if one of us dies?

    COBB
That person doesn't wake up. Their 
mind drops into Limbo.

    ARIADNE
Limbo?

    ARTHUR 
Unconstructed dream space.

    ARIADNE 
What's down there?

    ARTHUR
Raw, infinite subconscious. Nothing 
there but what was left behind by 
anyone on the team who's been trapped 
there before. On this team... just 
Cobb.

Cobb is the only person in the party who has been to Limbo and what was left behind by Cobb is the only thing filling Limbo. This residual Limbo can only have lived on within Cobb's mind - almost like Limbo is his dream. Cobb as the only visitor to Limbo has got some more ownership over it than the others until they inhabit it and claim it for their own. Ariadne and Cobb have only been in limbo a few minutes or perhaps a few hours, which would only be a very short time in the dream layer above, but perhaps Cobb through his stronger connection with Limbo and the world he created in it, he can sense that Saito has died and entered it with them.

Tenuous I know - but it is my only 'in universe' explanation.

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Yes, I also thought the same might be the case. Something like this and "Cobb could see a new sub conscious material entering the limbo space, which means that Saito died" could be given as an explanation to those who ask how Cobb found where Saito was when in limbo. He must have judged it from the foreign nature of the environment. I wanted to confirm that I was missing nothing. Your answer confirms it and I think this is a better answer only because of the guessing part. You also quoted 'by now' and gave possible reason for why Cobb might have done that. –  Forbidden Overseer Jul 20 '12 at 9:59
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I think the answer is in what Cobb says:

Saito is dead by now.

The by now being the important part. Based on the injuries sustained by Saito it is obvious that he only has a short time to live. And while time passes differently at the different levels, Cobb is aware it has passed. He may not know with 100% confidence but biased on how long it looked like Saito had to live, and how much time has pass he can say with a fair degree of certainty that Saito is dead by now

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This is a far better answer in my opinion. Cobb's line is clearly conjecture due to the "by now". There is no plot hole. –  Phong Jul 19 '12 at 19:06
    
@Phong. I do agree with the 'by now' being conjecture. The only problem with that solution ... is that in Limbo the time is meant to move very slowly indeed, like Cobb spent 50 years there with Mal. –  iandotkelly Jul 19 '12 at 22:30
    
@Phong: It could be a plot hole because we don't have any other material in movie that suggests Cobb would have known it for sure. Time is a problem like the above comment says, but we should take the things Cobb knows about limbo also, as another reason. Look at my comment for the above answer. Saying that Cobb must have felt the alien nature of limbo space changing, is one way to answer Why Cobb said by now and "What made Cobb feel that way". –  Forbidden Overseer Jul 20 '12 at 10:07
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