Near the end of Inception, Mal shoots Fischer, killing him (or at least mortally wounding him) within the 3rd layer of the dream. Dom and Ariadne go down a level to find him and bring him back.

How does this actually work?

When they find him there and Ariadne brings Fischer back up a level in the dream, in that 3rd dream layer he suddenly seems healed. He doesn't appear to be suffering any physical effects of being shot during the scene with his dying father. Shouldn't he still have a gaping wound in his chest? And if this technique can effectively resurrect the dead (or perhaps heal the mortally wounded) within a given layer of the dream, why didn't they use this earlier on Mr. Saito?

5 Answers 5


Fischer is shot in the 3rd layer of the dream and enters the limbo.

In limbo, you are actually in your own mind, you don't follow the rules of others. What is more, you are so "sedated" (so deep in your subconscious) that you forget reality. This means, you don't have contact to anything else. You are numb (like in a coma). If you pay attention to what the limbo looks like, you'll see that being in the collapsing building (level 3) or in the water (level 1) doesn't seem to affect Cobb.

Probably that is why Fischer is fine. This is also the case of Saito. When Fischer is rescued, he gets very fast from limbo to dream level 1 (because of the sychronized kicks) and, as we remember, he was fine there. So you might say that at resurrection he "jumps over" two layers and returns to where he was just fine.

So what happened to Saito? Well, he and Cobb are in limbo and miss those synchronized kicks. The others get the kicks and wake up, destroying the levels 2 and 3. That means we have now only level 1 and limbo. So there are 2 possibilities:

  1. Saito wakes from limbo directly to reality because they stay longer in limbo. He is not affected psychically because Cobb is there to remind him of the reality and to make him realize where he actually was (this was the danger: not to know what's real anymore).

  2. They wake up in level 1 and manage to heal Saito (Fischer finds peace and has something to meditate, so his projections will not be a threat anymore). In level 1, Saito was shot in the stomach, giving him about 45 minutes before he died (so I have read). So after 15 minutes of driving, he still has 30 minutes, enough to create a hospital or an impossible structure to get fast to a doctor. I think he could be saved.

Now, you also asked why they didn't let Saito get into limbo from the beginning. Well, that was not a great plan, since going there is a great risk (you might forget who and where you are) so going after him would not be such a great idea, unless they had no other choice (which happens in the 3rd level).

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    Don't you mean Saito was shot in the chest on level 1? Apr 20, 2014 at 22:28

Unfortunately I cannot answer this like the other questions on Inception in a positive manner.

This appears to be a gaping hole in the plot. Ariadne, the second least experienced of the team proposes to follow Fischer down into Limbo, in order to rescue/retrieve Fischer. She and Cobb do this and both Ariadne and Fischer are brought back to the 3rd dream layer by falling off a collapsing building, a combination of the falling / dying mechanism for going up a dream layer. Since if Ariadne was wrong, she could end up in Limbo for years - she seems strangely confident and unafraid to try this.

As you say, if that was possible why did they not let Saito die and do the same thing to him - follow him down there, give him a kick or kill him to push him back up to Dream Level 1 magically healed.

I can only surmise that Ariadne and Cobb were desperate and willing to try anything. This is surprising from Ariadne as she had little to loose from giving up at this point, but not surprising from Cobb. Then it would appear that whilst they are sedated too heavily in the real world for waking up when dying in the dream, the dying/kick mechanism for moving up dream layers is not disabled by the sedative even in Limbo. This may have been a calculated gamble on their part.

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    I believe the reason they did not want to go into limbo was because they mention it is filled with the only other person who has been down there's dreams i.e. Cobb which in turn, means Mal and they had a fear of who knows what could happen at that point.
    – Tablemaker
    Feb 1, 2012 at 22:02
  • Yes they do meantion that Cobb's dreams will be the only structure down there. However Ariadne and Arthur have seen that Cobb can project Mal into any dream - he could have brought her into any of the layers including the first. So the argument that they are just avoiding Mal doesn't seem that strong. Besides Mal is no more dangerous than Fisher's own militarized projections.
    – iandotkelly
    Feb 1, 2012 at 22:07
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    However, they did have the advantage (at least in the first two layers, beginning of the third) of Cobb not knowing the structure of the dreams = Mal being less of a risk as opposed to her knowing every detail in limbo, but I do see your point.
    – Tablemaker
    Feb 1, 2012 at 22:19
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    Ariadne seems to be able to wake up from falling off the building in limbo because she went there "manually" and conciously (i.e. without any serious reason to keep her there, like being "dead"), while Fisher needed to be revived, using a defibrilator. While this won't usually bring you back to life, together with the limbo kick (the falling from the building) it worked. That's why they needed to synchronize it with the defibrilator, as Ariadne does when seeing the lightings.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 27, 2014 at 12:59

It could have something to do with Mr. Saito getting injured in the first layer. Maybe the effects of going in and out of limbo depend on the layer of the dream that the person is in.

I'm just speculating here, but I'm guessing that Fischer was "revived" because he re-entered the dream. Limbo doesn't seem to be a layer, but an overall "area" that people can get to in several ways: dying in a dream, going through enough dream layers, etc., so it's possible he just came back in to the third dream layer when he got killed in limbo.

They probably couldn't help Mr. Saito because he was dying in another dream layer. He wasn't necessarily affected physically in the following dream layers except for his body's reactions to the shot from the first layer, so they couldn't really heal something that happened in "reality" (the first dream layer)

It's dreaming. We don't know much about it, so there aren't a lot of rules to it in Movie Land.

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    re: "so there aren't a lot of rules to it in Movie Land." - On the contrary, I'd say the movie was quite careful to lay out the rules of dreaming, but seemed to ignore them here.
    – Sterno
    Feb 1, 2012 at 22:18
  • I dunno. It seemed kinda vague with Limbo, despite Cobb exploring it.
    – RaysonK
    Feb 1, 2012 at 22:21
  • +1 I agree with the last sentence. Sure, the movie explains a bit about dreaming (e.g. you never know you arrived), but doesn't extend it fully (intentional ?).
    – NGLN
    Feb 1, 2012 at 23:14

Layer 3 is Eames' dream from level 2, and he can dream what he wants. If a dreamer can create buildings, and defy physics, why not also being able of resurrecting one of the co-dreamers. His needing of the use of a defibrillator could indicate that he is not a thát almighty and conscious dreamer, but I think it is better movie than when he would have revived Fischer by clapping his fingers.

Saito staying as wounded from level 1 just suggests Yusuf has some more dreaming experience to acquire.

  • This doesn't make as much sense to me as the reason why they cannot simply wake up from the dreams is because of Yusuf's concoction.
    – Tablemaker
    Feb 2, 2012 at 2:03
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    +1 I do like the idea that Eames is better at directing his dreams - he is after all the 'forger' able to impersonate people, and Yusuf is the chemist, who is less able to control his dreaming - for example he dreams about rain because he wants to urinate. Still think its a bit of a plot hole though.
    – iandotkelly
    Feb 2, 2012 at 3:26
  • Reviving people isn't the same as creating objects. If you can revive someone, then why not kill someone only by thinking? You can not have any influence on how people act or what they perceive. Remember that they can not control the projections, so it is less possible to control a conscious dreamer. It is not because of the experience as a dreamer that people can't be revived.
    – Dragos
    Feb 2, 2012 at 12:27

Reference : Inception Explained

To talk of what happened, Mal shoots Fischer.
Mal is a Cobb's projection.

Cobb's mind is very affected by her death, he holds himself responsible for it. When his mind projects Mal, he projects her in a way that is out to ruin it for Cobb, that is his out-of-control guilt doing that.

Cobb, therefore, projects a Mal that attempts to kill Fischer. Her gun and the bullet that hits Fischer is also projected by Cobb. All the other people protecting the fortress is Fischer's projection.

Fischer experiences being shot in the 3rd level of the dream. The mind tends to believe what it thinks it sees and thinks it feels. Fischer starts to die. Once he dies he will wash up on the shores of Limbo. But that hasn't happened yet. Cobb and Ariadne think there is still one shot to get Fischer back. The way to do it by going down in to Cobb's mind at this point because, after all, Fischer is dying because of Cobb's mind. Fischer's dying mind can be reached using Cobb's mind.

They hook up the dying body of Fischer and Ariadne to Cobb's mind and go one level further down. Now, they do reach limbo, but this is because only 3 levels of dreams were architected. Neither did Cobb nor Ariadne die and reach Limbo. This is why they know where they are and what they are here to do. Also because they are in Cobb's mind, they know where they need to go because Cobb knows where Mal will be. Since the reason for Fischer's dying is Mal, if they find Mal, they will find Fischer and they do.

Now, they are merely in one further level of dream state below. To wake up, they need a kick in this level and one from above. Eames, from the level above, uses the defibrillator on Fischer and Ariadne pushes Fischer off the building giving him the kick in the current level (improvises). The synchronized kick brings Fischer one level up.

Fischer saw Mal shooting him and his mind accepted being shot. When he gets kicked back up, he doesn't remember the event that happened prior. Why? may be the shock of it all, waking up from a bad dream and just brushing it aside. They are all dreams at multiple levels after all. Fischer will suffer physical effects of being shot only if his mind makes that happen. In this case, his mind heads towards his dying father and focuses on that.

Saito, on the other hand, is shot by Fischer's militarized mind. Even if they went down into Fischer's mind, they would have no idea where to look for Saito because Saito was shot to protect his mind from getting attacked, Fischer has no obsession with anyone particular from his past. Besides, Fischer is being kidnapped, they would have to convince him to be the dreamer. Going down into Fischer's mind would also ruin the plan as they need to take Fischer through other dreamers deeper and deeper till the 3rd level and incept on his unsuspecting mind. The only thing they can do is hope to complete inception before Saito dies by descending further as the time dilation will give Saito more time to live. However, thanks to Mal being projected, they loose more time and Saito eventually dies and lands up on the shores of Limbo.

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    While that links seems to provide a possible explanation, your interpretation seems to impose more things than necessary, let alone evidenced. It doesn't really seem relevant into whose mind they go to limbo or whose mind shot whom. Afterall limbo is the conjoined subconcious playground of all the people dreaming (or having been there previously) together. So it seems not important whose limbo you enter as there is only one. The only difference seems to be between entering limbo by dying and entering it conciously.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 24, 2015 at 17:19
  • No, Fischer is not yet in Limbo, he needs to be dead to get to Limbo. They are simply reaching out to the dying mind of Fischer using Cobb's mind. This is important because only using Cobb's mind can they locate the dying mind of Fischer to kick it out. If Fischer were dead like Saito, then the only way to reach him would be by dying.
    – John
    Feb 25, 2015 at 5:06
  • When I say 'not in Limbo' I mean - dead and lost in the vast space of shared conscience.
    – John
    Feb 25, 2015 at 5:07
  • Also, in effect, Cobb's mind has hijacked Fisher's mind. They need to descend in to Cobb's mind to set Fisher's mind. When they descend one level further they are in the area of Limbo because only 3 levels of dream is architected. Because of this the laws of Cobb projecting in the dream applies. Mal is Cobb's projection holding on to Fischer and they reach him. Had 4th level of dream been architected, they would have reached there and not Limbo.
    – John
    Feb 25, 2015 at 5:23
  • "Had 4th level of dream been architected, they would have reached there and not Limbo." - That much I get. What I'm not sure of and what I don't see suggested anywhere is why they have to search him in Cobb's mind explicitly. Afterall limbo is shared conciousness and everybody can bring every projection he likes. It just doesn't seem relevant that it was Mal who attacked him and that they therefore have to enter Cobb's mind to find Fisher. It's limbo afterall, so wouldn't any other mind have done, too?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 25, 2015 at 9:05

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