In Inception Cobb tells Ariadne that he was stuck in limbo with Mal for 50 years. Then they killed themselves by lying on the railway track.

So, it is possible to commit suicide even if you are in limbo. And presumably, you return to the awake world.

In the first scene, Saito asks Cobb "Have you come to kill me?"

This means he knew he had to die to get freed from limbo.

However, if he thought Cobb could free him by killing him, why didn't Saito just kill himself? Surely it's not about who kills you or how you are killed that determines whether you wake up.

Am I missing something here?

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    Was Saito aware that he is in limbo ?? I was assuming that he forgets that he is in limbo. That why cobb needs to go to limbo to wake him up.
    – Panther
    Jul 13, 2015 at 7:09
  • He would only forget if he suffers from amnesia due to old age. That is irrelevant anyway because he entered when he was much younger, and would have clearly known that he is in limbo. Jul 13, 2015 at 7:22
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    The whole point of limbo is that you lose yourself in it. How could Saito possibly try to escape limbo if we doesn't know where he is at all?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 13, 2015 at 7:52
  • Related: movies.stackexchange.com/q/19928/49.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 13, 2015 at 9:36

3 Answers 3


Most of it is explained in the movie:

Yusuf: We're too heavily sedated to wake up that way. [...] Can't even think about trying to escape [from Limbo] until the sedation eases.

Cobb (to Saito): When you wake up you won't even remember that we had an arrangement. Limbo is going to become your reality.

So let's tackle the relevant points one at a time.

Why Saito didn't kill himself in Limbo:

So Yusuf's sedative places a person who dies in the dream in Limbo without their conscious minds. This explains why Saito didn't kill himself immediately. However, even when the sedative wears off, enough time has gone by (in accelerated dream time) that a person can't tell apart Limbo and reality after spending decades there and will no longer know that they have to die there.

Why Saito asked "Have you come to kill me":

There are two possible explanations.

  1. This doesn't necessarily mean that Saito knows he has to die to leave Limbo. In the Limbo world, Saito runs a (possibly organized crime) empire just like the dream in the beginning of the film. When a stranger washes up on shore with a gun, Saito might simply suspect he's an assassin.

  2. Saito is confused about what's real and what's not, just like Mal was. He vaguely suspects that someone will try to kill him to get him out, but he isn't sure it's the right choice until he sees Cobb and they remember their previous conversation together. It's even possible that by saying that, Saito actually reminded Cobb what he's there to do.

How it relates to what happened to Cobb and Mal in Limbo:

Cobb and Mal willingly entered Limbo together, and Mal was eventually reluctant to leave it. Cobb had to persuade her otherwise. He succeeded and they committed suicide together in Limbo, but playing with her subconscious like that also had devastating results later in real life.

A somewhat similar thing happened with Saito. Having arrived in Limbo with no memory, he stayed there for decades. Cobb, having entered Limbo voluntarily, eventually found him there but was notably already in a confused state. Saito and Cobb had to remind each other that they're in Limbo, which was probably what helped Cobb and Mal escape in the first place: You need another person to remind you who and where you really are.

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    "real life" - I'm not convinced on this point.
    – Gusdor
    Jul 14, 2015 at 7:12
  • You mean Mal? Hmm, you're right, it's not so cut and dried. I'll refine it.
    – Walt
    Jul 14, 2015 at 7:29
  • Wait, or do you mean you're not convinced the movie took place in real life? Well, that's a different question altogether... ;)
    – Walt
    Jul 14, 2015 at 10:17
  • It certainly is!
    – Gusdor
    Jul 14, 2015 at 11:11
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    @Walt : Oh yes, that explains why Cobb looks up in surprise when Saito says "Have you come to kill me". Even Cobb had forgotten and Saito's words remind him, isn't it? Jul 14, 2015 at 14:09

Have a look at this answer.

It says when people are in Limbo,

(1) time would be passing at a greatly accelerated rate, and

(2) they wouldn't even know to wake up, since the kick doesn't work there.

So, Cobb convinces Saito that he is in limbo (the top spins continuously as if it will never topple)

For the further question - why then cobb didn't lose the track of time in limbo.

The answer is -

Cobb, having spent so much time in Limbo and having done it before, is able to still distinguish reality from the dream.

Hope it answers your question.

  • 3
    Please do not post answers that are just links. Put the essence of the answer into your post.
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 13, 2015 at 7:42

I like and totally agree with @walt's reasoning for Why Saito didn't kill himself in Limbo? so I'm not going to repeat it here, but I do not agree with the Why Saito asked "Have you come to kill me?" part. I think Saito seeing Cobb is still young after all the years Saito has lived in Limbo made him finally realize he was in Limbo all along. So him telling Cobb "Have you come to kill me?" is like telling him "Have you come to get me out of Limbo (at last)?"

So to answer the question, Saito didn't kill himself because he didn't realize he was in Limbo in the first place. He told Cobb "Have you come to kill me?" only after he realized he was in Limbo due to the age difference.

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