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In Inception, Saito is supposedly a multi-billionaire who controls a big chunk of world's energy business, is able to buy entire airlines at a moment's notice and usually seen traveling in helicopters and cars with half a dozen bodyguards etc.

But in the beginning of the movie, Saito is traveling all by himself (no bodyguards or other entourage) in a public train. Why? That's a significant personal safety risk even if we ignore everything else that is off in this scene.

Is it because that scene itself was a dream (perhaps Cobb's dream in which the whole movie runs) so that the "not knowing how we got here when in a dream" thing applies? Or because he isolated himself on purpose to give Cobb a better chance of getting at him to test Cobb? Or something else?

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  • This is one of those "plot holes" or coincidences that forces Inception to ONLY make sense when the entire movie is a dream, just like what happened in Mombasa
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 2:46

2 Answers 2

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"Is it because that scene itself was a dream..."

So we know it's not Cobb's dream because the scene after the team exits the train is Cobb "checking his reality" with the top while holding the gun in case it is a dream.

"...in the beginning of the movie, Saito is traveling all by himself (no bodyguards or other entourage)..."

We learn this was an "audition" of Cobb by Saito. The train appears empty so we don't know who is actually on the train beside Saito, Cobb and his team, and the young, Asian boy (it is implied he is part of Cobb's team). Bodyguards or others with Saito may be elsewhere on the train and/or Saito simply "rented out" the entire train to ensure privacy and security for this delicate "test." Since trains are never empty in Japan, Saito buying out the entire train is likely.

Clearly, Saito is a very canny businessman and would not put himself at risk for misadventure. Not only is Saito very wealthy and powerful but he shows his acumen and knowledge about "dream extraction" by deeming Cobb to have failed his 'audition' miserably after tracking him down.

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  • Thanks. One question comes to mind - Why didn't Cobb and team wonder why Saito was taking a train all alone and the other oddities? They must've known their "mark's" background.
    – Achilles
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 6:53
  • The train was where Saito held the "audition." It was planned. Before we see them all together on the train, we are in Saito's dream. The dream falls apart, Cobb wakes up and knows he failed. He pays everyone, says, "It's every man for himself. I'm getting off at Kyoto." It can be confusing because the movie opens in a dream. "Inception" really needs to be viewed more than once.
    – M.Mat
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 7:01
  • Sure. But wasn't Cobb hired by Cobol engineering to steal Saito's secrets and Saito knew what was up and was using this to assess Cobb for his own use instead? If so, then wouldn't Cobb and team wonder in the planning stage at Saito being alone traveling in a train and other oddities? If not, how does the Cobol engineering bit fit here?
    – Achilles
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 7:21
  • We don't know what transpired before the film opens. We don't know how Saito came to be on the train, or how the "extraction" process was initiated. To my recollection, we never see how the "process" begins on those who are unwitting to being "extracted." Subsequently, we don't know what Cobb and his team perceived before the film begins. In some regard, I suppose it's a plot hole, but this film moves so fast from the opening scene and one is taking in so much information that this detail is probably one you might not pick up until a second viewing...
    – M.Mat
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 19:40
  • Bottom line is we don't know everything about the extraction process--How is it that in Cobb's "profession" none of his "marks" know that extraction has occurred? The entire concept of extraction/inception is the device of the movie itself; because it doesn't exist, we can't know everything about it. Additionally, Of course, is the "willing suspension of belief."
    – M.Mat
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 19:45
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We see in Inception: The Big Under that Saito took the train in order to put himself in a position where Cobb and his crew could perform a dream extraction. He's hired them (through various proxies) because he wants to see how good they are, not just at doing a dream-share, which frankly anyone could do with sufficient training, but also how professional they are as a crew of thieves and how innovative they are in attacking an individual like him, someone with significant anti-extraction training.

It appears that Saito is largely operating this covert scheme on his own. Even his own security people are unaware of what he's up to.

Saito tightens his tie in the mirror. Reflected in the background is the Head of Security, looking concerned.

SAITO: Kaneda-san has done his part. Now I’ll do mine.

HEAD OF SECURITY: As your Head of Security, Saito-San, I insist that you let us take measures to protect you. I will get my best driver and guard to escort you to work to make sure nothing happens…

SAITO: No need.

Saito looks over his shoulder to his Head of Security.

SAITO: I will take the train.

Inception: The Big Under

For the record Arthur smells a rat. Cobb tells him not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

ARTHUR: This strike you as being too easy? He’s practically setting himself up for us.

COBB: This time tomorrow, Cobol Engineering will be breathing down our necks, Arthur. I’ll take easy whenever we can get it. Lets just finish the job and get off this train.

ARTHUR: The attendant’s going in now.

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