If Mal was right that it was all fake, and she jumped and got out of the dream, Then upon waking up why can't she give some sort of kick to Cobb in the "real" world? (Just like Arthur gave the kick to everyone in the elevator)

And since so far Cobb didn't receive a kick, is this a good argument to prove that Cobb is in fact not dreaming?

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    Mal was confused about dream and reality, and she jumped in real life and got died
    – J M
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 7:50
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    Yes but can the debate of whether Cobb is still dreaming be explained by this? Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 7:51
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    It's possible that the recurring Mals who appear to harass Cobb's efforts are her kicks, and he not only ignores them, but actively fights against them, because he's so convinced he's not dreaming.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 15:08
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    But kicks come from outer world, not through your own subconscious so the harassing Mal doesn't seem to be a kick Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 0:06
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    Mal only shows up when he dreams, not when he is awake. If the various appearances of Mal are her attempts to kick him awake, why does she skip the uppermost level of his dream layers (the layer which Dom believes is the real world)?
    – user37051
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 14:48

3 Answers 3


Due to the slowed time in dream state, it's still possible that Mal woke up and is working on giving Cobb the kick, but he's perceiving that time as years.

If Cobb is still several levels deep, then those years could have been only a few minutes or even seconds since Mal woke up. She could still be setting up or triggering the kick, or even waiting a few minutes, hours, or even days thinking that Cobb will follow. Maybe she thinks he Cobb needs to figure it out and decide on his own, rather than pull him out by force before he's ready. Perhaps she even harbors resentment that he didn't follow her, that he didn't believe or trust her, and that he's continuing to live without her, so she's chosen to leave him in the dream as punishment.

Going even deeper into it, there's the possibility that kicks don't work. If Cobb is dreaming, then everything we see and are told in the movie could be in the incorrect logic of Cobb's dream. Kicks, dream levels, shared dreaming, all of it could be figments of Cobb's imagination. Mal might not even be real to begin with, she may be just as much a character of the dream as Ariadne and the others.

Or, maybe Mal's just dead.

  • Possibly, Or as you said, Maybe Mal is just dead :P and also that top wobbling/spinning in the end scene is just to confuse viewers. Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 4:42
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    Confuse, or intrigue? I put the question of Cobb's reality in the same category as Deckard's origin in Blade Runner: the question is more interesting and important than the answer, whatever it may be. The possibility of being trapped in a dream world, or of being driven to suicide because you think you're in a dream world, is fascinating on its own without ever knowing the truth about Cobb & Mal specifically.
    – LazyGadfly
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 15:37
  • Lots of good points, but I'm not quite sure about the first one: If Mal woke up and wants to kick Cobb, she would be one level up, so it wouldn't take her that long. Commented May 22, 2022 at 10:43

One important theory that can be true is that Mal and Cobb were already multiple layers deep inside a dream.

When Mal jumped, she just got climbed one layer up in the dreams. Once she became aware of this, she might wanted to reach the reality first and then bring Cobb back.

Cobb did make sure that he is not going to believe her anyway. She wants to avoid the struggle to convince Cobb at each layer of dream and want to bring him back in one shot.

Mal was appearing only when Cobb is asleep? This is because of the fact that Cobb believes himself guilty of her death, and he was actually imagining her in his dreams and was convinced that Mal wants to take him with her.

Kick comes from the outer world? This is not correct. Kick always comes from one layer up of the dream.


A kick is needed for people interfering in someone else's dream. From this theory, Cobb is within his own dream. There would be no need for a kick. Mal could simply wait for Cobb to wake up naturally after a few hours.

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