In Inception, one of the last scenes (and actually the very beginning scene) is Saito being approached by Cobb to both retrieve him and remind him about their arrangement.

But did that action really matter, besides getting Saito out of limbo sooner than him just dying in Limbo (is that even possible, hence the problem with being so deep?)?

It seems that without Cobb directly rescuing Saito from limbo, he would have just died of old age, woken up in reality after mere minutes due to time dilation theory and shaken it off. It would still have worked out fine for Cobb. Saito experiences a few extra years of subconscious deep level dreaming, but in reality only a few minutes later... still wakes up and can "make the call" before the plane touches down.

Why was it necessary for Cobb to go looking for him and drag him out of limbo forcefully?

  • 1
    "what if" scenarios cannot be answered objectively, it's mere speculation (since it didn't happen, no one knows for sure).
    – Luciano
    Dec 19, 2018 at 10:18
  • 2
    Again, this isn't really an opinionated what-if question rather than an unclarity about the plot. Let's all try to get a little better at reading the questions and delving to their very core issues rather than getting stuck on individual wording choices. In that spirit, I rephrased the question a little more to highlight what it is actually asking and reopened it accordingly.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 19, 2018 at 19:02

3 Answers 3


Similar to what The Wandering Dev Manager said, the entire problem with this situation is that the sedatives to support a multi-level dream are too strong to be woken up simply by dying. You need the kick. If you do die in a dream supported by these heavy sedatives, you enter Limbo.

The same principal is at play once you're already in limbo. If you die in Limbo without receiving the kick, you don't wake up. You go a layer deeper into the dream.

Even though Limbo is "the deepest layer," it's already revealed in the movie that Limbo isn't just one layer. When Cobb and Ariadne go a layer deeper to get Ficsher, that is deep enough to be considered Limbo. However, when Cobb dies in that layer, he goes a layer deeper into another layer of Limbo. Therefore, Limbo is a multi-layer reality with (potentially) an infinite number of levels going deeper and deeper and becoming harder and harder to wake up from.

This shows that the reason that Cobb needed to go back and retrieve Saito (and the reason that once Saito died in the dream, it was a very time sensitive matter) is that if Saito had died in Limbo, he would have gone another layer deeper and been even harder to eventually retrieve.


You need the kick


Cobb reveals that while dying in the dream would normally wake Saito up, the powerful sedatives needed to stabilize the multi-level dream will instead send a dying dreamer into "limbo", a world of infinite subconscious from which escape is extremely difficult, if not impossible, and a dreamer risks forgetting they are in a dream.

So it seems that the only way to escape from Limbo is via a kick (in this case from Cobb's gun)

This is similar to Mal and Cobb, who died of old age in the dream world but had to get the kick from a train to return from Limbo


I'm not sure anyone in universe knows what happens if you die of old age in limbo.

Cobb certainly thinks it's important Mal and him die to escape, but I don't think he knows what would happen.

My interpretation is that the place slowly drives you crazy and you would still be that way when you return to the normal world.

In addition I'm not sure he would have felt like making a call after being abandoned for decades.

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