By Mike Bruno
July 17, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

Image Credit: Melissa MoseleyPretty sure the headline makes it clear enough, but I’m gonna go ahead and slap a big ol’ SPOILER ALERT on this one anyway, because some people are too busy to actually read headlines. But yes, for those who haven’t seen Inception yet: First off, do so, because it’s a blast and definitely a “worth seeing in the theaters” pic with all the collapsing cities-type effects and such. Secondly, avert your eye, because I wanna talk about that last scene.

My first reaction when the movie ended and that damn top was still spinning was a chuckle (most every one else in my theater seemed to prefer a groan). What a pain in the ass, I thought lovingly of director Chris Nolan, for teasing us. I mean, OF COURSE Leo’s character got home. He woke up on the plane with the rest of the gang, went through customs, got to the house, and the kids finally turned around – something that did not, seemingly COULD not happen in his dreams. Ever. So what if the top kept spinning. It was just Nolan having a little fun with us. It even started to wobble there at the end, right? It was just a matter of time, a technicality. It probably fell the moment the screen went black.

But as I got up to leave the theater, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to stick with that explanation for long. Because it DIDN’T fall before the screen went black. We never saw it topple. It was still spinning, so there is no way we know for certain it was reality and not Cobb stuck in a new dimension of his subconscious, this time not with Mal but with his smiling kids. In retrospect, the final minutes wrapped up really quickly and perfectly. After the moment of tension at the first customs stop, Cobb breezed through the rest of the airport, met up with Miles who, without much chit-chat at all, led him straight to the kids, who were outside playing in the same position as in the dreams (Were they also wearing the same clothes as in the dreams? Were they the same age? How long had he been away?), and quickly turned around and jumped up into their daddy’s arms. Sure, it could’ve just been a tidy dénouement. No real dialogue or additional tension was required. Saito put in the call as he said he would, Miles was notified to pick up Cobb at the airport, done and done. But still, I kept thinking, as I walked out of that theater, that it all seemed a lot like a “dream come true,” devoid of any of the nuance and hiccups that clog up reality.

What’s more, Cobb didn’t even wait around to see for himself if his totem would fall. He rushed off to be with the kids. It was as if he didn’t care — he wanted to live that reality whether in dream or consciousness. Maybe he came back 10 minutes later and spun it again. And maybe it fell. Or maybe there’s a sequel coming.

I loved this movie with or without that final wrinkle. That top could’ve fallen the split second before the screen went to black and I’d have been just as happy with it. Yet, I can’t help but obsess over the fact that it was a mystery left for us to discuss. So PopWatchers, over to you: Was Cobb dreaming or did he finally find a way home?