|“||An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.||”|
Dominick Cobb was once a gifted Architect under the mentorship of Miles. The two were close friends and Miles did not object when Dom became involved with his daughter, Mal. Mal and Dom loved each other dearly and, after having a dream of the couple growing old together, Dom asked her to marry him. The two had two children. Mal was also fascinated by Dream-Sharing and the power of the subconscious, but it appears she also was among the first to realize the inherent danger of it. It was for this reason she invented the use of totems to determine dreams and reality, using a metal spinning top.
During an experiment in Dream-Sharing, Dom insisted on going deeper into the different layers of dreams. This resulted in the two becoming trapped in Limbo, unconstructed dream space. The two spent around fifty years building a city around them, with many buildings created from memories of their past. At first complacent with their position as gods, Dom’s patience with Limbo waned over the decades and he soon sought a way to escape. Mal, however, found the only way she could stand Limbo was to forget about reality. She placed her totem in a hidden safe, symbolizing her locking away the memory that Limbo was not real. In desperation, Dom broke into her hidden safe and performed inception, the artificial implantation of an idea into another’s subconscious. He spun the spinning top, knowing that in the dream world it would not topple. This became a subconscious reminder to Mal of the truth: Limbo was not real and death was the only escape. Together, Dom led Mal to a set of train tracks and waited, with their heads on the tracks, till a train came and killed them. The two woke up, having spent only a short amount of time asleep.
But the damage of Dom’s actions eventually caught up with him. Even in the real world, Mal continued to believe she was sleeping. She saw her children as projections and rejected Dom’s reasoning. She began harboring suicidal thoughts as she sought to free herself from her dream, but was unable to do it alone. In her mind she felt it would be cowardly to leave Dom behind in the dream world and loved him too dearly to move on without him. Despite her beliefs, three separate psychiatrists declared her sane.
On the anniversary of their wedding, Dom came to their traditional hotel room to find it in a disheveled state. Noticing an open window, Dom looked outside to see Mal ready to jump off the opposite ledge. Dom attempts to calm Mal and convince her to come inside, but Mal replies that Dom has to jump or will be arrested for her murder because Mal had left evidence falsely accusing Dom of being abusive and making death threats against her. She admitted her actions were made so that he would be more willing to jump with her and less guilty for leaving behind their children, as they would be taken into foster care if he lived anyway. Growing increasingly desperate, Dom begged Mal to accept her reality, but was unable to convince her. She dropped peacefully from the roof and her evidence made Dom the prime suspect in her apparent murder. On the advice of his lawyer, Dom fled the United States, regretfully leaving behind his children who taken in by their grandparents. He would be haunted by the memory of that day from then on, regretting that he did not say goodbye or even see their faces before leaving.
In exile, Dom found the only available work for someone of his skills was illegal. He became a professional extractor, partnering extensively with point man Arthur and forging a competent reputation and large network of allies in the criminal world. His work became hindered, however, as Dom's projection of Mal began acting in increasingly unpredictable ways. This projection was a manifestation of Dom's perception of Mal in her final years: vengeful, violent yet loving, that was empowered by his intense feelings of guilt and self-hatred: his own subconscious wish to be punished. She became Dom’s tormentor, reminding him of his lost wife, dearly missed children, playing on his growing doubts about reality and foiling his extractions. As Mal grew more powerful, her actions grew more bold and violent, forcing herself into Dom’s plans and becoming impossible for him to ignore or control.
As Mal’s power grew, Dom began feeling it was too dangerous for him to design dreams anymore, as Mal would undoubtedly know the dream as well, making it easier for her to find them and foil the plan. This required him to rely on other Architects, severely limiting his flexibility.
Cobb is a disturbed man, shaken by the death of his wife and the events that led him to leave his children. Cobb struggles to leave his dark and tortured past behind him, which is why he accepts Saito's offer. As the movie progresses, Cobb is forced to deal with Mal's projection until he is able to fully overcome her death.
Cobb excels at his job for many reasons, the greatest of which is the ease in which he reads people, most notably his marks. He is a skilled extractor. He is also quite a conversationalist, and laces his speech and actions with deceptive gambits. An example of this is when he twists the truth of the team's reason for drawing Fischer deeper into the dream levels, and again when he draws Ariadne into the world of shared dreaming without her knowledge. Like Eames and Arthur, Cobb also can be seen to be highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat, evasive tactics, and sharpshooting. He managed to disable multiple projections in the Hotel bathroom and in the mountains. He also seems to have advanced intrusion and stealth training, as evidenced by his expert navigation of Saito's complex in the beginning of the film, as well as the silent neutralization of the projections in that complex.
Development and Summary of Profession
“At the beginning of the film,” Christopher Nolan says, “we learn that Cobb is the best extractor in the game. He is hired by corporations to steal secrets they would otherwise never have access to. It’s all based on the persistence of an idea, the notion that any concept will stay fixed in the subconscious. It’s impossible to unlearn something, and that forms the basis for what an extractor is able to do in terms of retrieving information.”
The performance of DiCaprio has been widely acclaimed, but was not nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor, though heavily considered by many critics who have reviewed the film.
- "Those kids, your grandchildren, they're waiting for their father to come back home - that's their reality. This job, this last job, that's how I get there."
- "You create the world of the dream. You bring the subject into the dream and they fill it with their sub-conscious."
- "Well, dreams, they feel real while we're in them, right? It's only when we wake up that we realize that something was actually strange."
- "Building a dream from memory is the easiest way to lose your grasp on what's real and what is a dream."
- Cobb: "They think I killed her'."
Cobb: "Thank you."
Ariadne: "For what?"
Cobb: "For not asking whether or not I did."
- He was known as The Extractor in some promotional material.
- ↑ The airline ticket given to Dom when he is escaping America displays his full name, spelling it with an additional 'k'.