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There's a great deal in this complex film:

  • Ariadne in Greek mythology helped Theseus go into the Labyrinth to defeat the Minotaur. Ariadne here helps our heroes go into the labyrinth of the human mind. The maze she draws for Dom to pass his test is the Labyrinth of Minos. Not only that, but the mythical Ariadne gave Theseus a sword to slay the Minotaur, and a string to find his way back out of the maze. This Ariadne gives Cobb the means to finally let go of Mal, whom he's imprisoned in the labyrinth of his mind.
  • Cobb's name comes from Christopher Nolan's early film Following, which featured another thief with the same name.
  • As shown in the prequel tie-in comic "The Cobol Job", the corporation that hired Cobb and his team to raid Saito's brain is named "Cobol", possibly after the business-oriented programming language.
  • Nolan has said the third dream level is a direct shout out to his favorite James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • There's a possible one in the Chinese subtitles for the official release. For Michael Caine's throwaway line about "being stuck in the broom closet", the subtitles had it translated to "being stuck in a pigeon cage", which is positively eerie if you consider his role in The Prestige, with his scene of flattening the pigeon. It seems intentional since the translation isn't even close.
  • The music used to warn dreamscapers about their imminent awakening is a song by Edith Piaf, whom Marion Cotillard played in La Vie en Rose (La Môme).
    • Although far from being an intentional shout out, the song was decided on before Marion Coutillard's casting. When she was cast, Nolan says he even considered changing the song used in case the obvious real-world connection of Coutillard and Piaf might be jarring to people's suspension of disbelief. However, too much of the score had already been composed around motifs from 'Non No Je Ne Regrette Rien' so he went with it.
    • Another shout out from the score: One composition is titled "#9 Dream Within a Dream". "#9 Dream" is the name of a song by John Lennon (reaching, hilariously enough number nine on the Billboard Hot 100) from his 1974 album Walls and Bridges.
  • There are a couple references to M.C. Escher, a graphic artist famous for his paradoxical architecture. Maurice Fischer is named after him (his full name was Maurits Cornelis Escher), and he also learned a lot of his mathematics from Roger Penrose, the man behind the Penrose Steps. Also, one of Escher's sons was named Arthur.
  • Eames is named after Charles and Ray Eames, two American designers who made sizeable contributions to architecture and furniture. Charles in particular was a fan of the banana leaf parable, which details how a banana leaf starts out simple, but becomes more detailed as decorations are added until it is amazingly intricate and ornate. Kind of like Eames' opinion on the idea of inception.
  • Robert Fischer is named after Bobby Fischer, the genius chess player who famously went insane and started making vitriolic statements against his own country and people, much like this Fischer is turned against his own subconscious and made to believe that he can't trust his godfather.
    • Also, it may be coincidence, but given that Fischer is the mark and the main characters are evading his dream security there is a lot of "Fischer's projections." Fischer projections are used to draw chiral structures in organic chemistry.
  • At the very least, Nolan tells us Ariadne's character was inspired by Paprika.
    • Ariadne shatters a mirror by touching it, Paprika did this too.
  • The math of general relativity is horrifically complicated, but the most fundamental idea behind it is the principal of equivalence: gravity is equivalent to acceleration. Albert Einstein realized this by visualizing himself in an elevator, and realizing that motion in a still elevator in a gravity field is exactly the same as motion in an accelerating elevator without a gravity field. Yes, this movie manages to include a shout out to physics.

That sound you've been hearing from the start of this article isn't wind--it's your kick!

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