Cobb as Leonardo Di Caprio is an absolute sleaze bag. He is written as a sleazebag, and Leo acts like one. When the legality of his work comes up, he smugly dismisses it. He sets up rules for his teammates, but doesn’t follow them. He arrogantly scoffs when they bring up the fact. He blames his failings on others. He destroys a young man’s psyche without a moment’s hesitation. The man’s a crook and a total jerk.
Now, I don’t mind this kind of character. I usually love them. Sometimes I may even feel sympathy towards them. But I expect a fitting motivation. Maybe lust for power, or money. Maybe simple megalomania. Cobb? He just wants to see his kids again. Ain’t that sweet! He’s a proper crook with a heart of gold, our Cobb.
Man, I don’t care. He’s an asshole. He won’t see his kids? Great! Serves him right. Kinda sucks for the kids, I guess, but then again I don’t care about the kids either- I never see them do anything but play in the sand for a moment, and that they are used as symbols of impending doom doesn’t help.
I am just irritated by the lead character for some reason. Ariadne, on the other hand, would have made a great protagonist. We’d follow her as she suddenly discovers the world of extraction through her teacher, as her relationship with Cobb evolves from professional cooperation to disgust at his lack of scruples to sympathy for his grief. It might even convince me to care about Cobb. It would do away with the confusing preludes. It would allow Cobb’s plan to rescue Saito to be an epic revelation, to which Ariadne and the audience can react with enthusiasm and excitement, as they should: It’s the climax of the story!
Instead we get to watch a petty scumbag thief be mean and inconsiderate to his friends, shirk responsibility, pity himself and then have the gall to pretend he has noble goals of reuniting with his children.