For this film, I admit to wanting to watch it merely to see Willem Dafoe, who is an excellent actor. I did wonder briefly if he could carry an entire film by himself, but after watching the movie, he had a masterful and artistic performance that was more than sufficient. I would say this is one of his finest performances. The film itself is full of symbolism and is meant to provoke thought, which is an unusual and unique offering for audiences.
Inside is a psychological thriller written by Ben Hopkins and directed by Vasilis Katsoupis in his directorial debut. The film tells the story of Nemo, an art thief that finds himself trapped in a New York penthouse after the theft goes wrong and the security system malfunctions. Locked inside with priceless pieces of artwork, he must use all his cunning to find a way to survive.
One of the elements that quickly caught my attention was the artwork itself, almost like a character within the movie. Each piece of art expresses a different idea that reinforces Nemo’s struggle to survive, and Nemo himself expresses his emotions through art, at first sketching in a book and then on the walls of the penthouse. Art is the focal point of the film, and it asks how critical art is if you are unable to use it to survive. The film uses the art to express different ideas and as symbols for Nemo’s struggle. Without the art, the film would make little sense.
The film uses both visuals and sounds to express the story. A video feed of the workers outside the penthouse helps Nemo keep his loneliness at bay, but he’s unable to hear them, so he makes up stories and names for them. The music enhances the sense of him being trapped and pivotal moments, such as when the temperature rises or falls or when time passes. The film also uses scenery from outside to give the audience some sense of the amount of time that passes.
What truly makes the film shine is Willem Dafoe’s performance. He is masterful in how he infuses his performance with emotion, humor, fear, sadness, and pain. It is easy to believe him as a thief caught in the wrong situation and fighting to find a way out. Even his moments of madness are in keeping with the character and how loneliness and pain have preyed on his psyche. Dafoe makes you believe in every moment, even the most unusual and odd. He is magnetic and holds your attention every moment he is on screen.
What the film lacks is pacing. The story is repetitive simply due to the nature of the situation, and even when events happen, they seem slow. It is artistic, but for the regular audience goer that might lack appeal as there are scenes that don’t make sense, like dream sequences and a hidden space in the penthouse. Even the ending will make you question what has really happened, whether Nemo really escapes the house. And beyond the slowness and oddities, there are some decisions dealing with the character’s survival that I could have missed seeing onscreen, mostly dealing with human waste. None of which I needed because my mind can extrapolate such things from the events in the film. However, even with such moments, the performance was still phenomenal and well worth my time.
If you love Willem Dafoe and artistic films, you might like this film about survival. It has a similar feel as Artic and is about a man’s struggle to survive with his own innovativeness and live despite loneliness and despair. If you like films about survival, you will find this worth watching, especially with Willem Dafoe’s excellently crafted performance. The art is almost a character of its own, and I loved the way the art spoke volumes during particular scenes. I loved the acting most of all, and the film has flashes of true genius.
Rating: 4 out of 5 drawings.
Inside tells the story of Nemo, an art thief who enters a collector’s penthouse apartment hunting for valuable works of art. As he enters, the security system locks everything down. And then malfunctions. He is locked inside. At first, he expects his partner-in-crime to arrive, then the security guards or the police. Or the owner. But no one comes. Then he hopes and prays for a cleaning lady to come. A servant. Anyone. But no one comes. And days stretch out into weeks and months. He is locked inside a prison adorned with exquisite, strange, even eerie works of art: works that he both covets and admires, but which are now, for him, useless. Instead, he must use all of his cunning and invention to survive. To break into all the locked spaces to find all the food and liquid he will need. The luxury penthouse – this locus of perfection and aspiration – has become a prison. A desert island. A torture chamber. And then a place of revelation.
INSIDE opens exclusively in select theaters on March 17, 2023.
ONE-LINER: A Solitary Exhibition.