‘Inside’ – Review

Inside is a hypnotic descent into whether or not madness is art or the art is madness. A cryptic film that has no intention of presenting straightforward ideas but rather allowing the eye of the beholder to figure out what is what. Another powerhouse performance from Willem Dafoe.

Single location films have become a bit more frequent in a post-shutdown world as sets become tighter to enforce COVID restrictions. Some films have leaned into this by delivering intense character studies focusing on a sole character, and Inside produces just that. The film follows an art thief Nemo (Willem Dafoe) in what is mostly a one-man show. Watching a star such as Dafoe go off the walls for almost two hours should make for a unique, exciting experience at the movies as we never see a star of his caliber truly go this wild. The film around our leading man unfortunately never feels as fully committed as his performance is. 

Inside begins with Nemo being lowered via helicopter onto the balcony of an empty penthouse apartment containing an immense collection of art. After the alarm is accidentally tripped, the apartment’s security system goes into an automatic lockdown, sealing Dafoe inside the strange apartment; he’s now completely abandoned and alone as his team takes off to avoid being caught. The apartment owner is out of the country, so the plumbing’s been shut off and the pantry empty. Nemo is locked inside with no one to help or find him. In his attempt to find a way out, he accidentally breaks the thermostat, and the temperature begins to rise in the apartment he finds himself locked in. 

Nemo is mentally crumbling under the pressure of looking for an escape. The freezer door plays the Macarena if you leave it open for more than twenty seconds slowly weighing on Nemo’s state of mind. The subtlety of Inside is not its strong suit. The wealthy elite, as embodied by the owner of the apartment Nemo is locked in, create an environment that is hostile to Nemo in the ways the amenities of the home comfort its owner. The HVAC system wreaks havoc on Nemo. The bulletproof glass keeps Nemo locked inside. Eventually, Nemo’s both physical and psychological transformation parallels the disintegrating state of the apartment as the penthouse becomes damaged as Nemo attempts to find a way to free himself, yet the penthouse also remains a place of inspiration for him. He finds himself building and feeling more creative inspired by art than he has before. 

Inside has a lot of themes brewing beneath the surface, but writer-director Vasilis Katsoupis and co-writer Ben Hopkins don’t answer any questions. Katsoupis doesn’t exactly make the best use of space as the audience can feel confused about the layout of the apartment imprisoning Nemo or the tools available to him. While much of Inside is torn between being realistic or madness-driven fantasy, as the audience is following Nemo for quite some time, it becomes a dull exercise as it isn’t choosing to say much. 

Dafoe delivers another brave, extreme performance in Inside, but the film falls flat around him despite presenting some great hallucinatory sequences. Inside is a hypnotic descent into whether or not madness is art, or the art is madness. A cryptic film that has no intention of presenting straight forward ideas, but rather allowing the eye of the beholder to figure out what is what.

Grade: C+

Oscars Prospects:
Likely: None
Should be Considered: None

Where to Watch: In Theaters

Kenzie Vanunu
she/her @kenzvanunu
Lives in LA with her husband, daughter and dog. Misses Arclight, loves iced vanilla coffees.
Favorite Director: Darren Aronofsky
Sign: Capricorn

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