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Inside (A Movie Review)

INSIDE (2022)

Starring Willem Dafoe, Gene Bervoets, Eliza Stuyck and Josia Krug.

Screenplay by Ben Hopkins.

Directed by Vasilis Katsoupis.

Distributed by Focus Features. 105 minutes. Rated R.

It’s not easy to make a movie in a limited setting with a limited number of characters. There are no distractions, no side tracks, nothing to look at but the action. Therefore, if you are going to make a movie in that manner, you have to be damned sure that the story is very tightly constructed and interesting.

Willem Dafoe’s art thief character, named Nemo, is essentially the only character in Inside. Oh, sure, there are some voices on a radio, some people on television or a closed-circuit camera, even a few flashbacks and dream sequences when others are present. However, essentially, Inside is a one-man show.

Also, the entirety of Inside takes place inside one very big penthouse apartment over a period of months.

It’s a brave conceit and it has a fascinating concept, at least until it all goes off the rails.

Nemo is a cat-burglar who breaks into the penthouse home of a famous art collector in order to steal some of his priceless belongings. While the heist is going, his partners’ attempts to hack into the alarm system fail and the apartment goes into lockdown. Nemo’s associates abandon him, and he is stuck in this huge penthouse with no electricity, very little food, no communications, and no plumbing, trying to figure out a way to escape.

However, an odd thing happens. No one comes to check on the penthouse. Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and Nemo is marooned in this one room in the middle of a huge high rise in a major metropolitan center. He must find food, and water, and distractions, and try desperately, futilely, to get out. Essentially, he destroys the place, partly out of desperation, partly out of boredom, and still is unable to get out.

He must speak to himself because there is no one else – trying to save his sanity, which honestly doesn’t quite work.

Of course there are lots of logistical problems with this plot. Why would a penthouse full of priceless art never be checked on, particularly when the alarm went off on the very first day? How would Nemo survive for months with almost no food? And, later in the story, how can he walk on a leg which apparently has a compound fracture, or at the very least is injured badly enough that it would inevitably become infected without any medical attention? Is it possible that the fire sprinklers would go off and completely flood the penthouse and building management would have no idea, and it would cause no damage to the rest of the complex?

Of course, perhaps the answer is supposed to be simple and yet weirdly complex – maybe it was all preplanned by the homeowner and Nemo himself and his dire situation is supposed to be an extreme form of modern art. Which is a fascinating idea, and yet at the same time it becomes more and more far-fetched with every passing day that Nemo exists.

Would anyone – anyone? – really go to these lengths and this expense just to amuse themselves? Or even if this was all some sort of crazy modern art exhibit, would it really find enough interest and profit to forgive the heartlessness and massive destruction of the whole set up?

It’s a dark concept, and eventually a rather unsatisfying one. The more that Nemo is forced to humiliate himself and suffer, the more that Inside starts to grate on the viewer.

But wow, Willem Dafoe does do an amazing job in the role.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: March 16, 2023.

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