Review: Inside

Score:  B+

Director:  Vasilis Katsoupis

Cast:  Willem Dafoe

Running Time:  105 Minutes

Rated:  R

"Cats die. Music fades. But art is for keeps."

No one will ever deny the talents of Willem Dafoe. Throughout his career, which now spans five decades, the actor has accrued an impressive list of projects: 1989's Born on the Fourth of July, 1997's Speed 2: Cruise Control, 2000's American Psycho, 2002's Spider-Man, 2009's Antichrist, and 2019's The Lighthouse are just a few of his highly regarded works. He's earned four Oscar nominations.  Inside is, without a moment's hesitation, his vanity project. I say this with admiration. The film, directed by Vasilis Katsoupis, is quite good.

In the film, Nemo (Dafoe), a high-end art thief, finds himself trapped inside a New York City penthouse after a highly orchestrated heist becomes foiled by a technological mishap. As the thermostat sends heat from the air ducts and the temperature rises, time becomes of the essence. Surrounded by nothing but priceless works of art and two saltwater fish tanks, our thief must create an escape. If not, Neo will die within the home, a formidable cage to its unexpected inhabitant.

Except for a few limited flashback sequences, Dafoe's Nemo is alone on the screen for the film's duration. The story is entirely his. And while the cameras never venture outside the expensive, luxurious apartment he is attempting to rob, and he rarely shares his inner thoughts, the effects of his time alone, continually looking for food and water, speaks loudly from the rafters, ricocheting off the high ceilings and tile flooring.

In this way, Inside works beautifully, encapsulating the destructing mental state of an otherwise brilliant man, a metaphor for his external being as he must destroy and sacrifice invaluable, prized works of art to survive. Methodically navigating the space, Nemo works relentlessly to create a plan that will allow him on the other side of the unbreakable window panes that have him cornered. Though our view is always partial, Dafoe maintains your attention throughout, effectively daring you to look away and miss a vital piece to this chic, sophisticated puzzle.

And that is what Inside is: an expensive, highly exclusive puzzle that toys with viewers' morals as they form an emotional tie to a criminal. Dafoe brilliantly embraces the moment, uniquely appealing to your heart as you pity him and his predicament. It isn't until after the credits roll that you again realize that the plight directly results from Nemo's self-indulgence and greed.

As the film progresses and Nemo's physical appearance begins to show distress amid his time locked inside the once elusive residence, a plan slowly takes shape. While Katsoupis never gives away much and hits his main protagonist with a slew of mental and physical obstacles, there are only two possible outcomes for this tightly wound, claustrophobic story.

Much like Tom Hanks in 2000's Castaway, the journey is most of the ride. And there are, as one would expect, several questions. Katsoupis and co-writer Ben Hopkins craft a script that addresses many, but life outside the high-rise is a distant thought. And that's okay. This snapshot is well-poised and beautifully layered. And much like the pieces Nemo longs to take for himself, the film is a lavish work of art. And though the price tag remains unknown, its finished product will undoubtedly appeal to a very particular buyer.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.