March 17th, 2023
STARRING: WILLEM DAFOE
DIRECTED BY: VASILIS KATSOUPIS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The isolation in Vasilis Katsoupis’ film Inside is the point. The setting is a massive high-rise penthouse, with gorgeous artwork adorning the walls, a pool of water in the living room for exotic fish, and all the luxury that a billionaire can afford. This makes the perfect location for a large-scale heist, where the unit has been abandoned by the owners, with the only items left are of great value. A man enters the home, with a walkie talkie in hand, a mask, and preparation to move very expensive art. What is not planned is what to do if the security alarms trip. It’s a two-man job, with the person on the outside in a more convenient position, as the story turns into one man trapped, fighting for his survival. Inside is an endurance test and another exemplary display of great acting by Willem Dafoe.
It may be difficult to recommend Inside without spoiling, but you are either in on the concept, or you won’t be able to sit through it. The main character is Nemo (Dafoe), a burglar of high art, aware the owner is out of town, and easily breaking into his mark. His partner explains where all the valuable stuff should be. A gorgeous painting in the center wall, jewelry in a safe, and a self-portrait are most sought after. When he can’t find the portrait he begins to search, finding a secret pathway, but setting off an alarm. Soon the doors lock shut, a buzzing noise, and no way of shutting it off. Nemo is trapped. His partner has abandoned him. The New York penthouse has now become his prison.
We start to study the surroundings, slowly mapping the home Nemo is stuck in. At first, the fear was that a police response would catch him red handed. After he dismantles the alarm, what settles in is that maybe he would have preferred a police arrival, as it would get him out. The heating and cooling system was destroyed in an effort to stop the alarm, putting the home in a state of 100-degree temps one hour and below freezing temps the next. There’s little food in the fridge. The water in the house has been shut off. Nemo survives off crackers and the melted water in the freezer. We are slowly beginning to see Nemo deteriorate and his survival is all that matters.
The easy movie to compare Inside with is Robert Zemeckis’ Castaway, but with that study of survival, Tom Hanks was not stuck in the irony of a glamorous penthouse. The screenplay by Ben Hopkins– based on an idea by Katsoupis– still makes it focus on a singular man going mad, with Dafoe narrating the voices in his head, and wondering how he will survive next. There are strokes of ingenuity that arrive from Nemo, where he uses the watering system for indoor plants to become his source of hydration, and begins to create a mountain of furniture with hopes to break through the sunroof. With each moment turning, the challenge becomes if the audience can survive with Nemo, or if you would prefer he had a volleyball to talk with.
What won’t be denied is that Inside is another excellent performance from Willem Dafoe, an actor that continues to challenge himself, with his turn as Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, his long bellowing monologue in The Lighthouse, or his emotionally powerful work in Abel Ferrara’s Tommaso. He’s always interested in testing the limits of what acting can do within a narrative and with Katsoupis behind the camera it works. Although the narrative can run its course, it’s still open for great discussion, and creativity. There are metaphors of what the apartments become, heaven, hell, the process into the afterlife, or something else. Inside begins as a heist and quickly becomes a man locked within his body, mind, and soul. Don’t be afraid to be locked in a penthouse with Willem Dafoe– this is a fascinating experience.
INSIDE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY MARCH 17TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady