Review Of Inside

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Vasilis Katsoupis’s Intricate Format in Inside is Joined by the Exemplary Performance of Willem Dafoe as an Art Thief Trapped within a Penthouse Owned by a Billionaire. However, it lacks focus on its use of space, plot, and theme making it monotonous before it dwindles out with no ending that can be recognized let alone being cathartic. All this is said about the art’s meaning and materialism not at once but through haphazard occurrences which rarely fit well into one piece. It also does so towards the one-location survival story, yielding near identical results.

Inside is set in a New York City penthouse where Dafoe plays Nemo – one of the unnamed members of a heist team mentioned in his opening voiceover, which reveals his lifelong passion for paintings. That gives him some sort of personal tie to all those pictures he has been sent out to steal when together with some other men on walkie-talkies they scale the heights of a huge luxury apartment whose haughty owner will not return for four months. But things go south here: first Nemo can’t seem to get out of the penthouse or even make a quick phone call due to which he gets locked up in super high-tech prison that slowly starts having technical problems.

Whilst Dafoe subtly displays how irritating it becomes staying indoors too long then progressively becoming desperate, Katsoupis and screenwriter Ben Hopkins are good at overcoming physical obstacles. There is little food; there is little water; there’s “Macarena” played from speakers whenever you open what looks like almost-empty coolers (it is actually full).

But after Inside has laid down its roadmap of possible hurdles such as diminishing supplies, broken plumbing or unreliable thermostats, any further discussion stops around these issues apart from the ones that are currently affecting Nemo’s continued troubles. In contrary to such narrative choice, the editing by Lambis Haralambidis turns each of them into a piece of trivia that may be worth recalling and wondering about once they have been absent for extended periods, rather than as elements of Nemo’s enclosing environment. Inside is almost too calculated an arrangement to make it memorable; dramatic obstacles such as toilets or dental care are set up but payoff in Inside means one shot to catch us on what happened to these problems when time has passed. In between, it lacks continuity thus becoming less of a flowing tale and more like a checklist.

The passage of time in Inside is yet another eccentricity. Although how much time Nemo spends in this apartment is not clear – he can see outside the window how seasons change; this could be several months – nothing really seems to matter at all about the way time actually feels for him and the distance his own subjective perspective stretches or shrinks within its orbit. This simply takes place off screen instead of playing out via human eyes or human bodies. Physically grueling and emotionally reflective performance by Dafoe who further isolates Nemo into himself in a never ending cell. However, none of this is supported with anything else other than acting talent

Considering its pandemic origins, Inside has often been seen as a film that is analogous to the state of being under lockdown; it’s a reflection of the daily frustrations and loneliness many people go through. In fact, Nemo finds people-watching pleasurable enough so much that he manages to have enhanced security tapes on him at various locations. Steve Annis’ camera rarely follows this to render Nemo’s sentiments through space or his physical experience in any case. There is little sense of discomfort you can pick out from the penthouse; it does not look cramped claustrophobically like walls are closing in or an empty place devoid of life.

Sometimes, the soundscape even suggests Nemo might be experiencing a mental breakdown, however Katsoupis and Hopkins’ concept for this idea never goes beyond more than just fleeting phantasmagoric images. As much as we see what has an effect on him externally, we never really get into his mind-frame; we see “what” his fragmented visions are without ever presenting them as “why” questions that make up Inside’s subject matter. Frequently Dafoe speaks (also in monologues with himself), implying thoughts about modern art ranging from their status symbols aspects to personal significance. Similarly one of the paintings that Nemo has been sent to steal happens to be an expensive self-portrait hence blurring these categories by itself. This tension does not arise despite how long he stares at art around him – think about it while making your own or inventing rituals that allow him become more animalistic – including transforming furniture into large structures hoping they will reach outlets near ceiling and/or floor registers.

Inside barely offers any perspective on modern art though it has several paintings and sculptures across its area, while its main character often alludes to deeper feelings or thoughts about art. Nevertheless, 105 minutes running time is the period where Inside spends most of its time thinking over such issue, leaving no room for establishing the growing importance of Nemo’s condition with each passing moment.

It might remind some audiences of other movies that follow similar lines of thoughts, such as Danny Boyle’s wilderness-survival drama 127 Hours or even more so, Trapped (2017), an Indian thriller by Vikramaditya Motwane which is also about a character trapped in an apartment on high floor. However, to see them as parallels would be somewhat unfair because both Motwane and Boyle were able to quickly establish a balance between who these people are and what they are up against. Hopkins’ screenplay is already all over the place with few premises which Katsoupis struggles to thread together visually resulting into an ending that comes across as fake-deep – it has no momentum whatsoever. In simple words, you can tell or edit this film almost any way you think of but it will remain just a plain movie.


Despite Willem Dafoe’s brilliant portrayal of an art thief stuck inside a luxury penthouse in Inside there is not much about his character, his environment or the situation he finds himself in. There are indeed some good ideas regarding art and the material world in theory at least; however, none of these are combined with anything else creating interesting images or giving rise to dramatic stakes.

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