Let’s be honest. When you’ve only got one cast member in one location, it’s really hard to keep a feature-length film interesting. Oh, many have tried, all with varying degrees of success. From Cast Away to Buried, this type of storytelling can be a fascinating social experiement… or the longest two hours of your life.
But, it’s entirely possible that Willem Dafoe’s Inside has broken the mold.
Directed by Vasilis Katsoupis, Inside begins as professional art thief, Nemo (Willem Dafoe) attempts to break into a high security penthouse with his eyes on the owner’s rare collection. Though, when the heist doesn’t go as planned, he becomes locked inside the apartment with no visible exits. As time rolls on, Nemo must use all of his wits to survive and breathe the air of freedom once again.
Absorbing and deeply philosophical, Inside is a compelling thriller that borders on existential in moments. Unlike several other examples in the genre, Katsoupis avoids treating the film like some sort of puzzle box. Instead, the film evolves into a psychological drama as Dafoe seeks every possible option to survive in his luxurious prison. With this in mind, Inside operates on a slow burn. Intensity is felt palpably but not through elaborate set pieces. Instead, the film wants to break down its main character in ways that make him question the meaning of existence. Willing to sit within the psychology of the moment, Ben Hopkins’ script doesn’t keep the focus entirely on Nemo’s escape but rather explores both the value of art and humanity.
Of course, none of this would be possible without a stellar performance by Dafoe. Even in his films of lesser quality, Dafoe is the type of actor that always remains interesting. However, in Inside, the actor fully gives himself over to his character, creating a character that is both compelling, crafty and crazy all rolled into one. In every scene, Dafoe holds the viewer’s attention with a performance that may rank among one of his best.
Inside comes out after a pandemic where people have been struggling with isolation. There’s a certain poignancy here as it attempts to understand the effects of being kept apart from the outside world. This story is partly about escaping. But it also rather reminds others to celebrate the opportunity to be in proximity to one another. For example, through the apartment’s massive windows, Nemo can see the world outside of him. And yet, his freedom remains just out of reach.
Whether it’s the sting of police sirens, stunning fireworks, or even the flight of pigeons, Dafoe’s character can almost taste the fresh air. However, despite his best efforts, he is never fully able to make a connection with other people. As such, this is very much a film about our relationship to the outside world. Nemo craves intimacy but cannot seem to make the connection, no matter how hard he tries.And he slowly begins to wither away because of it.
More than this though, instead of simply showing our need for connection, Inside also delves deeply into our understanding of humanity and its relationship to the arts. As a professional thief, Nemo understands what’s valuable. (As his voiceover says at the beginning, ‘art is for keeps.‘) However, as the story unravels, we begin to understand that the value of art is far more than its price tag. Instead, Inside believes that art is about communication, understanding and the human experience. Without giving away any spoilers, Nemo‘s mission becomes more than just trying to escape.
He also wants leave a message for the future.
In light of recent global events (pandemic included), Inside understands that history needs to be marked. Art provides the opportunity for us to reflect upon life so that we can understand its effect on us and the world. In this way, creating (or stealing) pieces of art takes on new meaning. They’re stories that capture a moment in time—and there’s incredible value in that.
Inside is available in theatres on Friday, March 17th, 2023.
- Rated: R
- Genre: Drama, Thriller
- Release Date: 3/17/2023
- Directed by: Vasilis Katsoupis
- Starring: Andrew Blumenthal, Cornelia Buch, Daniel White, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Vincent Eaton, Willem Dafoe
- Produced by: Dries Phlypo, Giorgos Karnavas, Marcos Kantis, Martin Lehwald, Peter Kreutz, Stephen Kelliher, Vasilis Katsoupis
- Written by: Ben Hopkins, Vasilis Katsoupis
- Studio: A Private View, Bord Cadre Films, Heretic, Schiwago Film, Sovereign Films (II)
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