Combustible Celluloid Review - Inside (2023), Ben Hopkins, based on a story by Vasilis Katsoupis, Vasilis Katsoupis, Willem Dafoe, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Andrew Blumenthal
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Willem Dafoe, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Andrew Blumenthal
Written by: Ben Hopkins, based on a story by Vasilis Katsoupis
Directed by: Vasilis Katsoupis
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and nude images
Running Time: 105
Date: 03/17/2023

Inside (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Art Before the Horse

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Definitely not a standard Hollywood escape/survival thriller, the arty European-style movie Inside alternates between moments in which we root for the character to succeed, and weird, existential passages.

Skilled art thief Nemo (Willem Dafoe) breaks into a penthouse to steal three priceless paintings. But things don't go as planned. One of the paintings isn't where it's supposed to be, and the exit door code doesn't work. The penthouse automatically locks itself down, and Nemo's partner abandons him.

Nemo is trapped, unable to open any doors or windows. Worse, the water and gas aren't working, and broken the central heating/cooling system begins raising the temperature to a stifling degree. As time passes, Nemo spends his time alternately finding ways to survive, finding ways to escape, and pondering existence.

Helmed by a Greek-born director, Vasilis Katsoupis, Inside is beautifully designed, including every nook and cranny of the lavish, opulent penthouse, filled with actual works of art. Eventually the penthouse is itself turned into a work of art after the character moves furniture, leaves rubbish everywhere, and even sketches on the walls.

Four-time Oscar nominee Dafoe does some impressive heavy lifting here; he's the only character onscreen, although we hear voices and see images of others through security cameras. He occupies three kinds of scenes. The ones in which he cleverly finds ways to survive and works through a lengthy escape are right out of a traditional thriller, solid and entertaining, but the other ones — the hallucinations, a rambling joke, passing the time, and other weird stuff — can be off-putting.

And, as Inside gets closer to its conclusion, it becomes more and more opaque, bristling with possible hidden meanings, but difficult to pin down. Some viewers will enjoy pondering it, but others will understandably be frustrated or annoyed.

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