Creating (and sustaining) an intriguing narrative in a single setting has always been a challenge. Alfred Hitchcock probably did it best with such classics as Lifeboat and Rope, mainly because he had good screenplays and interesting characters to work with. I imagine such movies are even more difficult to pull-off when they involve just one character. For that, you definitely need to add the right actor.
Willem Dafoe assumes the burden of carrying Inside almost entirely on his shoulders, and unsurprisingly, he’s more than up to the challenge. What’s especially impressive about his performance is that he’s not given much of a character to work with. Other than a brief voiceover where he establishes a penchant for art, we learn nothing about professional thief Nemo, hired to break into a high-tech penthouse apartment and steal several valuable paintings.
However, he becomes trapped when the security system malfunctions, locking the entire place down. The doors are impenetrable, the windows unbreakable. Worse yet, most of the utilities have been shut off - gas, water, internet - and there’s precious little food in the kitchen. The thermostat is also on the fritz, so the temperature fluctuates between extreme heat and cold. The only possible way to escape might be a skylight 20 feet overhead. Weeks go by, and when Nemo’s not scavenging things from around the house to try and reach the window (opening it is a whole different set of problems), he eventually goes to extreme lengths to find food and water to stay alive.
|Insert Finding Nemo in-joke here.|
…which Inside definitely needs because beyond Nemo’s predicament, there ain’t much meat on its bones. The final act throws in some arty pretensions in order to seem more high-minded than it really is, but most of the narrative focuses squarely on Nemo’s attempts to escape before starving to death or going mad (and trashing a damn fine apartment in the process). Ultimately, the film’s initially intriguing scenario becomes exhausting after a while, culminating in an underwhelming climax.
Still, Willem Dafoe’s performance makes Inside worth checking out. With the exception of a dream sequence and some peripheral characters seen on monitors, he’s the whole show from beginning to end. Without his indubitable qualities, the film might feel interminable.
DELETED SCENES - With no start-up menu, these play after the movie is over.