Flix at :48: Inside
When a high-end art thief breaks into an apartment alone for his latest job, things don't go according to plan. The efficiently sinister security system locks this man in the apartment from the outside, cuts off all plumbing and electricity, and increases the temperature. Trapped in this sprawling, beautifully furnished, New York City penthouse, with only a walkie-talkie and very limited food options, this man earnestly fights for survival, and his sanity, while making various attempts to escape. Starring Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, 2019), this film is called Inside.
From past reviews of mine, it's safe to say I enjoy experimental, independent, art house film, because I love applauding movie makers who try something different that's outside the mainstream. But that doesn't mean every artsy, imaginative film is a great one.
Actor Willem Dafoe is perfectly cast in this film since he embodies with such ease the unnerving characters in strange, dreamlike settings of films like The Lighthouse (2019), Antichrist (2009), and Shadow of the Vampire (2000). His face is so pliable, so adaptable, it's like watching a rubber band marry the inside of a lava lamp. Now I'm saying that in the best possible way as Willem Dafoe shows determination, stress, exhaustion, and fear all at the same time in this film.
Inside was initially released in the U.S. in March of 2023, but it wasn't distributed very widely at that time, so it didn't reach many audiences. Now that this film is available to watch on Amazon Prime, I understand why it wasn't distributed to many movie theaters: it's bizarre and not easily accessible. Inside has very little dialogue since Willem Dafoe is the only person on screen most of the time, and the only other people in this film are shown on the silent, black and white screens of numerous security cameras. Functioning partly as a one-person survival story, and partly as a psychological portrait, Inside lightly reminded me of All is Lost (2013) with Robert Redford meets Repulsion (1965) with Catherine Deneuve.
As a post-COVID film (which was actually shot in 2021), this has some interesting cinematography choices to visualize the feelings of perpetual isolation, accumulated filth, and the disorienting passage of time. The cinematography is so spare, so clean, it sometimes feels like you're watching various pieces in an art gallery exhibition. Some of the two-dimensional artworks are even shown as odd metaphors of the main character's mental journey and his confining world.
Inside is not a psychological thriller (it doesn't have enough adrenaline for that) but is more a psychological study on humanity and our constant needs to build or destroy, to read stories or write them, to consume or to explore. The pieces of contemporary art are shot beautifully in this film, but it could be more exciting and more interesting if it didn't spend so much time trying to be such an austere, psychological daydream. The artsy qualities of Inside are good, but it needs more punch to remain compelling. I hope Greek director Vasilis Katsoupis (My Friend Larry Gus, 2016) will keep making movies. I just hope his next one will have more of a dramatic jab instead of just a light puncture.