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Willem Dafoe Thriller Is Hard to Recommend


We all know that Willem Dafoe is one hell of a performer. His latest role is Nemo in Inside, a psychological thriller following an art thief trapped in a New York City penthouse after a heist goes wrong. As hours become days and days become weeks, Nemo must find a way to survive long enough to escape. Unfortunately, this film is a decently mediocre experience that never rises above its captivating premise but features a monumental performance at its center.

This movie moves at a fast pace. Very early on, we have some haunting narration from Nemo. He recounts how he was once asked to write three things he would take from his house if it were on fire. He responded with a sketchbook, an AC/DC album, and his cat without mentioning his mother or sister. From there, we find ourselves in this high-rise penthouse where Nemo breaks in to steal the artwork. However, the security system traps him inside, and just like that, we have a survival thriller where Nemo must figure out how to live.

The unique idea this movie plays around with is how staying in a luxury penthouse surrounded by beautiful artwork is not so bad at first glance. But once Nemo is trapped there, Ben Hopkins’s screenplay does everything possible to make his life hell. He doesn’t have tap water, he has a limited amount of food, and even worse, the thermostat is broken, making it either too hot or too cold. Inside is in the vein of movies like Cast Away and Buried, which feature one character trapped in a location and fighting for survival.

If you’re going to have one actor lead a movie like this, you can’t go wrong with Carson Clay from Mr. Bean’s Holiday. Dafoe is phenomenal in this movie, selling the scary psyche of a man trapped in unlivable conditions, desperate for an escape route, and descending into madness. The issue is that the movie doesn’t lean enough into its darker roots to be engaging. While the film features a few moments where Nemo begins hallucinating, it doesn’t play with those ideas enough. Instead, the movie puts a character in one location with no precise ticking clock, nobody to interact with but himself and no family to return to.

While the setup is intriguing, Inside runs out of steam halfway through, with its bag of tricks running empty. Director Vasilis Katsoupis does a lot with the film’s limited scope. Still, the movie doesn’t carry enough danger or humor at its forefront to be anything we haven’t seen done better in movies like The Shining or The Martian. While the screenplay has clever ideas about how Nemo learns to survive in this situation, the film never entirely takes off. Instead, this psychological thriller is watchable and tense but not enough to make you recommend it to anyone after it ends.

SCORE: 5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.

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