There’s a long lineage of movies about people becoming trapped or left abandoned in a single space and a surprisingly large number of them are effective thrillers. David Fincher’s Panic Room, Adam Green’s Frozen, Rodrigo Cortés’s Buried, John Erick Dowdle’s Devil, Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth, Chris Kentis’s Open Water, and Scott Mann’s recent hit Fall are just a few that come to mind, but we have long enjoyed the anxiety and suspense of watching people try their best to escape from seemingly hopeless situations and filmmakers seem to have no shortage of ideas for just where they can trap their protagonists.
In Vasilis Katsoupis’s fiction debut (with co-writer Ben Hopkins), Willem Dafoe plays art thief Nemo, who is introduced breaking into the penthouse of a wealthy collector to find three pieces by the Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele. He is unable to locate one of them but is informed via radio by one of his associates that time is running out and he needs to leave. When he tries to exit using the security code relayed over the radio, the system running the home malfunctions and goes into lockdown, trapping him inside. His team attempts to hack the computer to get him out but is unsuccessful and so abandons him in the din of blaring alarms.
When it becomes apparent that he won’t be getting out anytime soon Nemo tracks down the sirens and disconnects them, affording himself at least some peace. Exploring the house and all of its priceless works of art, he quickly learns that the water has been turned off due to the owner’s expected extended absence and there is also very little food. The TV is hooked into the building’s closed-circuit security system which allows him to see that no one appears to be aware of the intrusion on the top floor, indicating that the malfunction must have cut the security system off from the rest of the tower. To make a bad situation worse, the phones don’t work either and the climate control system has broken and is pumping out heat, rapidly raising the temperature.
Dafoe is always a magnetic presence on screen who is willing to go places other actors would probably shy away from and watching him portray a desperate man whose mental state is understandably deteriorating as he tries to find a way to extricate himself is consistently compelling. The idea that a luxury apartment filled with such an abundance of ultra-expensive artwork would have a security system completely devoid of any redundancies to ensure the impossibility of such a situation strains credulity a bit, but it’s easy enough to overlook, at least until it comes up again later in the movie. The allusions to deeper meanings about art and the creative process also largely fall flat. Altogether though, Inside proves to be an engaging and suspenseful chamber piece, anchored by a strong performance, with a slightly ambiguous ending that lingers in the mind. ★★★
rated r for language, some sexual content, and nude images.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor