Inner Critic: a sad, poorly designed psychological drama

“Inside is an ambitious but ultimately ineffective psychological drama.”


  • Willem Dafoe’s solo appearance

  • An effectively disorienting beat


  • A meandering, over-the-top story

  • A disappointing lack of tension throughout

  • An innocent conclusion

Inside it’s a thoroughly unpleasant movie. However, this is not so much a bug as it is a feature. The film, which comes from director Vassilis Katsoupis and writer Ben Hopkins, is a self-contained descent into the mind of a man trapped in the most absurdly suffocating, bourgeois setting. Despite what its trailers might lead you to believe, Inside it’s not much of a thriller. The film is, instead, a test not only of her character’s patience, but also of the audience. For nearly two hours, Katsoupis and Hopkins ask you to sit back and watch a trapped art thief be forced to stoop to his most animalistic standards in order to survive.

Inside it is, in other words, a cinematic endurance test. The displays of filth and insanity increase over the course of his story until they reach such absurd lows that they make you wonder what the point of any of it was in the first place. Unfortunately, Inside fails to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. In fact, apart from the commendable performance in its center, there is not much Inside this is worth recommending. The film is ultimately as shallow as the pond in the center of the New York penthouse where Insidehis story unfolds.

Willem Dafoe walks past a photo in Inside.
Focus features

The film, to its credit or fault, tries to keep the depth of its story under wraps for as long as possible. The first few minutes of the drama set it up as the kind of bare-bones but effective heist-gone-wrong thriller that it most certainly isn’t. During its prologue, viewers watch as the film’s central art thief, Nemo (Willem Dafoe), infiltrates a high-security New York penthouse owned by a famous artist and begins looting some of the paintings and sculptures that are scattered throughout the apartment.

Everything goes wrong when a system malfunction activates the apartment’s highest security measures, which not only seal Dafoe’s Nemo inside behind impenetrable steel doors and bulletproof windows, but also shut off the penthouse’s electricity and plumbing. Abandoned by his fellow heist members, Nemo quickly begins to realize that his out-of-town apartment has now become a prison in which he may well die. not only eating dog food, but also scaling dangerously high stacks of furniture rearrangements with the slightest chance of them leading to freedom.

The places Inside after all he goes is not as interesting as his first act suggests. That fact doesn’t take away from how truly effective the first 20 minutes or so are Inside is. After throwing the film’s original heist premise out the window, Katsupis and Hopkins spend InsideIts opening minutes piled problem upon problem on Dafoe’s Nemo until the sense of dread created by his seemingly inescapable situation became overwhelming. The first moments where Nemo successfully disables the alarms of his new prison and discovers how to take full advantage of the sprinkler system of his tiny garden Inside until it is a The man escaped-esque, minimalist thriller inspired by Robert Bresson.

Willem Dafoe looks at a photo in Inside.
Focus features

It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal this Inside it doesn’t go that route after all. Instead, the film spends most of its second and third acts pursuing surreal detours and lingering in quiet moments of increasingly dull madness. At first, the final scenes, including one where Dafoe’s Nemo decides to tell a joke to an entire imaginary audience, hit with a significant level of stunning clarity. However, by the time Nemo is puppeteering and singing the same songs over and over to himself, the film has lost so much tension that even Dafoe’s greatest moments of insane desperation end up feeling more unnecessary than shocking or unnerving.

Instead of maintaining a constant tension voltage, Inside it gets so wrapped up in the misery of its protagonist’s situation that any sense of urgency or suspense has completely dissipated by the time the film is halfway through. While Inside throws in more than a few moments of surreal fantasy throughout its run, too, very few of which actually land with any real weight. Behind the camera, Katsoupis’ visual style feels so suffocatingly controlled that it prevents Inside than ever really reaching the kind of surreal, dreamlike heights it so desperately aims for.

Willem Dafoe looks out of a penthouse window in Inside.
Focus features

Of the film’s surreal sequences, the only one that leaves much of an impression sees Dafoe’s Nemo briefly fantasizing about a maid (Eliza Stuyck) whom he watches through a series of security cameras go into his penthouse prison and share a moment restrained intimacy. with him. Katsupis’ camera cuts very close to Dafoe’s lips and cheeks throughout the scene, and Steve Annis’ cinematography lovingly captures the moments when Stuyck’s maid runs her lips and fingers along Nemo’s face without never touch

The scene is one of the only moments that Inside he feels trapped in the emotions and loneliness of his protagonist. For the remainder of its running time, Inside he feels too busy maintaining a cold, omniscient perspective. While briefly feigning interesting ideas about how wealth and art have become toxically linked well into the 21st century, Inside He never pursues any of his various ideas so deeply that they feel fully baked or thought-provoking. The fact that the film’s story concludes with a series of evocative images rather than a dose of specific catharsis (or even dark humor) makes it that much clearer how badly Katsoupis has miscalculated what moviegoers really want. Insidehis story.

It is the tragic irony at its heart Inside that, like its protagonist, the film never goes anywhere.

Inside now playing in theaters.

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