–Arts and letters for the modern age–

Cathode Ray Zone

–Arts and Letters for the Modern Age–

Dafoe Delivers Acting Perfection in “Inside”

by | Mar 15, 2023

Inside centers on the ever dependable Willem Dafoe as an art thief who breaks into a multi-million dollar high-rise condo with a time limit of seven minutes to steal valuable paintings.

The passcode doesn’t let him out, and he’s trapped in the empty luxury unit. The owner is on vacation. Eventually, the time expands to weeks. A multi-million dollar heist has gone south.

At the end, it’s not important whether Dafoe gets out – that’s left up to the viewer. What is important is how Dafoe spends his time while trapped; how he survives with just a little food and water. As if to demonstrate the absurdity of his situation, there also is a pigeon that has become trapped on the outside patio, after flying through a hole in the screen. It cannot get into the unit and Dafoe cannot get out.

Inside has all the trappings of an art film that likely will appeal to a sophisticated film goer, while a general audience will feel that they – like Dafoe – are trapped in the movie.

There’s no backstory except that it’s obvious that Dafoe has the talent both as a thief and as a purveyor of fine art to pull off what should have been an in-and-out crime. A theme emerges that things don’t always go as planned.

At one point outside, there are fireworks. In yet another scene there is snow. Is it around New Year’s? We’re only left to guess.

Dafoe must adjust to his new ad hoc prison. Rations of food include canned and frozen caviar and steak, but after the electricity goes out a few days into his ordeal, he must resort to consuming them raw. He learns to scrape mold off crackers. Eventually nutrition will extend to the prized aquarium fish.

In some ways, this is a subgenre of the one-person-tour-de-force movie in which the entire film revolves around a single character. Examples range across films like Buried, a war film in which Ryan Reynolds is buried alive in a coffin for the entire movie. Or Bruce Dern in the sci-fi drama Silent Running, where he’s alone on a spaceship. There are other characters in Inside, who appear on the phone or on video monitors, yet the unbroken experience is told entirely through Dafoe’s ever clouded eyes.

Inside opens in theaters this weekend.

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