Willem Dafoe is back after solid roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Northman. His latest film release is Inside, which forces Dafoe to showcase his acting chops even more so than the duality of Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin. It’s an interesting film but ultimately falls flat due to a number of issues, all unrelated to Dafoe’s acting ability.

Inside follows a high-end art thief, Nemo (Willem Dafoe), who gets trapped in an uptown penthouse in New York City. After he’s locked inside while the owner is away for seemingly months, Nemo must find a way to survive until he can escape, while also keeping himself mentally stable. It’s an interesting character story, but the payoff ultimately falls flat.


There have been plenty of films that showcase more intimate events, with very few actors, and in some cases only a single actor throughout most of the movie. Tom Hardy’s Locke, and Sam Rockwell’s Moon come to mind as films that had a very small cast and relied almost entirely on the main actor. Both of these films were compelling in a number of ways and kept the audience engaged throughout.

With Inside, the beginning of the film is captivating. It’s clear that Nemo is intelligent and resourceful. However, as the film progresses, there’s no real progression. Nemo’s mental capacities start to fail the longer he’s confined, and he tries to escape in a number of ways, but the film remains stagnant for the majority of the 105-minute runtime. As a comparison, this is longer than both Locke (85 minutes) and Moon (97 minutes), yet both of which had far more progression throughout.


Watching Nemo start to mentally crack offers a unique character study. He hallucinates throughout the film, and his mental state continually declines as his living conditions worsen. Unfortunately, that’s the only real progression for most of the film. Aside from tracking these two things, nothing really happens. That would be fine, but when the credits roll at the end of the film, there’s no satisfying closure presented.

We won’t spoil the end of the film here, but there’s nothing of interest that happens. As an audience member, you spend nearly two hours living with Nemo, hoping he can escape, wondering if he’ll be caught, concerned about his mental health, but then it just ends. There’s some ambiguity to the ending, but this is more confusing than it is conclusionary.

These intimate character studies can be riveting when done well. Again, Moon and Locke both accomplish this under similarly limited conditions. Inside goes out of its way to create an expanding world that jumps between real life and Nemo’s dreams and hallucinations, but it all leads to a rather lackluster conclusion.

About halfway through the movie, you start to wonder where all of this is going. How will the movie end? Another 15 minutes pass with no progression, and you simply assume something has to happen to close this out. Then 20 more minutes go by and still nothing has changed. This pattern of lethargy continues for almost the entire second half of the film, culminating in an ending that doesn’t move the needle at all.

Inside arrives in theaters on Friday, March 17.

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