Nemo, a high-end art thief, is trapped in a New York penthouse after his heist doesn’t go as planned. Locked inside with nothing but priceless works of art, he must use all his cunning and invention to survive.
THE GOOD STUFF
WILLEM DAFOE- Willem Dafoe has been one of the greatest character actors on the face of the Earth for quite some time now. He is an actor whose chief export may be displaying various states of madness. As opposed to other actors who I could imagine playing this very same role and going into way uncharted territory, this is a role that is very much on brand for him. What he does here is no more physically impressive than what Mads Mikkelsen did in the film Arctic or what Robert Redford did in the film All is Lost; hell, this role is no less physically demanding than the Oscar-nominated turns that James Franco did in 127 hours, or what Tom Hanks even did in cast away.
When it comes to survival movies such as this one and the films I’ve just mentioned, you really do need an ultra-brilliant actor to guide the audience through the endurance test that these films tend to be. And given that Willem Dafoe has been nominated for four Oscars, he very much is that actor.
THE BAD STUFF
SOUND DESIGN- So there’s this thing called misophonia. It’s this emotional trigger that happens when you hear certain sounds. Sometimes it’s yawning; sometimes, it’s simply breathing in a weird way, but most of the time, it involves SLURPING AND loud chewing. To anyone that gets super annoyed when people chew out loud or smack their food in their mouths in an audible way, Do not see this movie.
I don’t necessarily know what the f****** goal was in making every chewing noise in this film thx-worthy. This is a film where things are set on fire, and there are large thudding noises throughout the damned film, and the thing most worthy of the Dolby surround system in the theater that I saw this in was whenever Willem Dafoe decided to eat chew or drink something. Why the film decided to be this primal, this often is very confusing.
Situational realism– Like other survival movies of its kind, this movie heavily relies on situational realism on a moment-to-moment basis. The other movies that you can compare this to in this genre are mostly set out in the wild. Uncontrollable environments give an element of chaos and unpredictability, of course.
This takes place in a skyscraper penthouse du jour and, take it from a man who used to work security for places such as this, there are many elements of this story that simply would not exist unless you were dealing with the most neglectful and thoroughly incompetent security staff in the history of residential high-rise properties.
THE UGLY STUFF
OUR HERO- It is with this movie that I’ve learned that when it comes to this kind of survival film, your protagonist needs to be ridiculously likable. Let the flaws be there and everything like that, but ultimately we need to like the hero enough to want the hero to survive. It is not enough simply to find out what happens to the character if we’re not rooting for him.
The protagonist (named Nemo) isn’t a thoroughly unlikable character to follow or anything like that, but he’s not somebody we’re rooting for, either. Willem Dafoe has charisma to spare; nobody would argue that while watching this performance. However, I can’t imagine any audience member having an emotional connection to this character at all. And that’s mostly because…
THERE’S NO F****** STORY- Ultimately, what you’re watching here is a largely silent and completely reactionary tale. You are watching to see if this character survives or not. Period. And given that this is so stylistically done, that may be enough to keep people interested for the entire running time.
However, the absence of a character backstory or any kind of explanation for the absolutely weird s*** that we see in the second and third acts of this movie is pretty unforgivable. It really does seem as if the message of this movie has to deal with the nature of being artistic. It seems that way. It tells us that it is more than once. But it doesn’t explain why.
This film plays as a really impressive second act to a movie that has a lot to say…except the second act has been elongated to feature-length form, and a lot of parts do wear out their welcome once things start getting repetitive. Sadly, this is a waste of really beautiful cinematography and a great Dafoe performance.
Storytelling will always be the most important thing when it comes to paying money to go to places with strangers to see films. And if you’re not going to bother with that, then what’s the point?
INSIDE is in theaters now.