Movie Review TagTell the truth– the last time you broke into a penthouse apartment in Manhattan to steal million-dollar art, you took your cell phone with you, just in case your brilliant plan went awry. You’re smart that way. But alas, Nemo, the thief Willem Dafoe portrays in the cerebral new film, Inside, isn’t as organized. When security systems unexpectedly engage, sealing him inside the apartment as tightly as a pharaoh in a tomb, he can’t call for help, a plot improbability it’s best not to dwell on for long.

Director Vasilis Katsoupis, a Greek documentarian making his feature debut, and screenwriter Ben Hopkins sidestep the big markers of plot logic in favor of immediately narrowing Nemo’s world. A pro, he does not panic. The water and gas are turned off but there’s a decorative wading pool filled with water, and though the refrigerator is empty, there are tins of caviar, and vodka, and for a day or two, that’s sufficient.

The freezer is timed to the apartment sound system, which breaks out with the dance song “Macarena,” at full blast, if Nemo leaves the door open too long. This seems to both amuse and insult Nemo, as if the absent owner is mocking his lowbrow tenant. Weeks into his ordeal, a depleted Nemo will bury his head deep into that freezer to relieve the 104 degree temperature that has risen from the apartment’s air conditioning, which swings between the extremes of hot and cold as if to purposefully torture.

A man of action, Nemo begins using a knife to dig through the huge wooden front door. That door will prove impenetrable, but as an object, it is textured and beautiful and the warmest sight in this sleek, minimalist apartment. Production designer Thorsten Sabel (Cloud Atlas) has created a space for the captured thief that suggests a homeowner living in service to modern art and willing to sacrifice comfort for its proper presentation. Art aficionados will want to lean close to study Inside, which features new and recreated work by modern artists such as Egon Schiele, Petrit Halilaj and Cinthia Marcelle.

Nemo came to steal three Schiele portraits, but only found two. In an unnerving sequence that made my heart beat a little faster, the third painting surfaces, and for a moment, it seems like a clue to an escape route. Instead, the find triggers a deeper unraveling of Nemo’s psyche.

Trapped for months, he starts to lose it. The process, as the brilliant Dafoe reveals, is a battle waged in conjunction with the deterioration of his body. He also discovers a worn parchment he begins to read aloud, the meaning of which I couldn’t quite parse but which shifts him toward a kind of exaltation.

An art thief who truly loves art, and who drew as a boy, Nemo begins sketching soon after he’s trapped, first in a notebook, and eventually, on the walls. The thief is finally making art of his own, even as his increasingly desperate effort to build a tower made of furniture and detritus as a path to a possible rooftop escape point leads him to pillage the masterpieces he would have once wanted to steal.

It’s a testament to Dafoe’s soulful intensity that we continue to worry over him even as we realize the story isn’t likely to build to a resounding finale. That may disappoint some, but between the sketches, the tower to the sky, and the bony outlines of Nemo’s sunken body, Inside suggests that we’re witnessing the creation of a new work of art, a living art installation if you will, composed of blood and pain and hope.
























































































































































































































































































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