William Dafoe once gave an interview where he said Hollywood couldn’t decide if he was good-looking or not. The answer to that question is found in Hollywood’s reluctance to commit. Once waffling enters the chat, the answer is “no.”

In Dafoe’s defense, he was born in Wisconsin, so a lot of cheese-infused genetics happen. How good-looking can you be when you are one-tenth Gorgonzola?

Where you fall on the “How Long Can You Look At William Dafoe?” scale may determine how you feel about Inside (2023). Inside is about an art thief who gets trapped inside a luxury apartment. It is a single-location film, and Dafoe is in pretty much every shot. Watching it ensconces one in Dafoe-ness. I haven’t seen this much low-body fat, pointed noses, and sharp teeth since…ever, basically.


The Inside Scoop

Inside is directed by Vasilis Katsoupis, which makes me think of a book by Philip K. Dick floating in a bowl of soup that may or may not have been made from a cat. It is this kind of artistic flourishes that Inside inspires in a person, as it walks the line between pretentious and interesting.

Katsoupis only has two other credits, but Inside shows him to be competent with his craft. Meanwhile, Ben Hopkins wrote the screenplay. Hopkins is a British director, screenwriter, and novelist. His work on Inside reflects this pedigree. It might not be slick entertainment, but it has a degree of intelligence.

Inside, Outside And Everywhere Between

Essentially, Inside has three different levels. At its most effective level, it is a procedural-type movie. A man gets trapped. How does he get out? It is a fun puzzle, and the setting is unique. The apartment is ultra-modern. It gives no indication of being a death-trap, but that’s exactly what it is once the security system locks things down.

The main threat to Dafoe’s character is time. Inside doesn’t take place within a day or two. No countdown is given, but from the looks of things, Dafoe is probably trapped in the apartment for a good month. This brings problems into play that one would not expect. For example, what is he going to eat? What is he going to drink?

Throughout the ordeal, Dafoe’s performance is in the pocket. You get a sense of his initial panic, his resigned acceptance, his incredulous realization that he could actually die there, and then his desperation to escape his predicament. Meanwhile, his only distraction is the TV and doing the Macarena.


The Inside Level

The second level of Inside is the psychological level. At times it brushes up against pretentious in this regard but not to an eye-rolling degree. The creators of the film put a character in a story where they have no interaction with other characters, so little option exists but to explore the inner life. In this case, Dafoe is not only an art thief, but he is a wannabe artist. This leads to him eventually painting, writing a cryptic message on the wall, and supplying some voice over like…

When I was a kid my teacher asked, what are the three things that I would save from my house if it were on fire. I answered: my sketchbook, my AC/DC album, and my cat Groucho. I didn’t mention my parents or my sister. Of course, most of the other kids did. Does that make me a bad person? My cat died, and I lent the AC/DC album to a guy named Cojo and I never saw it again. But the sketchbook I kept. Cats die, music fades. But art is for keeps.

Regardless, it is a fun exercise. If your house were on fire, what three things would you save? I would save my LMO articles, my boudoir photos of Eggy and Stark, and my wolverine, Bitey.

Go Play Inside

The final level Inside plays around with is metaphoric. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it seems like allusions to climate change are made within the movie, plus some half-hearted commentary on religion.

I’m not going to go deeply into it, as I don’t want to go into spoilers. Suffice it to say, the apartment is the world. Dafoe has challenges with global warming/cooling. Accessible water is unpotable. Dafoe needs to exploit resources, which leads to him fouling his nest. Flooding happens. The owner of the apartment is likened to God/Devil. There is an ascension, etc.


Inside The Numbers

Inside didn’t even make a ripple at the box office. It took in $918,000. Ratings were average across the board. None of this is surprising. Inside is not a slick thriller. It’s a bit of a plodder, in fact. Yet, its main idea has a degree of intrigue to it. While I was not moved to any great degree, I had no problem getting into the swing of the movie and watching it through in one sitting. It is depressing how many movies these days take me multiple attempts to make it through. Inside gets in and gets out. Not great. Not bad. It’s as stuck in the middle as Dafoe’s character but watchable.

3 stars

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