Not even Willem Dafoe’s entertaining performance can escape this room.

The concept of “Inside” has Willem Dafoe as an art thief named Nemo assigned with stealing a wealthy art collector’s valuable paintings, until something goes horribly wrong and he’s locked inside the New York penthouse. This rich guy (Gene Bervoets) is away for a business trip for who knows how long. That means he barely has any food and beverages in his fridge (which plays “Macarena” when its opened too long), his running water is off (even this toilet), his stove won’t light up, and all he has are his paintings and furniture. And the AC goes from hot to cold and then cold to hot. So, Nemo needs to figure a way out.

Dafoe should be the reason I would recommend this thriller, because he meets well with age (as recently demonstrated with “The Florida Project” and “The Lighthouse,” among others) and he uses the right kind of emotions to represent his fear and stress of being trapped in a penthouse with less resources and tools to work with. But the story-written by Ben Hopkins and Vasilis Katsoupis (who also directed it)-doesn’t challenge us the way he’s being challenged by this kind of karma-the kind when he chooses art over everything else. It feels kind of boring to acknowledge what the writing is trying to tell us, while we’re more interested in his numerous attempts to survive.

The art collector has a sprinkler system for his indoor plants, which Nemo can drink from. He has to tie up and damage furniture to try to get to a ceiling, which he would need to develop makeshift tools to unscrew some screws. And he has security cameras, which leaves him interested in a young housekeeper, who never comes inside this particular penthouse. Her name is Jasmine (Eliza Stuyck), and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t get a message to her to free him.

He literally has to trash the apartment to try to escape. And every time he does that, I imagine the owner coming home and being shocked. But again, who knows when he’s coming back?

Every time he makes an attempt to escape, you can pretty much guess he’s going to fail, because then the film would be over soon. It’s because we watched the trailer, so we know that. I don’t watch every trailer for movies, which would usually help me see something unexpected. “Inside” is not based on a true survivalist story like “127 Hours,” but rather an idea from the director. And it could work, especially if the thief has a passion for art. He can even draw sketches on the owner’s walls, which looks poignant.

Dafoe’s performance is more captivating than the story, and he wins you over at every turn. And his attempts for survival are entertaining and interesting. We can’t have every movie resulting in the same conclusions-the kind that most movie-goers would want-but we also want something more powerful within the story. Something to really test our senses. It tries to do so when the house is on total lockdown, and the hero eventually resorts to eating dog food and doing his business in a bathtub.

“Inside” looks and feels great, but it’s more into the escape attempts and art than it is on the overall meaning. Everyone’s a critic.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4.

Categories: Drama, Thriller

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