Inside stars Willem Dafoe as a burglar who gets trapped inside a Manhattan apartment as he’s trying to steal some of the high-priced art inside. Directed by Vasilis Katsoupis, Inside is almost a one-hander, a film that only features one character, as Dafoe’s character begins to go mad from months of solitude inside the apartment building.

Dafoe is one of the least risk-averse and most compelling working actors and one of the few whom I would trust with a one-hander. Tom Hanks who did Cast Away (2000), Robert Redford who did All Is Lost (2013), Tom Hardy who did Locke (2013), and Sam Rockwell who did Moon (2009) all had to face the challenges associated with carrying a large swath of a feature-length film on their shoulders. And Willem Dafoe does not disappoint. He is brilliant in Inside, and his interactions with the environment and portrayal of slow mental decline are captivating.

The problem is that the film runs out of steam. Not satisfied with a simple story about mental stability and isolation – perhaps paralleling the COVID quarantines – Katsoupis is trying to convey a message about the high art world and the function of art’s relationship with artists and viewers. Inside begins with voice-over narration. The burglar says that when his third-grade teacher asked him what he’d save if his house caught fire, he would rescue his cat, an AC/DC album, and his sketchbook. The cat eventually died, the album was lost, but he kept the sketchbook because “art lasts forever.”

The main action of the film depicts Dafoe’s character destroying or repurposing all of the high-end art in the apartment and even making his own art out of his attempts to escape the apartment. The point is that real art keeps us sane or at least provides a portal or relief for our insanity in times of great stress.

Inside says what it has to say, but it says the same thing in a repetitive way. The film runs 105 minutes, and it needs about 90 minutes, maybe even less. There could be fewer scenes of the apartment’s climate control playing havoc with the character and even fewer scenes of Dafoe resorting to dog food for sustenance. There were unfulfilled moments, like a fantasy sequence in which Dafoe’s character goes to a posh art premiere; ultimately, not much occurred during this sequence that added to the plot or character study. Dafoe is mesmerizing in this almost-one-hander, and while I am tempted to recommend the film based on his performance alone, I think the rest of the movie would disappoint.