(director: Vasilis Katsoupis; screenwriter: Ben Hopkins/based on an idea by Katsoupis; cinematographer: Steven Annis; editor: Lambis Haralambidis; music: Frederik Van de Moortel; cast: Willem Dafoe (Nemo), Gene Bervoets (owner), Eliza Stuyck (Jasmine), Daniel White (Ashley); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Giorgos Karnavas, Marcos Kantis, Dries Phlypo; Focus Features; 2023-U.K.-Germany-Belgium-Switzerland-Greece-in English)

“It would be tense if it wasn’t such a bore.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Documentary filmmaker Vasilis Katsoupis (“My Friend Larry Gus”) ventures into making his first fiction feature, as he directs this idea-filled heist drama based on his own concept. It has sparse dialogue as scripted by the Brit Ben Hopkins. It would be tense if it wasn’t such a bore.

The celebrated actor, Willem Dafoe, plays the Manhattan art thief Nemo, in a movie that is basically a one-man show.

Nemo breaks into a luxury penthouse apartment that has an art collection worth $3 million, whose wealthy architect owner (
Gene Bervoets) is in another country. Nemo is specifically looking to rob the valuable Egon Schiele portrait. During the theft he’s guided by an unseen accomplice on a walkie-talkie. Trouble brews when an alarm goes off and a heavy door closes leaving him trapped inside without water, food or communication. It seems the security system malfunctioned. Since the walls are soundproof, he can’t call out for help. When the alarm sounded, his accomplice on the walkie-talkie fled.

At first Nemo enjoys the comforts of the swank place, but his mood changes as time passes and he realizes he can’t escape without being inventive.

Eventually Nemo finds objects in the penthouse he can use to build a scaffold to reach the ceiling skylight, as weeks go by and he undergoes a re-evaluation of his priorities in life

The thriller intentionally makes us feel uncomfortable, asking us what is it about the art objects we value most. It pointedly calls out the art collectors as those who care more of how valuable the art is than in its intrinsic value, and mockingly asks us if survival is more valuable than any art.

Dafoe, in a muted performance, is masterful in a role only a few other actors could have also successfully pulled off.

It played at the Berlin Film Festival.