‘Inside’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Does Nemo Escape The Penthouse?

When we choose to spend days in our own room or in any posh Airbnb or 5-star hotel, our power of choice is at play. The freedom to choose to go outside whenever we want is what allows us to stay inside for as long as we want. When that power is snatched from us, it becomes a punishment. The reason we use the word “power” to address choice and not “characteristic” is because a choice can sometimes serve as the difference between sanity and insanity, between life and death. This is what happens in the new movie “Inside.” 

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Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Inside’?

Art thief Nemo makes his way inside an empty hi-tech posh penthouse in Times Square, New York, to steal some pieces of art, including a costly self-portrait. The owner and his daughter are away on a trip. Nemo is unable to find the portrait and is thus told by his friend on the radio to leave with whatever he can get his hands on. Since the security system was bypassed on entry, he has 7 minutes before the alarm goes off. Once done, he is at the main door, where he has to enter the activation code to unlock the door and leave. Unfortunately, the code entered is wrong, and the system malfunctions. The alarms go off.

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The door in the balcony, through which he came in, closes and locks itself. The main door is also locked. The penthouse is sealed. Nemo’s friend on the radio tells him that he is on his own and disconnects. The loud alarms force Nemo to reach up to the speakers and cut their wires, thereby silencing them. All connections are gone except the lights and the air conditioning that rises and falls with extreme temperatures. The malfunction has also cut off the water. Nemo is stuck “Inside.” With no ready-made escape plan, he has to use his brain to figure out an escape route. Will he be able to do it? And how long will it take him?


The Invisible Curse That Is Technology

The whole film is an example of how technology can turn from a boon to a bane at any moment. The security measures in the penthouse are so strict that even if anyone who is not a thief like Nemo, enters the wrong code, he or she will get stuck inside the house. Now, some might find it future-proof in case there is a zombie apocalypse, but it sure isn’t present-proof. There is no way to physically leave the house if you do not know the deactivation code, which we can presume does exist. Well, people who live there will naturally know the code, but what if the system malfunctions anyway? It’s a piece of technology that can easily crash. It doesn’t necessarily need a human to make a mistake by entering the wrong code.

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Thick walls and windows of glass, a metal door reinforced with wood, an uncontrolled centralized cooling and heating system as backup, no landline connection, and the worst of the lot, no running water—this is what a person has to deal with as a result. Granted that the paintings inside the house are immensely valuable and there isn’t even a 1 percent chance for anyone to steal them, the safety measures aren’t directed towards alerting the local authorities, which should have been a priority. Rather, they are aimed at trapping anyone unauthorized who has gained access to the penthouse. On the other hand, if the system malfunctions on its own, it will seemingly take a lot of time for the authorities, after a person notifies them using a phone, to break into the penthouse and bring the person, stuck inside, out safely. If only Nemo had a phone on him, he could have called someone and notified them of his condition. He would have ended up in prison, but at least he would have gotten out of this place. But he doesn’t have a phone, and the result is mental instability. This brings us to our next topic.


Nemo’s Mind

There is not much food left. No water in the taps to drink. He has no control over the centralized air conditioning. He cannot even go to the balcony. All he has is a small pool inside the room, an aquarium with two exotic fish, and portraits that have been his hobby since he was a kid. He tries to carve into the wood of the main door but finds that the inside is made of metal. The glass windows are thick and unbreakable. Wondering how to escape, he passes his days eating biscuits, raw fish from the aquarium, and dog food, among other leftovers.

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As for water, he eats ice from the refrigerator and when it runs out of ice, he collects water from the sprinklers in the small indoor garden. He also has to cope with the air conditioning, whose temperature fluctuates; it goes up to 42 degrees and then starts coming down to 2 degrees. He does realize, within the first 20 minutes of the film, that there can be a shaft up in the ceiling, over which there is the huge sconce. The rest of the film shows how he survives with little to no food and water while trying to reach the ceiling so that he can remove the sconce in his own makeshift way. But this will take time, and the realization that he is stuck begins to take a toll on him. A shot of his facial expression as he keeps staring at the air conditioning, which finally resumes blowing cool air instead of hot, seems as if he is staring up at the skies, or at God, so to say.

It is surreal to think how technology has become our new God, without whom we cannot make do. The television shows footage of the different CCTV cameras set up in the whole building. He has named the people he can see, like the guy at the reception and the girl who is the housekeeper. He dreams of them, and even the owner who, ironically, tells him to make himself at home. The guy then gives a speech about humans being puppets, free will, fates, gods, and actions; all of these are somehow related to Nemo and his present condition. He is clearly a puppet in the hands of fate or God which, in this situation, is technology; his free will is of no use, and his actions have been limited. He sees a portrait and finds a character in it that almost looks like him and represents the devil or Satan.

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An art lover, he creates his own work of art by collecting different things from the penthouse, like showpieces and the bolts (and nuts) of the sconce that he has somehow managed to unscrew, among other stuff. The latter he managed by piling up furniture until his hands reached the sconce. But the task wasn’t easy. He broke his leg after losing his balance and falling. He had to make multiple wrenches out of wood that he had broken off the furniture. He tied a piece of wood to his broken leg to keep it straight. Piling up the furniture takes many days as proven by the quantity of fecal matter that has accumulated in the commode and the bathtub. There’s no water so there hasn’t been any flushing either.

From all this, what we can gather is that his brain is trying to cope with the situation by otherwise unusual means. He makes friends with the people he sees on the screen as well as a pigeon on the balcony, whom he asks to go get help; he draws on walls and makes art; and he dreams of talking to the owner of the portraits and the penthouse. The line that separates reality and imagination thus begins to fade. But even then, Nemo doesn’t waver from his motive. That he is able to vent out what’s in his mind in the form of screaming, singing, and yelling [basically reacting to the pain he is going through and the helplessness that’s in him] is what perhaps keeps him from losing his sanity.

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‘Inside’ Ending Explained – How Does Nemo Escape The Penthouse?

At the end of the film, Nemo is able to unscrew all the nuts of the sconce on the ceiling and escape through the shaft. He leaves behind his two works of art (the smaller one made of the different showpieces and the larger one being the pile of furniture that he used to reach the sconce). There is also a third work of art if we consider the pile of feces he left in the bathroom. The walls also have sketches that he made. He also leaves a note telling the owner how his penthouse needs to be destroyed. He sums up everything by saying that there can be no creation without destruction. This is true considering the pieces of art he created by destroying the furniture and turning the whole house upside down. His greatest creation was the escape route, and rightfully so (remember “The Shawshank Redemption”).

Escaping through the sconce is another way of saying that he found his escape from above. Earlier, we had mentioned how his expression, as he stared at the air conditioning, seemed as if he was looking up at the skies or God. So, his escape through the ceiling can symbolize him escaping to heaven, his heaven. To answer the question of whether Nemo makes it out of the penthouse, the answer is yes, he does. However, we do know for sure what happens to him next. Does the shaft lead to the terrace, or does it bring him to the edge of the building? If it takes him to the terrace, he might be able to take the stairs and reach the lobby. If it brings him to the edge of the building, his escape will end with him jumping to his death as his rationality has reached its limit, and he can do anything to get out or, to put it more aptly, get away from that building. While some people will address the ending of “Inside” as open-ended or a cliffhanger, others will take the ending as the end of Nemo’s journey because the whole film is about his escape and how, and it doesn’t concern what happens to him after he escapes.

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“Inside” is a one-time watch and that too because of Willem Dafoe and his ability to portray the insanity of the human mind. The film could have been of less duration as there are scenes that weren’t needed and felt stretched but were perhaps inserted to make the film more complex, considering it deals with art and art lovers. But thanks to Dafoe, our patience is kept from being tested since his impatience becomes our misery as well.


“Inside” is a 2023 thriller drama film directed by Vasilis Katsoupis.

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Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata’s greatest regret is the fact that he won’t be able to watch every movie and show ever made. And when he isn’t watching a movie or a show, he is busy thinking about them and how they are made; all while taking care of his hobbies. These include the usual suspects i.e. songs, long walks, books and PC games.

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