Inside (1996)

Genres - Drama, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 25, 1996 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Costello

Arthur Penn's cable-TV film is a stark, harrowing examination of the aftereffects of apartheid in South Africa. Set in 1988, the first part focuses on the interrogation of a young college professor (Eric Stoltz) who is being held by the security chief Nigel Hawthorne for conspiring with the anti-apartheid rebels. The latter portion of the film takes place a decade later, with the tables turned as the security chief is now questioned by a black man (Louis Gossett Jr.) about his role in the torture of the professor. While the very nature of the material compels attention, there is little here that is not already familiar to the audience at whom such a project might be aimed. That apartheid was a barbaric and dehumanizing system for all participants is hardly an issue, and the script does little to enlarge on this notion. On a positive note, the Hawthorne character in the film does provide a new slant on the twisted rationale behind the cruel social arrangement. In any event, Penn evokes tremendous performances from all three actors. Stoltz especially, who has often seemed to be consumed with a smug ennui onscreen, is at his best as the tormented academic. It's impossible to know whether the film's cell-bound look was dictated by budgetary concerns, but if anything, it only serves to heighten and concentrate the drama.