Inside Man - A Brainy Bank Robber's Tale

                            Spike Lee's Inside man is an unorthodox thriller, stylish as well as engages our mind. It breaks all the usual conventions and comes across as a reworking of a very tired genre that started with Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. Set mainly in and around a Wall Street–area financial institution, it retains all the elements of a caper film, relished in the smarts of a decades old police procedural and leaves us with something greater than forced twists and shoot-outs. 

                           Spike Lee has worked first time on a caper flick - instead of one of his more personal, politically charged efforts. So, with “Inside Man,” he extends his horizons as a filmmaker; he’s tried documentaries, concert movies, short films, even television, and while he’ll always be known for his socially aware dramas, at least he’s constantly working to challenge himself as a director, avoiding getting stuck in a single field. This might not be his best movie, but it's his most complete tale. Inside Man has a impressive cast, which includes Denzel Washington,  Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, and Willem Dafoe. 

         The film grabs your attention from the beginning, when we meet Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), a cool, collected thief who tells of his plan to rob a Manhattan bank. He causally explains that, it's not only for the money, it's "because I can." Carrying out his strategy, Russell and his three co-conspirators enter the building as painters and soon have everything under control. Part of his ingenious plan includes, forcing his dozens of hostages to strip to their under-wears and put on dark, hooded coveralls that match the robbers.

              Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), a detective and hostage negotiator and his second-in-command Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are in charge. They understand that it is not going to be easy working with Emergency Service Officer John Darius (Willem Dafoe), a cop with little patience. When Keith Frazier confronts the main perpetrator, Russell, he warns the guy that this isn't going to turn out well and asks if he's seen "Dog Day Afternoon." 

             But this isn't like 'Dog Day' in its tone, it's exactly opposite to that, where crooks out-think the cops on every move. Russell seems to be executing the perfect bank robbery - but he appears not interested in the vault's cash. So, the question becomes, what do they want? That's the mystery that out-thinks audiences as well.

                The three performance from the top-billed actors are terrific. Denzel Washington is as good and reliable as ever. The character Frazier is probably one he could do in his sleep, but he invests the character with a fierce determination and a degree of moral ambiguity. Clive Owen has the arduous job of delivering most of his performance through a mask, but his icy calm acting is powerful. He is mesmerizing in the opening sequence, when he recites for the audience the who, what and why of the crime he's about to commit. Jodie Foster stars as Madeline White, a mysterious power broker who is hired by the bank's board chairman, Arthur Chase (Christopher Plummer), to look after his interests. She captures the right mixture of strength and verve, for her tough character.

              Spike Lee has never directed genre movies or thrillers and he isn't often in the "big-budget" mode, but with 'Inside Man' he's found a way to matter as an entertainer without copping out as an artist. Lee also brings incredible camera energy, throughout the movie. His camera floats through, penetrating the action, moving up and down stairs, circling antagonists in the many hostile confrontations. 

             Screenwriter Russell Gewirtz presents an impressive amount of information in the way of procedural tactics, within the limits of the thriller genre. The screenplay isn't comprised of elaborate suspense sequences but instead of the collective moral fortitude of each character. Gerwitz also brings out some of the minor characters in the drama who represent a microcosm of New York City, which includes a Sikh (hostage released by Russell), who is called as "an Arab", pushed to the ground and his turban is removed. 

                 There is also one memorable sequence in 'Inside Man', when Russell sits down with a little black kid over pizza and registers surprise at the violent Grand Theft Auto-like game on the boy's PSP. It might seem to be an odd irony given Dalton’s violent take-over of the bank, but is actually both a comment on the role of such games in the development of black male identity and a subtle hint at Dalton’s true motives. 

                Inside Man is a extraordinary film about power, amorality, ethics, and urban living and at the same time it's a satisfying entertainer. 


 Inside Man - IMDb


Shareef S M A said...

Racy entertainer.. And an as usual brilliant review from you Arun.. I didnt much attention to the 'boy with pizza' scene. I'll see it once again..

provoqd said...

Agreed, it was quite an intriguing when i saw it the first time.
Nice post :)



Ravi Akula said...

Thanks for the review..feel like watching...

Anonymous said...

Sounds great. Thanks for the tip.

Lazy Pineapple said...

I have seen it and like the pace of the Movie. It was intriguing and different from other Movies in this genre.

Khoty Mathur said...

Great review - will definitely watch it.