'Inside Man' *** 050506
Theatrical Review (2006)

The Work = ***
Spike Lee’s movie 'Inside Man' is a well made thriller involving a bank heist and stand off. There are twists and turns in the plot and there are surprises to be sure but at the core of the film is the battle between Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and bank robber Dalton Russel (Clive Owen.) The film is maybe a bit long but overall very enjoyable and an easy one to recommend. I will go into some minor spoilers over the course of this review so if you just want to know what I think, know that I am recommending the crime/drama – thriller that is Inside Man. Beware there be some spoilers below.

One of the strengths of the film is how it is actually about opportunities. The characters, particularly those of Russel and Frazier both have seen opportunities and both have gone for them. Frazier’s past is less certain: he is being investigated by internal affairs for some missing money that seems to have vanished from a bust. It is his checkered past and how it affects his current situation and how it represents the way he operates that helps to make his character real. In the film Russel and his team barricade themselves inside a bank along with many hostages. Russel’s background is uncertain, but it is clear he saw opportunity in the bank he went after.

Frazier leads the negotiations and he is very good at. When he makes moves that may seem foolhardy, they fit with his character: he sees a window of opportunity and he goes for it. Russel is no madman, nor is he a super villain but rather a cold and calculating criminal that has possibly planned the perfect bank robbery. The back and forth between cop and robber propel the film along.

Lee is well suited to the material and he gives the film a sort of New York flavor. This is especially noteworthy because a good 80 percent of the film takes place in and around a bank that could have been located anywhere. Director of Photography Matthew Libatique shoots the movie with a mixture of styles. He is capable of filming highly distorted imagery (in this case, interrogation sequences have high contrasts and altered color palets.) Libatique is also at home filming very naturalistic scenes and 'Inside Man' has those as well. It is to his and Lee’s credit that somehow they all work well together. Libatitque is an underrated cinematographer that shot one of my favorite films: 'Requiem for a Dream'.

The film builds towards a climax and then surprisingly continues on to finish out its story. That Lee and the production company seem as concerned with the story as they are with the robbery is part of what makes the film solid. Along the way the cast includes, Willem Dafoe as Captain John Darius, Jodie Foster as a very shady sort of facilitator named Madeline White, Christopher Plummer as the bank’s sleazy owner Arthur Case and the great actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as Frazier’s partner Bill Mitchell. If you get the chance, check out Ejiofor’s filmography, the man has some of the most varied roles around and in everything I’ve seen is great. Especially noteworthy is a movie called 'Dirty Pretty Things'.

One last note about character: Forster’s White is a strange one that pushes the limits of credibility. What she is able to accomplish and what other characters allow her to do seems, well, ridiculous. Still, somehow she does work in the film but just barely. If nothing else it was nice to see Foster looking healthy again after how sickly she was looking in 'Flightplan'.

All told 'Inside Man' is an enjoyable heist picture that may run a little long. However the running time allows the film to actually develop character and offer some fine performances along the way. There were many moments that I liked in the film and I have to say this one is recommended. (It will especially appeal to fans of crime dramas.


'Inside Man' Links:


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.