Sunday, January 27, 2013
Crime, Drama, Thriller, 129 minutes
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Christopher Plummer and Jodie Foster
Good heist movies can be a lot of fun, and Inside Man is one of my favorites. Why is the genre interesting? I think it's because it's fascinating to see a robbery unfold, and the particular method used. In order to keep us interested in what could be a stale topic, modern heist movies have tried to invent new ways to pull off such a crime. Inside Man is one of the most inventive that I have seen.
There are countless examples of strong entries in the genre. I'm particularly fond of The Killing, from Stanley Kubrick, which showed us how a robbery might be planned and executed. His use of a narrator was especially effective. Another favorite is Dog Day Afternoon, which is even mentioned in Inside Man. The original version of The Italian Job (1969) focuses on the getaway; Jackie Brown and Heat are more concerned with characters and the method; while more recent efforts, such as Reservoir Dogs and The Town, focus on events after the robbery has taken place.
Inside Man falls into the same category as The Killing and Jackie Brown, and it works because the method is so unusual.
The story opens with a shot of the gang's leader, Dalton Russell (Owen), advising us to listen closely to what he says. He hints at what is to come, but you might not appreciate the full meaning of his comments until you see the movie a second time. His team dresses as painters and seizes control of a bank, taking around 20 or 30 hostages in the process.
The movie doesn't stick to a completely linear structure. Instead, we see some of the former hostages being interviewed by the police after the robbery is over. This choice works well, and we gradually come to understand why Russell's gang made the hostages wear painter's outfits.
Detective Keith Frazier (Washington) is called in to negotiate with Russell in order to resolve the situation. Frazier has his own ideas about how things should be handled, and some of his decisions seem risky and unconventional. He's also an intelligent man, and quickly realizes that Russell doesn't expect his demands to be met. So why is he committing the crime?
The two other key characters are Arthur Case (Plummer), who owns the bank, and Madeleine White (Foster), who is hired by Case for a specific purpose.
I'm not going to reveal any more about the plot because it's best to see it unfold for yourself. Washington and Owen are both excellent choices for their respective roles, and each gives a memorable performance.
The movie contains a few twists, and the ultimate resolution is pleasing. I find myself returning to it often, and it always feels fresh. I'm surprised that it hasn't received more critical acclaim. If you are a fan of Washington or Owen, it's worth checking out.
Overall score 4/5
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