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Note: I stay away from describing the plot in any detail because it would be very hard to do so without spoiling elements of it. "Inside Man" starts out as a no holds barred, high octane action-thriller, and by its midpoint fully transforms into a breezy, tongue-in-cheek heist movie, reminiscent of The Sting. I felt it to be a little over-plotted, but that comes with the genre - the expected twists and turns are all here, thankfully mostly in non-expected ways. Contrivances abound, and we don't really learn the background of the heist (ie. how the robbers learned about their target) but the story and the overall atmosphere more than make up for this. The meticulously designed plot also compensates for the lack of real 3D characterization - save for Denzel Washington's ambitious policeman hero, who at least achieves a level of humanity throughout the story. The character interaction between him and his sidekick (Chiwetel Ejiofor of "Serenity" fame) and the frustrated captain played by Willem Defoe is great with some sparkling dialog. Clive Owen is okay, most of the time convincing as the criminal mastermind, although he spends most of the film wearing a mask. I'd say this film is harmless fun, not your usual Spike Lee fare, which goes to prove his versatility. There is a hint in the back-story at some heavy issues of the past, but it's nothing more than a macguffin that only achieves some slight significance in the resolution of the movie. There is a neat structural trickery in the use of flash-forward scenes, hinting toward the aftermath of the heist without giving away the real ending. It's used sparingly and cleverly. I can highly recommend this movie, it is never boring for a moment, what's more, I was enjoying it so much that as events were progressing toward the climax, I was wishing it would go on. And that's very rare for me in the movies nowadays.
Spike Lee is one of the most consistent directors out there. Save for
some more uneven pictures like She Hate Me and Girl 6, Lee's body of
work is just plain impressive. And while Inside Man is not up there
with Do The Right Thing, Clockers and 25th Hour, it is definitely an
entertaining and intelligent thriller that does things a little
differently than most cookie cutter thrillers you see in theaters
A bank robbery in New York has gotten out of control, and it's up to police detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) to act as hostage negotiator and get the bank personal and customers out safely before things turn even worse than they already are. This turns out to be a tough case, since the leader of the bank robbers, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), turns out to be a very smart individual, who has everything planned to perfection, and who throws up surprise after surprise for Frazier and his men. But while the people around Frazier are slowly getting more and more nervous, he himself does not lose his mind, and begins a high stakes battle of wits with Russell. Things are further complicated, however, when the mayor of New York introduces a mysterious woman to Frazier. This woman (Jodie Foster) wants to protect something that is hidden in one of the safety deposit boxes inside the bank, and she will stop at nothing to force Frazier to let her inside the bank and make sure nothing happens to the contents.
This all sounds like an intriguing premise for a thriller, but the movie goes a few steps further than just having an interesting plot. Because while Inside Man does hit all the right notes when it comes to keeping you guessing about what is really going on, it is also very successful in mixing the grittier moments with comedy elements. At times, Inside Man is very funny, but in a way that does not deflate the tension. The dialogue is sharp, with the conversations between Frazier and Russell being especially fascinating, and both actors are at the top of their game in this new movie. Washington's Frazier is an intense but laconic individual, who has a permanent smirk on his face but who reads the bank robbers intentions better than anybody else, while Owen is charismatic and fascinating as the mastermind behind the bank robbery. I was a little disappointed however with Jodie Foster's role. While her part is potentially fascinating, she does not really get the chance to do anything with it other than look cool and act tough. Yes, we all know that she is very good at that, but with a bit more background story, and a bit more screen time, her part could have been even more interesting.
With Inside Man, Lee showcases an interesting way of directing thrillers. He ignores the usual build up that you see in thrillers, which consists of an introduction, a chronological development of the main intrigue, followed by a final act in which everything is wrapped up neatly (even flashing forward several times, thus revealing some important developments before they have happened), and this only serves to make Inside Man a movie that is more than your regular suspense movie. I enjoyed this original approach very much, even though he does take quite a long time to wrap things up at the end.
This is a movie that you don't want to miss! Wonderful plot and keeps the audience guessing till the last second. Denzel is at his best playing the NYPD detective, his wonderful acting makes this story as believing as it can be. Clive Owen, what a superb actor! He is so clam, smooth, and elegant in this movie and he actually makes me root for the "bad guy" from the beginning till the end. Jodie was good, too. However, she doesn't shine as much as the other two actors, but she is still great. If you have seen the preview of this movie than think it might worth checking out, I'm telling you, this is 100 times better than you think! Get up from your chair and go see the movie, NOW!
A pleasure from start to finish. An older Denzel Washington has begun
to emerge, and his performance here suggests he has many good years
left. Clive Owen is terrific as the mastermind. He, and the plot, keeps
you guessing. And while there are plenty of clues, they are so well
incorporated that very few viewers will see how this one comes together
in the end.
One major quibble: Jodie Foster's character is more archetype than person so it's to her credit that she pulls it off as well as it does. However, don't let that deter you from enjoying one of the best movies of the year. I'm glad to see Spike Lee tackle another genre film. He brings a re-invigorating approach to what, in other hands, would be a tiresome rehash. That liveliness seems to have worked on him, too -- this is his best film in several years.
Whether I was into the subject or not, there's always a filmmaker at
work in a Spike Lee film... he's one moviemaker who never loses sight
of being a filmmaker first and foremost, and he's absolutely outdone
himself with INSIDE MAN, a taut thriller which avoids the colloquialism
that alienated mainstream audiences from some of his earlier work.
If you've seen the trailer or heard anything about this pic, you have been misled. Everything I heard left me feeling like yeah, OK, I'm going for Denzel. Denzel vs. Clive Owen will be interesting.
From the first shots and opening credits, you are submerged in artistic vision, and a finely honed piece of work the likes of which I haven't seen in years. I'd almost give this one a ten.. and I don't hand out tens freely. I do not want to spoil this. You have to walk in cold, and let this film grab you by the short and curlies.
This is one film where there isn't a spare frame or wasted cheap shot. Every zinger zings, and there are laughs too, laughs at merciful intervals to break the tension and remind an audience on the edges of its seats that movie-going's supposed to be entertaining, dammit. The cinematography is brilliant, and the music is fantastic - true cinematic score, true genius. I can't praise this one enough.
Christopher Plummer is superb, in what is (perhaps coincidentally) an ironic bit of casting. Jodie Foster rises to a challenging persona with aplomb and ease, and my only complaint of the entire exercise is that her character's name 'Madeline White' is perhaps a little cliché. Beyond that, there isn't a filmmaker alive who brings New York to the screen with anything approximating Spike Lee's vision.
It seems there hasn't been a lot of junket for this one, and that Spike Lee's presence has been downplayed... as if the studio downplayed the fact that this is a Spike Lee film slightly, until the word was out that this film is over and beyond what an audience might already expect from one of his films.
So... let me just say.. man o man this is a cinematic mind-blowing amazing one and a half hours... it's brilliant, tight, funny, articulate, intense, and high time the academy gives Spike Lee some respect.
An unusual turn for director Spike Lee, the conventional heist movie
'Inside Man', starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster &
Even though the plot has twists, it's still pretty straight forward stuff for the usually controversial filmmaker. What is obvious though, is that good filmmakers turn this material into something more than it might have been by a 'lesser' director.
Solid performances by the cast, even though Jodie Foster is somewhat underused in this, but still, a solid heist movie with an interesting turn of events.
It's curious to see Spike Lee do a straight caper movie. The movie is
absent Lee's usual politics, though there are occasional glimpses of
his sensibilities. At one point a Sikh has his turban taken away and
complains at ends how Sikhs are not Arabs and he's tired of getting
harassed all the time.
Anyway, the cast is great - Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, and Christopher Plummer are all top-drawer actors. Willem Dafoe has a smaller part that doesn't use all of his talents, unfortunately. The clever twist the plot adds is that the bank robbers dress everybody up in the same masks and jump suits that they themselves are wearing. So if the police raid the bank, they'll have a difficult time figuring who the bad guys are. (This isn't a spoiler - it's in the trailers.) Clive Owen and the robbers are clearly up to something that becomes apparent during the course of the film. They are particularly interested in the safety deposit box of the bank CEO, played by Christopher Plummer. Jodie Foster is brought in by him to protect "his interests". Her existence is amusing in that it reveals a bit about what Spike Lee thinks the corridors of white power are like. (Here's a hint, Spike: rich white folks don't swear at each other quite as much as you make them do, and in particular the word used by the Mayor to describe Jodie Foster's character is way beyond the pale. A real woman with as much influence as her character had would retaliate massively after being so described. But Spike Lee has never quite managed to capture any female character correctly, dating all the way back to Nola Darling. I digress.) The good parts of the film involve the interactions between Washington and Owen. Also, the many small man-on-the-street conversations are great. This aspect of observing street life has always been one of Lee's strongest points.
It was interesting watching a Spike Lee caper film. I kinda like the idea. It's better than the formulaic caper films that are the rage, and features some of Lee's trademark shots, like when he puts an actor on a dolly to create non-walking walking movement. I recommend the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review is full of SPOILERS and is meant for those who've seen this
1. Major plot flaw. The police would have identified the "painters" almost immediately, and this is hidden from the audience by the way in which the interrogation scenes are handled.
The criminals' strategy for escape was to blend in with the other hostages and be unidentifiable. The video surveillance cameras were disabled only 2 minutes before the "painters" entered. By checking the videos the police would see what customers had entered the bank before then and could rule them out as "painters." The police could also rule-out all employees, not only because employees would be on tape, but even if not, the employees would know who of their number was in the bank at the time they were seized.
This means that the "painters" could only be customers, and could only be among those customers who walked in during the two minutes between disabling the cameras and the entry of the "painters." Look at the number of customers already in the bank before the cameras went out -- a lot. Not many came in during those 2 minutes, even if some left during those 2 minutes. At most, let's say that 12 people came in during those 2 minutes, including the "painters."
Then get physical descriptions of the "painters'" height, weight, sex, etc., from all the hostages. Compare those with the physical details of the 12 people. Of the 12 people, how many match each description? If one, the police have spotted a "painter" already. If 2 or 3 or 4, the police have a very small number of people to investigate further to expose which of that small group is a "painter."
Moreover, every customer has to have a reason for being there: either to deal with an existing account, or open a new one. But a person opening a new account would go to an employee to start the process. So the "painters" each had to have already established an individual account with that bank. When did those 12 people open their accounts? The police would look at the time each of the 12 first opened an account. More recent accounts, opened at about the same date, would indicate who the "painters" might be.
Now, why were each of the 12 at that downtown branch at that time, as opposed to a different branch or a different time? It must be, either they work nearby, or live nearby, or are running an errand where the route includes that branch.
What friend or relative saw them in person before they left to go to the branch? How did they get to the branch -- walking, or subway, or taxi? How were they planning to get to their next destination? Where did they plan to go after their errand at the branch was finished? Who was expecting to see them at that place? Did anyone who was expecting to see them later that day wonder what had happened to them, or call the police to ask whether they were among the hostages?
Recently opened accounts, near the date of other accounts, by people who neither live nor work near that branch, or have a plausible errand, who can't tell a plausible tale of how they got there or where they planned to go next, or who was expecting them: these are the prime suspects for "painters."
The police very swiftly will have a very good idea who the "painters" are. Investigate them in detail and they are exposed; then pressure them to reveal the identities of the other criminals.
This is what real police would do, but the movie, by showing the police pursuing a different, useless approach, leads the audience to think the "painter" masquerade would work. This movie operates on the old principle "the criminal plot looks brilliant because the police are made to act like idiots yet look intelligent."
2. Major moral blindness. 50 innocent citizens are terrorized, held hostage, assaulted, battered, for a day, a very significant crime, and yet at the end we are told that because nothing was stolen from the bank, the government and the police are just going to drop the whole affair. But what the criminals did to those people was a far more serious crime than any theft of bank property would have been. This movie passes-off that crime as if it were nothing, nothing at all. The terrorized hostages are pushed off the stage like so many plastic dolls who've served their role in the filmmakers' story. But those characters are human beings. The criminals, supposedly motivated by an idealistic desire to act against a Nazi profiteer, commit a horrific moral injustice on innocent people, whose rights and dignity they are blind to, in the pursuit of their own moral mission. This is a profound moral flaw in this film. The criminals are narcissists, so focused on their own desire for justice in their cause that they are blind to the injustice they inflict on others as they pursue their mission.
3. Unbelievable characters. A billionaire bank president anguished over his past exploitation of the Holocaust, but who is trying to hide his past, by hiring a real estate agent who has a side-line as a high-level "fixer" of rich people's problems, who is herself disgusted by his pro-Nazi past, yet takes his pay-off check anyway, and whose only attempt to "fix" the problem is a short and ineffective conversation with the criminal master-mind? A supposedly smart and honorable police hostage negotiator who is also the chief interrogator of the suspects, and who takes a diamond pay-off from the mastermind with a laugh, and who is completely blind to the serious crime of terrorism and hostage-taking of 50 civilians? None of these characters is believable.
Inside Man tells the story of a man named Dalton Russel, who leads a
daring bank robbery that turns into a hostage situation. Now he's
dealing with disgraced hostage negotiator Keith Frazier, who is
attempting to get to the bottom of things. When the shady CEO of the
bank and a woman he's hired to help him protect certain interests
arrive, he begins to discover that there's more to this bank robbery
than it would seem. This is the only Spike Lee movie I've ever seen,
but trust me, I'll see more, since this was a very intriguing film.
What I liked about Inside Man was the style it was made. It is choppy, but not so choppy that it's annoying (cough, Domino, cough, Man on Fire), so you get a sense of tension, and it seems very high paced. The plot is good, and very intriguing. There are some things you have to figure out throughout the film, which makes it more interesting. My only problem was that after the bank robbery was over, the film continued for another half hour, and it started to drag a bit. The dialogue in the movie is very cool. There's some humorous and some awesome lines that come out of the character's mouths.
The acting is very good. Denzel Washington is good as always as Det. Keith Frazier. Clive Owen gives a solid performance as Dalton Russell. I liked Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer. Jodie Foster wasn't as good as she usually is, but she's not in the movie a whole lot.
Overall, the movie lags toward the end, but it's intriguing and has an awesome plot.
some people love it, some people don't.
well, i am not the kind of person that looks for the little things in movies to tear it apart and call it awful.
the storyline was amazing. the idea was genius. denzel and clive owen play good guy vs bad guy, and they did a good job. i didn't think this movie was gonna have "action" in it but the action it had was beyond excellent. the way the robbery was conducted gave the viewer chills because it was so amazing. don't listen to bad reviews, if you love hostage movies and suspense/thriller movies (like hostage, phonebooth, etc) then go see this! you will be guessing until the very end. best movie ever.
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