Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Plummer directed by Spike Lee. How could one go wrong with that powerful line-up? Together they made Inside Man a heist film, and one of Lee’s all-time great creations. The movie is so smart, the acting is so strong that they alone could have carried the film. The twists at the end, just took it to another level.
Things start with Clive Owen giving a monologue directly into the camera about his caper. There’s a close up of his face as he says his name is Dalton Russell, that’s the who. The where he says is a prison cell. Pay attention to that because it helps explain the astonishing conclusion. The what is the perfect crime. The why was the money, and also because he could, meaning his self-assurance and diligent planning. Together Owen and his crew take over the Manhattan Trust. Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Detective Bill Mitchell are the detectives put in charge of the negotiations to release the hostages taken inside the bank. Christopher Plummer as Arthur Case plays the bank owner, and Jodie Foster as Madeleine White is a powerful New York City fixer who is hired by Plummer to make sure his secret, which is contained with Manhattan Trust, is not revealed.
One of the first things that hits you is how great the writing by Russell Gewirtz was in laying out the crime. Russell has all the hostages dress the same so no one knows who anyone else is. They are also constantly shifted from room to room to keep them disoriented. On top of that, the criminals have the same jump suits on and mix in with the hostages with one of them even getting in trouble so that at the end everyone is in the dark about who the possible robbers are. Russell also constantly outsmarts the cops by playing games with them, dragging out the process so that he can pull off the heist.
Next is the acting. Everyone is outstanding. Washington plays his usual leading man role to a tee. He’s not satisfied with how the robbery is playing out, he doesn’t like that Foster’s character shows up to complicate his negotiations, and at the end he isn’t willing to let things lie after the hostages are released. Ejiofor plays his able aide who is able to play off Washington’s part. Foster is the pan ultimate power broker. Being both strong and demanding in the male world of politicians, bankers, police, and thieves she finds herself in. Owen never breaks a sweat as he plays out his scheme. That’s nothing to say of William Dafoe as a SWAT team leader and Plummer in supporting roles.
Spike Lee is also able to throw in his little odes to New York, which he always likes to do in movies located in the city. For instance, there’s an Indian Sikh bank teller who talks about his constant harassment because people believe he’s an Arab and a possible terrorist. Washington and Ejiofor counter that he could get a taxi unlike many black men. The robbers also play a tape in Albanian, and Washington is only able to find that out by asking the crowd outside the bank what language is being used. There’s also a riddle Owen throws at the cops about one of the city’s train stations. These all just give a little nod to the diversity and life in New York that Lee always likes to hit on.
Finally, there’s the twist. The movie isn’t just your regular bank robbery. In fact, it appears initially that nothing was taken. It’s not until the robbery is actually over that Russell’s true motivations and plan is revealed and it’s a whopper that no one could foresee. Russell even gives a little treat to Detective Frazier.
In conclusion, Inside Man is just an amazing movie experience. It never lets go of your attention and keeps on throwing things at you to keep you going.