By Andrew J. Stephens '06
Inside Man is the most enjoyable movie I have seen so far this year. The story is fairly simple, that of a clever bank robber, Dalton Russell, played by Clive Owen, robbing a Manhattan bank. He and his gang come in brandishing weapons and take the patrons and staff hostage. Enter the hostage negotiator Detective Keith Frazier, played by Denzel Washington, who is genuinely excited to have a case. Complicating the mix is Madeline White, of indeterminate occupation, played by Jodie Foster, who has been hired to recover or keep hidden something in one of the safety deposit boxes.
The movie never seems dull or predictable. It is obvious that Russell, the mastermind, has a plan, and the audience and police can make guesses, but only to a point. There have been so many dark crime movies recently that I kept half-expecting things to go wrong or bad or badly wrong.
These three actors carry the movie between them. Washington stands out as a cop who is not tired or jaded, but likes his work. He is smart, funny, and plays well with everyone in his scenes. Owen has the smug, superior thief role down pat. His character is neatly balanced between dangerously serious and whimsical. And finally, Foster is suave, sophisticated, and completely amoral. She and Washington have some great exchanges, both for their characters and as actors.
The cast was rounded out with excellent contributions by Daniel Defoe as the police captain in command at the robbery scene and Christopher Plummer as the bank executive and client of Fosterís. It is this depth of casting that sets Inside Man apart from so many other crime capers.
Inside Man was directed by Spike Lee, and it is more Hollywood than his normal fare. That, however, is not a criticism. It is a genre film, but Lee works in his version of New York. The people who populate his city are diverse to the point of distraction. The opening sequence follows the thievesí van around greater New York City with an almost bizarre Middle Eastern soundtrack. Albanian communists, Jewish diamond brokers, and a Sikh outraged to be called Arab all make appearances.
Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was the denouement. Most movies end fairly quickly, often seconds, after the climax. After the big scene where the robbers leave the bank, the robbery is over, but the movie is not. Inside Man takes its time tying up loose ends, and this finale has some of the best scenes of the movie.
The movie did leave me with one question: exactly to whom does the title refer?