Inside Man

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Review #73 of 365 Film: Inside Man [R] 129 minutes
WIP: $11.25
When 1st Seen: 24 March 2006
Where Viewed: Cherry Creek 8, Denver, CO
Time: 3:45 p.m.
Review Dedicated to: Mark T. of Williamsport, PA

Terence Blanchard - Inside Man

From the beginning of Inside Man until the end, plan on the delight of tantalizing twists. Expect to see some of your favorite actors in roles that are very different from your usual ideas for them. Just when you think you know what’s going on anticipate the plot throwing you yet another in a series of hanging curve balls. If you think you know Spike Lee films, think again. In other words, be prepared to except the unexpected. The film begins with wunderkind thief Dalton Russell (Clive ‘if you haven’t seen Derailed with Clive and Jennifer Aniston, you should’ Owen) asking the audience to “…pay strict attention…” because he chooses his words carefully and he never repeats himself as he outlines journalism’s 5 Ws and the H or the who, what, where, when, why, and how for the events that are about to occur over the course of the next 129 minutes of the film. Trust me when I say, “follow his advice.” Soon after you will meet the can’t-catch-a-break, NYPD, hostage negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington). For people used to seeing Mr. Washington as the every man who has heroism thrust upon him as in John Q, A Man on Fire, or The Manchurian Candidate, plan on a different sort of role for him here. The last of the trio of marquee actors to appear is Jodie Foster, who after playing a few roles as the heroine of the film takes a turn to the dark side in her role as Madeline White. What it is she does for living might best be described as keeping the ultra-rich out of trouble for a price only they can afford. One of the things I enjoyed right off the bat was that the preview for the film was very deceptive. Assumptions you may have drawn regarding the roles each of these characters play in the story may prove false; and that, in my opinion, is a very cool thing.

The film is set in New York City in present time. Dalton Russell and his gang hold up a branch of the Manhattan Bank and Trust—a bank founded and built during WWII by opportunist Arthur Case (Christopher ‘still got game’ Plummer). After Russell’s gang takes over the bank with hostages, that’s when Detective Keith Fraizer gets called in to diffuse the situation. Only, it becomes increasingly apparent to Frazier that this is unlike any hostage situation or bank robbery New York’s finest has ever faced. One take home less from the film would be that responding to situations without thinking clearly is not a good idea. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Mr. Washington develop the character of Keith Fraizer over time. He constantly challenges our notion of what motivates him. Is he really a good cop with bad luck, is he more like detective Columbo, does he know what he’s doing? As with everything else about the film, writer Russell Gewirtz and director Spike Lee keep us guessing every minute.

While I enjoyed this film a great deal. I did have two qualms with it. The first was that, while the time does fly by for the most part, I feel the editing could have been tighter and quicker in some spots that drag a bit. I once worked with a teacher who presented information to her students under the premise of ‘need to know or ‘nice to know’ where ‘need to know’ was considered core knowledge and ‘nice to know’ was considered bonus material. Well, there is a lot of ‘nice to know’ information in this film—stuff that won’t show up on the final exam in other words. My second qualm arises from the ending which was mildly incomplete. We are left to fill in some of the gaps and make some assumptions which is ok—I assume mine are correct under the Verity of Self-Assumption Act of 2006 (I just made that up). There are cases where movies can leave the conclusion up the imagination of the audiences and it works great and others where it feels either, hollow, pretentious, or simply unfinished. I would argue that a plot-driven bank robbery thriller is not the right place for the ‘leave it up to the audience’s imagination to tie up all the loose ends’ philosophy. I believe that such is best left for highly artistic films, French films, and dramas filled with forlorn characters and much anguish. Still, these minor issues aside, Inside Man is a very good spring-break-in-March movie that most people with a healthy appetite for twisty thrillers (this one is on the low end when it comes to action: car chases, violence, blood, and gore), a marquee cast, and terrific direction, will really enjoy.

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Inside Man (Widescreen Version) [DVD](2006) DVD

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