Inside Man (2006)
|Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Mystery / Thriller|
||| R - 125 minutes || February 10, 2006|
|Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2006-03-23|
Writer(s): Russell Gewirtz (written by)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor
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Spike Lee has long been a director who makes films outside the Hollywood norm. Controversy seems to follow many of his films as well (see Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Bamboozled and She Hate Me, just to name a few). Whether the film is a good one or bad one, Lee has always been a filmmaker who never makes a dull film. There’s always one memorable moment I retain after watching one of his films. I think that’s the main reason why Spike Lee remains one of my favorite filmmakers of all time.
Inside Man marks Lee’s fourth collaboration with actor Denzel Washington. I must say that I’ve been a big fan of every one of their collaboration with Malcolm X easily being my favorite. Inside Man is a genre film, but it’s difficult to compare it to another film within the heist/bank robbing genre. Lee has been a director who never shies away from race relations. In addition, Lee is a filmmaker who is always aware of the times he is making his films in. The 25th Hour was one of the first films to ever shoot in post 9/11 New York City. Lee never hesitated to show what the real New York City looked like in the aftermath of the tragedy. One scene in that film that is unforgettable is Edward Norton starring out his window at the place where the towers use to stand. Once again, Lee doesn’t shy away from race in The Inside Man.
The best comparison I can make Inside Man to is a cross between Dog Day Afternoon and Lee’s own Do the Right Thing. The film itself even makes references to Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, letting the audience know that it’s aware of conventions within the genre it’s in. Denzel Washington stars as Keith Frazier, a detective who is in no way clean cut, but usually does the right thing. To add to more of Frazier’s troubles, he also has girlfriend whose brother cannot stay out of trouble. Not to mention that his girlfriend has been pushing him to get married for some time now. Frazier is called upon to run things at a bank robbery in the heart of New York City. Up and coming star Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Bill Mitchell, Frazier’s partner during the hostage negotiations. Clive Owen plays Dalton Russell, the bank robber who according to his character has formulated the "perfect plan." Rounding out the cast is Jodie Foster as the unlikable Madeliene White (and I don’t think the last name is a coincidence with respect to her character), Christopher Plummer as Arthur Case; the bank owner who has something more at stake than just money and Willem Dafoe as the police captain. All of these actors are veterans who provide great and entertaining performances. They all manage to bring unique and memorable attributes to their characters.
York City. At one point we see a man wearing a turban, so he automatically is assumed to be an Arab. The character later reveals that he is a Sikh and not an Arab in any way. We see an officer who refers to African Americans and Hispanics in a derogatory manner. We see the various cultures of people who are held hostage as well. In many films set in New York City, the cast is dominated by white actors, but Lee manages to show us the true New York City, like he always does. In addition to all that, we see the theme of the rich versus the poor. Lee does an exceptional job showing the audience that money can buy anything and that the rich almost get whatever they want as long as the price is right.
From a technical standpoint, I though the film was very well done. Terence Blanchard, who may be the most underrated film composer working today, does an outstanding job once again with his score. Blanchard has worked with Lee on almost all of his films and each time brings something new to Lee’s films. An Indian song named "Chaiyya Chaiyya" begins Inside Man and right away the audience is taken back with surprise. The song fits well with Lee’s overall depiction of the melting pot of cultures known as New York City. The rest of the score is equally as impressive. Blanchard does a great job with keeping the score subtle when it needs to be and slightly overpowering when it needs to be.
The editing of the film is great as well. The pacing of the film for the first 3/4 is done very well. Lee and Editor Barry Alexander Brown do a great job at keeping the film interesting and giving it it’s thrilling pace. I thought Brown does an amazing job with inter-cutting the interrogation scenes with the scenes of the actual bank robbery. To me, that was very unique to films within the heist/bank robbing genre.
First time screenwriter Russell Gerwitz provides the screenplay for the film. As I mentioned, the first ľ of the film is truly electrifying and edge of your seat entertainment. The film was also surprisingly very funny throughout as well. I felt the balance of suspense, drama and comedy was perfect. However, the film seems to slow down greatly in its last act. Because of all the characters and various layers of character development, Lee and Gerwitz spend way too much time tying up all the loose ends. It feels as if the film has 5 or 6 different endings until we get to the actual ending of the film. Without a doubt, this is the only thing that bothered me about the film. One of my biggest peeves is a director who does an amazing job with the first two acts of a film and then has no idea how to end it. While Lee and his film do suffer from this syndrome slightly, the film still manages to be entertaining and not completely ruined by the various codas at the end of the film.
In the end, Inside Man is a very good film with some flaws towards the end. Spike Lee does a great job of integrating humor, drama and suspense with interesting things to say about race relations in post 9/11 New York City. Ultimately, Lee does an exceptional job of bringing something fresh and exciting to this genre.