Specialist New York Detectives Frazier (Denzel Washington) Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) get the job of working with Emergency Services chief Captain Darius (Willem Dafoe), negotiating with extra smart bank robber Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) after Dalton's gang invade the Manhattan Trust, taking hostages. Just as things are getting serious, along comes Madeline (Jodie Foster), a power broker hired by the bank's chairman Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), whose secret mission complicates matters even further. Meanwhile, the hostage situation worsens.
Andrew L. Urban:
It's no easy leap of imagination to twist the conventional bank heist / hostage crime drama into something as new and gripping as Inside Man, but the combo of writer Russell Gewirtz and director Spike Lee have managed it. The twist is in two extra layers to the basic story; one is to do with the motive for the heist, the other to do with the execution of it. The former engages our intellect, the latter engages our visceral sense of thrill.
Meticulously cast, the film never lets up from the no-nonsense opening (after some stylish opening titles), as Dalton (Clive Owen) introduces himself and his plan to rob a bank. But don't take his words at face value: he has more up his sleeve than he lets on.
Washington and Ejiofor as Frazier and Mitchell make a terrific cop duo, less than perfect, keen for promotion and Frazier's seductive partner waiting for him adds a sexy sidebar to the central event of a giant, complicated and clever heist. As the dust settles and the smoke clears, we discover the full impact of the secret mission that brings Madeline (Jodie Foster) into the game - another unexpected element.
Technically excellent, performed to perfection, the film delivers as an above average thriller, with not only a satisfactory big picture, but full of rewarding cinematic details.
Review by Louise Keller:
In the first attention-grabbing scene of Spike Lee's riveting heist movie, Inside Man, Clive Owen's bank robber stares tantalisingly into camera to tell us who he is, and what is his motivation for the crime he is about to commit. He reminds us, and it is clear from the start, that we need to pay attention.
First time screen-writer Russell Gewirtz has constructed an original story in which the heist and hostage elements are only a part. It's the sharp angled plot turns and solid characters that surprise us. The set up makes us look at events firstly from the perpetrator's point of view, and Owen is as charismatic as ever as the mysterious Dalton Russell. When he and Denzel Washington's hostage negotiator Keith Frazier start playing mind games with each, they are a match. Physically, Owen and Washington are similar: both are tall, handsome and intense. 'You're too damn smart to be a cop,' the robber tells the negotiator. Their overtly confident characters connect on various levels including humour.
If you take an interest in names, take heed of Jodie Foster's Madeline White, a sophisticated high powered dynamo with special skills and discretion ('My bite is much worse than my bark'), and Christopher Plummer's wealthy bank chairman Arthur Case, who hires her in mysterious circumstances. Madeline is a fascinatingly conceived character and we never stop wondering about her.
The script is intelligent, the drama dense and the tension high. Wry humour cuts through the tension when you least expect it. Most interesting - and well developed - is the psychological aspect, when the balance of power shifts back and forth between Owen and Washington.
Lee directs the film with a light touch, despite its serious themes. It's a thoroughly enjoyable mystery thriller that keeps us guessing - even when we thought we knew it all.
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INSIDE MAN (MA15+)
CAST: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer, Chiwetel Ejiofor
PRODUCER: Brian Grazer
DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
SCRIPT: Russell Gewirtz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique
EDITOR: Barry Alexander Brown
MUSIC: Terence Blanchard
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wynn Thomas
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 30, 2006