Inside Man (2006)

Review by:
Bill Clark

Reviewed by:
On March 23, 2006
Last modified:July 6, 2014


Inside Man is the best big studio effort so far this year.

Inside Man (2006)

Redefining a genre is a nearly impossible task these days. With the current state of Hollywood, that which plays it ridiculously safe and treats us all like morons most of the time, one will usually find themselves feeling completely blindsided when a film of true originality comes around. Enter Inside Man, a complete departure for director Spike Lee. To say he was up to the challenge is an understatement.

Denzel Washington stars as Keith Frazier, a cynical hostage negotiator who excels at his high stress job. He has his hands full, however, when Dalton Russell (Owen) and his cohorts-in-crime begin the execution of their “perfect” bank robbery. The bank in question is the Manhattan Trust, owned by gazillionaire Arthur Case (Plummer). Upon hearing of the situation he contacts Madeliene White (Foster), a hotshot insider who is hired to negotiate the acquisition of an item in one of the bank’s safe deposit boxes for Case. The threads all come together in a refreshingly non-Hollywood ending.

This type of suspense/drama does not seem like the material you’d expect Spike Lee to be directing, but here he shows amazing patience in letting the brilliant screenplay by Russell Gewirtz shine to its fullest extent. His camera is busy and prying, but never distractingly so. The style harks back to cop thrillers of the 70’s, right down to the jazzy soundtrack that at times seems to be playing for the fun of it. That Lee pulls this off to near-perfection is a testament to his skills as a director.

Washington, who is definitely channeling a few riffs from his character in Training Day, is a show-stopper in nearly every scene. His police-speak badgering of an elderly woman who has just survived the experience inside the bank is pure genius. To get an audience to laugh at such circumstances takes an effortless cool – something that Washington has been schooling nearly every actor in for years. Clive Owen also shines as Russell. He’s cold and calculated at the same time, and always confident in his grand plan. His mask hides only his identity; his emotions come through crystal clear. The supporting work by Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is exemplary across the board.

The film’s only true flaw comes during the extended climax, which is a bit clunky and over-explanatory. It could have been shaved a bit and still held its power, but Lee nevertheless hits all the right notes and gives an invigorating denouement.

Inside Man is not a film for those in search of a quick payoff, but for those who miss the days of solid psychological suspense and drama this is great entertainment. Spike Lee has managed to add a whole new spin to a familiar genre and taken his career to corners that I was not expecting. This is the best big studio effort so far this year.


Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 129 Minutes
Rating: R for language and some violent images.
Theatrical Release: March 24, 2006
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Russell Gewirtz
Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Plummer




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