With Inside Man, Spike Lee has crafted a very original and exciting thriller.8/10
Spike Lee is one of the most consistent directors out there. Save for some more uneven pictures like She Hate Me and Girl 6, Lee's body of work is just plain impressive. And while Inside Man is not up there with Do The Right Thing, Clockers and 25th Hour, it is definitely an entertaining and intelligent thriller that does things a little differently than most cookie cutter thrillers you see in theaters nowadays.
A bank robbery in New York has gotten out of control, and it's up to police detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) to act as hostage negotiator and get the bank personal and customers out safely before things turn even worse than they already are. This turns out to be a tough case, since the leader of the bank robbers, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), turns out to be a very smart individual, who has everything planned to perfection, and who throws up surprise after surprise for Frazier and his men. But while the people around Frazier are slowly getting more and more nervous, he himself does not lose his mind, and begins a high stakes battle of wits with Russell. Things are further complicated, however, when the mayor of New York introduces a mysterious woman to Frazier. This woman (Jodie Foster) wants to protect something that is hidden in one of the safety deposit boxes inside the bank, and she will stop at nothing to force Frazier to let her inside the bank and make sure nothing happens to the contents.
This all sounds like an intriguing premise for a thriller, but the movie goes a few steps further than just having an interesting plot. Because while Inside Man does hit all the right notes when it comes to keeping you guessing about what is really going on, it is also very successful in mixing the grittier moments with comedy elements. At times, Inside Man is very funny, but in a way that does not deflate the tension. The dialogue is sharp, with the conversations between Frazier and Russell being especially fascinating, and both actors are at the top of their game in this new movie. Washington's Frazier is an intense but laconic individual, who has a permanent smirk on his face but who reads the bank robbers intentions better than anybody else, while Owen is charismatic and fascinating as the mastermind behind the bank robbery. I was a little disappointed however with Jodie Foster's role. While her part is potentially fascinating, she does not really get the chance to do anything with it other than look cool and act tough. Yes, we all know that she is very good at that, but with a bit more background story, and a bit more screen time, her part could have been even more interesting.
With Inside Man, Lee showcases an interesting way of directing thrillers. He ignores the usual build up that you see in thrillers, which consists of an introduction, a chronological development of the main intrigue, followed by a final act in which everything is wrapped up neatly (even flashing forward several times, thus revealing some important developments before they have happened), and this only serves to make Inside Man a movie that is more than your regular suspense movie. I enjoyed this original approach very much, even though he does take quite a long time to wrap things up at the end.