Published Apr 01, 2006Inside Man is upfront about the shell game it's playing with its audience: the bank heist that unfolds before us, perpetrated by Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), is not what it appears. It's up to us to try and figure it out. We're following Detective Keith Frazier (a chunky Denzel Washington) as he unravels the clues left by the bank's Chairman of the Board (Christopher Plummer) and the powerbroker he's got on the trail (the steely Jodie Foster).
The heist set-up plays on all our film expectations from Dog Day Afternoon to Quick Change: dressing hostages and robbers in similar outfits, taunting cops with their "perfect" plan and waiting for the police to follow procedure, whose every step the thieves see coming.
Spike Lee directs the in-bank action with tight close-ups, not letting us see the big picture, while outside he concentrates on some nice character work by Washington, as well as Willem Dafoe as an out-of-his-league police captain.
The playful title sets up the audience to watch everyone in the bank very carefully, and it's a worthy distraction for problem solving audience members; the "solution" itself plays nicely against our expectations.
There are minor quibbles to be had about the role Foster plays in the broader conspiracy, and the heist unfolds a little too slowly for the film to be the truly taut, fast-paced thriller it could have been, but Lee acquits himself well with an excellent take on a genre film. (Universal)