INSIDE MAN (Spike Lee, 2006)
In INSIDE MAN, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) plans what he believes to be the perfect heist. He and three partners take control of a Manhattan bank and the forty or so hostages therein. Mediating the situation is Dalton’s counterpart, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington. Complicating the standoff is Madeline White (Jodie Foster). She’s a power player representing the interests of the bank’s chairman of the board of directors. Madeline has no authority but is well connected enough to try to cut a deal with Dalton that will help him and her client regardless of if it interferes with the police department’s aims.
With INSIDE MAN director Spike Lee takes a break from social commentaries to put forward a highly entertaining and unexpectedly funny genre film. It’s the most commercial movie he’s made, but the accessibility isn’t a negative. Rather, having a skilled director helm a standard thriller livens up what might have otherwise been an unremarkable heist film.
First time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz stays a couple steps ahead of the audience and keeps plenty of surprises and twists in reserve. There are some potential plot holes and narrative conveniences that might have been more problematic had INSIDE MAN slowed to consider all of the pieces. Those concerns get lost in the shuffle of the intriguing chess match played among multiple characters. Washington, Foster, and Owen don’t get their acting muscles strenuously worked out, but it’s a pleasure to see them and an excellent supporting cast elevate the material.