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Inside Man

Film Three Stars

Unlike Lucky Number Slevin, I knew a lot about Inside Man and was really keen to go and see it. After all we're talking Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Clive Owen (dodgy accent or not), Christopher Plummer and Denzel Washington.

What a cast, and with direction from Spike Lee it had a hell of a lot of promise. The trailer tipped me over the edge and it looked exciting, packed with twists and Foster was playing a baddie. What more could you ask for in a movie? Turns out a bit more than we got.

InsideMan.jpgThe story is very good, it's strong and has a new take on the average hostage\bank robbery thriller that we've seen so many times before. That's down to the script, which provides us with some great characters, good lines and a steadily moving story.

One of the things you notice right off the bat is the style, there's a very slight period feel to this. I don't mean that it's a costume drama or anything, I mean that this might have happened in the "just past". There's also a harshness to the film itself, a tiny hint of the Munich film. Perhaps that's down to Spike Lee and his style, but it does work well.

The style continues and is put to good affect when you have flash-forwards to see the hostages being interviewed, with the main thread of the film being present time these are things that are happening in the future, and the style really does help to separate the times. This is especially true when the story then leaps forward past those interviews and we seem to be once again in present time. It's much less confusing when you see the film!

However, there are a couple of scenes where style is overused. The tracking shot with Washington where he's tracked face on straight to the door of the Bank, that's not very good. It stands out in the film and slaps you right back into your cinema seat. It feels out of place and looks like it has just been added for style sake.

Another part that didn't really work was when the Police Commander is talking through their proposed raid of the Bank. As he did so and pointed out an action point we were shown this in real time, and in the current film style, despite the separation of time periods using film techniques before. This caused some confusion during the first few flashes, and although you quickly caught up, you were never really sure what was intended.

Then there's the use of the pull-push moment, that shot made famous in Jaws. Plummer is seated at his desk and as one of the characters gives a short speech about him, Plummer sits watching the camera as a slow push pull shot draws him forward. Yeah, that looks nice, but the effect is we're all looking at the camera shot and not Plummer.

To end the filming on a positive note, the representation of the Police seemed supremely authentic. I've no idea how Police really behave during hostage situations as the films I've seen would suggest they are usually corrupt and trying to kill the hostages or hostage takes, or are fighting against the rest of the Police force. No, here their tactics and movements seem very real, and even the smallest details appear to be well thought through.

A score is present almost all the way through the film, which is a shame because I hardly noticed it, and when I did it was during conversations and I was confused as to why there was a score building the tension. Still, as a famous film composer once said, the score should not retell the story, but help the story be told. I think that's what happened here, either that or I just totally missed it! It was remarked afterwards that it was very Bond-esque with its scoring.

The plot itself is very well thought through and developed, the twists and turns may be guessable to you, but they are still enjoyable enough when they arrive. Saying that, I never felt I really connected with any of the characters or was drawn into the story. I can often tell this when I start to guess what's going to happen, I'm not deliberately trying to work it out, it just seems that when I'm not engaged in the story I drift forward. The films that have really caught me with surprise moments are because I'm caught up in the film and don't have time to stay ahead.

So when the surprises come I found I wasn't that surprised, more that I was smiling when it was revealed I was right! Oh, and while I'm on the subject of surprises, one of the big ones of the movie is totally destroyed by the trailer. I don't mean that the trailer gives away a little hint, it's blatantly in your face. I had noticed this at the time but I had hoped that this would be non-essential to the plot...it is, and because of that mishandling of the Spoiler a large surprise is ruined. Idiots.

The cast was really strong here, and with some big names, so how did they do?

Well Owen managed to work through the bad accent he seems to have carried from Sin City and he toned it down somewhat to give a very measured and controlled performance. He was really good, although Owen I have to say you really don't suit smoking! That aside he did do a good job and I actually felt that I wanted him to get away with it, but only when the plot starts to reveal itself.

It was great to see Foster in a role of a person with dubious character, she's always cast as a wonderful person, but she's damn good as a strong, manipulative woman. When the Mayor calls her a very bad word you can see her recoil for a moment as she is phased, then she pops right back up and moves on, I loved that entire scene. In fact some of my favourite scenes were with Foster.

Oh, Christopher Plummer is a dream to see on screen. Hold on while I just add him to my dream cast list feature...there...He is awesome with a great presence. He flips so easily from a meek old man to a strong and powerful, possibly quite evil, character. An excellent performance.

Washington, and this is something I'm really starting to notice about his performances, was Washington. He was big, loud and brash and just steamed through the film giving his trademark smile and laugh every now and again. Where are the roles that stretch him, that force him to do something different than Washington? We know he can do it, but more often he just settles into the same character.

Both Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor provided strong supporting roles. I really do enjoy seeing Dafoe play a more human character instead of some maniac!

The Plummer and Foster characters definitely required way more on screen time than they did. Especially since their characters were so intriguing.

So a great cast overall, although with a couple of small blips, but for me the final execution of the plot just didn't pull me in enough to the story to then hit me with the surprises (even those not spoiled by the trailer), or to get me involved with the characters. Which is a shame as I had hoped for so much with this film. Still, it's not a write off by any means, it's a great story with some great characters, it just could have been better.

IMDB Film Details



just saw this on the weekend and i gotta agree with you, it's an average Spike film. his best work is better. but i gotta correct you on two things:

the pull-push effect was used by Hitchcock in Vertigo. years before Jaws :) and the Denzel tracking shot is Lee's move. he's been using it since his first films. along with Denzel's slowly building rage, i thought that was nicely done.

Hey Sam...you're right on both, however I never said that Jaws was the first use, I said it was made famous in Jaws. I've made the mistake before of forgetting the Vertigo shot so I was very careful this time!

Lee's move or not, it just didn't fit in the film for me, and I guess if you are a big Lee fan then you're gonna want to see his signature in every film.

I didn't realise it was his signature shot though, I've just learnt something new. Cheers Sam.

I didn't like that tracking shot either (even if it is a Lee trademark). What offended me about it was that Denzel was evidently standing still in it, as if he were standing on a trolley with the camera at the other end, being pulled away from everyone else behind him. And I thought Foster was the film's weak link, or rather her character was; it was hard to escape the feeling she was just added as an afterthought.

I can't remember anything about the score except the Bollywood track that opens and closes it. Similarly, I paid so little attention to the trailer when I saw it (it looked like such a bog-standard Hollywood thriller that I barely took it in until I saw Lee's name in the credits at the end) that I don't recall any spoilers in it.

I had been doing my usual boring "clive owen verbal bashing" that i so love to do and avoided this movie like the plague.

and then.... i ran out of movies to watch and reluctantly went along to watch with nothing better to do.

and thorughly enjoyed it. i agree with some of the posts above, but those things didn't detract from the movie for me. then again i wasn't expecting anything.

So-so film, you're way too generous giving it a 3, I'm giving it a 2.

The only thing I liked about it was the reference to Pacino's films- Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather.

Funny you guys are also talking about Vertigo, I was just about to watch the same film after this now and learn more about that pull-push effect thing that totally didnt work for me either.


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