Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by:Russell Gewirtz
Starring: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Released: March 30, 2006
Grade: A-

Plenty of movies have been made about bank robberies and they have been told from differing perspectives.  A friend asked me before this movie about whether real bank robberies actually happen the way they do in the movies.  Are they usually that planned and precise?  Do they usually have expert police officers and detectives working the case?  The answer is probably no but few people seem to care.  These films may not be realistic but they’re damn fun to watch.

I love movies with intrigue and Inside Man delivers just that.  It begins with a man named Dalton Russell (Owen) telling the audience that he has committed the perfect bank robbery.  I was sceptical but certainly interested.  How did he pull it off and was it really a “perfect” robbery?  We are then treated to a visual retelling of the event…

Dalton and his team walk into the bank and set the wheels in motion.  They lock it down, take the people inside as hostages and then head to the main vault.  Meanwhile, Detective Keith Frazier (Washington) has been called in as the negotiator to work alongside Officer John Darius (Dafoe).  Frazier immediately senses something is different about this crime.  It appears to be very well planned and is clearly the work of professionals.  He can’t figure out their next move and this increases his worries that the situation and the lives of the hostages will get away from him.

Complicating things for Frazier is a mysterious woman named Madeline White (Foster) who has been hired by the bank’s owner (Plummer) to “protect his interests”.  There is something in the bank he doesn’t want discovered and he wants Madeline to keep a close eye on the escalating situation.

The pieces of the puzzle are slowly put together in a craftily written screenplay from newcomer Russell Gewirtz.  There is plenty of mystery and I’ll confess to picking the ending about two thirds of the way through.  I’m usually terrible at solving crime thrillers so I’m giving myself a pat of the back.  I think part of the reason I cracked the case is because it has been so well written.  There isn’t a farcical ending which is impossible for any sane person to pick.  The clues are there and it’s up to you to find them.  My only criticism is the final scene in the movie which I deemed unnecessarily.  The tale has been wrapped up a little too neatly and I would have preferred a few questions go unanswered.

The cast is one of the best of the year and all have a strong presence.  It’s great to see some acting outside their usual range.  We see Willem Dafoe playing a good guy and Jodie Foster playing a not-so-nice girl.  These attributes help differentiate the film from others in the genre.

Inside Man is the most commercial film we’ve seen from director Spike Lee (25th Hour, Summer Of Sam, Do The Right Thing) is many years.  It’s also one of his best and I’m pretty confident you will think so too.