I have to admit a weakness for movies that are thinking thrillers. A film that makes me think — not only about what’s going to happen next, but what’s really going on that the director and actors aren’t yet revealing to me yet. This keeps me on the edge of my seat and always captures my full attention.
From the time I saw the opening trailers of Inside Man, I knew I had to see the film. I missed it when it went through the theaters and regretted it. But I couldn’t get anyone to watch it with me. This is one of those films where you whisper back and forth to each other, trying to prove that you’re cleverer than the writer, director, and actors.
I have to admit, I figured out most of the plot as the movie progressed, but I did so at the proper times. During the two hours I watched, I was nailed to the seat and wasn’t even tempted to hit the pause button on the DVD player.
Inside Man is a slow-burner of sorts, though it starts out with the slam-bang action fest during the bank robbery that takes place at the start of the film. The thieves show cutting-edge tech by taking the cameras out with an infrared light projector, throw out smoke grenades, and start screaming at people to get down while waving AK-47s in their faces.
Almost immediately, a patrolman discovers the bank robbery and it looks like everything is about to turn bloody. The action switches to Detective Frazier (Denzel Washington), who’s currently under investigation by Internal Affairs for $140,000 that went missing from a bust. He’s put in charge of the negotiation situation, though.
Some attention is paid to the arrival of the SWAT team and how the two different law enforcement mindsets (negotiate versus kill-‘em-all) operate differently, but not enough is revealed to really show the inner workings. It almost looks like the bank robbery is going to be solved in the first thirty minutes, except that the bank robbers turn out to be too calm, too controlled. Frazier gets the feeling immediately that something is wrong.
The action spins out again, picking up the story of Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer in a role that he plays to the hilt). Case is strangely concerned that, out of the numerous banks he owns, the robbers have chosen to hit this one, which is probably the most secure of them all. You know from the start that Case has something in the bank he doesn’t want anyone else to know about.
The story moves again, shifting over to Madeline White (Jodie Foster), who is playing some kind of black bag go-between and specializes in making deals for politicos and the very wealthy. Madeline White doesn’t mind playing dirty and she pulls in favors from people who owe her -– including the mayor.
Everything is in the mix now. I love a good heist movie when the twists and turns are there and Inside Man almost has them. Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) is coldly calculating and clever. The bit where the bank manager tried to hold out his cell phone and Dalton caught him at it was pure dynamite. Once I knew how Dalton was going to catch the man in his lie, I couldn’t help watching to see what was going to happen. (And it’ll make you wonder how many people have your cell phone number stored in their phone’s memory!)
The story continues on with Frazier trying to get a grip on what’s really going on at the bank with Dalton putting everything together — including the mystery of safe deposit box 392 and the enigma of the hole in the floor and Madeline spinning deals around for everyone involved.
The camera moves quickly, jumping from place to place, which gives the movie a lot of momentum the script didn’t truly have. This kind of action on the screen and interaction between the main characters made the film a lot more absorbing. Telling a friend about it would take only a few minutes, but watching everything unravel onscreen is really a lot of fun and that makes the overall effort work.
Looking back on the movie, though, there are a tremendous amount of plot holes, such as how Dalton knew about safe deposit box 392. Why didn’t Frazier start to wonder when the executed hostage’s body wasn’t thrown out into the street?
Even the end was almost too easy. The bank robbers shouldn’t have been able to escape so easily and I didn’t quite understand why Dalton had to stay behind for so long.
However, there were a number of nice touches (that were also somewhat beyond belief –- such as Dalton and Frazier bumping into each other and the mysterious appearance of the diamond in Frazier’s pocket at an opportune time) that made Inside Man a truly enjoyable experience.
If you missed the film in the theaters, pick up the DVD. You’ll have a great evening of entertainment, a puzzle that’s almost fair, and you’ll get to see Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, and Christopher Plummer doing really solid work.