Friday, 21 February 2020

Movie review: Inside Man, dir Spike Lee (2006)

I’ve been gravitating to older fare on Netflix, using the little snippet of text that appears when, with the arrow button on the remote control, you bring each show icon into focus. This one was, I saw, by a famous director but it was listed in the “Action and Adventure” section on the home page, so I was intrigued. “Spike Lee doing an action movie?” I thought to myself. “That sounds like fun.”

It was. The story is of a bank robbery, in fact, so it’s a heist. The bad guy, Dalton Russell, is played by Clive Owen and Denzel Washington plays Keith Frazier, a detective from the NY Police Department who is brought in to get the hostages – there are about 40 of them – out of the bank building. Other stars in the film are William Dafoe as a NYPD uniformed cop, Jodie Foster as a fixer, and Christopher Plummer as the bank’s owner. There’s also Chiwetel Ejiofor as Frazier’s partner.

It’s interesting that Lee chose to do a movie like this at this time – half a generation ago now – when PC was starting to be used in artworks conforming to the rules of genres such as crime, romance, or fantasy. In this sense, Lee was ahead of the curve. Another genre that has since boomed in popularity even as it is full of social commentary is the superhero movie.

In Lee’s film, there is plenty of knowing humour and engaging dialogue. Washington is excellent as the sassy NY cop who has carved out a space for himself despite adversity. In order to give him space to shine, Dafoe plays his character with a straight bat, as does Plummer. Foster is creepy as the college-educated insider with flexible morals.

The plot is complex and the means by which the baddies execute their plan is devious. The music is really amazing using, to create suspense at unexpected moments, the kinds of heroic chords that you find in cowboy films. But there is no gratuitous violence. I was really impressed by this movie, which did well at the box office and got good reviews when it first screened.

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