Friday, 27 January 2012

Inside Man (2006)

Inside Man is a 2006 crime-drama film directed by Spike Lee. It stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Willem Dafoe and Jodie Foster. The film's screenplay was written by Russell Gewirtz and produced by Brian Grazer. It was released in North America and several European markets on March 23 and 24, 2006.

The film was shot on location in New York City and features an expansive and diverse ensemble cast. In addition to being a cerebral crime thriller, the film handles issues of good and evil in unexpected sources, corruption, prejudice, multiculturalism in United States (and New York City in particular), and leaves several interpretations of right and wrong open to the audience.

The Plot

The film begins in medias res with Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) narrating his plight in the confines of an undisclosed cell, musing about the difference between a cell and a prison. Shortly afterwards, he begins in narration to describe the "perfect" plan for a bank robbery.

The robbery begins in flashback as robbers, dressed as painters and utilizing aliases under variants of the name "Steve," enter a bank, disable the security cameras, and seize control. All customers and bank employees are herded into the basement, where they are forced to surrender their keys and cell phones and change into painter uniforms and face masks identical to the robbers'. The hostages are locked into several rooms; periodically the robbers rotate them and sometimes place themselves in among the hostages at various points.

Meanwhile, the police surround the bank. Detectives Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) introduce themselves to Captain Darius (Willem Dafoe) and briefly discuss the situation. Russell demands that the police provide food, and they provide pizzas with electronic bugs in the boxes. They overhear conversations in a foreign language identified as Albanian. Eventually, they discover that the conversations are in fact propaganda recordings of deceased Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, implying that the robbers knew or guessed at the attempted surveillance.

After being informed of the robbery in progress, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), chairman of the board of directors and founder of the bank, hires "fixer" Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to try to arrange for the contents of his safe deposit box at the bank to remain secret. White meets with the mayor, then manipulates Frazier to let her talk with Russell. Mentioning the special interests she wants to protect, she persuades Russell to let her enter the bank to talk. When White requests access to the safe deposit box, Russell shows her a document bearing a swastika symbol, suggesting that Case received money, enough to fund his bank, from the Nazis during World War II for unspecified services that resulted in Jewish deaths. Russell reveals his motivation, saying, "All lies, they stink; you can cover them up for a while but they don't go away." After assuring Russell that Case will make him a very wealthy man if he destroys or covers up this document, White leaves.

Attempting a bluff, Frazier informs Russell that the plane he demanded is ready but he needs to confirm that all the hostages are safe before permitting them to leave. Russell allows him to enter the bank, and escorts Frazier around the building. As they check the hostages, they discuss the situation, and also Frazier's desire to propose to his girlfriend, something which Russell suggests he should do regardless of finances. Upon exiting the bank, Frazier attempts to overpower Russell, but another robber comes to Russell's aid. Russell lets Frazier leave unharmed with seemingly no repercussion for his attack. Frazier tells his colleagues that he intentionally tried to provoke Russell, but as Russell failed to harm him, he believes Russell is not a killer. Soon after, the robbers call and direct the police to point their cameras to a specific second-floor window where a hostage is executed. An enraged Frazier confronts Russell again, demanding to know the robbers' true intentions. Russell simply replies that Frazier is, "too damn smart to be a cop".

The execution incident prompts the ESU team into action, and they plan to raid the building, using rubber bullets to knock everyone out. Frazier, however, discovers that the written message inside a drawer Russell sent contains a hidden transmitter. He orders Captain Darius to recall his men, but Darius ignores him.

Inside the bank, Russell overheard the conversation between Darius and Frazier and is alarmed that the police plan to move in. The robbers detonate smoke bombs throughout the bank and release the hostages, resulting in a horde of identically dressed people exiting through the smoke in mass confusion. The police detain and interrogate everyone. However, the police are unable to distinguish the robbers from among the hostages, even Russell. The hostage execution is revealed to have been faked, the robbers' weapons turn out to be non-working replicas, and nothing appears to have been stolen, prompting Frazier's superiors to order him to bury the case.

Frazier, however, searches the bank's records and finds that safe deposit box #392 has never appeared on any records since the bank's founding in 1948. He obtains a search warrant to open it. He is then confronted by White, who informs him of Case's Nazi dealings. She attempts to persuade Frazier to drop his investigation, reminding him that she has held up her end of their deal (guaranteeing his promotion and returning money he was implicated in stealing prior to the events of the movie). He refuses, pointing out that he never agreed to such a deal, and plays back their earlier conversation from a secret audio recording pen, ensuring he is protected.

White confronts Case about his Nazi connections, and he confesses everything to her. She correctly surmises that the safe deposit box must have contained diamonds and that these were the robbers' true objective; Case then specifies a Cartier diamond ring, belonging to a Jewish friend whom he betrayed to the Nazis in exchange for money. Case is remorseful over his past, and had since engaged in international philanthropy to try to assuage his guilt.

Russell's opening monologue is then repeated, but with the revelation that Russell is in fact hiding behind a fake wall erected inside the bank's supply room, thus revealing him as the titular "Inside Man", for he has been inside the bank all along. He emerges a week after the incident, with the contents of Case's safe deposit box (including the documents and numerous small bags containing diamonds) in his backpack. As he exits the bank, he deliberately bumps into Detective Frazier, who does not recognize him. Russell's associates meet him in an SUV outside the bank. Asked about the missing ring, Russell assures them he has left it "in good hands."

Frazier opens the safe deposit box and finds a gum wrapper, along with the Cartier ring and a message: "Follow the ring." Frazier confronts Case, informing him of his intention to investigate the ring. He finds White, telling her that the ring was linked to Case's past. He offers White the pen with the recording and gives her a card for the Office of War Crimes Issues at the U.S. State Department to request they investigate the situation.

After his final encounter with White, Frazier goes home and finds a loose multi-carat diamond in his pocket, realizing it must have been slipped to him by the man he bumped into in the bank, and that man must have been Russell. As the movie ends, it is implied that Frazier will use the diamond to propose to his girlfriend.


Inside Man earned acclaim from several well-known critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently stands with an 86% rating, making it "Certified Fresh".
Allmovie 3.5/5
Empire 4/5
Roger Ebert 2.5/4
Rolling Stone 3/4
Premiere 3/4
IMDb 7.7/10
Metacritic 76/100

It was named one of the 10 best films of 2006 by the American Film Institute.

As of December 21, 2006, the film has grossed a total of US$88,513,495 in the United States box office and US$184,376,254 worldwide. Inside Man was Spike Lee's most financially successful movie, and it led to many offers for the director to make more bank heist films.

The Cast

Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier
Clive Owen as Dalton Russell
Willem Dafoe as Captain John Darius
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Detective Bill Mitchell
Jodie Foster as Madeleine White
Christopher Plummer as Arthur Case
Carlos Andrés Gómez as Kenneth Damerjian
Kim Director as Stevie, Valerie Keepsake
James Ransone as Steve-O
Bernie Rachelle as Chaim
Peter Gerety as Captain Coughlin
Victor Colicchio as Sergeant Collins
Waris Ahluwalia as Vikram Walia
Cassandra Freeman as Sylvia Frazier
Peter Frechette as Peter Hammond
Florina Petcu as Ilina Miritia

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