Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Inside Man

While watching Spike Lee's Inside Man, the first thing one notices is the definite change of tone of the film compared to his previous work.

The movie just feels lighter.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Spike is undoubtedly a very talented director, who has always had strong political statements weaved into his films. He's a director who often provokes his audiences.... to the point of feeling uncomfortable, and often times angry.

But I often wondered to myself, what kind of movie would Spike Lee make if he was just having a sense a commercial film designed to entertain and please the most people possible.

The answer is the enjoyable, and amusing Inside Man.

On a seemingly normal day, several bank robbers take over an exclusive corporate bank. The ring leader is the charismatic and intelligent Dalton Russell, played by Clive Owen. The detectives in charge of the case played by Denzel Washington and Chiwetel Ejifor, arrive on the scene and shortly discover that this is no ordinary bank take over. When a mysterious bank official played by Jodie Foster arrives, things take an even more complicated turn. Can the detectives avoid the seemingly inevitable bloody conclusion, like most bank robberies, or can they uncover the real motives for this unusual bank take-over?

What makes this movie refreshing is the unusual twists and turns the film takes with the genre.

It's obvious that the writer Russel Gerwitz, and Spike Lee are well aware of the different expectations in this type of movie, and they use those expectations to their advantage as they create mystery, and tension in the movie while twisting and tweaking those expectations.

The film is suspenseful, and exciting, while delivering plenty of thrills.

But the film also features surprising oddly placed humor throughout the film to disarm and amuse us.

It's the first clue that Spike Lee is having fun with the viewer, and is obviously making a conscious effort to make this an audience friendly affair.

The movie also benefits from strong acting from the entire cast.

Denzel Washington and Clive Owen do an excellent job of anchoring the film.

But it's especially refreshing to see an engaging performance from Jodie Foster.

For some time now, we've seen her play mediocre heroine-type caricatures, in films like Flightplan and Contact. It's nice to see her stretch her legs a bit, and play a grounded, complex, character with morally ambiguous motivations.

Christopher Plummer, Wilem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejifor round out the excellent cast, with solid enjoyable performances.

But ultimately the movie's success has to be credited to Spike Lee.

Sure the movie is not as provocative, and demanding...... or even as important as a lot of his earlier work. But it's good to see that Spike Lee acknowledge his abilities to deliver a well- executed standard mystery/suspense film, that one can enjoy with some popcorn and candy.

Although it's often commendable that artists try to provoke audiences to think politically, and challenge people into discussion.

It's also important to sometimes take a step back, and accept that ultimately an artist's job is to entertain.

And that's one thing that I can guarantee about Inside Man.......that it's entertaining.

Check it out now on DVD.

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