Washington's performance rock solid Inside and out
March 27, 2006 —
If you are to take only one thing away from Inside Man, it would be this:
Never trust the painters.
That's because within the first few minutes of the film, a group of bank robbers dressed as painters come storming into a Manhattan bank with AK-47s, serving as the catalyst to what turns out to be a very enjoyable movie.
The plot here is cut and dry, if not overused. A group of super intelligent thieves take hostages while robbing a bank in broad daylight and the cops have to come and save the day. Some things happen and the movie ends. But what makes up for the recycled story is the perfection of those things outside the plot.
The acting in Inside Man is superb, the writing is flawless, and Spike Lee made me forget I was watching a movie, something that should always be on the mind of a good director.
Denzel Washington has the lead role as Detective Keith Frazier, a veteran hostage negotiator called in to take care of the dangerous situation.
No stranger to the detective role, Washington provides a cocky swagger similar to the one which earned him an Oscar in Training Day. That's not a bad thing, though. Washington was powerfully convincing in the 2001 hit and again steals the show here.
While it's not unexpected that Washington stole the show, it is somewhat surprising how easily he did it. But again, that's not a bad thing.
With a supporting cast that has two Oscars and five more nominations amongst them, I was expecting an ego clash power struggle throughout the film. Instead, Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe take on supplemental roles (but are still phenomenal) and Clive Owen spends most of his time covered by a painter's mask and is not on display as often as you would expect. Clearly, then, Inside Man is a perfect example of how a star studded cast can co-exist when everyone knows their role and sticks to it.
After seeing this movie, the question I asked the most was: Does good acting make the writing or does good writing make the acting? In this case, it's probably both.
Owen's character, Dalton Russell, is done well; a villain mastermind who we almost end up rooting for instead of against. He is sure of himself and his plan, saying that he will walk right out the front door of the bank when he is good and ready. And better yet, we believe him.
Sure, part of the reason we believe Dalton is that the movie is told partially through flashbacks which hint that the bad guys escaped. But spoiler this is not. It doesn't matter if the audience knows that Dalton will escape, only how he will do so. This adds that final something to the film that not only gives the audience an enjoyable movie but somewhat of a puzzle to figure out as they go along.
If the movie does have fault, it was with Foster's character, Madeline White, and the circumstances surrounding her. Madeline is a lawyer-like figure who is paid big money to make problems go away. The problem in this case happens to be that the owner of the bank being robbed has something in a safety deposit box that he wants to keep safe.
So Madeline pulls some strings and is somehow allowed into the building where she explains to Dalton the problem at hand. Dalton, however, already knows what's in the box (we aren't told how) and it appears as if Madeline and Dalton reach an agreement that the contents of the box in question will remain under wraps.
Of course, Dalton cleverly leaks the contents and the last 20 minutes of the movie focus on Detective Frazier trying to uncover the secret of the safety deposit box. While the safety deposit box story can be clunky at times, the ending is neat which does help bail it out.
Overall, Inside Man is a solid, worth-your-money movie that will keep you in suspense for its entire 129-minute run time. If you can ignore the few awkward plot devices that are treated more importantly than they really are, then this movie could prove itself to be one of the best films of early 2006.