Inside Man Review

This review was originally posted for MovieRob‘s heist-themed Genre Grandeur (which was chosen by yours truly 😀 ).

Inside Man movie posterSynopsis
Hostage negotiator Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) gets called in when a Manhattan bank gets taken over by bank robbers, led by Dalton Russell (Clive Owen). Russell claims to have planned the perfect heist and is always one step ahead of the police. Meanwhile, the bank’s owner (Christopher Plumber) hires Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to speak with the robbers and retrieve his prized possession contained in one of the safe deposit boxes.

For my entry in this heist-themed Genre Grandeur, I was going to pick my favorite heist film, Ocean’s Eleven, but didn’t choose it for two reasons: 1) I’ve already reviewed it (which you can check out here), and 2) I’m hoping someone else chooses it for their Genre Grandeur entry. Instead, I opted to go with another one of my top heist films: Inside Man. Inside Man may not have the same fun atmosphere as Ocean’s Eleven but what it does have is a heist where the audience only has what little information the main characters have.

Heist films can be told from either the robbers’ perspective or the police’s perspective. Most often, whichever perspective the movie is told from, chances are that is who will prevail over the other. However, it is very hard to tell who will win the cat-and-mouse game in Inside Man. The movie is told from the police’s perspective but the robbers always seem to be one step ahead of them. As the audience, we are kept just as in the dark about the robber’s true motives as Detective Frazier (Denzel Washington) and the rest of the police force. It really keeps you engrossed in the film and on the edge of your seat if you don’t already know what is coming.

Denzel Washington and Clive Owen are both fantastic in this film. I wouldn’t say it is one of their best films for either actor but they are both able to take their parts and run with them. I liked Owen better, but only slightly, because he had the calm and collected thief mastermind shtick down. Washington and Chiwetel Ejiofor are so much fun to watch on screen together. They make a perfect pair of detectives, easily bouncing off each other and clearly having fun.

This film utilizes a seldom-used technique of flash forwards. These are used to get the some of the hostages’ perspectives about the bank robbery, as well as offer some exposition and even foreshadow events that are to come. Like I said, this technique isn’t used very often in movies and I thought it was used to great effect here. However, I wish it would have been used more because it only occurred a few times randomly in the middle act of the film. It could have been used more frequently to see more of the robbery from the hostages’ point-of-view. Maybe it was a time constraint (the film runs over two hours) or Spike Lee not wanting to offer too much of a good thing and leave us wanting more.

I feel like Jodie Foster’s character wasn’t necessary to the plot. She mainly served as exposition for what the robbers were going after and why it was so important to the bank owner, Arthur Case (Christopher Plumber). This information could have been given through Case’s discussions with the police or by Owen’s character, since it is the item he is trying to steal.

I thought Inside Man was GREAT :-D. Washington and Owen steal the show with their performances in a film with many other big names. The third main character, played by Foster, doesn’t feel completely necessary to the plot. Flash forwards are a cool effect used in the film that I wanted to see more of. Inside Man keeps you just as off balance as the other characters without becoming too complicated it trips over itself, creating a fantastic payout in the end.

Favorite Quote
Detective Mitchell: Let me see your shoe.
Detective Frazier: Huh?
Mitchell: Let me see your shoe.
Frazier: Why?
Mitchell: ‘Cause I have never seen anybody put their foot that far up a guy’s ass.


Cast & Crew
Spike Lee – Director
Russell Gewirtz – Writer
Terence Blanchard – Composer

Denzel Washington – Detective Keith Frazier
Clive Owen – Dalton Russell
Jodie Foster – Madeleine White
Christopher Plumber – Arthur Case
Williem Dafoe – Captain John Darius
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Detective Bill Mitchell
Carlos Andres Gomez – Steve
Kim Director – Stevie
James Ransone – Steve-O
Bernie Rachelle – Chaim
Peter Gerety – Captain Coughlin
Victor Colicchio – Sergeant Collins
Cassandra Freeman – Sylvia

Salt Review

Salt movie posterSynopsis
Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a top CIA agent who is forced to go on the run when a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski) accuses her of being a Russian sleeper agent. Salt must use her years of field experience to evade fellow CIA agent Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and counterintelligence officer Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who are on her trail.

Salt is one of my favorite “is she, isn’t she?” movies I have seen. One moment you’re like “She can’t be working for the Russians.” Then her actions make you think “well maybe she is.” Then the cycle repeats itself throughout the entire movie. It makes for an exhilarating experience that keeps you engaged in the story.

Because there are several twists, you never know quite what to expect. The final twist was unexpected and well done. I did not see it coming, but it wasn’t entirely out of left field, either. A lot of movies try to throw in a plot twist for the shock value but it doesn’t fit into the movie’s context. Not here. In Salt, it actually makes sense. I probably would have given this film a lower rating if the twist didn’t work so well. I’m a sucker for a unexpected (but well done) plot twist.

The ending was left open for a sequel, if they wanted to make one. However, the plot had closure, so there really wouldn’t be any reason to unless it was a good story. Still, it’s cool to know the possibility is there.

Jolie once again proves why she is one of the best female action stars in Hollywood right now. She doesn’t completely dominate in fights, but rather uses her environment to her advantage, such as jumping off a wall to add power to a punch. Some action movies make their heroines thoroughly thrash her opponents, and that’s not always believable. But in Salt, Jolie fights in a manner that fits her stature and you can believe in her strength level.

Throughout the film, Jolie’s hair cleverly portrays her character’s state of mind. In the first act, it is blonde, a simile to her innocent and laid back outlook. Then it is dyed black in the second act, showing she has taken a dark turn and will do anything to find her husband. The last act has her hair cut short, symbolizing her severing ties to her past and doing what it takes to finish the job. Maybe I’m looking into it too much, but it is still interesting to think about.

Here’s some movie trivia: The character of Evelyn Salt was originally written as Edwin A. Salt and was offered to Tom Cruise. However, Jolie took the role when Cruise turned it down because he felt it was too similar of a character to Mission Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt.

If you like movies with a good twist, Salt is the movie for you. Great action and shifting character motives that keep you on your toes keep this seemingly generic movie from going dull.