Spike Lee’s (25th Hour, She Hate Me) latest joint is a caper flick starring the always charismatic Denzel Washington (Out of Time), Clive Owen (most recently of Derailed), and Jodie Foster (Flightplan). This movie was a pleasure, obviously. It’s a no-brainer, a recipe for a hit: add Academy Award winners Washington and Foster, pour in a little Spike Lee, and stir. Voila.
The movie opens with Owen’s character explaining the bank heist that has presumably landed him in jail. We know that he executed the robbery, and we know where it took place. The story attempts to explain how and ultimately why it happened. The obvious motive is money, but the film takes an interesting turn when it appears that the events taking place inside the bank may not have anything to do with theft at all.
Regarding the performances, Washington can do no wrong, and neither can Foster, so you won’t find any criticism of them here. As long as they have a decent script to work with, they can act circles around almost anyone. Neither of them will be adding another Oscar to their mantle with this movie, but that’s not the point. Inside Man is clever and entertaining throughout, and Spike gets the most out of everyone. It was particularly nice to see Foster on screen in a departure from her recent pattern of freaked-out hero mom roles (Flightplan and Panic Room).
I’m also glad that Spike Lee, in my opinion, cannot be pigeon-holed as a director. Yes, he is THE premier black filmmaker of our era, and has been a pioneer in portraying the black experience—but Lee has demonstrated that he can tell ANY story, not just those involving African-American themes. He first showed the ability to branch out with Summer of Sam, which featured an entirely white cast, and also with 2002’s 25th Hour, one of my absolute favorites. In sum, Inside Man does not take the caper flick to a whole new level, but it’s a nice addition to the genre and well worth seeing.