A police detective, a bank robber, and a high-power broker enter high-stakes negotiations after the criminal's brilliant heist spirals into a hostage situation.
Just looking at the component parts to Inside Man, you would be forgiven for thinking this film might not come together all that well. How many heist films have you seen in your life? How many cop dramas? Or my favorite, single-location thrillers? Probably quite a few, certainly more than you can easily count. If you already know that kind of film is not for you, skip this review – Inside Man is not going to be the film for you. But for fans of this particular niche genre, Inside Man is not only a good film, but there’s certain parts that elevate this above the rest of the pack.
The biggest happens at the start of the film, where Spike Lee opens up on Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) pulling a Now You See Me move (yes, I know that film came out later), telling you to listen and watch closely. It’s a simple psychological trick that gets you to pay more attention than you otherwise would. You read more into the film, into subtle nothings tricking yourself to believing that some side character becomes important later. To relate Inside Man to another magic film, this time one that also was released in 2006, The Prestige, the effects of this trickery – your increased attention – pays off in interesting ways. It sets up questions that don’t lead to answers, but are important nonetheless. And then when you finally think the twist has come, Spike Lee surprises you by bringing that tidbit back.
While Inside Man is well-executed and distinguished enough from the pack, it also isn’t all that unique. In the end it is still a heist film. The mysteries revealed during the movie aren’t so bonkers once you know them. Contrast that with. for example, Now You See Me. It is more magical and not exactly of the same vein as Inside Man, but is close enough to compare. My friends disagree with my enjoyment of Now You See Me but I think it takes a lot of similar notes of Inside Man and goes a step better. It’s unique, it stands-out. Inside Man is fun, invigorating, and head-scratching (in a good way), but it lacks that something special. Many times it comes close – and as I said the big reveal was something I was completely not expecting – but that’s not sustained for two hours.
4 out of 5