Spike Lee has always been a very politically and socially conscious filmmaker, with much of his work touching on topical elements that link us all together as human beings. This makes his straight-up genre picture, Inside Man, all the more atypical, as it’s one of the few gun-for-hire pictures that he’s put his name on. And it’s also one of his most overtly entertaining and stylish motion pictures. Denzel Washington was fantastic here, not exactly the guy who you think he is, and the same could be said for Clive Owen; this movie has many tricks up its sleeves, and I love how it kept you guessing as to the morality of the characters all the way until the end. Jodie Foster is extra-icy in this one, playing a bureaucratic serpent in an expensive wardrobe with a flexible moral compass. Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor round out the super supporting cast, with lots of familiar faces making up the various bank hostages who are central to the heist narrative that’s central to the story.
Russell Gewirtz’s script has a strong sense of anger running along the edges of the tight plotting that he created, and while there’s certainly a “message” at play, it’s buried neatly under the confines of dense plot threads and colorful dialogue. Snazzy cinematographer Matthew Libatique went for a slick and gritty visual style, with some really choice individual shots peppered all throughout the proceedings. Terence Blanchard’s blustery score hits some righteously jazzy notes; the opening credits with Chaiyya Chaiyya playing on the soundtrack are a total visual and sonic stunner. Terry George and Menno Meyjes both contributed to the script but didn’t receive on-screen credit, while Lee felt that this was his chance to do his version of Dog Day Afternoon. Released in 2006, Inside Man did strong box office and got rock solid reviews, and is always worth a revisit.