I've decided to try and create a series of blogs analysing films that were either received badly at the time of their release or so just didn't get the attention they deserved. I'm not going to re-review these movies, but simply analyse why I think they still work and would be worth a watch for anyone who's interested.
This is not a review, this is just a post to try and hopefully tweak peoples interest, so they might decide to go back and watch the movie.
The first film I'll be looking at is going to be Spike Lee's 2006 film - Inside Man. Starring Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen and Christopher Plumber. It tells the story of the perfect bank robbery and the powerful elements at play surrounding it. It will be hard to analyse this film without giving away spoilers, so I won't go into too much detail about the plot. Also, I feel that this is the kind of film that the less you know sitting down to watch it the better.
So below is my quick snippet plot summary. Also, if you want to know more about the plot just look up IMBD.
So clever bank robber (Clive Owen) has clever plan to rob a bank. Is pursued by good cop(Denzel Washington) who badly needs a win; throw in a shady owner of the bank(Christopher Plumber) who hides a shady past and so decides to bring in a mysterious business woman(Jodie Foster) who has ties to a lot of powerful people, so that his past does not get unearthed, and what you have is a well-rounded - all be it with some holes - clever bank heist movie.
The whole point of this movie is to just sit back and let it take you through the story. In my opinion, a good movie is one that knows how and when to give you information. And that's what this movie does well.
We start the film with Clive Owen's character looking into the frame and telling us to listen carefully "I choose my words carefully". And this is certainly true for the film itself. This film doesn't deal with the usual thriller questions of Will they? Or Won't they?. This deals with the question of How?
This is the driving question behind this movie. Knowing the questions that the filmmakers want the audience to asks allows them to subvert the audience's expectation. Inside Man does this extremely skillfully. Right at the 30min mark, it switches timelines. To say any more would ruin the story, and as I said above I want tweak peoples interest so they go back and watch this movie. Hopefully with a new perspective.
But, with the changing timelines, it reinforces the question to the audience. We are now firmly in the perspective of Det. Frazer, trying to figure out how everything has unfolded.
We never really see Clive Owen's face without his mask until the midpoint. The film very skillfully introduces us to all the main players including the hostages (who we see more of at the start than Clive Owen) and still progress the story within the first ten minutes. This is a real testament to the screenwriter Russell Gerwitz.
I'll start by saying I haven't really seen much of Spike Lee's back catalogue, mainly because I find him to be fairly hit or miss as a Director. But, he does a good job here.
One aspect that has Lee's name all over it is how he brings us into the time and place of the story. Lee brings the tensions of New York post 911 into certain scenes. To be honest I felt that some of at certain times this was a bit over done. There is a scene where a Sikh man is complaining about constantly being harassed going through airports that just felt a little bit out of place in the movie.
There is no doubt Lee has been hugely influenced by 'Dog Day Afternoon', even going so far as to have the characters reference it in the film.
A directors main job is to assemble and oversee the entire filmmaking process. This is what Lee has done well here. Good casting of actors and crew which has allowed him to oversee the material but at the same time preventing him from stamping his name all over it - which he has a tendency to do in some of his work.
Probably the best part about this movie is the performances. The more I see Denzel in films like this, the more I see why he is as big an actor as he deserves to be. He plays the part of Det. Keith Frazer, a good cop who has had some recent setbacks in his career. Det. Frazer is unexpectedly given the opportunity to deal with the bank robbery. An opportunity that he hopes will help get his career back on track.
Denzel is natural in his delivery but at the same time can carry a presence on screen that very people can match. In fact, I'll go so far as to say if it wasn't for his performance (along with Jodi Foster's) this film could have been a real dud.
He leaves the ego to Clive Owen's character, Dalton Russell, and ego is what Dalton has. This is what separates him from Det. Frazer. He knows what he is doing and is one step ahead at all times.
I will also give credit to Clive Owen's performance. Even though we don't see his face for most of the film, he still manages to give us a sense of Dalton's character through his tone and movement.
Then we have Jodie Foster, who fits in the middle of these two characters perfectly. Although we never really get a good sense of who her character is (one of the faults of the film) she still manages to be the join within the story, making it more about a historical heist rather than one taking place at this moment in the film.
For a long time, I've been a fan of Matthew Libatique. Probably one of the most versatile DP's working today. Although I am more of a fan of his work with Darren Aronofsky; it is still impressive that he can from low budget realism to the sleek stylish block buster films of Marvel's Iron Man.
In this, he lends more to the slick and stylish. But, one thing he does really is well is using the camera to separate both Denzel and Clive Owen's characters. Using Steadicam shots when we see Dalton, showing that he is a man in control of the situation. And low angle hand-held shots on Det. Frazer to give us this sense of a man who is trying to get control.
He also breaks up the image when we jump timelines. Creating a more grainy look that creates a certain distorted feel to what is going on.
Some of the main problems (for me) was the lack of time giving to Jodi Foster's character. As I said above we never really get a sense of who she is and what she is ultimately about. This has an impact on the ending as she is very much a part of it. Because Jodi Foster is always so good on screen, as an audience we always want to see more of her. And the film never really delivers on this.
Also, the end tends to drag just a bit. And almost goes into a strange film noir feel in the last scene.
And, the less said about the mad Indian pop music that plays at the start and is then never heard from again, the better.
But, what this film is a purely entertaining. It keeps you guessing all the way through and has some nice twist at the end. If you sit down with a couple of beers and a pizza you won't be disappointed - at least I wasn't anyway.
I hope you enjoyed the post. I'm going to try and do one or two of these a week. If you have any suggestions of films that you feel went under the radar and didn't get the credit you think it deserved. Fire the name into the comments and I'll compile a list
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