Plot: What’s it about?
I have to admit that when it comes to a Spike Lee movie (oh, I mean a Spike Lee “joint”) it’s kind of hit and miss with me. While I applaud his previous efforts like “Malcolm X” and “Do the Right Thing” I couldn’t really get into “Bamboozled” and “Crooklyn”. That’s not to say they were bad movies, just not really my thing. Lee has ventured outside of his box with his last few efforts, the gritty “25th Hour” with Edward Norton was one of my recent favorites and with his fourth re-teaming with Denzel Washington, I couldn’t help but be intrigued to see “Inside Man”. It’s a stellar cast, for sure, featuring Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen and the nearly legendary Christopher Plummer. Then again cops and robbers movies are about as old as movies themselves. Can we really show an angle of a bank robbery that hasn’t been shown dozens of times before? And if so, how long will it take for another filmmaker to copy it on the next movie? There’s a reason these actors are at the top of their game and one of the reason ‘Inside Man” works on a variety of levels.
Washington plays Detective Keith Frazier, a well-respected officer in the NYPD who has had some shady deals in the past. He’s been assigned to be a negotiator in a bank robbery turned hostage situation. As we know, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his group of masked cohorts have decided to rob a local bank. But, in an attempt to get away with it, they dress the occupants of the bank to look exactly like themselves. It’s an odd twist on the classic bank robber motif, and one that’s so ingenious it wouldn’t surprise me that some “real” bank robbers used it. Frazier is trying to diffuse the situation and at the same time trying to cater to the demands of Russell. This is before we meet Madeline White (Jodie Foster), a hired gun who is working for the Chairman of the Board, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer). Can Frazier successfully negotiate the situation or will one of New York’s most prestigious banks be robbed?
There’s a lot going on in “Inside Man”, but Lee manages to make it work. I feel that Jodie Foster’s part is a bit wasted, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t do well in her role. I’ve never really pictured any of her characters to be the aloof, arrogant type but she pulls it off. Washington, perhaps my favorite living actor, is great in his role and is actually *gasp* showing signs of aging! Clive Owen is also great in his role of the antagonist as well, though he’s covered by a mask for most of the film. The movie manages to be tense without making a mockery of it and original enough that you don’t feel cheated after the credits role. On a side note, I will say that a face stood out in the cast and after the ending credits rolled, I knew why. In the role of “Mobie Command Officer Berk” is a High School friend of mine, Ashlie Atkinson who was with me in a few school plays. While she’s gone onto one side of the gig, I’ve gone to the other. Small world, eh? All that aside, “Inside Man” was a great, taut action movie that is certainly worthy of a viewing.
Video: How does it look?
“Inside Man” sports a 2.40:1 VC-1 HD transfer is spot on and is one of the more impressive transfers I’ve seen in recent memory. Colors really seem to pop, even though the majority of the movie has a somewhat muted tone to it. Detail level is superior to the standard DVD in every way and I noticed a few of the background scenes which were a bit fuzzy in the standard DVD transfer are cleaned up a lot now. This is the exact same transfer as was used for the HD-DVD and suffice it to say that most any new to the format disc will look great on a next generation format and “Inside Man” is no exception.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby TrueHD track used on the HD-DVD has been replaced with Universal’s “new” standard of a DTS Master Audio track. The film has a very jazzy, urban beat to it and while the majority of the film is dialogue-driven, there are moments when I craned my neck around and kind of sat there in awe as the soundtrack did its thing. While not the best-sounding track out there, I don’t fault the audio as the movie sounds like it was made to be a bit on the lower end of the audio spectrum. I was hard-pressed to find much difference between the two tracks, but there’s nothing wrong with the way this sounds, for sure.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Universal has ported over all of the same supplements from the standard DVD and HD-DVD and added a BD-Live functionality to the disc as well. First up is a commentary with Director Spike Lee who dishes on the making of the movie and the high-profile cast. Lee gives a great commentary who’s chatty all the way through. There are some 25 minutes of deleted scenes and with the movie being 2 plus hours already, it’s clear to see why they were left out of the final cut. There’s the obligatory The Making of Inside Man” with some interviews with the cast and crew and some behind the scenes footage. What’s most interesting, though, is “Number 4” which is a one on one with Denzel Washington and Spike Lee. The two are obviously close friends and they rehash their previous movies together. For the record they’re “Mo Better Blues”, “Malcolm X”, “He Got Game’ and “Inside Man”. Both are very candid about their thoughts on each others movies and roles. It’s a nice touch and a good featurette.