When you think of the films of Spike Lee, I can imagine some of the things that come to mind are didactic, pugnacious, and aggressive political commentary. In other words, you would think of a movie that looks nothing like ”Inside Man,” a tight thriller about the perfect bank robbery. But precisely because it resists the trappings of a typical Spike Lee movie, it’s my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.” (And also because it’s an AWESOME movie!)
You’ve seen plenty of movies about bank robbers, but none quite like Clive Owen’s Dalton Russell. He’s got a master plan to pull off the perfect heist, one that slowly and cryptically unveils itself in Spike Lee’s film. Russell is interested in more than just getting quickly in and out with the money; he’s willing to play the long game with the police and the hostages in unconventional ways. The tension is high as you wait to see when, if ever, his master plan will unravel.
Remarkably, it manages to hold up as some curious players with some very powerful ulterior motives enter the fray. Namely, there’s the wild-card of Jodie Foster’s power broker tampering with everything she can to keep some secrets hidden inside the bank. With so many people operating in the shadows and shades of grey, it makes the the quest of the righteous Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) all the more urgent and compelling.
There’s rarely a dull moment in “Inside Man,” and Lee manages to pull it off without ever needing to pull out a boombox and blare “Fight the Power.” There’s a little bit of commentary on multiculturalism in New York, but it’s hands-off and not particularly distracting from the point of the film. Which is, of course, to entertain for two hours and then yank the rug out from underneath the audience.