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Review By: Freddie LaFemina
You’re probably wondering, ‘What is Spike Lee doing directing a bank heist/hostage flick?’ Could the uncompromising urban artisan be abandoning his roots for big studio popcorn flicks, just because they still let him have Denzel? Is the aging director, nearing the big 5-0, looking to shore up some Hollywood cred and become a complacent Inside Man himself? Are we seeing a new side of Spike? Hardly. That’s not to say Lee says nothing new in his take on an unfamiliar genre, but he
is right at home with familiar yet ever pertinent themes that seem content to exist on the film’s thematic periphery until they are thrust to center stage near its midpoint. So pay attention – there is a puzzle to be pieced together in Inside Man, but it has little to do with a bank heist.
Before the first ten minutes of the film expire, the bank robbery – led by the quiet and determined Dalton Russell (Clive Owen, who will spend most of the film behind a mask and sunglasses), – is in full swing. If this initial event takes place rather quickly, Lee seems content to take his time positioning the rest of his chess pieces before he allows the action to proceed. Across town somewhere, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and his partner Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) receive word that the bank has been seized and that they are assigned to the case since the man who would normally go is on vacation. Frazier and Mitchell don’t seem too excited or particularly scared, declaring, “Bad guys here we come,” as they gather their things and hastily walk out the office.
Back at the crime scene, police arrive in droves, strategically placing cars and men, setting up a perimeter, discouraging the guaranteed New York City onlookers from coming too close. This scene plays out in varying degrees of urgency, but it is decidedly methodical. Based on the way the camera moves and the patience by which Lee allows the scene to unfold, the viewer cannot help but notice of the parallel scenes playing out, one in which the actors in the film take several minutes to set the stage for the spectacle of the modern bank robbery, while Lee and his camera crew set up to document this fictitious scenario. You almost expect to see the film crew rigging up their equipment. Hence, the stage