Inside Man (Universal Pictures, R)

Spike Lee’s latest release, Inside Man, is an intriguing story about the perfect bank robbery. Well, the surface story is about a bank robbery, but like so many other Spike Lee joints, the story has more layers than an onion. The plot follows the action of everyone involved: the robbers themselves, Detective Frazier (Denzel Washington) who is on duty when the crime is committed, and the bank president, Mr. Case (Christopher Plummer) who has more to lose than just his wealth.

The beauty of the story is that Lee always keeps the audience guessing. From the film’s title, it can be inferred that the bank robbers have some help from the inside to pull their caper off. For the majority of the movie, I was concentrating on figuring out who that person was when I should have been paying attention to what was being stolen. This is not your typical bank robbery, nor is this your typical bank robbery movie.

Russell Gewirtz did a superb job in making sure that there were plenty of juicy roles to go around when he was writing the script. Washington sizzles in his role as the hard-nosed cop, Jodie Foster is allowed to be the perfect ice queen in her role as Madeline White, and Clive Owen was positively villainous in his role as Dalton Russell, bank robber supreme.

Not only were the main roles well–thought out, but Lee also allowed the smaller roles to have their moment in the spotlight. There were a number of terrific supporting performances, including Willem Dafoe as Capitan Darius and Peter Frechette (Grease 2’s Louis DiMucci) in a small role as a bank employee. That is one of the things I love about Lee’s movies: He manages to get the most out of his talented cast, no matter what size of role they have.

One fascinating technique employed by the film was the use of several interviews with hostages sequestered in the bank. Intermixed within the real timeline of the story, these interviews—which occur after the hostages are freed—helped give the story depth. At first perplexing, the interviews eventually help fill holes in the complex story line.

Mainstream audiences may leave the theater scratching their heads, seeing how Lee didn’t bother to tie up all the loose ends and put a big happy bow on the end. However, he did do a sensational job in illustrating the fact that sometimes secrets are more valuable than all the gold in the world. While not my favorite Spike Lee movie, Inside Man is an enjoyable story full of terrific characters and engrossing plot lines.

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