A tense and powerful thriller that fades at the end, "Inside Man" is an excellent bank heist film from unlikely director Spike Lee that just never delivers upon its promised and anticipated twists.
Spike Lee directs an all-star cast of Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, among others such as Christopher Plummer and Willem Dafoe, in this heist film that has the potential to be the next "Dog Day Afternoon." The movie starts off promising a twist ending - Owen's character, the lead bank robber, tells the camera that he has devised the perfect plan. From there, things play out as expected, with Owen and his cohorts taking over the bank and setting in motion… the perfect plan. Enter Denzel as the detective with something to prove and Jodie Foster as a mysterious third party with unknown interests and we have ourselves a plot.
Within moments you can tell there is more going on than meets the eye, but for much of the movie it is completely unclear as to what that is. This is where Lee really succeeds. Not only is the movie engaging, but it is clearly building up to something more. It forces you to watch every scene carefully to try to figure out how everything is going to play out. What will Foster's final role be? How does Owen plan to escape? What is he after? Will he succeed?
As for the acting, it is top notch. Washington is as you'd expect; this is his best performance since "Training Day." He was good in "The Manchurian Candidate," but is exceptional here. Owen, who continues to rise in the ranks as one of Hollywood's most interesting stars, is equally terrific as the calm and methodical villain, though the movie is more about his heist than his character. Foster is also quite good in an unordinary role as a cold and heartless lobbyist-for-hire.
Unfortunately, there is one place where "Inside Man" does not succeed. There was a point halfway through the movie where I was certain that I was watching the next "Unusual Suspects." "Inside Man" is engaging, exciting and intelligent, and every moment suggests it is leading up to something big. Better yet, though in hindsight the twist ending is given away early on, I wasn't able to figure it out. Unfortunately, the twist ending is not the amazing ending I was hoping for. It is good, but not great. You have a moment of realization, and then you just shrug it off.
Worse, the ending just fades instead of building up to something great. After the twist is revealed, it continues for a while longer and does not end the way you'd expect or want.
"Inside Man" is a good movie that unfortunately lacks the twist ending its script and advertisements suggested. Despite that, its acting and filmmaking is top notch and will easily be noted as one of the better films of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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