Inside Man - the movie (spoilers)

Just saw Inside Man last night. This is the bank robbery movie with Clive Owen robbing a bank and Denzel Washington as the detective/negotiator trying to stop him.

Had a couple comments. Waiting below the line.

First off, the overall plan for robbing the bank was pretty ingenious. I liked how they made all the hostages dress up in the same outfits as themselves (jumpsuits, masks). It made it easy to blend in with the hostages when exit time came. It also made the tactical situation harder on cops looking to bust in. You can’t tell who the bad guys are, it’s hard to send in SWAT.

They also had a pretty ingenious method of making sure they could be ID’d as hostages by other hostages. Because all the hostages were wearing the same suits and masks, and they spread them out in smaller groups, then shuffled them around from time to time, it made it easy to rotate a kidnapper into a room as a hostage for a time, then rotate out. That let the kidnappers do things to get recognized by other hostages for the post robbery interviews.

For instance, the one guy taking off his mask and talking big. He made sure people ID’d his voice and a couple got looks at him. Then one of the others came in and dragged him out kicking and screaming, making a huge scene. He disappears, but enough people saw him as a hostage that later someone will ID him as “no way he was a kidnapper”.

Two things bug me. One is simple, the other a massive spoiler.

  1. During one scene near the end of the movie, Denzel’s character is in the police van and then the robbers execute a hostage on camera. So he goes “running” out of the van and up to the bank doors. However, up to this point the movie had been filmed conventionally, people actually doing the actions. For this one scene, though, instead of having Denzel run to the bank, they put him on some sort of trailer and have it drive, so you see him standing still in the foreground and whipping through the background. WTF? Totally broke the realism, the suspension of disbelief. Totally out of character for the rest of the filming. It was like they had a different director for this one scene who thought this would be really cool.

  2. The big secret of the movie is the exit strategy for Clive Owen’s character, the head bank robber. He is the one who talks to the cops, and is most memorable. So he doesn’t leave with the crowd of hostages. Instead, they build a fake wall in the back of the supply room, and he hides out a la Anne Frank behind the bookcase. Okay, I can see how the fake wall could fool the cops, who had never been in the room before. But he didn’t just hang out a few hours, he stayed for a whole week, and left after the bank was up and running again. So how come no bank employee noticed that the supply room was suddenly 5 feet shorter? Surely someone who used the supply room would notice that, even if he didn’t give off any telltale noises or sounds during that time.

Otherwise it was an entertaining and enjoyable movie. Though I did easily outguess a couple of plot points. I knew right away the banker’s secret was being a NAZI collaborator, as soon as Jodie Foster’s character started elaborating on why he clearly had a deep dark secret or he wouldn’t be talking to her.

IMHO, this was a bad attempt at doing something akin to a Hitchcock zoom. You make the scene Super Intense and Unsettling by keeping the subject centered and messing with your visual perception. The problem is most such zooms are upon a stationary subject. So Spike gets the idea to do this tracking dolly-shot on Denzel’s head, to make it look like the intensity of the moment has forced him involuntarily forward, but it just looks ridiculous.

I think the space behind the wall was only one foot wide or so. It’s dubious, but not a lot of people go in there, and it was behind cluttered shelves and other detritus. It’s conceivable that it would go unnoticed. But think of it from the point-of-view from someone who isn’t in on it. If you walked into a room that appeared one foot shorter and said to yourself, “shit, this room looks one foot shorter!” what would your conclusion be? That a robber from the incident last week has been hiding in the room all this time? Or that the room is just shorter than you thought it was?

This is actually a signature conceit that Spike has used in a lot of his films:

If you’ve seen any of those other films, the “float” effect is meant to reflect a certain psychological interiority, where the shot is supposed to show the perception of the character and not any type of traditional reality. In Inside Man, all the cops and back-up recede far into the distance, with the shot intending to show a sense of focus and urgency in Denzel that we haven’t seen in his character yet. This is a turning point for him in the film, and the shot suggests that moment of transition (similiar transitions or shifts occur in the other films in a similar way).

Is it obvious and maybe a little too showy? Sometimes. And certainly in a genre picture like Inside Man, it certainly looks a bit out of place.

But it can be used to wonderful effect, too. In *Malcolm X*, the film follows a traditional biopic style, but when the dolly shot is used (7:00 mark), Malcolm has achieved a level of serenity within the story, as if he knows and accepts his fate. It shows a state of grace and peace in him, and for a movie that concentrates so much on his spiritual journey, it’s a perfect little visual grace note as well as a piece of foreshadowing (since he gets assassinated minutes later). Similarly, the two uses in 25th Hour are expertly calibrated to accentuate the free-spirited zone Anna Paquin immerses herself in in the club, as well as the panicky disorientation Philip Seymour Hoffman experiences a few minutes later.

It’s definitely a YMMV piece of artifice, but there’s definitely a method to Spike’s madness; he has a specific reason for using it, even if it doesn’t register to the OP the way it was intended.

Yeah, the dolly shot really took me out of the movie too. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it just wasn’t well done. It’s too shaky and it looks like Denzel is holding on to railings on the side of him.

I was under the impression that it was over a weekend, but now that you mention it, I think I do recall a week being discussed. What bothered me about the exit was that he had enough food and water, etc to last a week, but he couldn’t wash up, shave or have a clean, pressed shirt as part of his exit kit. It wouldn’t have taken any room up, and since everything else was so meticulously planned, I was bugged by this oversight.

The thing that took me out of the movie more than anything was watching Jodie Foster try to walk in heels. That was the most uncomfortable, unnatural thing I can remember seeing in the movies in a long time.

I agree 100%. I’ve always felt she was sorely miscast- I just didn’t buy her in that role, and her evident wardrobe issues were a big part of it.

I thought JF had nice calves.

About the ruse of blending in with the hostages, some people (on IMDB, I think) pointed out that before they took out the cameras, the people who entered the bank (legit customers) were all photographed, so the robbers wouldn’t have been among those. True that some of them could have been planted among the legit customers, but by process of elimination, all those NOT showing up on camera before the “painters” entered the bank would have been Denzel’s prime suspects and he would have focussed on those people to break the team of robbers down.

Also Owens was taking a big chance that no employees would have come into the storage room as he was breaking out of his “cell” or that it wouldn’t have been locked.

Well, he was there for a week, so he probably could hear what time the door is locked and unlocked each day, as well as the frequency of visitors (including janatorial) and typical traffic patterns to the storage area.

The problem I had was that Denzel knows that some of the robbers posed as hostages and that one of the robbers is a female with a huge rack. He interviews the two women in the bank with necessary figures and neither of them confess. At the end of the movie the robbers get back together and get away with the robbery. All the police have to do to solve the robbery is follow the two ladies around and wait for one of them to get back together with the other robbers. It is not like the police would give up after a few days. The robbers getting together to pick up the inside man at the end was a huge plot hole for me.

She probably did before she got them replaced by the mannequin legs that were in this film.

I figured that’s what they would have done, had the chief not specifically told Denzel to bury it.

Of course, that scene was a little weird in itself. The chief made it seem like since they used toy guns and didn’t take anything that there wasn’t really a crime committed. Uh, isn’t it still a crime to take hostages and occupy a bank and use all those police resources, even if nothing happened?

Obviously the chief must have been on it too! :eek:

Nah, that would mean that he was really an ins… ::faints::

I suspect the Chief was pressured by the Mayor and the banker to let sleeping dogs lie. Even if a crime did occur, the fact that nobody was hurt (seriously) and nothing was missing deflated any urgency in the matter.

friedo said:

There’s one of those in the film, when Clive Owen’s character is explaining how the bank owner is a big bad NAZI. They show the banker and do a dolly zoom on him. That worked in context (it was contemplation of him), and is standard enough that it doesn’t really jar the viewer.

This effect, though, is horribly jarring and totally disruptive to the movie.

The space appears to be the length of 1 shelf, approx 4 feet. He has enough room for the missing shelves to be inside and reversed holding up the fake wall, and then width enough to lie sideways and not be touching both sides. He does pushups at one point.

I grant you that it wouldn’t normally be easy to spot that a room is a couple feet shorter. What sets it off to me, though, is the shelves along the walls. I’m a detail oriented enough person to randomly count the number of shelf systems in the room. Maybe if I want to know where to find the extra #2 pencils, I know they are on shelf 4 on the right. If there were suddenly 5 instead of 6 shelves along the wall, I would likely notice. Especially if I needed something from shelf 6. That seems like the kind of thing a person who regularly staffs the supply room would notice, if perhaps not every employee. Maybe that guy was out that week. Just seemed to rely on an assumption that I don’t feel is valid. Sure, he got away with it, but the gimmick is that he had the “perfect plan”. Well, to me it is not perfect because someone might have noticed that detail.

Okay, what would that person do about it? I don’t know. I have to wonder if I would scrutinize that wall a bit to see why it seemed shorter. Noticing under scrutiny that the wall was cardboard instead of cinder block, and that a bank robbery had just occurred, and that the robbers were not caught, I would hope I would put 2 and 2 together and get somewhere near 4.

ArchiveGuy said:

Then Spike Lee is an idjit.

I totally understand he’s going for some kind of effect, some break from reality of perception to signify something. The only one of those movies I recall watching was Malcolm X, and I don’t remember this then, but whatever. Here it sticks out like a sore thumb attached to a sore arm on a sore shoulder with a sore neck. It interrupts what is up to this point a pretty enjoyable movie with a giant WTF. Watching Denzel grasping the rails while his body is whisked along on a trailer just fucks up the whole flow and feel of the scene.

Stink Fish Pot said:

I’m a little confused what exactly they were digging a hole in the floor for. They wanted access to some pipe. Was that for water? Sewer? How did he keep his various odors from giving him away? A sweaty man in a small box for several days - I get stinky after several hours. Nevermind the feces and urine.

pseudotriton ruber ruber said:

Survelliance cameras seem like a great idea until you see their typical output. I don’t think I could recognize my mother from the videos shown on TV news. Hell, First time through I was trying to figure out if the girl digging the hole was the girl being interviewed who had been standing in line. And those scenes were back to back.

They specifically said in the movie that anyone they even considered would be ruled out by other hostages.

It was his toilet. After they’re finished digging it, they even say something like “Now that’s what I call a shithole”, which in retrospect is meant to be taken literally. More than the shelf distribution, I would assume the stink would be the greatest culprit. I don’t remember the exact chronology, but if Owen walks out on a Monday, then at least that means the worst of the odor would be on the weekend when nobody notices (who knows, he may even use that time to stretch his legs). I also suspect they took the time to make the hole deep enough that any waste will be down far enough that it won’t be as conspicuous (plus, it’s likely he probably lost a few pounds from not eating much, since staying hydrated and just taking pees down the hole will cause less odor, too)

I’m also assuming that all the supplies on the shelves were redistributed so that nothing would appear to be missing. If the shelves aren’t labelled, nobody is likely to remember where things are by counting but more by location (the pens are next to the paper, across from the copy toner, etc.)