Feb 25, 2008

[Movies] Inside Man

Inside ManMore often than not, we tend to enjoy films not just because of the noble protagonists but also because of really good villains. It's not about how diabolical their schemes are or how amazing their gadgets tend to be but it ends up being more about their intellect and cunning and getting to see just how brilliant they are in executing their crimes and trying to thwart their opponents.

Inside Man is one such movie. It's the kind of film built around the villain and his master plan and not necessarily about the police detective protagonist.

Initially I wasn't overly interested in watching this movie based on the trailer alone, which is a bad reason to decide to watch a movie, I know. After a fair amount of time I finally got to watch this movie on HBO and now I regret not having pursued the film prior to last Saturday night.

The movie centers around what is claimed to be the "perfect" bank robbery as staged by Clive Owen and his crew. They take everyone in the bank one morning hostage and this brings in hostage negotiator Detective Keith Fraizier (Denzel Washington) to attempt to get the hostage-takers to end things peacefully. However, everything is not as it appears to be, which is where the true entertainment value of the movie comes in.

From a writing perspective, the movie is rather intelligent and the people behind the movie managed to keep that consistent. They painted a very clear picture for us of how Owen had carefully planned out this entire heist to a T with the bold proclamation that at the end of all this, he'd be walking out of the bank's front doors without getting caught. It's a bold claim and I'm pretty sure it's fair to say that anyone watching this movie is bound to follow the story with greater interest if only to see how he plans to pull off that claim.

Technically speaking, the movie also had its fair share of dynamic and interesting elements. What I liked a lot was how they managed to tell a story with multiple time points starting with Clive Owen at the beginning of the movie implying he was already at the end, moving into the start of the robbery and from there it goes back and forth to different points in time. The plot treatment was not an easy one to execute but I think they did a fair job of pulling it out without overly confusing the audience or spoon feeding them too much information and thus possibly ruining the film.

Clive Owen's performance was, well, okay. I mean acted like pretty much any other character he's played to some extent and the only saving grace was the fact that his character was extremely well-written and so it didn't need for him to be at the forefront. In some ways he's the lead character since the story revolves around the heist but the robbery wasn't about him as an individual and I think that's what the movie makers were trying to pull off. Given how they delivered things, the star of the movie was the robbery itself and how it was executed and eventually how the hostage-taking was managed.

I'm one of those people who have become very tired of Denzel Washington. He has a particular voice quality that gets slightly annoying after the first 30 minutes or so and given he is the one trying to figure out the robbery and the motives behind it, he ends up talking a lot more than I'd like. Still, he was consistent in terms of how he tends to portray police detectives since he seems to get stuck in such roles a lot.

Jodie Foster certainly has a potentially interesting role in this movie as the enigmatic and powerful Madeleine White. Who she truly is in this movie isn't immediately evident and I have to admit I was hoping for a lot more out of this character but she was left a bit underdeveloped and flat. Still, Jodie Foster carried the role with her typical efficiency and skill and went on to make sure everyone thought she was believable as a bitch.

Still, the movie was a lot better than I initially expected and certainly brought a pleasant twist to the entire bank robbery story. In the end it was certainly a perfectly-executed robbery, for as long as you can understand what the heck happened.

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