My 2006 top-ten ranking: 7
Risk of spoilers: Nah. You're safe.
I like the experimental Spike Lee -- they guy who took a chance and failed on She Hate Me. I think the problem with that movie was sustaining the level of irony it opened with, when Lee is best with characters confronting their own idiosyncrasies honestly, and even earnestly. When the early sarcastic tone of She Hate Me gave way to the soft-soul a-lesbian-for-lunch love scenes, the movie drifted in between irony and earnestness in a very uncomfortably self-concious way.
But the Spike Lee who directed this movie was the same guy who directed the powerful 25th Hour. The tone is confident and even somewhat whimsical. It nods to issues of culture and race, but really it's just a good heist film. And as far as I am concerned, heist and con films are top of the pops.
The big question with heist and con films is: did you see the con coming? These days some of the strongest con films aren't really con films at all -- they're films in which the con is hidden, the sleight of hand complete. Films like the surprising The Upside of Anger fall into this category. But they don't deal with con men or criminals, so should probably be excluded.
Inside Man starts with Clive Owen essentially daring us to catch him at his game. Like Orson Wells at the beginning of F for Fake, or like a stage magician cockily letting his tricked deck be examined, Owen tells us just enough to that later we understand his words differently.
In between is the hostage situation, in which every hostage is manipulated to the end of the robbers with specific ends in mind. The film comes alive in Lee's casting, which feels like an actual cross-section of New York as opposed to a whites-only extras casting session.
The film clips nicely, moving along in just the right pace. in the end, it's a good heist film with minor cultural commentary in the mix. Not so much to overshadow the action, but just enough to punctuate it. A great mix which made for good entertainment with a lingering appreciation.
Where we saw it: Movie Theater
| We deign to rate it: 90 outta 100