[Marxism] Inside Job - Spike Lee puts a new spin on an old formula

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 25 06:13:05 MST 2006

This opened today and I saw it last night. What a great movie!
OK, there were some possibly loose ends in the script, or it's
possible I missed a thing or two, but the general drift of the
movie was very clear once you found out what the core idea was.

It was both fun and had some pointed political content which
I won't spoil here by my explaining more of it. Also wonderful
camera work, terrific images of New York City, takes the heist
film to an entirely new level. After awhile, once the movie has
been around for awhile, we can talk about it more, but I would
recommend it very highly right now. That's one of the things 
about living in Los Angeles that I most appreciate: seeing new
movies on the day that they open.

Walter Lippmann

March 23, 2006
Inside Job 	


Spike Lee puts a new spin on an old formula

The heist at the heart of Inside Man is brilliant, and so is the
movie. It's one of the most diabolically clever of all bank-robbery
pictures, not just because it keeps us pinned to the edges of our
seats wondering what's going to happen next, but because it's about
something more (and arguably more sinister) than whether the bandit
manages to make off with the loot. Here's where I would ordinarily go
on to call Inside Man a study in collective greed, in which all of
the major characters are looking for the short road to success and
where the real thieves may just as soon be those negotiating with the
bank robbers as the robbers themselves. Only, there's nothing studied
about Inside Man. It's a gripping, jugular entertainment that starts
off wound-up and never winds down, and only much later do you realize
the movie isn't just playing the audience like a violin, it's also
saying something cunning about human nature and the price of success
in the big city.

So, here's what happens: A guy called Dalton Russell (Clive Owen)
walks into a Lower Manhattan bank, knocks out the security cameras
using infrared beams, rounds up everyone's cell phones and proceeds
to make all of the hostages dress up in the exact same painter's
uniforms and masks worn by him and his accomplices. The only thing he
doesn't do is lay a finger on the money - not one dollar of it. Enter
detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), a hostage negotiator
dispatched to take control of the scene, who soon finds that the
scene may be taking control of him. His adversary is a formidable
one, seemingly able to anticipate every one of Frazier's moves and
whose predictable demands - a bus to the airport and a jet waiting at
his disposal - strike Frazier as but one more elaborate ruse. Then
there's the bank's chairman of the board (Christopher Plummer), who
shows up supposedly out of concern for the safety of his employees,
followed closely by an icy power broker (Jodie Foster) who offers her
"very special skills and complete discretion" to the highest bidders,
and who seems quite concerned that, whatever else comes to pass, the
contents of the chairman's personal safety deposit box remain safely
deposited. Even the mayor himself puts in an appearance, casually
reminding Frazier that, if he plays ball, that little Internal
Affairs investigation that's been nagging at him might just up and
disappear. Which is just about the point at which I set down my
notepad and did exactly what Inside Man wants you to do - surrendered
to its corkscrew twists and its blind-siding sleight-of-hand.

Inside Man was directed by Spike Lee from a terrific script by
first-time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz, and I doubt any other
director could have made the movie in quite the same way. When Lee
films the buildings of Lower Manhattan underneath Inside Man's
opening titles, he does so as if he were filming the Egyptian
pyramids or some other towering monuments of an ancient civilization
- everything feels monolithic and monumental. Then the first strains
of Terence Blanchard's big, brassy score appear on the soundtrack,
and the cumulative effect is the promise that you're in for something
grand and operatic. And that's exactly what Lee delivers. Inside Man
is a genre film graced with the kind of character, personality and
florid stylistic gestures that the great studio directors of the
1930s and '40s deployed in order to enliven formula concepts, and at
times the movie feels like a throwback to that era, with Gewirtz's
razor-sharp dialogue rattling about and Washington working his Panama
hat as though it were Sam Spade's fedora. Every scene in the movie is
alert and lit up with vibrant details in a way that makes most
Hollywood product seem utterly lazy by comparison. And the actors are
electrifying - Washington and Owen may be the most silver-tongued cat
and mouse to give chase to one another since Robert Shaw and Walter
Matthau battled it out in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (the
movie with which Inside Man has the strongest kinship) - and Foster
bristles with the cool authority of someone who knows everyone else's
dirty little secrets.

If Inside Man isn't the best movie Lee has done, it's probably the
most purely exciting and enjoyable, and the one least encumbered by
the need to be the Next Important Film by America's Most Important
Black Filmmaker. That's not to say that Inside Man is an apolitical
film. Set and shot just a stone's throw from where the World Trade
Center once stood, it is, in part, like Lee's earlier 25th Hour, a
kind of symphony of post-9/11 New York, about people of all creeds
and colors soldiering on, no matter that what they're getting up to
may be no good. There's a scene here in which one of the bank's freed
hostages, a Sikh, is mistaken by the cops for an Arab and subjected
to a torrent of racial epithets before unleashing his own rant about
his own inability to so much as enter an airport without arousing
suspicion. And by the time it's over, Inside Man even ends up forming
a curious dialogue with Steven Spielberg's Munich, though to say
exactly how would be to give far too much away. But whenever the
movie whispers at becoming a sanctimonious message picture, Lee and
Gewirtz deflate the possibility with some delicious comic punctuation
(as when Frazier, after listening carefully to the Sikh's rant,
responds "I bet you can hail a cab, though"). There may be a larger
conspiracy at work in Inside Man, and perhaps some agents acting on
behalf of the greater human good, but for the characters front and
center, the only way to get ahead in the world is by looking out for
No. 1.

Produced by BRIAN GRAZER | Released by Universal | Citywide Last
Updated ( Wednesday, 22 March 2006 )

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