Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inside Man

Spike Lee, 2006 (8.6*)
One of the best films for Spike Lee in years is also one of the best heist films ever made. Just when you think a tired genre has used up all it’s variations comes along a new one for a new generation.

Clive Owen shines here as a mastermind who has plotted the perfect crime. Christopher Plummer owns a major bank more noted for it’s top security vault boxes, where anyone with loot or other valuables to hide can sleep securely at night knowing their goods are safe. He himself has something to hide in his own bank, so he calls in Jodie Foster as a mysterious power broker to help him keep his own secrets. A safe vault, that is, until a screenplay by Russell Gewirtz comes along, or we’d have no film.

A gang enters the bank, takes hostages, waits for the police, then calmly and confidently ask for demands they know won’t be met. After awhile negotiator Denzel Washington, in one of his best roles, begins to get suspicious after awhile that this is not a real robbery, and that something else is going on.

There truly is something else going on, but to say any more would venture into spoiler territory. Suffice to say that Lee has breathed new life into an old genre begun by the French film from director Jules Dassin, Rififi (1955, bw), and that is the re-enactment on film of a well-plotted heist – which usually goes wrong, though not always. A realistic homage to this was the U.S. film Thief, with James Caan, directed by Michael Mann. This stereotypical plot has been well satirized often, most effectively in the Italian film Big Deal on Madonna St (1959, bw) from director Mario Monicelli, which had me in stitches (look for a line in it, “getting something to eat”, and you’ll know what I mean). Also it was parodied by the Jules Dassin comedy Topkapi, in which a partially smart, partially bungling gang steals a valuable dagger from that museum in Istanbul, a parody of his own classic serious film.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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