Film: Inside Man

"My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I've told you my name: that's the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there's a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison. The What is easy: recently I planned and set in motion events to execute the perfect bank robbery. That's also the When. As for the Why: beyond the obvious financial motivation, it's exceedingly simple... because I can. Which leaves us only with the How; and therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub."

Inside Man is a 2006 thriller Heist Film directed by Spike Lee about a Bank Robbery. What seems like a normal hostage-taking robbers versus police siege scenario soon becomes complicated by the unexpected involvement of the bank's owner.

Main "players":
  • Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), the bank robber with a plan
  • Det. Frazier (Denzel Washington), the "normal guy" police negotiator with some prior issues
  • Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), the bank's owner who has something else on his mind
  • Madeleine White (Jodie Foster), a shady figure who is contracted by Case to bring a discreet end to the situation

This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: Dalton and the bank robbers. In addition to committing a crime, they're there to out Case as a Nazi collaborator. As Russell puts it, "I'm no martyr. I did it for the money. But what's the point of getting rich if you can't look at yourself in the mirror?" See Caper Rationalization below.
  • The Atoner: To a degree Arthur Case, although not presented sympathetically. His lifetime of charitable work and charming personality are basically a conscious effort to "cancel out" his dodgy past of collaborating with the Nazis. He seems to be less repentant than hell bent on keeping secret his past misdeeds.
  • Bank Robbery: Not your typical bank robbery though.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: In-Universe: One of the hostages can vouch for another hostage who happens to be a racktastic woman. And you can see why during the robbery and afterward how she can be so... noticeable.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Played with. The police are listening in to what the bank robbers are "saying" on the radio, but when they get help translating it, it transpires that they're hearing a recording of Enver Hoxha, the former Warsaw Pact dictator of Albania.
  • Blondes Are Evil: Madeleine White
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Dalton delivers the Opening Monologue straight to the audience.
  • Brooklyn Rage: During the interrogation, a kid says, to the amusement of Frazier and his partner, that he wasn't scared by the bank robbers with automatic weapons; he's from Brooklyn.
  • The Caper
  • Caper Rationalization: They're "robbing" the bank to expose the fact that Arthur Case was a financial supporter of Adolf Hitler during World War II. The actual robbery is secondary.
  • Cassandra Truth: "I'm going to walk out that door."
  • The Chessmaster: Dalton Russell. He's planned for everything.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or rather, Chekhov's pen.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Dalton and the thieves. The complexity of their plan is quite ambitious and presumably required a significant investment of time and money to pull off.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Case.
  • Deal with the Devil: Case reveals that he sold out one of his Jewish friends to the Nazis for money, even when he had the opportunity to help him.
  • Diagonal Billing: See the page image for an interesting example.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: The thieves make the hostages wear the same uniform as them, but with the full knowledge of the police outside. This keeps the police from interfering at first. It also lets most of the robbers blend into the crowd of freed hostages and escape after the robbery is complete.
  • Double Meaning Title: Quite an epic one. Russell is really hiding behind a false wall the robbers built, making him the literal "Inside Man." However, Case was sort of an inside man himself, appearing to be a charitable and goodhearted man after having sold his soul to the Nazis. And White is an inside woman for a living, working her way to the heart of delicate situations. So really, the only main character who isn't some kind of an "Inside Man" is Frazier, the overall good guy.
  • Eureka Moment: A chance comment another cop makes to Denzel Washington's character allows him to figure out how exactly the hostage takers were able to stay ten steps ahead of the police.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even White, who is an unscrupulous political fixer, is appalled by Case's history of collaborating with the Nazis.
    Madeleine: Well, I'd love to tell you what a monster you are, but I have to help Bin Laden's nephew buy a co-op on Park Avenue.
    Arthur: If that were true, you wouldn't tell me.
    Madeleine: We're listing you as a reference.
    • The robbers can also qualify. The first freed hostage was an old man having chest pains (sure he was forced to wear the outfit, but the fact that he was let out first puts them on here). Also their interactions with the kid, Brian. They let him keep his game when he was giving it up with all the cell phones, didn't force him to wear the costume everyone else was forced to wear, didn't beat him up like they did to a few of the other patrons, and one robber even showed concern over the content in his game. Arguably, also when he beat up the bank manager for hiding his cell phone. Any hostage taker knows to never back down once you have made a threat because the hostages will probably revolt, but he also didn't want to carry out his threat of shooting him in the head.
  • Evil Pays Better: Case: The Nazis...paid too well.
  • Exact Words: Russell said he'd walk out of the bank. The hostages and the robbers run. Russell leaves a week later, after hiding behind a false wall all that time. He walks right out the door.
  • Facecam: Frazier, after the cops see a hostage being shot. Right after Frazier said Russell wasn't a killer.
  • Fingerprinting Air: Subverted. The police find many fingerprints, but quickly realize that all any of them prove is that the dozens of suspects were all at the bank that day.
  • The Fixer: Madeleine White, explicitly identified as such.
  • Foreshadowing: During the heist, one of the "hostages" reveals he is an attorney who specializes in war reparations cases.
    • The fake company logo on the robber's van reads "Perfectly Planned Painting: We never leave until we get the job done!
  • Gag Boobs: The hostages noticed one of the thieves is a buxom lady. Two qualify, and one even asks while being interrogated, "So I violated Section 34 Double D?".
  • Genre Savvy: Russell's plan involves knowing everything that could happen (it borders on Dangerously Genre Savvy).
  • Guile Hero: Frazier is pretty damn close. Russell flat out says it: "You're too smart to be a cop."
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Inverted. When Jodie Foster confronts Christopher Plummer, asking him if it was true that he used to work for the Nazis in WWII, he hesitates for about four seconds...then smiles and says "Yes." Either he was a truly honest man, who was old and had nothing to lose, or he realized that hesitating that long before lying about it would make it obvious that he was lying, so he opted to tell the truth.
  • Hired Guns: Madeline is the political variant that will work for anyone, so long as they pay.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Not quite the simple Bank Robbery it seemed at first. Dalton sets up the holding of hostages to cover the real crime, stealing from the president of the bank.
  • Let no Crisis Go to Waste: "When there's blood on the streets, buy property". Arthur Case essentially, uses the Nazi Holocaust as a way of making money
  • Lost In A Crowd: The robbers use many anonymizing tactics, including Planet of Steves and Disguised Hostage Gambit. This eventually plays into their getaway plan, where no one can discern the former hostages from the robbers.
  • Manipulative Bastard: White, Russell.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: The robbers. They threaten repeatedly to kill someone and at one point appear to have shot someone, but it's all just an act to keep everyone guessing.
    • They don't seem to have any qualms about beating up the hostages, though some of this, too, may have also been playacting.
  • New York City Cops
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Basically all of the police and detective characters have moments where they express less than enlightened views on race, but they're all pretty much shown as good guys.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The female bank robber uses this.
  • Opening Monologue: Covers the who, where, what, when, why, and sets up the how. By the end you realize that this could count as a subversion: it's more misleading than informative.
  • Out-Gambitted: White's good, but as is revealed at the end, Russell has outfoxed her by leaving the ring for Frazier.
  • Pac Man Fever: The film went the opposite extreme of this trope. A kid plays an ersatz Grand Theft Auto PSP game. When we see clips, the game's graphics are too advanced for the PSP, especially since at the time Sony had the CPU speed slowed down to preserve battery life. This has since been lifted.
  • The Perfect Crime
  • Planet of Steves: The bank robbers called one another by various forms of "Steve" (Steve, Stevie, Steve-O). This was part of their plan to stay confusingly anonymous.
  • Playing Against Type: On the part of the director. Spike Lee, whose whole career to this point had been deliberately controversial films about race relations, is here just a hired hand on a standard suspense film. That said, some race commentary was still worked in, whether by Lee himself or the writers, particularly the scenes involving the Sikh hostage.
  • Pregnant Hostage: As is standard for action film hostage situations, one of the hostages in the bank is pregnant.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Chaiyya Chaiyya"
  • Rule of Symbolism: The bank manager's ringtone being "Gold Digger"? The little boy's violent video game, where the goal is to "get rich or die tryin'"? The spoiled rotten Albanian woman being a staunch opponent of Communism? Denzel Washington's timidity about proposing to his girlfriend because he's too broke? A movie about bank robbers only robbing from a man who got rich through dealing with the Nazis during the Holocaust? Case's office is filled with pictures of people he's helped including George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher? Spike Lee certainly has an axe to grind against capitalism.
    • Ironically, the movie has a lot of Product Placement. The PSP, Pepsi, and boxed Dell computers, most prominently.
    • When the police imagine a scenario where they storm the bank and try to kill the robbers, blood from a shot robber splashes over the safe deposit box where the evidence of Arthur Case's involvement with the Nazis is located
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: There's a very tense scene early in the movie where the robbers are taking everyone's cell phones. One of the guys claims that he doesn't have his, but the lead robber isn't buying. After threatening the guy several times, he suddenly starts going through all the hostages' phones, until he finds one with a number with the guy's name on it. He calls the phone....and everyone hears Kanye West's "Gold Digger" start playing. Believe it or not, it works.
  • Technically a Smile: White has a way of smiling in a way that looks genuine at first, but without any warmth whatsoever.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Portrayed in a video game played by a young boy. The boy makes his alter ego shoot many times at what must be an already dead man's head, and then he puts a grenade in the man's mouth. An onlooking bank robber/hostage taker is appalled.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: The leading bank robber sees one of the hostages, an African-American boy, playing a violent GTA-like game with racial overtones. He's not happy.
  • Values Dissonance: In universe. The lead bank robber has issues with the violent GTA-inspired game the young boy hostage plays on his portable. The boy points out the objective of the game is "Like what my man Fifty says: get rich or die tryin'." The boy also notes he sees the bank robber doing exactly that and has no problem with it. Subverted in that the bank robber really isn't robbing the bank!
  • Van in Black: The van used by the bank robbers.
  • Vertigo Effect: Twice, once subtle, once less so.
  • Video Credits
  • Wicked Cultured: Dalton Russell, light on the former, heavy on the latter.
  • World War II: Incriminating evidence held at the particular bank the robbers chose ties Arthur Case to the Nazis.
  • Gambit Roulette: The Anti-Villains' scheme hinges on insuring that Everybody Lives (hence their Anti-Villain status) while simultaneously keeping the cops thinking they're deadly dangerous. While the movie presents this as The Plan or really, Xanatos Speed Chess, it falls apart when you consider that it relies on the cops not making any mistakes like accidentally shooting a hostage, or finding the bug before it was too late.
    • That said, the cops do make a few mistakes. They shoot a bunch of hostages with rubber bullets when they come out of the bank, and the only reason that the whole plan doesn't go to hell when Frazier realizes that their command center has been bugged is because the police commander is too tired of waiting and frazzled to realize the full implications of what Frazier is saying.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The plot is a Magnificent Bastard vs a Manipulative Bastard vs a Guile Hero.