'Inside Man' is easily one of director Spike Lee's best and most entertaining movies, not because he shifted focus away from his usual thematic territory of race relations in the big city, but because he chose to enrich a fairly typical genre piece with these thematic concerns.
'Inside Man' is, after all, a heist movie, just like 'Dog Day Afternoon' or 'Heat' or 'Ocean's Eleven.' There are bank robbers, led by the charismatic and threatening Clive Owen. There are cops that are trying to stop the bank robbers, overseen by detectives played by Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Willem Dafoe, and most interestingly, there's a "fixer" in the middle, played by Jodie Foster. Foster's character is the X-factor that makes the heist plot and the movie itself that much more interesting - as a high profile gopher for a shady bank owner (played by a very slimy Christopher Plummer), she throws a definite kink in the usual cops vs. robbers layout of these films. Plummer has something in a safe deposit box in the bank that Owen is robbing, and he will do just about anything to keep that deposit box from being opened.
That's the movie's plot in a nutshell, and it's just about all I can say without giving away some major plot points (and twists). This might seem like an unusually brief "movie" section of the review (especially for me), but that's really all I've got to say about plot specifics.
Russell Gewirtz's script has an almost novelistic density, and Spike Lee's typically lively direction really brings that script to life. Lee tends to linger a little bit on the socio-economic or ethnic divides that blur when the hostages are together, but again, it's just him adding a textural richness to what could very well have been a B-rate thriller.
Instead, thanks to the participation of everyone involved, 'Inside Man' is elevated to something almost transcendent - it's a heist movie with something on its mind. And it doesn't overload itself with action or typical thriller elements. It's a leisured and well-paced effort that no one will mistake with the frantic, MTV-style editorial elements that define most current thrillers.
'Inside Man,' as shot by the tremendous cinematographer Matthew Libatique, is a stunner, and the 'Inside Man' Blu-ray does a wonderful job of capturing the film's images.
The VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer (aspect ratio: 2.35:1, region coded 'A') is absolutely gorgeous. There's really nothing bad I can say about it. Blacks are deep and dark, contrast is nice, textures look wonderful (Denzel wears a ridiculous hat throughout the movie that looks like a million bucks here), skin tones are spot-on and detail is rich. Both daytime and nighttime sequences of outdoor New York City astound.
Despite some slight blurriness on some of the more active shots, I didn't detect any marring technical issues, either. There was no noise, artifacts, or halos. It's about as good as a live action film devoid of tricky visual effects shots can look. And it's good of Universal to award a fairly straightforward film with the kind of attention and care as that afford a special effects loaded action blockbuster like 'Wanted.' Well done.
Here's where things get interesting. Apparently, the first batch of review discs had a significant problem: the surround right channel would occasionally disappear. Although the glitch wasn't universal (and honestly, I don't think mine had a problem), there were quite a few people that experienced it, and our message board lit up with tales of woe. To Universal's credit, they immediately sent out a corrected disc, which is what I'm reviewing here, and presumably all of those out in retail stores are free of problems.
It's good that Universal sent out the corrected disc, because this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is unbelievable. Everything is crystal clear and wonderfully prioritized - from actors' dialogue to the bursts of gunfire, to the full-bodied ambience of a roomful of hostages or a busy New York City street.
Music, from the Bollywood theme song that opens and closes the movie (suggested to Spike Lee by one of his students at NYU), to the typically dark-and-jazzy score by frequent Lee collaborator Terence Blanchard. Everything is well-mixed for surround, without one element overtaking another (it's also very even in its volume - there's nothing worse than watching a movie where the volume suddenly explodes for no good reason). Both rear and front channels are worked aggressively (the subwoofer is utilized well), with an emphasis on dialogue that isn't overwhelming.
While it dodged a bullet with that audio hiccup, what we're left with is a really superb sound mix that would make any home surround sound junkie proud.
Other audio options are French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1, Italian DTS 5.1, and Japanese DTS 5.1, with a huge selection of subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Traditional Mandarin, or Greek. It's nice to see this number of audio options on a disc, and adds to the impressiveness of its audio score.
This is the rare Universal disc that isn't outfitted with the U-Control feature, a once-gimmicky but now more-legit Universal exclusive that adds text or video (or both) to your primary viewing experience. It should also be noted that it's BD-Live enabled, if anyone cares.
A wonderful film, easily one of Spike Lee's best, with top notch AV and an okay collection of bonus features. This is highly recommended for those looking for a gorgeous, whip-smart genre thriller. Universal really stepped up to the plate with a lovingly calibrated presentation and we appreciate that they corrected their audio mistake as soon as they were made aware of it. Recommending this is as easy as taking candy from a baby (or robbing a bank…)