Inside Scoop on the Inside Man

Inside Man is a movie of extremes in many ways – it is fast-paced but prompts contemplation; it is gripping but humorous and full of character contradictions. Inside Man takes place in New York City, where the famous Exchange Place Bank, headed by Mr. Case (Christopher Plummer), has just been held up by four masked individuals. All the people in the bank, including bank employees, are taken as hostages. Enter Detective Keith, played by Denzel Washington. Keith must solve the robbery, masterminded by criminal-with-a-conscience Dam Russell (Clive Owen). While on the surface the heist seems to be the typical bank robbery, it does not take the clever Detective Keith long to figure out that the robbers may be motivated by something more than financial gain. While the fast-paced narrative of a bank robbery certainly keeps a moviegoer interested, Inside Man is complicated by another plot involving the elderly chairman of the Exchange Place Bank, Mr. Pace. Pace hires savvy Mrs. Madeline White (Jodie Foster), to ensure that a particular item of his, located in his safe-deposit box in the Exchange Bank, is not touched. This is not the solemn, cutthroat Foster that we know from her other movies like Panic Room, but a classy, clever and sassy woman who makes it her job to negotiate with and manipulate others. Detective Keith, meanwhile, has his hands full. He must deal with Captain John Darius (William Defoe), who doubts Keith’s ability to handle the robbery. Keith must also find a way to keep the hostages safe, which is a major problem. And on top of it all, Russell refuses to give in to Keith’s pleas for him to release the hostages. The movie reverts back to its alternate plot when Mrs. White acquires an audience with Russell. White identifies the secret treasure Pace has been hiding in his safe-deposit box: documents proving that the respected Mr. Pace, when young, got “rich quick” by dealing with the Nazis. Ashamed by his past dealing, Pace desperately wants to keep his involvement with the Nazis secret. But the documents are not the only items of safekeeping in Pace’s box: numerous diamonds and a diamond ring also reside in the box.As a last attempt to free the hostages, the NYPD forces plan to storm the bank. But after Keith realizes that the robbers have discovered the plans – and then after the robbers find out that Keith knows that they know – the robbers stage a small explosion in the bank and run out the doors among their hostages.After several failed attempts to find the robbers, his boss tells Keith to “bury the case.”But the escaped robbers do not give up so easily; they sneak in and steal the diamonds from Pace’s safe-deposit box. But Russell chooses to leave the ring, claiming that he could not bear the guilt of stealing the ring of the woman that Pace sold off as a blood price. On his way out of the bank, Russell ironically bumps into an unknowing Detective Keith. After the bank is clear, Keith enters the bank and opens Pace’s safe-deposit box, in which he finds a brilliant diamond ring and a note that reads, “Follow the ring.” It does not take Keith long to put together the puzzle: the robbers knew of Pace’s past, and it served as a motive to rob his bank. And to prevent being caught, they blackmailed Mrs. White with Pace’s Nazi documentation.At the end of the movie, Keith finds, to his surprise, a diamond in his coat pocket. His mind flashes back to when he left the bank sometime after the robbery; he remembers a man bumping into him as he left the bank. He realizes that it was Russell he bumped into, and when they collided, Russell slipped the diamond into Keith’s pocket.Inside Man demonstrates that evil “can never be erased,” proven when Pace’s Nazi dealings come back to haunt him. The movie is full of character contradictions as the bank owner is greedy and self-interested and the bank robber possesses morals. Russell does demonstrate that he is a moral man: he prizes love, kills none of his hostages and desperately wants to punish the man who sold off his friend for money. In fact, in one humorous but touching scene, Russell converses with a young boy, one of the hostages. Russell is repulsed by the violent video game the young boy is playing and comments, “I’ve got to talk to your father about that game.” It is ironic that Russell is concerned about the violence in a video game as he is staging an armed robbery.Inside Man combines action and suspense with moral issues to keep the audience on the edge of its seat but also thinking. After viewing Inside Man and pondering the complex issues it brought to my mind, I could not help asking myself the simplest question: who would have thought that Russell, a man who stages a mass bank robbery and takes hostages, could be so upstanding?