Sunday, March 26, 2006

INSIDE MAN - Fresh, Witty and Novel

Quite often after someone finishes explaining the proof of a complicated equation to me ('cause I'm obviously too stupid to actually understand it myself) I'm filled with this sense of awe at its sheer ingenuity. Sometimes the simplicty and the subtle touches are just brilliant, and at the end of it all, as I let the concept sink in, I sit back with a feeling of tremendous satisfaction.

As the credits rolled up on the screen at the end of 'Inside Man' and the lights gradually came back on, I sat there feeling very content.

Anyway, earlier in the day a bunch of us decided to hit Crossgates, the mall in Albany, and watch a movie. We were torn between V for Vendetta and Inside Man. Ultimately we split up into two groups and I, definitely impressed by Clive Owen in the preview, decided to watch the latter.

While the previews were being screened, before the start of the movie, a very pleasant and very indian, music started playing and at first I thought they were going to show the trailer of Deepa Mehta's Water, but no, I was mistaken. The Inside Man started with a remixed version of none other than .... Chaiyya Chaiyya !! Sung by Sukwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi, it was definitely a catchy and a very unexpected start to the movie.

The Inside Man, Spike Lee's newest release stars the brilliant Denzel Washington and a very smooth Clive Owen. The movie grips you from the very beginning, with the camera focussing on Own, who sitting down, staring straight at the camera, says - "My name is Dalton Russel. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself."

Its a bank heist. Well apparently so... but what the hell is going on? Dalton Russel and his gang, disguised as painters, very quickly take over this small branch of Manhattan bank, lock the doors and take the 40 odd hostages downstairs. They are all then forced to strip and wear painter overalls, identical to the robbers. That way, the cops cannot discern the bad guys from the good. As usual, the very first demand made is that of a bus to safely transport them and the hostages to the airport where a jet should be made available. (Not again !) Everyone is surprised at this cliched and hollywood-ish demand. The references to previously made famous movies induces chuckles as Willem Dafoe, Captain NYPD, exasperated at the demand, talks about how even in Munich, the terrorists didnt get a jet and Detective Frazier (Denzel) retorts - "Come on....You've seen Dog Day Afternoon, You know how it ends !" ... or well something along those lines.

Also intertwined in this story is an aged Board Chairman of the Bank, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) who obviously has a dark secret, to protect which he procures the services of an enigmatic, amoral but suave Madeline White (Jodie Foster). The Mayor of NYC at one point even compliments her by calling her a '... magnificent cunt'.

Well its definitely a bank heist, with exciting twists, but I repeat my question - What the hell is going on?

Dalton Russel is the only one who knows. Throughout the movie, he's more than just a step ahead of Frazier and the rest, and pulls off a brilliant plan. He even flummoxes the over confident Foster who enters the bank, after pulling some strings with the mayor, to negotiate with Russel for Arthur Case. Russel is intelligent, smooth and eerily calm.

What I loved most about the movie, apart from the brilliant performances, was the intelligent screenplay. It is dramatic, thrilling and exciting and it will definitely keep you captivated till the very end, when all is revealed.

It's witty as well. There is a scene where Frazier asks for more time and Dalton agrees provided he can answer a riddle. Watching the detectives and cops argue over the riddle was hillarious.

Waris Ahluwahlia is also really good. Spike Lee uses him to help demonstrate the banal nature of bigotry that is more than prevalent in America, post 9/11. After Ahluwalia is freed by Owen, and he steps out of the bank all tied up, the cops rush to his rescue, but when they take off his mask and see his turban, their guns automatically get trained on him. They back off warily, calling him an Arab. Despite his vociferous protests, they rip off his turban and physically harass him. The next scene, when Dafoe and Denzel are very apologetic about the treatment Waris faced earlier, is also quite funny, as Dafoe tries to cover up the incident and Denzel makes references to how easy it must be for him to get a cab.

Anyway, I absolutely loved this movie and strongly recommend you all to watch it. The last movie that I was this excited about was probably Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. I can assure you, regardless of whatever tiny kinks you might find in the story,there is absolutely no way you will be disappointed.


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