Inside Man: Directed by Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s Inside Man is nothing short of brilliant. As of March, it’s the best film of 2006. It’s also the best film Lee has made in his twenty-year career. I’ll review the film at length next week, but for now, the best compliment I can pay Lee and Inside Man is to say that both the master of suspense Hitchcock and prince of New York City police dramas Sidney Lumet would be proud of his work.

It’s shocking to realize that the electrifying screenplay was written by a newcomer, Russell Gewirtz, and in which no detail is unimportant, and no clue is a throwaway.

In Inside Man, Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster come together to explore the lure of power, the ugliness of greed and the mystery of a perfect robbery in a combustible new crime drama. The powerhouse actors play tough New Yorkers who must outwit one another to protect competing interests in this skillfully written and tightly directed thriller.

With onscreen presence that demands rapt attention, Washington, Owen, and Foster portray characters that present every of an interlocking puzzle, but no piece is what it seems to be. In a celebration of the heist films and police corruption movies of the 1970s, Spike Lee joins forced with Oscar winner producer Brian Grazer to craft this pressure-cooker film, in which nothing is as it

Washington plays a newly promoted detective, who must rise above a corruption scandal. Clive Owen is a brilliant criminal who upends what we think we know about a bank robbery. Jodie Foster is cast as a mysterious Manhattan power broker who gets exactly what her clients pay top dollar for. The three key players collide in Inside Man, a potboiler for Spike Lee, who teases the audience with tricks of camera and twists of plot. “By its didn’t-see-that-coming conclusion, Inside Man reveals itself as anything but your typical thriller.”

Lee has made several hard-hitting social commentary films, such as Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, so he welcomed the opportunity to helm a smart, sophisticated, pressure-cooker thriller.

On the Script

Russell Gewirtz wrote a fresh, intriguing take on the genre of the bank robbery heist, and I liked the script and really wanted to do it. Dog Day Afternoon, directed by Sidney Lumet, is one of my favorite films, and this story was a contemporary take on that kind of a movie.

On Denzel Washington

This is my fourth teaming with Denzel Washington, following Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, and He Got Game. We had last worked together on He Got Game, and we were both eager to work together again. I think our track record together speaks for itself.

On the Powerful Cast

I am flattered by the adulation of the cast, but I credit Gewirtz’s remarkable script with attracting the film’s impressive talent. Let’s face it, they’re not going to be in the film if we’re shooting the phone book, so a lot of the credit of what brought us together goes to the script”and also great timing.

On Clive Owen

Clive Owen is great, and he took on a big risk, because the audience can’t see his face. Denzel said it was hard for him to act with Clive because he fed off Clive’s expressions, and there were scenes when his face was completely masked. To give the actors more “face” time and allow the audience into the clever robber’s head, we carefully reviewed the script and found places where Owen’s character could be filmed unmasked.

On Jodie Foster

Jodie brings great artistry, class and intelligence to a film. She brings the pedigree. Look at the brilliance of her work in such projects as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

On Preparation for the Film

The cast attended what could be called an ad hoc cinema study class, where I screened numerous New York-set thrillers and heist films, including the classic Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, both starring Al Pacino and directed by New York director Sidney Lumet.

Bonding among Cast and Crew

I picked films that had some resemblance to what we were trying to do as afar as subject matter, look and genre. It’s something we’ve done the last two or three films and it becomes a social event, too. It’s a bonding thing among the cast and the crew. A lot of times, we have young people who’ve never seen these films, so it’s almost a cinema class as well.

On Shooting the Film

We don’t work 16, 17, or 18 hour days. We try to shoot from six in the morning to six at night. We feel it helps the actors give their best performances when they can head home in the evening to their families and their lives.

On Using Tow Cameras

For me, a two-camera filming approach is a win-win for everyone. We think you get better performances from actors when they’re on, because you might be that actor who has to wait around until late in the day to shoot and by then, the performance is tired. So we get actors to the set, through makeup, hair, and wardrobe, and after we’re done lighting, we’re ready for them.