Friday, July 28, 2006

Inside Man (2006)

Inside ManBefore I launch into my tirade about how disappointing this DVD is (the first to go 'into the red' on the star rating front since I started this blog), I guess it's only fair to point out that the critics and the movie-going public in the States seemed to love this movie. Those ratings, summarised on the left, are astonishingly high. Either people have over-reacted to the fact that it's the first real 'mainstream' film from big name Spike Lee and, in classic 'Emporer's New Clothes' fashion, decided with his name on it all critical faculties should be left at the door, or I just can't spot a great film when it's staring me in the face.

Inside Man is a thriller-heist movie with some big names in it. Denzel Washington can always be relied on to give a solid, convincing performance, even if it's always the same one. As can Jodie Foster, who has a much smaller role here than the trailers had implied. Clive Owen can be very hit and miss. His good looks help a lot, but his range is not great and in some of the more adventurous films his performance can best be described as 'wooden'. No real problems here, but given that his looks are the best thing he's got going for him, it seems rather odd to give him a role where he spends most of his time with a mask and sunglasses over his face!

So, nothing too bad on the acting front. It's everywhere else that things fall down. The plot is far-fetched and ridiculous to the extreme. I'm as happy to suspend disbelief where it's required as the next man, but Inside Man really does take things TOO far. Add the dates and years up and we're supposed to believe that Christopher Plummer is 90? That Denzel Washington is so bright that he figures out things nobody else could possibly figure out from non-existent evidence one minute, while not realising a metal case he's been given by his main protagonist might contain bulky equipment recording his every command, the next? Give me a break!

Then there's the direction and pacing. It's all over the place. The movie keeps switching to events after the main heist is over - glimpses of the future that don't confuse or help - they just exist. And after a while they get very annoying - there's so many of them. It's almost as if someone said 'The movie's only got 90 minutes in, we need 2 hours - how do we pad things out?'. A totally bleached out film process (all deep blacks and glaring whites with nothing inbetween) is used to signal these 'future' scenes to us, but they serve no real purpose other than to annoy.

The sound mix, at least on my DVD and sound system, fluctuates to extremes that will have your neighbours banging on the walls in anger if you set the volume to a level that means you can actually hear the dialogue. You'll need your remote control close at hand to keep adjusting the volume levels. Key dialogue scenes are quiet as a whisper, invariably followed by other scenese with crashingly loud dialogue that actually have nothing to say.

Then there's the cinematography: it's all darky murky colours with no tonal contrast at all. This is NOT a DVD you'll be using to show off your big TV picture quality.

And finally there's the direction. It starts off well, with some nice scenes over the main titles, but then falls apart with either very dull, unimaginative shots, or, when the police arrive on the scene, whole long hand-held 'shakey camera work' scenes that were so jerky they had me feeling nauseous. If the effect on a 50" plasma is this bad I can't imagine what it was like on a big cinema screen! The transfer is OK but looks like it's been sourced from NTSC and badly converted to PAL - tell-tale thin horizontal lines ruin wording and many of the main scenes throughout.

OK, so the film just wasn't my cup of mead, what about the DVD? Well I'd like to discuss the extra's but I can't because there aren't any. Not so much as a trailer. Given the profits made on this film, and the price point of the DVD, even with online discounts applied, one might have expected Universal to have made at least a bit of an effort. But no - it looks like they've gone the 'double dip' route, and no doubt a 'Special Edition' with very basic extra's will be issued in about six months time.

This hadn't been on my original shopping list, particularly after reading Roger Ebert's review which, it now transpires, is one of the very few negative reviews (at least by his usual critical standards). Everybody else loves it. I just wish I could work out why!


Brian Sibley said...

I couldn't agree with you more...

I saw this film on its opening weekend in LA, sitting in an audience who were whooping, cheering and laughing as if it were the greatest movie ever made...

At the end they applauded wildly...

I left, deeply unimpressed (and de-pressed) at having wasted an entire evening on a piece of alternately boring and annoying filmmaking...

Everyone I spoke to over the next few days told me what a GREAT film they thought it was and so I finally decided that I knew sweet FA!

Having read YOUR review, however, I don't feel quite such a dodo! Thanks!!

Ian said...

Well maybe it's just that we're BOTH dodo's. I definitely feel out of touch with the mainstream these days. The new SFX magazine arrived today - they give "Pirates of the Cantbebotheredtowriteaproperstory" four stars. FOUR!