Sunday, March 26, 2006

Inside Man

by jaydro
Inside Man is a surprising film, most notably for it being a plot-driven tight little caper thriller from, ta-dah, Spike Lee. Coming on the heels of Woody Allen's Match Point, this seems like an interesting time for New York-centric independent auteurs. Lee hasn't sold out, but maybe he is taking a page from some others in creating a stylish hit that will then fund his more personal films.

Anyway, I had a good time (mostly), with the only minus being that I figured out a good chunk of what was going on just a little bit too early in the film for it to be completely satisfying. Oh, and I think I am getting a little tired of the good twenty-five year run that a certain stock all-purpose movie villain category has had, but it didn't really detract much here.

I'm not sure if I liked or disliked the music: many scenes in the bank were laden with melodramatic John Barry-type Bond-esque cues that had me half expecting Blofeld to unveil his latest destroyer of worlds contraption, but they held back just a bit from being too over the top. And I also thought I heard a quote from a Jerry Goldsmith score that I was surprised to see got an actual credit (so perhaps I missed John Barry's credit?).

This is the first digitally-projected film I have seen since The Phantom Menace in New Jersey in 1999. That presentation used an earlier version of the Texas Instruments DLP system used for Inside Man, and at the time it took my breath away. It was even more interesting to make a direct comparison by walking across the hall after the movie and looking at the same movie film-projected in an identical auditorium--the months-old print looked pretty muddy in comparison. Later I was astonished to find some pointed criticism of the system from sources such as The Perfect Vision and others, but I don't get it. Sure, if you have a brand new print running through a perfectly maintained projector with the proper brightness, you might see something that looks better than digital projection. But my two experiences with digital have been about as perfect as I can imagine a theater experience: razor-sharp focus, no framing problems, bright projection, and about as pristine an image as one could ever expect to see. The one other key quality where digital absolutely stomps all over film projection for me is the complete lack of image jitter. I have yet to notice a film presentation outside of IMAX where I could detect no slight movement in the image, and digital delivers rock-solid jitterlessness. In that area the digital trailers with all their titles are sometimes more impressive than the movie itself.

So kudos to Carmike for plunging ahead with digital projection. After being the dominant chain here through the '90's, they fell behind when the stadium-seating craze hit just after they had completed building several new non-stadium cinemas. They debuted digital projection locally last week at the Park Place 16 with She's the Man--that was a big disappointment when I was hoping for V for Vendetta. This week it expanded to three screens at that theater and more will follow. With their THX-certified screens and digital projection, Park Place is my new favorite theater.


Blogger Nick said...

Closing my eyes to the review. Don't want any spoilers. Premiere's on friday over here. Can't wait to see the film.

Will read it later, though.

3/26/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I did try to avoid any spoilers, but I appreciate wanting to see a movie totally cold.

3/26/2006 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Well, your saying it was "pretty good" before was enough, really.

Reading it now, then.

We only have one digital projector in Malmö, and it's (strangely enough) only for a small art-house cinema across the street, even though that is a lovely little place. Same cinema that I saw Strings on.

I'm still not into this whole projection thing, and can't really detect what the great difference between digital and film is, image-wise.

(Maybe it's my eye-sight. One of my eyes has been slightly askew ever since I got a sofa smashed into the side of my face as a four-year old.)

But I'm all for digital, for the sheer fact that digital prints don't age, and that they can be directly distributed to small formerly out-of-reach areas that had to wait months for worn-out prints to arrive. To me just that makes film an expendable and outdated form of projection.

3/26/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I liked it a lot. It's probably the best of its kind since ... I don't even know. The Fugitve, maybe? It's been a lean decade-plus for this kind of studio genre piece. This is better than Enemy of the State and either of the Bourne movies.

It's a very clever thing, in that there aren't really any showstopping plot holes. Obviously, I don't think that something like this would actually happen that way, but there's no single moment that's so absurd that it brings the whole thing down.

Oh, and I think I am getting a little tired of the good twenty-five year run that a certain stock all-purpose movie villain category has had, but it didn't really detract much here.

Not sure what you meant here. I don't want to get into specifics for the others' sakes, but I didn't see anything stock in Clive Owens role or performance. In fact, I found both his role and his performance rather quite brilliant.

3/26/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Nope, nothing stock about Clive Owen. I thought all the performances were good, too, and I didn't mention that because I got preoccupied with the appearance of an actor that totally surprised me, and I didn't want to spoil that for anyone, though perhaps I'm going totally overboard on that. In my rush to avoid spoilers I ended up talking more about digital projection than actually reviewing the movie.

Anyway, no, I was referring to the background of Christopher Plummer's character.

3/26/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

I'm pretty busy this week, so I don't have that much time to elaborate, but I thought that this was a great film. For me, it really worked on two levels: one, as a perfectly executed genre (heist) movie, and second, as a morality piece, where there are some interesting parallels between the choices certain characteres make.

The performances by the three leads are all top notch, and the supporting work matches it. And as many have said, yeah, this isn't something I expect to see happen in real life tomorrow, but there really aren't any significant plot holes. And while I saw some things coming, there were other "twists" that I didn't.

3/27/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger jaydro said...

[Damn, left this comment to the wrong post the first time.]

Looks like enough people have seen this now, so I'll reveal the stuff I didn't want to reveal before, what I thought were SPOILERS.

What bothered me a little bit was that Mr. Case got where he was because he did business with the Nazis. I have gotten really sick of Nazis as the all-purpose bad guys in movies. I know there were films that dealt specifically with Nazis in the '70's (Marathon Man, The Boys From Brazil, and there's probably some I'm forgetting), but I trace the modern trend of Nazis as the lazy screenwriter's villain to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

And what about Willem Dafoe? I was really surprised when he appeared in the film, because I had seen none of him or his name in pre-release publicity, and yet there he was. This surprise led me to expect some surprise from him, but nothing. Just Dafoe taking a paycheck for a small part. He doesn't seem to do that very much. It got me turning things over in my head, though, about how you could take the leads in the film, plus Dafoe, and recast them to the various parts. Dafoe as the robber, Owen as the "fixer," Foster as the negotiator, Washington as the SWAT leader, shake and rotate again.

4/02/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

I agree generally with the Nazis as villans sentiment, but what I liked about the movie was that Plummer was not a Nazi. He was, instead, a guy who made his blood money via through the Nazis and then felt guilty and tried to atone for it throughout the rest of his life. While this might seem like a minor distinction, I think it helped make comparisons between his character and Foster's (and even Denzel's) about means vs. ends.

4/03/2006 07:57:00 AM  

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