Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

The Little Man in “Inside Man”

I don’t usually do movie reviews but a week after seeing Spike Lee’s joint “Inside Man” I feel compelled to write one, if only because most the reviews I’ve read seem to miss one of the underlying messages of the film. Unforutnately, given the nature of the message, there’s no way to discuss it without discussing certain contents of this very twisty movie. So, WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. Nazis! I warned ya–spoiler alert… well, sort of. It just so happens that the owner of the bank that gets broken into in “Inside Man” got his initial investment by stealing various things from Jews being prosecuted by the Nazis. And this is why it is the perfect crime–that and a little houdini trick–because the owner of the bank really doesn’t want to talk about what was stolen. However, the bank robbers do manage to get it, along with some very valuable diamonds and intend to use it as blackmail.

Throughout the twists and turns of this caper you are constantly meeting the good citizens of New York, a sikh who is upset to be mistaken for an arab, a brooklyn construction worker who can identify Albanian, his ex-wife, an Albanian who will translate for traffic ticket relief, and more. The characters are all chock full of character and rather than dominating the landscape it makes you wonder where these people are in other movies about New York. Personally, having lived in New York for seven years i felt more at home with this portrayal of the city than any other I’ve seen.

“So why do it?” I kept asking. Here’s a pretty typical heist movie with an atypical take on the so-called spear carriers. The big guys, the mayor, the bank owner, his amoral “cleaner” Jodie Foster, are up to their necks in shit frankly, and I think this may be the real point of “Inside Man” and perhaps a second meaning for the title. The real inside men, the real crooks are all the fat cats who run the show and are pretty much always ripping off the victims or the little people.

I don’t have much more than a hunch on this theme other than the fact that Christopher Plummer’s character, the bank owner, when confronted about stealing from holocaust victims says something about how “they”–american coporations–all did it. I don’t doubt a lot of them did. Other than that there is the fact that the robber gets away and comes off pretty clean having gone out of his way to insure that none of the hostages are harmed. But to me, the tone of the movie just seemed to lean toward this interpretation.

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