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It is funny to watch that film on DVD, with all the extras, including plenty of deleted scenes. I could not but think that those scenes (most of them to do with interviews with the freed hostages) would have given a very different touch to the film. It would have been more sophisticated, even, as the search for the bad guys would have had more room in whoch it could be shown that not everybody who robs a bank is a bad guy and not everybody who gets taken hostage in the course deserves our sympathy.

But this point was made clear early on (if with less impetus, maybe) by chosing Clive Owen as the lead (who happens to be one of my favourite current actors – he has this touch of reality to him). That guy is on one level with Alan Rickman as a crime mastermind of whom you never really believe the police could get the better of. In this case, however, there is a really interesting counterpart with Detective Frazier ("Make sure they spell it right on the cover of the New York Times"), who starts off as a guy in trouble after some crook tries to frame him on some lost contraband money – but then he emerges like Phoenix from the Ashes as soon as he is in the midst of the action. As police negotiator, he must be permanently alert, witty, he must be more alert and witty and rude and whatever the other side is. And he is, and maybe culminating in the plot point which firstly I did away with as nonsensical: he gets into a physical fight with the kidnappers, trying to push them to the point where they would kill him were they ready to kill. Great, great! acting here from both Denzel Washington and Clive Owen.

Nice thing about the title (maybe I’m wrong…): had they left in the scene where at the police station talk was about having an "inside man", a guy working in the bank to deliver details, on the job, nobody would have wondered about the film’s title, I guess (even though the guy in question wasn’t one). Now there’s nothing about Inside Man in the film (in the great tradition of all those "Transpotting ain’t got no trainspotting in it" movie trivia quizs), meaning that it could mean a lot more – and my favourite interpretation is the task of getting into each others’ heads in order to be able to (a) plan the heist and (b) keep it from being successful. My favourite line in this respect maybe: "We’re playing it by the book. But that guy has read the book, too."

The only downside was maybe the role Jodie Foster had to play as all-too-cold special envoy for special tasks, whose bite may be worse than her bark, but who nevertheless failed to match the two heroes around which the film circles. Honorable mention to William Dafoe, who supports in a way support cast should support.

Of course the plot "smells fishy", as Mr Ebert points out, and the motivation is never too tighly knotted to the persons’ actions. But what the hell: it allows those great actors to outsmart each other, and that is what is at the heart of films about stalled situations such as hostag taking.

Roger Ebert:

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