A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film includes extreme language (frequent "f--k"s and other profanity, including the "N" word). The robbers take the bank with smoke bombs, dress in masks and painters' coveralls, and look ominous throughout; hostages are frightened, with some crying and others acting tough. The film includes sexual language. Characters display and discuss racism (most often, anti-Arab and anti-black). Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars. One crucial plot point involves a character making money by working with Nazis during WWII.
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What's the story?
Set in New York City, INSIDE MAN centers on "the perfect bank robbery" planned by Dalton Russell (Clive Owen). Clad in painters' uniforms and masks, Dalton's team enters the bank at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway, disables the surveillance cameras, and takes all the customers, workers, and security guards hostage. By the time detectives Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and his partner Mitch (Chiwetel Ejiofor) arrive, the crime scene is taped off, a mini-city populated by shooters and uniforms, hulking vans and vocal gawkers. Inside the bank, the robbers dress the hostages like themselves, move them from room to room so they can't get to know one another, and dig up a wall in the storage room. Keith has to make nice with turf-protecting Emergency Services Unit Captain Darius (Willem Dafoe), still mad at him for some case they worked years ago. As time ticks, bank board chairman Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) sends an excruciatingly intelligent fixer, Madeline White (Jodie Foster), who knows how to reach the chief robber in charge. And yet, she can't quite solve this puzzle, which involves a special personal safe deposit box inside the bank.
Is it any good?
Tense, showy, and shrewd, Inside Man is Spike Lee's most accessible film, but that's not what makes it brainy or galvanizing. Indeed, its cleverest moments involve odd and telling details: The credits sequence use of "Chaiyya Chaiyya," the white-guy who recognizes but cannot translate Albanian language, and perhaps most energetically, the Sikh who resents being profiled as "Arab."
While the heisty plot includes the sorts of cunning turns familiar since Die Hard, its more compelling aspect is its New Yorkness. The city is everywhere in the film, outside and inside, but mostly, it's the incisive focus, impetus, and consequence. In between the figuring and plotting, the film flash-forwards to exit interviews with the hostage as Mitch and Keith press them to confess their collaboration. This array -- anxious, audacious, arrogant -- is clearly made up for "New York" embodiments, persevering, traumatized, post-9/11. Competing traumas, leveling oppressions, comparable resiliences. It's definitely New York.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the film uses the generic bank robbery plot to evoke more profound social and political issues, like racism, corruption, ambition, and post-9/11 fears about surveillance and terrorism. How do Keith and the robber, Dalton, come to understand each other's motives and goals? How does the movie compare the moral positions of upper-crusty characters (who own or run the bank) and "regular folks," who bank or work at the institution?
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