Blu Ray Title: Inside Man
Disk Release Date: 2 June, 2009
Screen format: 1080P 2.35:1 Widescreen High Definition
First theatrical release: March, 2006
Previous releases on disk: Anamorphic Widescreen DVD on 8 August 2006, HDDVD on 23 October, 2007
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Sound Formats: English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish, German, Castilian Spanish, LA Spanish, Italian, & Japanese DTS 5.1
Length: 2 Hours, 9 Minutes
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, German, Castilian Spanish, LA Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Traditional Mandarin and Greek
Note that significant portions are taken from my earlier DVD and HD DVD reviews of this film. I also saw it theatrically in a first run theater.
Spike Lee returns to Studio films and reinvents the heist genre with Inside Man. Denzel Washington enlists for his fourth starring role in a “Spike Lee Joint” as Detective Keith Frazier, a hostage negotiator in training, up for his first solo assignment without his mentor. Clive Owen is the hostage-taking bank-robber Dalton Russell. Russell masterminds the heist with a crew all named Steve, but it immediately becomes clear that the bank’s cash isn’t his main concern, perhaps there are more lucrative things to be found hidden within it’s many security deposit boxes. Complicating the robbery is bank owner Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) who protects his personal interests by hiring ‘fixer’ Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to exploit both Russel and Frazier to save his bank, but more importantly to save his reputation.
While the heist movie has been mined to death, Lee’s reference to many of them and multiple homages to the genre keep this fresh, and while none of the cast makes great leaps out of their usual territory, all are superb in what they bring to the table and play off each other to great effect. This is perhaps Lee’s most ‘commercial’ film ever, yet it retains his characteristic humor, amazing teamwork with Washington, and above all, showcases his love for NYC, warts and all.
Sound Quality: 4.5/5
Inside Man features a very wide sound stage with holosonic effects used to great delight. The 5.1 is particularly noteworthy in the opening and closing themes, a Bollywood bubblegum pop number featuring rap scratches and other sound effects that swirl like boomerangs to all corners of the room. Bass effects are likewise pleasing, multiple deep rumbles of explosions combine with the strange mix of Indian pop and a modern cop rock. In fact, the theme is almost a clue, or red herring, it is so dramatic and over the top once the final music hits you have to say to yourself ‘that sounded GREAT, but I have no idea why they chose to use that kind of music’. Nonetheless the soundtrack is interesting and crisp from start to finish.
To see what I’m talking about, search for “Chiayya Chaiyya” on Youtube, here is one example:
This BluRay matches the HD DVD in having a lossless track but swaps Dolby TrueHD for DTS HD Master Audio. I did not compare the two side by side but found this mix as engaging and entertaining as I remember it being on HD DVD. All of the aforementioned audio wizardry from the DVD version are intact and, if like the HDDVD mix are even more clean, positional, and smile inducing. In particular the scene late in the film where the SWAT team does a search sweep of the now empty bank has each team member report in to the leader, and the viewer really feels like they are in the center of this highly dangerous maneuver. Like the standard 5.1 mix, there isn’t a whole ton of low frequency content, but it is notably present in the theme music and a few short bangs and it holds its own in those segments.
Visual Quality: 4/5
On standard DVD Inside Man was pretty decent, but one fatal flaw made it not as noteworthy as it could have been. I noted that many of the outside scenes almost had a ‘tearing’ effect especially in fast pans. While it had to be intentional, I found it terribly distracting and noted that it gave the film a very cheap look, especially when compared to the interior scenes which have pretty decent sharpness. This Blu transfer exactly matches what I noted on the HDDVD and somehow manages to completely remove any trace of that tearing and cranks the sharpness up at least two notches. Gone is the softness I noted and both exterior city shots and direct facial close-ups are incredibly detailed, colorful, and knife sharp. Despite being a dark film and using the dull grey/black palette of city life, grain was well under control, much better than what I recall on DVD, tho still a factor, and I never noted any kind of edge enhancement or other artifacts at all.
In my original review I wrote “The inevitable HD release probably won’t do much for the colors of this transfer, but more detail is almost certain to be uncovered.” And that was both right and wrong, the coloring is even better than I guessed it would be, especially in exterior shots, and the detail is cranked up quite a bit, which is especially notable in the grimy, beaten and tear stained faces of the hostages once they are back at the police station. This is, overall a great transfer, matches everything I liked about the HDDVD transfer, and without a doubt I can say it looks better than what I saw in the theater.
Extra Features: 2/5
The extras here are identical to the original DVD and HDDVD, there are No U-Control or other new features on this release. While there is a short list of extras, all are worthwhile. Starting off we have a collection of 5 deleted scenes, one of which was the longest deleted scene I have ever seen put onto a disk. In this scene, a 15 minute long collection of the interviews with the hostages, it becomes clear just how much choice the editors had and that the film benefited immensely from sparingly selecting from this material. The other four deleted scenes don’t hold up as well, but they are interesting and flesh out the characters a bit without really adding to the story. In a featurette titled Number 4, Denzel and Spike discuss their collaboration on their 4 films together. There is also an extensive Making Of featurette which was fairly interesting tho I wished they went into more detail into the choice of the main theme and 5.1 audio production, which as I said were great but didn’t really fit in with the rest of the film. Perhaps they did that on the full length commentary with Lee, although I have not sat down and listened to that track on any of the 3 disks.
One curious new addition is a boatload of language tracks and an insane number of subtitle sets, not sure at all what that is about! Is this a new standard for Universal or just something specific to this release? Time will tell on that I am sure.
Overall: 4/5 (not an average)
Smart and witty dramas are in short supply these days, and Inside Man fills this gap nicely. The terrific acting, slick editing, over the top sound, and a script that keeps you guessing combine to form an engrossing package. Lee combines elements from many great heist classics without ever feeling cliché, puts characters of differing races head to head where their racism is evident but never the driving force in their actions, and simply has the smarts to let a half dozen great actors feed off each other and entertain us in the process. It is a rare combination and worthy of a view, made even better by a Blu transfer that matches the HDDVD and blows the DVD version away, and even managed to look a lot better than my theatrical viewing did! No real shocker that the extras are all dupes from the DVD and HDDVD versions, but we are now several years into the HD revolution and that kind of slacking just doesn't cut it any more, so unlike the HDDVD review I am withholding the “Recommended” tag which that release received!