A group of masked criminals, led by Clive Owen, take over a Manhattan bank and hold everyone there hostage. Denzel Washington arrives on the scene as police negotiator, and he rapidly finds that his opponent is extremely clever, and appears to know every move the police will make even before they do. Complicating matters further is the arrival of Jodie Foster, an ice-cold fix-it woman hired by bank-owner Christopher Plummer to protect his interests: there is a safety deposit box he desperate…y wants to avoid having opened.
Though running well over two hours, which seems to be pretty standard for a Spike Lee movie, the pace never flags. The script by first-timer Russell Gewirtz is extremely tight and enormously satisfying. This is a heist film of the highest order, with a dizzying scheme and a denouement that is actually about something.
The score sounds wonderful, the Bollywood opening track drawing viewers instantly into the excitement of the film. The surround elements are extremely well handled. Note, for instance, how the score retreats so a slight, but nevertheless atmospheric, grace note in the rear speakers – it’s there, it fleshes out the sound, but it doesn’t draw focus from the dialogue. The echoes are great, too. There are a couple of missed opportunities with crowd scenes, but overall, a might fine track.
The colours are extremely strong – vibrant but naturalistic, with no fading whatsoever, terrific blacks, no bleaching, and no grain. The image is very sharp as well. Flesh tones are terrific. All in all, the viewing experience is a close to the theatrical version as to make no difference. Hard to see how HD can improve on this.
Spike Lee’s commentary is informative, with a heavy emphasis on the technical aspects of the film. His slightly formal presentation is in stark contrast to the banter he and Washington engage in in “Number 4,” a featurette wherein they reminisce about the four films they’ve made together. Many verbal high fives and buddy-buddy laughing are the order of the day here. There are five deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette that, though ultimately a promotional gimmick, isn’t bad as these things go.
A perfectly delightful thriller. It turns out they CAN make ‘em like they used to.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Conversation between Spike Lee and Denzel Washington
- Making-of Featurette
- Deleted Scenes