Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Opening Titles and Song: Inside Man (2006)

inside-man-titles

“Sex, money, addiction, and emotion are the main reasons people turn to crime.”1 This much is true, and no doubt why I continue to read and watch books and movies dedicated to the subject. Both the fictional and non-fictional kind continue to captivate. Must also be said that I need motivation these days to write about anything I’ve meant, but am too lazy of late2 to get around to. Maybe, it’ll get easier when I retire…whenever that might be.

Anyway, today’s look at another opening titles sequences, along with its accompanying song, from a film that still fascinates. Inspired by the erudite folk over at Podcasting Them Softly, with yesterday’s review written by the blogger, critic and entertainment reporter Nick Clement for the 2006 genre film that’s annual viewing in my house. Inside Man:

“Spike Lee has always been a very politically and socially conscious filmmaker, with much of his work touching on topical elements that link us all together as human beings. This makes his straight-up genre picture, Inside Man, all the more atypical, as it’s one of the few gun-for-hire pictures that he’s put his name on. And it’s also one of his most overtly entertaining and stylish motion pictures.”

Ain’t it the truth, and I’ll quote Nick’s review heavily from this point forward. Certainly, as proof of my lackadaisical tendencies and for Inside Man‘s eye-opening first few minutes via sight and song, which also signals its underlying scheme. For those who’ve followed this series of posts, usually, I discuss the musical aspect toward the end. Not this time. Nick noted it as well: “… the opening credits with Chaiyya Chaiyya playing on the soundtrack are a total visual and sonic stunner.”

As mentioned some years back in a blog post of mine, the song originally from a 1998 Indian film, Dil Se:

“If you’ve seen the film, then you heard the abridged version of an Indian song that became very popular in that southern Asian country (and the U.K.) back in 1998. The tune, in fact, blossomed from yet another earlier film and soundtrack. I’m sure, like others who’ve seen it, the enticing melody, vocals, and rhythms of the track, Chaiyya Chaiyya, composed by A.R. Rahman, written by Gulzar, and sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi, drew me to the music.”

The number ignites the sequence from the very start as Universal’s and Image Entertainment’s emblems make their obligatory appearance, granting this section a stirring, pulsating vibe. A multicultural taste for the great city of New York all of this showcases, in fact. Even as the conspirator’s soliloquy, Clive Owen’s early appearance in a wonderful performance care of the film’s clever screenplay, delivers unexpectedly to whet the audience’s appetite for the heist to follow:

“My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I’ve told you my name: that’s the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there’s a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison. The What is easy: recently I planned and set in motion events to execute the perfect bank robbery. That’s also the When. As for the Why: beyond the obvious financial motivation, it’s exceedingly simple… because I can. Which leaves us only with the How; and therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub.”

Though other films have used dialogue early as a means of setup for what’s to come, rarely is it incorporated into an opening titles sequence. Let alone one that benefitted visually and musically, such as this. Nick put it succinctly: “Snazzy cinematographer Matthew Libatique went for a slick and gritty visual style, with some really choice individual shots peppered all throughout the proceedings. Terence Blanchard’s blustery score hits some righteously jazzy notes…”

Libatique lensed the clip with a vibrant visual intent, giving Gotham’s streets and landmarks a life of their own. Most assuredly through the camera’s movement as it followed the perpetrators bound to their banking objective early on. Yet, with a symbolism as the sequence periodically marked the animated titles with NYC’s architectural imagery. In this case, those meant to stress power — politically, economic, and socially. No wonder Spike Lee showed an interest in this caper film.

“Russell Gewirtz’s script has a strong sense of anger running along the edges of the tight plotting that he created, and while there’s certainly a “message” at play, it’s buried neatly under the confines of dense plot threads and colorful dialogue.”

Laws, it’s said, are for the middle class as the poor will do anything to survive, and the rich don’t believe they apply to them.

That central theme of privileged lawbreaking also used as a motif by digital effects artist Emil Kahr Nilsson for Big Film Design in Inside Man‘s opening with their enlivened titles. Dialing captions that line up circularly, throughout. Like the vault’s combination lock visually framing the film’s title credit, the diagrammatics on display convey we’re not going to understand the puzzle to come, initially. But we will, once given the clues that’ll align them so the pieces fall into place.

As Denzel Washington’s put-upon Detective Keith Frazier undoubtedly must do for his and our sakes.


  1. What is the motivation behind committing criminal acts? ~ Quora 
  2. This post had sat in my draft bin since last month after I rewatched Inside Man for the umpteenth time. 
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