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The Direct Address Takes on a Different Meaning

by Walker Flythe

Lee’s use of the direct address in Inside Man is particularly interesting due to its repetition.  It is first used at the beginning of the movie and then restated near the end, with a very different meaning.  At the opening of the film direct address serves to establish the setting and raises the question of how Russell executed the crime.  However, when repeated at the end of the film the monologue speaks to the opaqueness of the film themes and the misleading nature of the film’s narrative.

The reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet acknowledges the ethical question raised in the film.  Indeed when Russell states “therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub” he notes the moral distinction between Inside Man and a typical bank heist movie.  As Russell speaks these lines he rises and turns out the lights in his “cell.”  This symbolically references the ambiguous moral inquisition of the narrative.  The film questions if the bank robbers are the real criminals or if Case is the true villain.

In his address Russell states “there's a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison.”  This statement initially serves to distinguish Russell’s cell from a prison; however it also suggests Case’s secret incarcerates him.  This hints at Lee’s condemnation of Case as the criminal.  As the monologue progresses many of the thief’s confusing statements and claims over the course of the movie are proved to be accurate.  This creates yet another shocking contrast to Case, a man whose life is founded on lies.

Moreover the address reflects upon the fast paced deception of the film. Russell’s delivery intentionally misleads the audience, though not to the point of confusion.  He introduces the essential structure of the monologue when he states, “I've told you my name: that's the Who.”  This refers to a seemingly minute detail he mentioned two sentences ago.  Using this nuanced speech Russell is discomforting to the audience but it serves to keeps the audience alert and grab their attention

The inherent irony of the monologue leaves the film’s ethical inquisition open to interpretation.  Despite being largely critical of Case, the address contains Russell’s only apparent lie.  He begins by stating, “Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself.”  However, when the monologue plays again at the end of the film he clearly repeats himself.

Dalton Russell's ability to create intrigue

by Elizabeth Alexander

        Dalton Russell’s closing monologue is one of the most intriguing moments of the film, even though it isn’t the climax. Most of this can be attributed to the direct address technique used by Spike Lee. A black background and voice over is stylistically employed to evoke intrigue in viewers in unexpected ways.
       Lee’s contrast of emotions at this point in the film really put it over the edge. The viewer has yet to learn how the robbers managed to make it out of the bank, so emotionally they are ready to finally have the blanks filled in. However Lee shoots Russell with no emotion, a black background and smooth, slow speech. The fact that this is so opposite of what the viewer is feelings grabs their attention and holds it there. The actual footage is similar to that of the “Fuck You” monologue in 25th Hour where the direct address includes footage that is voiced over, but the tone is so different. This is a very neat showcase of the use of direct address in different contexts. The lack of emotion and serious manner of Dalton Russell is so different than the growing rage of Monty that the direct addresses evoke different emotions that further Spike Lee’s overall theme. The 25thHour address evokes anger, whereas the Inside Man address causes suspense and intrigue that causes the reader to pay more attention.
            Once the clips that involve Russell’s voice being voiced over begin, it’s important to note that he continues to cut back to Russell’s face even after showing a clip. It begs the question would this have been as effective if Lee just voiced over the whole thing? No. The viewers need Dalton Russell’s face. His calm voice and attractive complexion cause them to side with him. This is a crime, but the direct address makes it seem as if it was asking to be committed. By allowing Russell to be shot like this, Lee opens up a communication between the viewer and the protagonist. It allows the viewer to connect and choose his side over the banks, even though he committed a robbery.
            The direct address is important for many reasons, but in Inside Man it is especially important because it allows a connection between viewer and character, allowing the viewer to attach emotionally to Dalton Russell and inside, we desire his well being more than “justice” for the crime he committed.

Addressing the Direct Address

by Michelle Robinson

This clip by will be used to explore the technique of direct address as it is employed in the films of director Spike Lee. In attempt to understand the variety of uses for and thematic depth of this technique, students will examine the direct address in the Spike Lee films Inside Man, 4 Little Girls, 25th Hour, and Do the Right Thing, comparing the consistent effects of this shot across some of Lee’s films, but also the variances in subtlety, social commentary, and film genre. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2012).

Dalton Russell's Closing Monologue

In this clip from director Spike Lee's Inside Man, Dalton Russell (Clive Owens) repeats the enigmatic monolgue introduced at the beginning of the film.

from Inside Man (2006)
Creator: Spike Lee
Distributor: Universal
Posted by Michelle Robinson