Alphabetical Movie – Inside Man
Inside Man is a heist movie that, like most Spike Lee movies, has an agenda. While it is possible to enjoy the movie as thriller and ignore all the deeper philosophy, I’m not going to do that.
Because one of the central philosophical issues the film asks us to consider is one of redemption.
Can someone who committed truly horrible deeds somehow wash themselves clean of those deeds through actions? I’ve been asking myself similar questions the last couple of weeks and it is fortunate timing I arrive at my essay on this film.
I’m going to tell you a story. I’m not going to name anyone because that isn’t important. What is important is the feelings that arise and how it relates back to Lee’s question about what one truly must do to deserve redemption.
Several years ago, the organization I help form discovered we’d been embezzled. For a small organization, the amount was huge. It was over $25000. That we could prove. Because a considerable amount of cash was stolen, the number was most likely much higher. We’ll never know for sure.
There were so many emotions tied up in that time and it is hard to dredge them up again. We felt betrayed, yes, but we also felt horribly guilty because we felt that we should have caught what she was doing sooner.
Never mind that she was working very hard to keep two sides of the organization focused on being angry with one another so we wouldn’t realize that she was the one doing it. Never mind that she was carefully portioning out just enough information to keep her actions hidden.
Even as we all said “the person who is to blame is the person who broke the law and violated our trust,” it was hard to believe that. We all felt like we should have been able to see the issues sooner. I can completely understand how people blame the victim because we were the victims and we were blaming ourselves.
We reported the theft to the authorities and she eventually pled guilty.
I was in the courtroom when she was sentenced. She read a prepared statement that fell squarely under the umbrella of a notpology. She acknowledged that mistakes were made without really owning up to the crimes she had committed. She said she had apologized to us and that was a lie. She’d done nothing of the kind.
I was angry. It wasn’t enough. In the time since her actions had been discovered, I’d learned that many people blamed my wife (who was the CFO) for failing to uncover the theft earlier instead of blaming the person who took the money.
We had heard friends of hers angrily complaining that we’d reported her to the police to be vindictive and ignoring that we had no choice but to report the theft because she had filed fraudulent tax returns and we needed to re-file those returns. The IRS won’t allow you to re-file returns due to theft unless there is a police report indicating theft.
Besides, she’d stolen 25 thousand dollars from us. Vindictive or not, didn’t we have the right to press charges because of that? Why would someone argue that she should be allowed to get away with it?
In the time since I saw her in court, she has never offered an apology to the organization she wronged (at least not one I’ve seen).
This brings me to the question of redemption. What should she do to be redeemed? Compared to the character in Inside Man, what she did was relatively minor.
At what point do I decide she has been forgiven and move on?
What actions wipe away bad deeds?
In the film, as well as my own life, I find that the one thing required for redemption is a real understanding of what you did wrong and the ability to publicly acknowledge you screwed up. It is so easy to make excuses. I don’t think you can truly be redeemed until you stop making them.
I know some would ask if I could ever forgive this person for what she did. I’ve thought about that a lot and I can honestly answer yes. If she admitted what she did wrong. If she admitted the lies she told to others both during the time she was stealing and afterwards (because some of what she was saying afterwards was more hurtful).
If she could do those things, I think I could forgive her. The anger has subsided and what is left is a lingering mistrust I wish I didn’t feel.
Inside Man shows us a man who is living with deep regret and who longs for redemption but isn’t willing to make the hard choices that will lead to that redemption. He thinks that there is an easy way.
Because of recent events, I feel like the person who stole from us wants an easy path to redemption and I fear I personally cannot give it to her. I just don’t feel it should be that simple.
P.S: I know a lot of people know who I’m talking about and others don’t. I’m not going to say who it was because the fact is, I’m writing about myself. Who did what to whom is not the reason I wrote this blog. If you know what I’m talking about and want to comment, please don’t use names. Except for mine. That’s cool.