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Inside Men: Armed robbery and the modern man

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Tony Basgallop | 10:23 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I could rob a bank. I could rob two banks, if I wanted. But I don't because the risk outweighs the reward. Prison seems grim and I'm not all that bothered about being rich.

I can separate all the men I know into two categories: alphas and betas. Leaders and followers, if you will.

Inside Men's warehouse manager John Coniston (played brilliantly by Steven Mackintosh) is a beta, but in order to orchestrate a heist he has to become an alpha.

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Trailer for Inside Men

That's basically where this story began for me. How do I fundamentally change a man's personality? How do I use his weakness as his strength?

How do I get him to do something that just plain isn't in him?

There was some skepticism when I first pitched the idea. Heists had gone out of fashion, both in reality and in drama.

Growing up and watching TV in the late 1970s, every other week some hairy geezer was pulling a pair of nylon tights over his face and walking into a bank with a sawn-off shotgun.

If you wanted to become a millionaire overnight, armed robbery was pretty much your only option. By the time the early 1990s rolled around, credit cards and the national lottery had given criminals an easier option.

It took a couple of meetings to convince everyone that this wasn't going to be about the money. Inside Men isn't just a story about a robbery, it's about what it means to be a modern man.

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Chris (Ashley Walters), Marcus (Warren Brown) and John (Steven Mackintosh) make plans

Whilst researching this drama I found out that there's something like £45 billion worth of cash in the UK. Sitting in vaults, down the backs of sofas, and chinking around in our pockets.

We may think of ourselves as a cashless society, but it's still out there. And it's not worth any less.

I often use dual timelines when structuring a story. I did something similar on Worried About The Boy, flicking between 1981 and 1986. Maybe I just like to keep the audience on their toes.

With Inside Men, opening with the heist allowed me to get straight into two stories that impacted on one another. How did they plan it? And will they get away with it?

The scenes in the vault were filmed in a decommissioned Bank of England building in Bristol.

The vault door weighed four tonnes and you just can't recreate stuff like that.

I went on set one day and held one of the shotguns, pulled on a mask, and stared at the cages of bank notes. Suddenly it didn't seem so easy. 

Tony Basgallop is the writer of Inside Men.

Inside Men continues on BBC One and BBC One HD on Thursdays at 9pm. For all programme times, please see the episode guide.

Read a BBC TV blog interview with Boy George, on Worried About The Boy - also written by Tony Basgallop.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great... loving the series.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just watched the second episode of Inside Men and once again the BBC has produced a quality programme. Well worth the licence fee

  • Comment number 3.


    May I ask if the main character 'John' is portrayed as having a stammer?

  • Comment number 4.

    absolutely brilliant. not often I watch a short series but I have been looking forward to this episode having been so impressed by the opening one last week.

  • Comment number 5.

    how was the research done for this? you get things wrong like the fall body searching people didn't that remove shoes

  • Comment number 6.

    Brilliant character development, great acting and a compelling story. Shows up the poor quality drama (and lazy writing) we've been subject to across all channels in the last few weeks.

  • Comment number 7.

    as an aspiring writer I watch as many dramas as I can, some good, some not so good. But I have to say that this one is brilliant! It's so well thought out and beautifully written, also having great acting adds to the quality. Superb. I hope i can write this well one day :)

  • Comment number 8.

    John Coniston’s (Steven Mackintosh) capability of switching personality from beta to alpha demonstrates a powerful and inner depth. What drives him? How deep and rigorous is his resilience?
    Tony Basgallop is inside men and inside women. Chris (Ashley Walters) is depicted as man in the middle trapped between demanding Mother and devious Dita (Leila Mimmack). He follows John’s lead implicitly. Marcus (Warren Brown) thick in mind and body, loose cannon is controlled by John and held in check by Gina (Kierston Wareing). Kirsty Coniston’s (Nicola Walker) faith and support for John has given him permission to go beyond his comfort zone, but will she retreat in order to conserve her gains, i.e. her successful adoption?
    Thank you Tony for a gripping, deeply uncomfortable, spiral. Superb casting and utterly convincing acting. Bob_Ben

  • Comment number 9.

    Fantastic Show, About time the BBC showed something worth Watching. Can't wait for the next instalment am hoping it's not going to be predictable where everyone gets nicked, the Bad guys should win this one lol

  • Comment number 10.

    Just watched the 2nd episode of Inside men, really good drama, brilliantly written and acted. Wondering if anyone is seeing the parallels with the lead in ' Breaking Bad ' the US series with the mild mannered chemistry teacher who turns crystal meth baron. Seems a similar concept with both characters finding an unexpected other side to their personalities, looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.

  • Comment number 11.

    Another fantastic piece of quality viewing from the BBC. Brilliant story line and superb acting. I cannot wait for the next episode! Well done to all involved in this drama.

  • Comment number 12.

    Am I the only one to realise that this 'story' is based on the true £53m cash heist of 5 or 6 years ago? Do I only remeber it because it was a friend's field that the empty crates were abondoned in?

  • Comment number 13.

  • Comment number 14.

    I may be among the minority here but after a fairly brutal but routine raid at the start there seems to be little going for it except the quite obvious twist it is seeking to hide which should be revealed tonight

  • Comment number 15.

    Hello all. And thank you for these comments. It seems that generally speaking people like what we’ve done on “Inside Men”, and with one episode left to air I have my fingers crossed that the final denouement won’t disappoint.

    In response to some of these comments:
    Michael – John is what I would call a “nervous speaker”. I understand that stammering isn’t caused by a lack of confidence, so with John I was hoping to portray a man who was finding his voice as his world fell into order.

    CanIGoHome – Research on cash warehouses is a tricky issue as they are understandably shy about their practices. I hope that in the main we managed to get the details close to accurate.

    Jane – you flatter me. Good luck with your writing and my only piece of advice would be to never listen to advice.

    FoxyFoster – the Securitas robbery was interesting as a means of research into how these cash warehouses operate, but the story and the characters and indeed the heist itself is completely fictional. This is about an inside job, the Securitas robbery most certainly wasn’t.

    Maudsy – sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as others, but I secretly hope you stay watching until the end and that we can change your opinion.

    Thanks again, everyone. It’s always interesting to hear what people think.

    Tony Basgallop

  • Comment number 16.

    Brilliant series.....I just did not understand the ending? Why did John go back?

  • Comment number 17.

    Just watched the final episode of inside men & i am utterly disappointed. I feel that i have wasted the last four Thursday evenings watching a drama series which had the most ridiculous conclusion. A very lame ending indeed!

  • Comment number 18.

    Can anyone explain the ending please? Four hours spent watching this - each minute thinking "Ah. I unserstand now!" Then comes the ending. What????

  • Comment number 19.

    Inside Men was a terrific show. We have just seen episode 4 and to be quite frank we are confused by the ending. Can you please explain the ending? Did John hand himself in at the end? What happened to the rest of the money that John left behind? Despite the good acting and gripping storyline I felt sort changed by not seeing the outcomes. Are we to presume that Marcus and his wife are home free? Did Chris go back to being a father? Was Chris really a snitch and working with the police as an informant? What happened to Kalpesh and his crew? Most importantly, WHERE were the police throughout the heist? Look forward to your response and hope to see more of your gripping stories.

  • Comment number 20.

    As Manuel would say, "Ke?!" I really enjoyed the series, but too many questions were left unanswered at the end.

  • Comment number 21.

    What has got into the BBC. Has this brilliantly written drama been sabotaged. How could a writer spend three hours 58 minutes building up the viewers expectations and finish the series with "See I fooled you - no time to think of an ending"

  • Comment number 22.

    I am stunned. The writing for the first three episodes was so great, I can hardly believe what I've just seen. So disappointed. I'd love to hear the writers view on why he thought this was an adequate finale to what could have been such a memorable show. This takes its place with The Matrix (ruined by number 3), Hellboy 2 (awful), and Signs as having the most impotent ending of anything I've ever watched. What a shame. And I've got to face all the people at work that I recommended this to as well.

  • Comment number 23.

    i had to find a review on this to see if i was the only one that did not get what the ending was? I was really confussed and spent my time watching this to find out nothing. If anyone knows can they please expalin the ending WEIRD!

  • Comment number 24.

    I think everyone has completely missed the point the writer was trying to convey here, John quite clearly explained to Chris that he wasn't in it for the money. He was a beta, a follower, a "nervous speaker" and in order to become an alpha he needed to rob the depot. I think that he knew that he could never actually get away with it but just needed to pull it off for the sake of his ego. As for returning with half the money, again it was just to prove that he had gotten away with it. Excellent storyline, acting and writing! Superb.

  • Comment number 25.

    Thank you Patrick McIntyre. A feasible theory. You may be right but the point everyone else is making is that the writer completely missed it. You say "..everyone has completely missed the point..." You are right there - but who's fault is that? And there is still the thought in my mind 'Has Patrick seen the point of this series?'

  • Comment number 26.

    Having spent the last four Thursdays watching this excellent drama I to am utterly dissapointed with the dross ending however it seems to me that this is a BBC trend at the moment? They continue to make great drama up until the final episode (Sherlock?) and then fob us off with some mickey mouse final 10 minutes. i suppose it was all a dream etc etc... Come on BBC your better than this!!! :0(

  • Comment number 27.

    I am not going to pretend the ending is satisfying, but the last 5 mins with John's explanation, made me feel suddenly the money or the heist is no longer important. The story became a personal journey to "redefine" one self. I like it, it is very English, not the usual Hollywood way and that is a good thing! People might think John is crazy almost detached from reality but I am so convinced by the good acting that I feel I understand his character, and it is believable someone would go this far just to prove to himself what his can be. Steven Mackintosh is amazing, I can't think of any better actor for this role.

  • Comment number 28.

    is there another episode next week to explain what happened at the end???

  • Comment number 29.

    Come on, come on, I know we all want closure on the plot but you can see the obvious here. John has returned the money because he thinks he has a way out: Marcus has a plan that can get them out of trouble, although probably “Baldric” class, he has started it. Chris has to be the star witness as the hero with a dodgy past and will Kirsty reveal anything that might risk the current adoption? Looks for all the world like Series 2 is lined up and ready to go.

  • Comment number 30.

    No more episodes or series "confused". As Patrick rightly pointed out, it was more a story about John and his anxiety and how he wanted to become the alpha male. A bit Jekyll and Hyde if you like. I was too looking for a better conclusion, but then realised that it was more about the individual characters and their lives than the heist. Good writing, a bit of a change from the usual predictable endings we see with most dramas.

  • Comment number 31.

    Disappointed in the ending! Feel cheated after spending 4 hours on what promised to be first rate drama. Pace of first three episodes was a bit slow but forgivable but in conclusion the whole thing could have been done in one hour with this ending.

  • Comment number 32.

    This plot had more holes than a guyere cheese. The biggest one is the absence of the police, who had been informed of the heist by Chris, during the robbery and immediately afterwards. Chris had told them the names of the conspirators. The only theory I can think of is that the police missed the heist because it was postponed and Chris did not know the revised date, but surely with £172,000,000 at risk they would have had a permanent watch; and that they did not immediately arrest John because they wanted him to lead them to the money, but then they did not follow him to the money! And what on earth was Chris doing going to the money rendevouz on his own? Was he not a police informer? I think Tony was so eager to construct an ending that enabled the alpha beta thing that he forgot to make it credible. Personally I found the flashback format irritating, but then I always do. It adds nothing to the experience for me. The trick of showing the characters without masks in the rerun so that the viewer could identify them was interesting but also confusing, and unnecessary because the villains might well have worn some form of ID so that they could identify one another.

  • Comment number 33.

    It would be interesting and informative to hear what the writer of this series thinks about these comments!

  • Comment number 34.

    Last night's episode drove me mad-I just didn't get it and have spent all day trying to work the ending out. Found this site which was helpful but I still don't get it.
    Would like an answer from the writer please!

  • Comment number 35.

    Thought it was great, except like many others I felt it needed a part 5, or else part 4 needed to be more rounded, it felt like the writer was not quite sure how to finish. I understand it was designed to leave us to think..... and I still am but it feels rather unsatisfying.
    Of course the ending was always going to be difficult, but now I am really frustrated, I think it needs a sort of post script episode in a couple months time,
    How about that?

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm disappointed that some people here are disappointed. Some endings are definite and foreseen and so get accused of being obvious. Other endings are much less obvious, they are what likely happened after what we have seen, and left open to the viewer to mull over and discuss. I love coming away from films that cause us to think about what possibly happened, because we reflect on the film. The ending was in keeping with the refreshing drama that 'Inside Men' managed to be throughout its run, with viewer interest maintained by moving back and forth from month to month, character to character, and so on. Really good writing that found just the right actors to deliver it convincingly.

    I don't recall holes in the plot. This story focused on the robbers, and police were no more than marginal, and that only because Chris goes to them. I've watched plenty of crime dramas focusing on the police, with the criminals they are trying to discover merely marginal. A film like 'Inside Man' intercuts between robbers and police. See, there is no one way to tell different stories. It's only 'not shown' because the writer needs to stress others things, and trusts you to be intelligent enough to think it through. If you're not accustomed to that, then relish the invitation to think.

    Having had Chris in the last episode give him two options, Marcus ends up making a typical Marcus-choice and its predictable doltishness is amusing. His girlfriend Gina is also led by her character to go along with that. Finally, John makes his point. It is a witty and thoughtful point. Likely to get imprisonment, but on the other hand because returning to the money-store with almost all the money on board, quite possibly a mild sentence. His workplace rival shown up for what she is.

  • Comment number 37.

    I enjoyed it precisely because it wasn't a 'hollywood' ending as such; it was clear (to me) by the beginning of ep.4 the motivation of John. If felt like the whole thing (for John) was a 'personal dare'; an opportunity to prove to himself that the one thing he was deemed 'Good for' was protecting the Money in his charge.

    And given the dismissive attitude we saw from his Bosses, it was a huge "There, see, it can be stolen" mind-set that drove John. Once he'd achieved it, he was satisfied...and to hell with the consequences!

    He wasn't interested in anything else in his life; not his job, his colleagues, his family. He only cared about 'achieving' that which (to others) couldn't be done, and by the person you'd least expect to mastermind it. :)

    More please!

  • Comment number 38.

    Just hope there is a 2nd series to explain what becomes of everyone. Apart from that such a brilliant 1st series !

  • Comment number 39.

    I would like to hear Tony's take on what he was trying to achieve. Please see following thread.



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