Heat (1995)

Is Heat the greatest film of all time? Is Heat the most technically proficient film of all time? Is Heat the best heist film of all time? All these monikers and more have been attributed to Michael Mann’s high action crime thriller.

Even those who haven’t seen the film might be aware that this is the first time DeNiro and Pacino shared screen time (i.e. been in the same scene together in a movie.) I could easily list the entire cavalcade of stars who appear throughout but the three most prominent are Robert DeNiro as Neil McCauley, Al Pacino as Lt. Vincent Hanna and Val Kilmer as Chris Shiherlis.

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McCauley and Shiherlis are two members of a very proficient group of organized thieves. Pacino is a veteran cop whose sole focus in life is hunting criminals. All three of them must contend between their path in life and their respective relationships with a wife/girlfriend. DeNiro in particular has made a choice to not attach himself to anyone or anything, so it goes entirely against his code when he finds himself in love with Eady (Amy Brenneman).

One thing that clearly works well about Heat is telling a complex story with multiple perspectives while maintaining clarity. Each actor in the film brings their A-game with total dedication to his/her role. Aside from the main stars, this was incredibly impressive with Dennis Haysbert as recent ex-convict Donald Breedan. Periodically, the film will shift back to his character starting with very little information and slowly building an understanding of who he is. Eventually, Breedan is forced to make a tough decision which serves as an excellent bit of tension and drama.

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While the film shifts perspective and handles a large cast well for the most part, I must admit that there were a few times I got mixed up by characters names. I came to the conclusion that it’s more important to remember faces than names. Even when I would get temporarily mixed up, it would ultimately resolve itself if I just kept watching.

Another positive element of the film is its use of cinematography. Many of the scenes are beautifully shot, particularly in their use of color. With that being said, I felt that some of the scenes were a bit too dark. I’m not sure if that was just due to my laptops display or not, nonetheless, it was a minor criticism.

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Regardless of my personal opinion, which is positive, Heat is a must view solely because of its impact on film in general. It has inspired many subsequent heist and crime films, most notably the bank robbery scene in the Dark Knight.

Although at times the film is over the top (see extensive police shootouts with automatic weapons and many of Al Pacino’s interrogation scenes) it is both engaging and entertaining. Once again, a must see. In fact, it’s on Netflix currently which is where I watched it.

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