Heat ★★★★★

No. 36:
Empire Magazines Greatest Challenge: 301 films, 301 words

Michael Mann constantly revisits a recurring theme within his works, which is the collegial relationship between criminals and systems of authority. In Heat, it is illustrated by the figures of cop Vincent (Pacino) and felon Neil (De Niro), and their personal and occupational struggles

Heat is unlike anything else in its respected genre, it utilises the tropes and key experiences of noir to graft its storyline into something with a fresh context; the way in which characters insolently and courteously treat and speak to one another form a defining representation of its dark world of opposing systems. This is a world where calm professionalism and emotional chilliness is the core value amongst its male figures, while emotional association and genuine humanity is seen as the empty baggage that must be dropped in an instant to sustain the stature of respectability - something that is echoed by the film’s in-depth set design.

This is a technical drama in a grounded, authentic vision of L.A. Mann’s realistic approach to the material and tactile use of the camera – through the use of Dante Spinotti’s long lens cinematography – establish environments, functions, props and character placement, and drive up the conflict in the image for all its worth. The presentation of action set pieces is a genuine forte of Mann’s; there are sequences here that challenge observation of traditional filmmaking techniques. The layout of the street shoot-out is so intensely well choreographed, edited, shot and performed that it feels like we’re at the centre of a news broadcast that has yet to be sterilised for viewing.

So influential in approach that its sensory magnitude and epic capacity is still being emulated by contemporary action pictures through style and spectacular score and sound design. Attained with intense performances and a remarkably screenplay from Mann that’s laden empathy.

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